Loading Quilts with a Longarm System

With stand up machine quilting system, we quilt using a frame and table system like shown below:

Carla Barrett's Longarm Quilting Machine

Carla Barrett’s Longarm Quilting Machine

 

The quilt backing is attached to the canvas leaders on the top roller and the very bottom roller on longarm systems.  The batting is laid down on top of the backing and then for the quilt top, you have several options for how you load the top.  Most machine quilters will either partially float the quilt top or fully float them.  There is a 3rd method, the no-float technique, but I do not recommend this method for a wide variety of technical reasons.

In machine quilting, just as in life, there are often many ways to get to the same end point.  I always advise new quilters to try it every way, then chose the method they prefer best.  So, let’s go over the various techniques and start with my favorite way, the Partial Float Method:

loading a quilt info by Carla Barrett

loading a quilt info by Carla Barrett

 

As you can see in my illustration, the backing is attached to both the top and bottom leaders, while the quilt top is only attached on the bottom leader and rolled up.  The batting is laid in between.

I prefer to partial float for several reasons.  I feel this method gives me the most control of my sandwich during the quilting process, especially for larger quilts.  When I load the quilt top and roll it up, this will give me an idea for how much excess fullness the top will have, so I can plan my quilting design accordingly.

Quilt top is partially floated, edges are basted to maintain a straight edge.

Quilt top is partially floated, edges are basted to maintain a straight edge.

When you quilt, the fabric draws in towards the stitching, and so I control the top edge of the quilt and the sides by careful basting.  You can put on your machine channel locks, or use a laser level to provide a straight line for your basting.  This way, you start out with a very straight quilt sandwich.

As I advance, I use a T-square to keep the side edges basted straight.  I prefer basting to pinning the edges.  Why?  You would have to use lots of pins to give you the control you need compared to basting, and then the chances increase for running over a pin accidentally.  For non-quilters, if you run over a pin and hit it just right, you could break a needle, which could then damage the quilt if you don’t stop in time.  Also, you could throw off your machine head timing, too.

Back to partial floating- during the quilting process the quilt will want to draw upwards as you quilt.  This tendency will be limited because the top is attached at the bottom and rolled up.  The roller has locks so I can control the vertical height of the quilt during the quilting, too.

Let’s talk about the next quilt loading strategy- the Full Float Method, which looks like this:

Full Float method of loading a quilt for stand up quilting

Full Float method of loading a quilt for stand up quilting

As you can see, the backing is attached both top and bottom.  Then both the batting and quilt top are carefully laid on top and basted straight for control.  The edges are draped over the bottom roller and hangs down during the quilting process.

I often fully float smaller quilts and quilts with a 3D element to them.  If the 3D quilt is large, sometimes I will add a horizontal line of basting near the bottom roller to control the vertical stretch as I quilt.  Obviously, this is optional.  Some quilters like to use a weighted magnetic bar (used for organizing tools) from Harbor Freight to assist with top control while fully floating, while others do not.   Obviously, you need to have metal roller for this to work.  Caution, too, that the magnetic tool bar is clean when you use it to weight your sandwich.

King Plus batik quilt I quilted for Barb Kiehn.  This quilt hangs straight.

King Plus batik quilt I quilted for Barb Kiehn. This quilt hangs straight.

No matter if you full float or partial float, you want to end up with a quilt that hangs straight.   Of course, this assumes that the quilt top and backing were straight to begin with.   There are many variables involved  in machine quilting (including your sandwich tension, side clamps, stretchy leaders, bias quilt, design consistency, etc etc.), any one which may contribute to ending up with a quilt that waves when it hangs.

Note to quilt top piecers- what machine quilters see frequently are backings and quilt tops which come to them not straight or square.  Depending on the variance of the horizontal and vertical measurements, and if there are lots of bias sections on the top, this will also affect your quilt and how it hangs in the end.

The 3rd way to load a quilt is pretty rare, called the No-Float Method or sometimes called the Full Attachment Method.   Please note that I do not recommend this method for a variety of reasons I will explain in a minute.  Here is what this technique looks like:

No float/full attachment method of loading a quilt

No float/full attachment method of loading a quilt

The illustration above shows you how the quilt top and backing are both attached at the top leader/roller, with the backing and top attached on the bottom leaders/rollers.  Why do I not recommend it?  For a couple of reasons, including that you cannot quilt off the top edge of the quilt, something many freehand and pantograph quilters do often.  There will also be a section at the edge where it is not quilted or has batting, the part you pin, zip, velcro or otherwise attach to the leader.  This could cause issues with the preferred binding technique.

I only knew one machine quilter who attached her quilts this way.  If this is how you like to do it, and don’t mind the negatives, then certainly do it the way you like it.   I think I will stick with partial float, and in some cases fully floating.

I hope this post has help you to visually understand the differences in the various ways to attach a quilt with a stand up quilting system.  Would love to hear from you if you have an opinion, no matter which way you load your quilts.  Happy Quilting, Carla

Curled Worms Modern Quilting Design

copyright, Carla S Barrett 2014

copyright, Carla S Barrett 2014

For all you freehand quilters who also love modern quilts, here is a fun, easy and forgiving design to quilt.  Try it and see how you like it!  I drew this for a new class called FreeForm Quilting, which is a technique I have done for over 10 years now.   I could see it used on modern quilts or whimsical quilts.

