You've finished your quilt top, gotten yourself certified and have booked time at Hello Stitch to use their amazing Innova stitch-regulated longarm. Here are 4 things you can do to get ready and make your time more fun and productive:
1. Make Your Quilt Back
Your quilt back should extend at least 5 inches beyond all the edges of your quilt top. An easy way to think about this is to take the dimensions of your quilt top and add 10". For example, a 60"x75" quilt top should have a backing that is at least 70"x85". You can go a little bigger but don't go crazy.
Not sure how much fabric you'll need? Here's an online calculator that is pretty easy to use.
2. Attach Your Zipper
Take a deep breath. For some reason, this step is intimidating to beginners. Don't worry, if you proceed calmly, you'll be fine. This seems like a lot of instructions but that is just because I've broken it into tiny steps.
The zipper is attached to the quilt back. Remember, your backing is going on the longarm wrong-side up. (Think about your quilt, you want the right-side of the top and back to face out with the batting in between.)
Decide which side of the back you want to have at the top of your quilt. (Pro tip: if it's not too difficult, have any long seams run horizontally.)
Find the middle of the top and bottom of the quilt back by folding it in half. Mark these midpoints with a pin.
Layout the quilt back, wrong-side up, top at the top (the way it'll go onto the longarm). Place the zipper that says "Pin to backing fabric top left side, backing material wrong side up" horizontally above your quilt back in the way the zipper says to do it.
Align the midpoint of the zipper with the midpoint of the quilt back and pin them together at this point.
Now, it's time to sew the zipper to the quilt back. Get your machine ready by attaching the zipper foot and setting the stitch length to 5.0 (or whatever the longest straight stitch on your machine is). For some quilters, like me, this may be the first time you are using a zipper foot and you may be scared. Don't be, it is just a skinny foot. Also, you are going to rip the zipper off when you are done so it doesn't matter if it's ugly.
Sew from the middle of the quilt to the edge then flip it over and sew from the middle to the other edge. In one direction the fabric will be on top of the zipper and in the other the zipper will be on top.
Layout the quilt back again and align the bottom zipper. Pin and sew it on just like you did for the top.
3. Select, Purchase and Size Batting
Hello Stitch usually has 3-4 battings available off the bolt by the yard and some pre-cut packages. Check ahead to see if they have what you want. If not, consider local quilt shops like Bay Quilts, Stonemountain & Daughter, or New Pieces.
We'll do another post to talk about selecting batting but things to consider are weight, loft (puffiness) and cost. Ideally, touch 'em, price 'em and see what you like.
Your batting should be about the same width as your backing and at least as long (it is okay if it is longer).
4. Choose Thread
Finally, a step that is fun and creative!
Look at your quilt top. Do you want your quilting to pop by adding another dimension or would you prefer for it to fade to the background unifying the quilt with an overall pattern?
Layout your quilt. Select threads that appeal to you, unravel a few feet and drape it over the quilt to see how it looks on the different fabrics. Auditioning thread is free! See that neon green, what the heck, give it a try. If you hate it, just pick up the thread and put it away. You never know what might turn out to be just the thing.
I can't tell you how many colors I looked at for this quilt. Some were too contrasty on the white, others on the navy, others clashed with everything. I finally settled on Hot Pink (trust me, it wasn't an original contender) and I love it.
Your Work is Done
You've got everything you need. Now just show up, have fun and quilt, quilt, quilt!
Are you interested in learning more about renting the longarm quilting machine at Hello Stitch? The first step is to take our Longarm Certification Class! Once you are longarm certified, you can rent time on our machine for $25/hour. Want to expand your longarm skills? We have a variety of longarm classes to choose from including how to use pantographs and exploring free-motion design. See all of our upcoming Longarm Classes HERE.