You must provide backing for your quilt that is at least 5″ larger than your quilt top in every direction. This means that the backing must be a total of 10” longer and wider than the length and width of your quilt. For example, if your quilt is 55” x 70”, then your backing must be at least 65” x 80”.
For those not familiar with longarm quilting, the backing must be attached to canvas leaders at the top and bottom and extra fabric is necessary to do this. Tension is placed on the sides of the quilt with clamps, which can cause distortion on the backing for the first couple of inches; a 5” per side allowance prevents the potential distortion from affecting your quilt.
Backings may be pieced with ½” seams ironed open, but selvages must be cut off to prevent puckering. Please square your backing on the grain prior to drop off. When choosing a backing, please remember that the thread on the back will match the quilting thread on the top; the nicest quilts have a print back in multi-tones that coordinate with the colors used in the top or in colors that will match the quilting thread. Backings may feature long seams, however scrappy backs are strongly discouraged. Even tension is very difficult with the multiple seamed edges and puckers cannot always be prevented.
Your Quilt Top
In many ways, successful machine quilting depends on the quality of the top’s piecing. While some adjustments can be made while quilting, it is a mistake to think that fullness, waving borders and irregular seams will just “quilt out”. I will do everything in my power to adjust problem areas through easing, basting, additional quilting, and as a last resort taking tucks, but these steps can result in additional charges and ultimate responsibility for fullness lies with the piecer.
Proper measuring and attaching of borders, whether they are the borders of blocks or the final borders of the quilt will go a long way to ensure a lovely flat quilt top. To properly measure a border, measure the width of a top in three places; top, middle, and bottom. Find the average of these measurements and cut two borders to this measurement. Find the middle and quarter of each border and mark with a pin then do the same to the sides of your top. Match the pins and gently stretch or ease the pieces together. Iron the seam to the border. Do the same for the length of the quilt. This same process should be used if mitering the corners.
Attaching borders by sewing on a long strip then cutting of the excess and continuing around the quilt nearly always results in waving borders. Tearing your border fabric along the grain and then attaching it to your top also will stretch the outside edges of your border and distort them. If you have pieced borders, you can alter their length invisibly by sewing a new seam between blocks just inside or outside the existing seam. Each seam adjustment can lengthen or shorten a border by 1/8” inch. So, just four seams can change the measurement by 1/2″.
I recommend always prewashing your fabrics. It is heartbreaking to spend your time and money on a quilting project only to wash it the first time and find colors migrating. While more modern dying and printing techniques have cut down on this problem, it is better to assume that dye migration is possible. Some fabrics, like dark batiks, should be washed multiple times. I recommend placing a scrap of white fabric in with the wash and watching to see if it picks up any loose dye. Additionally, different fabrics will shrink at different rates, even with the same manufacturer. To avoid potential skewing of blocks, prewashing is best.