Preparing your Quilt Top


Allow for a border around the top where the bat­ting is larger and the backing larger still. This should be a minimum of 4” [2” on each of the four sides] from the batting as compared to the top and 2” [1” on each of the four sides] from the batting to the edge of the backing. This is necessary for:

  1. Mounting
  2. Clamping
  3. Testing the tension in accordance with the size of the pattern
  4. Starting edge to edge and off-set patterns off the edge of the top.

Not doing this will result in the less than expected appearance of the stitching.

  1. Use a uniform batting, such as Quilters Dream™, regardless of whether you desire puffy, light­weight, heavy-weight, cotton, polyester, wool, bamboo,….
  2. Back-tack, or tie-off, all of the stitching used in piecing, front and back. This is true especially at the edges of the quilt. Failure to do this will result in your piecing unraveling during quilting or use.
  3. Lay your quilt top out to assure it is square and not “full”. The area in which it is laid out must be larger than the quilt. This must be done even though each block has been “squared up”. Having a full top or bottom [including puffy areas of the top, let­tuce leaf edges, and the like] may result in puffy areas of the quilt or tucks in the fabric during quilt­ing.
  4. Make sure your corners are 90°. Remove all pins, buttons and/or embellishments.
  5. Trim your quilt top to the finished size you want. Do not have irregular, ragged, or uneven edges to your top.
  6. Trim your backing to remove anything you do not want to show on the finished quilt.
  7. Remove all excess and/or loose threads.
  8. Press your top and backing. This includes all seams.
  9. Do not attach the top, batting, and backing to each other, regardless of the technique used.
  10. Do not attach the binding to anything.
  11. Make sure you notify the quilter of your intent to use a binding method other than the standard, “French” method [which uses a folded 2½“ strip that is attached to the front edge, the quilt being trimmed leaving ¼”, and the edge of the binding then attached to the back].
  12. Make sure you notify the quilter of the top of the quilt whether by design [e.g. a heart block or be­cause of the use of any directional fabric], or any­thing else that might conflict with the design of the stitching [e.g. some stitching is directional]. The quilter needs to know where the top of the quilt is from your point of view.
  13. Make sure you notify the quilter of directional backing [i.e. what you determine is the top].
  14. Make sure to notify the quilter if you want to tie-off all threads.

Being Involved In The Design Of The Quilting

When having long-arming done, there are basically two approaches: be involved in the long-arm design process or leave it with a highly competent long-armer and leave the all of the decisions to them. Of course, there is a gradient of alternatives between these two extremes.

Here at Handhills Quilter, we want the involvement of the creator of the quilt. The quilt is the vi­sion of the piecer and it should be in alignment with their thoughts. Also, often the quilt becomes a gift of their creativity to others.

Normal Approach: Let Them Do It

Make sure you have seen the long-armer’s work. You want to specifically see what they can do using the techniques and designs that you want them to use. This is especially true if you want a stitching like that in a book or on the pattern.

Make sure the examples you have seen and are bas­ing your decision on are in your price range. If you have seen a quilt with 100 hours in the stitching, you will be unhappy with the results of placing a $75 budget on the long-arming. Likewise, if your $200 es­timate comes in at $500, you are bound to be disap­pointed, even if the quilt wins at the fair [a true story].

Our Approach: Be Involved

There are as many considerations for quilting as there are tops and quilters. For example, with a basic block quilt with sashing and borders, consider the following by looking at your top before you take it to your quilter:

  1. Know your preferences in quilting. For example, one person’s perfection is another’s ‘over-quilted, stiff board’.
  2. Do you want the piecing design or the quilting to predominantly stand out?
  3. If your fabric or piecing is intricate, do you want subdued stitching or accentuating stitching?
  4. Do you want a single edge-to-edge design?
  5. Should the edge-to-edge design have a theme similar to the design and/or fabric of the quilt?
  6. Should each block have a similar design?
  7. Should the entire quilt top have a theme?
  8. If you have sashing, how do you want the patterns to appear where the sashing crosses, or should there be quilted cornerstones?
  9. How many borders do you have? Should the stitching treat any of the multiple borders as though they were one?
  10. What color of thread will ‘bind’ the top design, fabric, and stitching design? You may want it to stand out or be subdued.
  11. Are there any techniques you want? E.g. echoing, stitch in a ditch, micro-stippling, feathers, dual needle, something you have seen the quilter do before, …. These preferences may determine what type of quilting is done [e.g. hand, machine, free-hand, automated] as well as who will quilt it.
  12. Then again, after this exercise you may say “I sure am glad that I have someone else to make these decisions!” Some of our customers do just that”