Anita's quilts and quilting

A professional longarm machine quilter for hire and some of the work I've done.

The fix all fairies

Issue quilts are the bread and butter of machine quilting. Without the issue quilts our machines would be idle most of the time because perfect quilts are rare. I’m no quilt judge and also who am I to question another person’s frugal use of fabrics? 98 percent of the tops I take in to be quilted have at least one issue. Many often have several issues…. each one as the result of the first issue and multiplied as the top is created.

Please don’t think I’m complaining because I’m not. I love all those issue quilts! I love all my beginning toppers and the long time toppers who take plenty of short cuts. Each quilt has it’s own set of challenges that test me and my ability as a machine quilter.

When a person buys a quilting machine to open a business….. they automatically become the “fix all fairy of quilting”. If the quilt has a D cup center, we are asked…. you can quilt it flat can’t you? If the center is very small and the outside border waves at the neighbors down the street, we are asked…. you can straighten it out with the quilting can’t you? If there is a gap in the piecing seam line, we are asked…. you can sew it together with the quilting can’t you? Yes, there are many issues that come to the machine quilter… the fix all fairy…. and we either work with what we are given or else give up a lot of our income. My motto: your quilt will be quilted as it is when received.

No matter how many times I explain that I need at least 3 full inches of extra backing all the way around a quilt…. I often get 1 inch or less. Ok, I admire their frugality but it doesn’t make my job easy. There are machine quilters who would send the topper back home with the backing to make it larger. There are some machine quilters who will sew an extra scrap piece of fabric onto the backing then remove it when the quilting is finished. I don’t want to send work away and I often don’t have time to locate scraps of fabric or time to sew it on there either. So I deal with issues as they are.

The reason we need the extra backing is because of the way the backing is attached to the machine and the use of side clamps. When attaching the backing to the leaders it’s hard to judge if we are going to have enough backing at the very end of the quilting. We don’t know how much stretch will happen as the top is quilted to the backing. The side clamps are to hold the backing steady… not to pull it into submission. With too little backing there is little room for the machine bed at the sides which causes the machine to bump against the clamps. This causes a visible bump in the stitching design. Even with the trick of putting a yardstick under the clamps and over the rollers of the machine doesn’t always help. It’s just too close not to bump those clamps.

Another issue a machine quilter often encounters is lots of bias and….

blocks that measure one thing on one side…..

and something else on the other side.


A one inch difference on the two sides of the block causes this much extra fullness when it’s combined with other things like bias.


The way I deal with all the extra fullness is to “ease” it in the same way the piecer eased the blocks together to fit. I spread the extra fabric with my fingers as I stitch in the ditch to stabilize the top. Being very careful not to stitch myself of course.

Once the extra fabric is eased into place then a design should be chosen that will not cause any folding (tucks) of the fullness as it’s stitched. A design that doesn’t cross over itself is best. Even then, a fold (tuck) in the fabric is unavoidable sometimes.


My motto: Your quilt will be quilted as received. If its wrinkled…. its quilted wrinkled. If if has a D cup center then the D cup will be quilted. If the borders are extra full then they will be quilted extra full. If the seams are not sewn then they will still be there when the tops is quilted. My customers all know this and are kind enough to understand my limitations.
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I told myself a long, long time ago that I couldn’t take apart the tops to fix every customer’s issues. If I did then it would be my work and not theirs. The only thing I could do is learn to work with the issues. For every issue you work with and figure out how to disguise, you will gain more skill as a professional machine quilter. So the point of this post is…. if you are new to machine quilting or simply thinking it would be a good business to get into….. learn to love those issue quilt tops. They will be your bread and butter.

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This entry was posted on February 16, 2010 by in Quilts with issues.

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