Now, several more charity quilts later, I promised to show you how I fix some other common problems with longarm quilting. Once again, the main reason for this post is to educate those that send quilts to a longarmer, but new longarmers may find something useful here. First up, the issue of using sheets as backing. Oh heavens, I know there are those of you that think there is a lot of fabric without seams, and it makes a perfect backing, but it doesn’t. The weave is rarely even, it stretches like mad and not evenly, and it is difficult to quilt through keeping the tensions balanced. But, the kicker is when someone gives you one that has been washed dozens of times. This one was pieced by my neighbor, such a sweet lady.
Note that the sheet is the backing, and is fine on the far side, but the side closest to the camera is sagging like crazy. Not just a little, a LOT! Both ends are pinned to the leaders and rolled evenly from the bottom. I swear I am not making this up. Not even my fertile mind could come up with this, LOL!
I unpin it at that edge, and pull up some of the fullness. This is going to make it off grain, but I can’t help that.
After I roll it up again, I stuff some batting between the canvas leader and the roller to take up the rest of the fullness.
Adding the clamps, and now it is close to being flat. I quilted it like this. Each time I advanced the quilt, I removed the batting, then replaced it under the roller, just enough to get this side reasonably flat.
The saddest part of this is that stained glass quilt with all those black sashings, diagonal seams and bias edges was entirely hand pieced and absolutely flat with perfectly applied borders! Without a doubt, this is one of the most wonderful piecing jobs I have ever has the pleasure to quilt. It would have been so much nicer in the end to have a pretty tone on tone print for backing.
The next three quilts had a lot of fullness in the middle. Rule of thumb, if it won’t press flat, some adjustment to the piecing is needed. Some quilting will take care of minor puffiness, but even a miracle worker can’t fix D-cups. The puckering in the picture below happens when the longarmer cannot take up the fullness with other techniques. If the quilt will be washed and used a lot, this will be camouflaged in the puckering that happens with washing.
This one is not too bad, but still very puffy. Sometimes if the whole quilt is like this, you can add another layer of batting to take up the fullness. But that isn’t a solution if the puffs are just here and there. So here is how I handle that.
One thing I do is use a solution of Best Press, diluted 50% with water. This works just as well as full strength and goes twice as far. I buy it by the gallon online, and refill the spray bottle. Spray generously on the section needing flattening.
Then plug in the iron with an extension cord, and steam the you-know-what out of it while it is on the frame.
Smooth the wrinkles out by hand as much as possible, distributing the fullness over as wide an area as I can. Here’s the same spot after the steam treatment.
And same thing again on a different quilt.
Spray with 50% solution, steam like crazy, and smooth as best I can.
Then quilt. Not bad, still some minor puckers. Since this is a charity quilt it will get washed, and will shrink up all over and hide this bit.
Last problem for today, I am continually amazed at the number of poorly applied borders. On this quilt, when I was almost done quilting, I found this. I put a pin in to hold it, but notice that there is no extra to tuck into the seam. How this got by the piecer, I’ll never know.
I put a tiny bit of fusible web under the broken seam, stuffed the ends down as best I could, and topstitched it with the longarm before continuing the quilting. It looks terrible, but it was the best I could do. This is one of my pet peeves, why should the recipient of a charity quilt deserve any less than our best effort?
If you missed my other post on quilt issues, click on Loading the Longarm. Even with all the issues, I still enjoy quilting and helping with charity quilts. I am gratified by being able to take these lovingly made tops and help them become beautiful quilts to brighten someone’s day at a hospice, hospital, or shelter. A quilt on a bed helps make those places feel more like a home to a person who really needs comfort, and that is worth our best work. Wouldn’t you agree?
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