Thursday, February 14, 2013

Load that Quilt Top straight and true every time...!

 Getting and keeping a quilt top nice and straight while loading onto a machine quilting frame was a huge dilemma for me until I stumbled across this great procedure one day.  It's fast, takes just a bit of time and requires minimal tools.  Now please understand, regardless of any quilt I quilt even though I float all my tops, I take great pains to keep all my quilt tops straight on the frame while quilting w/pin basting, side leader tensioners, to name a few:

Pin basting second quilt top onto batting and backing

Did I just write a caption under that picture that reads 'second quilt top'?  Yes, indeed! I love to quilt two quilts at the same time and do it whenever I can, especially w/gifting and charitable projects.  While these may not be heirloom or juried quilts, every quilt deserves the utmost attention and care to detail, including and especially during loading and quilting.

Putting the first top on might not be such a challenge, but loading two quilt tops on and getting that second top straight can really create quite the dilemma, even for the most seasoned veteran - especially if you load sideways like I did BOTH of these tops!  

Here's a quick tip I picked up from professional quilt artist, Matt Sparrow, aka the manquilter, that works incredibly well.  I'll show you the picture first and then explain:

Orange quilter's clamp used to stabilize machine carriage wheel like channel lock

The orange quilter's clamp on my carriage wheel (above photo), available at Erica's, works great if one does not have access to the channel lock system available on many longarm quilting machines.  It allows you to position your machine 'anywhere' on your quilt and once your carriage wheel is stabilized to keep it from rolling forward/backward or side to side, depending on which position you locked your wheel - horizontal or vertical, you will now be able to stitch a straight line, no rulers required!

And here's the great tip I got from the manquilter - rather than try and get your quilt top straight by guessing, especially on the second top, he recommends taking advantage of one of the quilt top's interior border seams, which should be straight, setting your channel lock/quilter's clamp and using that stitched seam line on your quilt as a guide for getting the quilt top positioned correctly.

I run my machine's hopping foot w/needle position centered above that border seam line as you would w/SID but without stitching while the carriage is locked in place, a 'dry run' so to speak, get everything positioned nice and straight, pin in place and baste a straight line in the ditch of that border seam (above photo).  

THEN, I remove the Quilter's clamp from my carriage wheel, re-position my machine to the top edge of the quilt top, place the quilter's clamp on the carriage wheel, pat everything in place nice and straight, pin the top edge and baste in place:

Removing pins while basting a quilt top w/quilter's clamps in place
Don't forget to pick ALL those pins up after removal, and put them away in your safe place!

Once again, you can align your hopping foot above the edge of your quilt top and do a 'dry run' w/your machine across the top edge of your quilt top to ensure everything is straight. You can also utilize this same procedure on the sides of your quilt top, lining up the border seam lines first, pin and SID*, then the outside border edges and pin baste/stitch baste in place.  This process takes only a few minutes and once completed, I know my quilt top is nice and straight and true - ready for lots of quilting!

Give this a try and see if this method of loading and keeping your quilt tops straight will work as well for you as it has for me.  Drop me a line and let me know...Good Luck w/all your quilting ventures!


* Here is a great link to a photo and SID explanation of how I stitch-in-the-ditch (I use the 'blue' continuous line SID method), generously provided by 2010 HQ Award Recipient, Donna Sontag on her Whatever's Quilted facebook page...Thanks Donna!

1 comment:

  1. Guess I missed this post while I was out of town...
    I don't have a channel lock on my machine, I wonder if that gadget would work on my Tin Lizzy. Think I'll have to go check it out! I love the way you're sharing your techniques on your blog.