I will be teaching the Freeform Quilting class at the AMQF show in Adelaide, AU in October.  Here is an example of freeform quilting, a feather freeform:

quiltfreeform

Back to drawing more designs now.  Happy Quilting!  Carla

Avoiding The Oops Class

oopsclassI’m completing the finishing touches on this new, fun class- which is all about the things that can go wrong while you are quilting. It is a topic near and dear to my heart because, let’s face it, we all make mistakes.  So far, my list of quilting oops has grown to over 155 different things that can go wrong for a machine quilter.

I will be teaching this new class in early October in Adelaide, Australia at the AU Machine Quilting Festival.   If you plan to attend this show, I do hope you will sign up and join me.  :-)  We will be identifying all the things that can go wrong, and teaching ways to avoid the issue and fix it, if it is fixable.  Thankfully, most things can indeed be repaired in machine quilting.

dragonflyquiltThis photo on the left shows a guild opportunity quilt I quilted.  Unfortunately, the oops in this case was a strong volunteer, who while hanging the quilt on a metal frame while selling tickets, caught the quilt on a screw and ripped through all layers.  The beaded/fiber art dragonfly artfully covers the front tear, while the hanging sleeve hides the repair patch on the back.  I made 3 dragonflies for this quilt and turned a disaster around with extra embellishments.

What is your favorite Oops repair?   Happy Quilting, Carla

 

 

Quilter’s Companion Mention

I discovered that a mini interview piece was in Quilter’s Companion, a magazine by  Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine:

416308640_370It was a special feature for the AU Machine Quilting Festival in October, 2014.

As I have mentioned before, I will be teaching a number of classes, including my Quilt Whispering Design class, my Tablet Design for Quilters, Avoiding The Oops class on how to avoid and handle all the various things that can go wrong when you are quilting, and also my Fabric Crochet Purse, and a Freeform Quilting class.    Here is a sneak peek at the top part that features me on page 73:

 

carlamagarticle The section also features some other teachers, too.  If you are going to be attending this show, I hope you will take one or more of my classes!  Also, please introduce yourself if you see me in Adelaide.

I also received a shout out in Australian Patchwork & Quilting magazine about the show, too.    More info about the classes coming up!   Hugs, Carla

Carolina Lily Quilt

I get lots of mail about this Carolina Lily antique quilt pattern I quilted back in 2007 for my dear friend, Nancy Gwyn, who sadly passed away in 2011.

quilting by Carla Barrett 2007

quilting by Carla Barrett 2007

This was my old photo taken just after I unloaded it and before the quilt was bound. This quilt later went on to win many awards in both California and North Carolina:

nancyquiltfair Here it won a Best Machine Quilting and a First Place award.  Anyway, back to my mail box.  Since I receive letters asking me about this pattern, I am always on the lookout for a free pattern and instructions.  I finally found one here at Generations Quilt Patternsvintage-carolina-lily-quilt-pattern-21696382:

There is only a slight difference between this pattern and Nancy’s quilt, so just change up the flower stem if you prefer Nancy’s variation.

Otherwise, head on over to the Generations Quilt Pattern site for the free pattern and instructions.  The pattern is even on-point like Nancy’s quilt, too.

Here are some more close up pictures for this quilt:

 

quilting by Carla Barrett 2007

quilting by Carla Barrett 2007

quilting by Carla Barrett 2007

quilting by Carla Barrett 2007

Hope this helps!  Happy Piecing and Quilting, Carla

 

Feathers Pearls and Hearts Set

Good Day!  I recently posted my latest quilting designs, available in digital form and paper patterns from Digitech Designs.   Now I want to show you what the designs look like quilted up.  First, here is the set:

Designs by Carla Barrett, available at Digitech Designs

Designs by Carla Barrett, available at Digitech Designs

 

 

I borrowed a quilt top from my quilt friend, Doug, at High Sierra Quilters Quilt Shop in Placerville, CA, and quilted away.  Here is the panto for the quilt body:

dougquilt2Here is the Border design with some free motion “finger” stitching on the outside edge:

dougquilt1Last photo show you an overview while the quilt is still on my quilting table:

dougquilt3It was a very forgiving design set up and use.  Plus, I feel the design actually elevates this simple shop quilt.  Love the fabric, too!   :-)

fingerquiltingHere is a quick visual for how I do my finger quilting on the edge.  This is faster and much easier to do than piano keys or bead board.  Besides, it looks great!  Did I mention how easy it is?  Just quilt “U” shapes.

Any feedback on this design or other designs you would like to see in the future?  Happy Quilting, Carla

Swirly Texture

barbbirdYesterday, I posted this bird, a gift from my friend, Barb.  Someone asked me about the quilted design underneath the bird, so I thought I would share this simple freehand quilting design- with easy step-by-step directions for the beginning machine quilter.  Remember to practice by drawing it out numerous times until you are comfortable doing it.

how-to by Carla Barrett

how-to by Carla Barrett

 

Here is how nice it looks when quilted up:

Carla Barrett

Carla Barrett

Happy Quilting!  Carla