Longarm Tips

  • Accurate cutting and an accurate quarter-inch seam will reward you with a good-looking quilt!
  • Also, treat yourself to a new blade in your rotary cutter and a new needle in your sewing machine every couple of quilts. You spend a lot of money on fabrics; don’t spoil the experience with dull tools.
  • Trim your threads as you piece your quilt.
  • Press the quilt top and backing before bringing them to your quilter.
  • Do not baste together or join the separate parts of your quilt together before bringing them to your quilter (the top, batting, and backing). They need to be separate to be mounted on the quilting machine.
  • If your quilt top has some puffiness or waviness, consider a “fatter” batting. It will help take up the extra fabric.  Puffiness, excesss fullness,  or waviness in your quilt top is sometimes impossible to “quilt out”.  Please make every effort to piece a flat top.
  • Quilting is different from garment sewing; you DON’T want to E-A-S-E your pieces together in sewing quilts as that will create fullness. It is generally more pleasing to be slightly off on a seam than to have a puff or a wave (see point above).
  • To avoid waviness in your borders, be sure to measure across the center of the quilt for your border lengths for the most accurate number. If you leave your border longer, sew it on, trim it off — you are sure to have a wavy border!
  • If your quilt is going to be embellished with buttons, ribbons, flowers, etc., the time to add them is after your quilt top is quilted.
  • Sometimes I’m asked for my favorite batting. I use a lot of Hobbs 80/20.  If you supply your own batting (subject to approval), make sure it is appropriate for machine quilting.
  • I am also asked about prewashing your quilt fabrics. I always used to do this and I had good results. Now I never prewash fabrics, and I still have good results. I think the fabrics are a little nicer to work with not prewashed.  All fabric in your quilt (including binding and backing) should be EITHER prewashed or not prewashed (not a combination).
  • Don’t stress out if your top is less than perfect. Quilting adds a new dimension to your quilt and completes the look of your quilt.


  • Allow an extra six inches in the length and width of your backing and batting. This allows the machine quilter pinning room.
  • When preparing your backing, remove any selveges before seaming. This will allow your backing to lie flat. Also, square up your back and even up the fabric where you have sewn seams. This may be an edge that needs to be pinned onto the canvas, so make it a straight edge!
  • Bed sheets are not the best choice for a machine-quilted backing. The weave tends to be tighter and will not give you the best results (you can get skipped stitches). Check out the clearance fabrics at your local quilt shop for backings. If I’ve used all quilt-shop fabrics for the quilt top, I like to use a quilt-shop fabric on the back as well. This is a way to do it at a discount price.
  • In choosing your backing fabric, consider the thread color(s) to be used on your quilt. If the quilting thread is going to be black or navy, you probably wouldn’t want a light backing. Prints, even tone-on-tone prints, work well for backings. I like a light neutral as well if the thread is medium to light.
  • If you piece your backing decoratively, it may be difficult for your machine quilter to exactly center or line up your backing design with the finished quilt.

Sew Long!  Have Fun!

by Sue Hecker — Maker, Traveler, Photographer, Mother & Wife, Lover of Life