I took my first longarming class some 16 years ago from Loretta Benedict at Accomplish Quilting from whom we purchased our longarm machines. That was when AQ was in the basement of her house. One of the many points that have rung true is: if you cannot properly control the tension on your longarm, then opt for a busy back.
The busier the back, the harder it is to see the stitching. Of course, if it is hard to see the stitching it will be harder to see those crow-feet, spider-webs, birds'-nests, and the like. In other words, you can almost make any amount of stitching look good if you've got a busy enough back. On the other hand it will also make it harder for the longarmer to spot problems and maintain a high quality of work.
That's why we like simple or plain backing. We love good stitching! And, judging from the "Show & Tells" at the guilds and clubs that we have attended, observers of the finished quilt love to see the details of the stitching, too. Even if it is a stipple.
Shown below is an example of busy fabric. Notice how difficult it is to see the stitching in this edge-to-edge piece.
Even more interesting is when you are changing thread colors in a semi-custom or custom longarming job. In these cases you want the effect to be visible.
At Forever In Stitches we like to have the stitching complement the quilt's piecing and not over-power it. This leaves the back as the showcase for the stitching.
On occasion the client may want the stitching to over-power the quilt top. On more than one occasion we had clients that were very unsatisfied with their quilt top and when we put some powerful stitching on it they were ecstatic!
Also, different longarmers have their own preferences. Some like to over-power the piecing as a matter of choice.
There are considerations to gather from this. They follow:
- You will be investing time and/or money in your longarming. Take that into consideration when purchasing a back.
- Do the backs completed by your longarmer look good, okay, or poor? Not sure, then look around their shop and inspect their samples.
- How do you want your quilt stitched? Will you want: E2E, E2E with custom borders, custom, highly custom, or heirloom?
- Will you want a single color of thread or multiple colors of threads, depending upon the area of the quilt and custom stitching?
- How you want the balance of your piecing and the longarm stitching to work.
Take all these into consideration. You may well discover that the beautiful backing designed by the fabric designer may not be what you want to "show off" on your quilt's back. Then again, it might fit the bill.