Maybe you have no desire to own any kind of longarm but you do send your tops out to be quilted. What can you do to make sure everything goes smoothly? Remember, everyone is different – all of us longarmers are different, each and every quilt we do is different and each customer is different. The best thing you can do is work closely with your longarmer so these are merely suggestions that have worked for me.
When Finishing Your Top:
- Be sure your borders are applied properly and there are no wavy edges.
- Be sure all the threads are neatly trimmed. If you have a light fabric with a dark thread hanging, it may show through the top once it’s quilted.
- Be sure that the seams are pressed as neatly as possible. Big, chunky seam allowances can cause problems for the longarmer.
- Make sure your backing is square (not *square* but if the backing needs to be 60″ x 80″, make sure it isn’t 62″ x 81″ x 66″ x 84″.
- Make sure your backing is large enough. Some longarmers require an extra 3″ or 4″ on each side. This is for several reasons. If the backing isn’t square, we need a little extra fabric for trimming. We have to pin the backing to the leaders and then pin the top to hte backing. We need the backing to be larger so the machine clamps can hold the backing without bumping them when quilting the edges of the quilt.
- If sending your own batting, make sure it’s large enough.
- If your top has a definite top or bottom (same for the backing) make sure it is marked and the longarmer knows.
How do you decide which longarmer to use?
- Find one whose style you like. As I’ve said, I am not an artsy quilter. If you want artsy type quilting, you do not want me. If you’re happy with feathers, stitch in the ditch, motif work, then I’m a quilter you could work with.
- Ask friends for recommendations. If you see a quilt someone else has had quilted and you just love the quilting, ask them who did it.
- If you’re looking for a quilter and have no recommendations, ask to see pictures of her work. Pictures will tell a lot but not the whole story. In pictures, you can’t always see if there are tension issues, or if the top or backing was stretched or if there were tucks in the backing. And you certainly can’t see from a picture if the quilter was easy to work with and did what she said she would do.
- When making the initial contact, ask specific questions that matter to you. Most longarmers who are experienced will be more than happy to answer your questions and will appreciate your asking. Things that may matter:
- Do you have business insurance to cover my quilts while in your possession? Many longarmers don’t have it. There’s such a slim chance of a loss but if it matters to you that your quilts are insured, check it out.
- Do you or does anyone smoke inside your home/studio? Try getting smoke odor out of your quilts!
- Do you have pets in your home that get on or near the quilts? Some people are terribly allergic to cats. As I’ve said, I have a dachshund and he never gets near quilts but I hold him during the day and a minimum amount of dog hair does attach to my shirt. My shirt then rubs up against your quilt. I’d be kidding myself to say there’s never been a dog hair on a quilt that left here.
- When should I send my quilt? Neither of you probably want the quilt sitting around for months. Most of us want the quilts just a week or so before we’re ready to begin working on it.
- When will I get my quilt back? You should be able to get a good estimate as to when you will get your quilt back.
- When do I pay? Some longarmers may require a deposit. I feel the quilt is deposit enough and I want to be paid before sending the quilt back. Some will send payment with the quilt and I usually hold the check until I’ve done the quilt.
Once you’re ready to deliver or send your package to the longarmer:
- Pin your name and contact info to your top, your backing and your batting. There’s a slim chance it would get separated at the longarmer’s studio (shouldn’t but . . it could).
- If you tell the longarmer you’re bringing or sending your quilt on a certain day, do it! Your longarmer has probably scheduled your quilting to begin on a certain day and needs to keep his/her schedule on track.
- Communicate! If there’s something you want your longarmer to know, tell them! If you hate hearts, if the quilt isn’t obviously masculine but you’re giving it to a man and you don’t want it covered in flowers, if you absolutely, positively have to have the quilt back by December 1, let them know and be specific. A whole lot of problems can be avoided by good communication.
- Make sure you know exactly what the quilter is going to do and how much they are charging before they begin working on your quilt. If you’ve said “it doesn’t matter to me what you do”, is that totally the case? If it matters even one tiny bit, then be specific. Even if you totally trust the longarmer you’re using, I’d still recommend that you know what they’re doing so there are no surprises.
- Pay promptly and if picking up your quilt, do so promptly! Your longarmer is probably not working on a huge budget nor does she want to be responsible for storing your quilt longer than needed.
When you get your quilt back, if you’re pleased, tell your friends. Maybe get some cards from your quilter and offer to give those to others who love your quilts. Most of us cannot afford to do a lot of real advertising and a satisfied customer can do a whole lot to promote your longarmer.
If you’re not pleased, let the quilter know where he/she fell short or how they may have done better, in your opinion. Some may be offended but for the most part, I think we’d all appreciate some constructive criticism. Many of us have only our friends to ask as far as how we’re doing. Friends aren’t usually going to tell us if our work isn’t great. I’ve heard through the years of longarmers who never get repeat business and they do not know why. While it surely isn’t the job of a customer to educate the longarmers, if you get a quilt back and you’re never going to use that longarmer again because of the job she did or the way in which she did the job, if she’s trying to make a living quilting, maybe it would be of benefit to her to hear why you were not satisfied. You do not have to get into a real conversation with her but an e-mail should be sufficient.
As a longarmer, I would appreciate knowing if someone was unhappy with my work and why. I might walk away feeling that the person was being too picky and it might not change the way I do things in the future but it might be just the advice I need to get me on the right track to becoming a better longarmer.
When the topper and longarmer work together to produce a fantastic quilt, everyone wins in the end.