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Please Give Us Enough Leeway!
We Need Enough Backing!

We need enough fabric to give you the results that both you and we desire. However, this situation is getting worse. In stead of having plenty of backing, we seem to be getting less and less.

Some backs that we are being given are said to be "plenty big enough." But they are neither plenty nor big. They are one inch or less larger than the top. That may work for hand stitching. But, it isn't enough for a longarm to get good results.

Not only that, but charges that the longarmer may charge to correct the problem may be far more the just having sufficient fabric to begin with.

In a way, it seems a bit counter-intuitive. I mean, the longarmer invests tens of thousands of dollars on a longarm that is less efficient with fabric than hand quilting?

Yes, it uses more fabric!

The Physics of a Longarm

It is the physics of a longarm that requires it. The big horizontal rollers with their leader cloths provide tension control and stability lengthwise [top to bottom]. The clamps, or other device, provides the tension control and stability across the width of the quilt. Each of these requires extra fabric on the back for attachment all the way around: top, bottom, and both sides.

The top and the bottom of the backing are attached to the leader cloth using pins or other devices such as Red Snappers, which we use. This anchors fabric. Not enough fabric can result in the foot hitting the roller/Red Snappers, as shown below. The result can range from ripped tops. I t can also result in needing to trim off more of the quilt than desired as the bottom, in this case, has no stitching.
The sides usually have clamps or other devices to hold the quilt taut. We also use the sides to prove the thread tension for the specific quilt, as shown with the curvy "C" designs, shown right. All this takes fabric.

Additionally, with many edge-to-edge designs the stitching continues off the edge to get a good fill of stitching on the top. This is because a design is a single line, going up and down and back and forth in order to fill in the design. Both the backing and batting must be larger than the where the "foot" may travel or the foot may "catch" the batting and/or backing and stitch it onto the top. Having sufficient backing and batting allows the quilter to continue without catching the fabric.

Creepy, Crawly

The batting sizing has the same issues as backing. However, there is an additional issue with batting.

When batting is very fluffy, there is a tendency for the backing and/or batting to be "consumed" by the quilting process faster than the top. Everything at the bottom of the quilt runs out of batting and backing before the stitching is completed. This can be disastrous when the quilt has custom borders and the border can not be stitched.

Prior Newsletters

In prior newsletters I have presented the issue of squaring a back [LA#11], a process in which you inevitable loose some backing fabric. Also presented was the loss of fabric through pre-washing [LA#7]. Again, both of these reduce the fabric size of the back from when it was first purchased and seemed to be the correct size..


In a longarm studio, quilts are being loaded and unloaded. Each quilt has a different quality of fabric used in the top and back as well as different batting, depending upon each of the piecer's preferences.

Each of these affect where the thread's knot will be located within the quilt. Will it be in the middle where it should be? Or, will it be on, or near, the top or bottom? - Yuck!

As this changes from quilt to quilt, the tension must be tested on the backing and batting being used - the top piece can be a quality scrap. This takes room at the sides of the quilt - not much, but some and possible in several places as the quilt advances. This is show in the first photo.

Only Your Longarmer Knows

Always check with the longarmer that you are going to use to determine how much backing fabric and batting is enough. At Forever In Stitches we want 10" of backing fabric beyond the top, or 5" on each side. The batting should be 5" larger than the top, or 2 1/2" on each of the sides..
Enjoy your blessings!
Rick & Ruth Grihalva
At Forever In Stitches our goal is to further the art of quilting and longarming.
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