Anita's quilts and quilting

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

Why leader zippers help

A few days ago, I had another opportunity to work with someone using her smaller quilting machine.  She has the Voyager 17.

I usually tell anyone with a smaller machine to buy zippers and change their leaders.  Today I’ll explain one reason zippers are so helpful for smaller machines.  In another post I’ll explain other changes made to the leaders that are very helpful too.

The zippers are for more than just taking a quilt off the machine and putting on another one.  The zippers are especially helpful when you’re working on a very large quilt.  See this area?  This is one reason the zippers will help.

This is your quilting area

Why is this area important?  Let me show you.  I’m using a piece of batting to represent a quilt rolled up on the take up bar.  This piece of batting represents a small quilt.  She the space left top to bottom?

Batting represents a small quilt

Ok now for a piece of batting to represent a much larger quilt.  See the amount of space you have left?

Batting represents a very large quilt

Ok, the photos are a little off but you get the idea.  Add to this you would also have the backing and the quilt top rolled up onto the bar. The area left would be much smaller.

As you quilt more and roll it up more on the take up bar you start to get a drag.  In order to keep from “dragging” while quilting you have to raise the bar.  The more you raise the bar the steeper the angle of the quilting area.   Raising the bar to a higher angle distorts your quilting area.  It’s like you’re quilting while going up and down a hill.

Start quilting as usual

But if you……

  • stabilize the quilt up to the half way point
  • move the machine out of the way to it’s parking place
  • pin baste the second half of the quilt
  • unzip from the leaders
  • flip it around so the already stabilized area is now attached to the belly bar – the upper bar
  • roll the pin basted half onto the throat bar – up to the point of your last stabilizing
  • start stabilizing the second half – but instead of rolling onto the bar you will be unrolling each time you advance – in other words you will be advancing backward
By doing the stabilizing this way, you’re not going to be quilting on quite as steep of a hill.  When you start the actual quilting of your quilt you would do the same thing.  Quilt up to the half way point and then flip it around to do the other half.   Here’s a photo of how this one is rolled up onto the upper bar (belly bar) and almost ready to zip onto the take up roller.

Quilt flipped around

If you are doing panto designs you would need to flip those around at the same time you flip your quilt.  If you don’t, you will have half the design one way and half the other way.
When you’re making your zipper leaders the “pull” part (female half) should be attached to the fabric on the bars.  The other half of the zipper (the male part)  should be attached to the removable part of your leaders.  When you are standing on the tail side of your machine (cord side) the pull should come from the left side.  When you are on the horn side of your machine the pull should also come from the left.  This is what makes it flip-able.
I sew the backing to the leader using my domestic machine.  I do this because it’s hard on my belly and my arms if I’m getting stuck with pins.  It hurts!  It also messes up a lot of my shirts.  The pins put holes in them.  I use the widest zig-zag stitch and the longest stitch when sewing the backing to the leaders.  When the quilting is finished it’s easy to just rip the stitches.

One comment on “Why leader zippers help

  1. Margaret
    September 25, 2011

    Wonderful tutorial as usual!! Did I miss the one on how to make the zipper leaders? I really need that one. Thanks so much for helping those of us with smaller machines!!

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on September 19, 2011 by in Stabilizing a quilt, Tips for smaller machine users.

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