It's time to load a new quilt on my longarm quilting frame! Learn how I load quilts on my Continuum Quilting Frame in this new quilting tutorial:
Quick links to tools and supplies from this quilting tutorial:
How to Load a Quilt on a Longarm Quilting Frame
Before I owned a longarm frame, this loading step was always a mystery to me. How do you get all the layers evenly spread out? How does it work and how do you avoid puckers and pleats that are so common with traditional basting?
(It's really easy to pile things up on your longarm. Remember - the quicker you quilt your project, the less likely you'll start using it like a spare table for unfinished projects!)
The first thing to understand is loading a quilt on a longarm frame is much better and easier than traditional quilt basting. As soon as I realized how quick and easy this could be, it immediately became my favorite way to prepare a quilt for quilting.
While I still love to use pins and Pinmoors for smaller projects, this method is so much easier on my hands and back and so much faster too.
The key to loading a quilt on a longarm frame is understanding the grainline of fabric and how to find the midpoints of your quilt top, batting, and backing. This is really simple - if you rip your fabric, the tear will always run along the grainline of the fabric.
To find the midpoint, simply fold the fabric in half and crease in the center. Then line up that spot with the center point of your leader cloth and pin from there.
Pin the Right Way
I know I'm a little neurotic when it comes to pinning on my leader cloth! I always pin left handed so the pointy end goes to the right and I always pin from the center to the outer edges. I've found doing these two things really reduces the chances I get stuck with the pins, which is NO fun!
Pinning the backing is really the most time consuming part of the process. Take your time with it so the backing fabric isn't stretched or skewed out of shape. Once it's pinned, it's time to roll.
As you can see in the video, I spend a bit of time smoothing out the fabric and removing wrinkles as the backing fabric rolls up onto the top rail. This ensures the ripped sides of the backing fabric stay in perfect alignment on the rail and the backing is square and straight.
Keep in mind, I never, ever had this ability to keep my backing and quilt top straight and square when basting in a traditional way - taping and pinning to a table. I do think this helps to reduce weird distortion and pleats and puckers that can so easily crop up in quilts quilted on a home machine.
Adding the Batting and Quilt Top to the Frame
Once I pin the backing fabric, everything else is stitched and clamped in place. I spread out the batting and smooth it across the frame, then tuck it between the second and third rails.
Using the channel lock on the machine carriage, I lock the machine so it stitches a straight line down the length of the frame. This secures the top edge of the batting in place and it also provides a perfectly straight line for the quilt top to be lined up with.
I place the quilt top over the batting and smooth it out, then just like the batting, I tuck it between the second and third rails.
You can pin the quilt top to the third rail if you want to, but I find this takes extra time and it's not really necessary. I use these Quilt Clips to lock the quilt top and batting securely to the second rail and add a bit of tension to the area I'm quilting.
That's it! Loading a quilt on a longarm frame isn't time consuming or difficult. I can typically load a quilt in about 15 minutes - a much, much faster process than basting a quilt on a table. The best part is I can do this standing up, which feels much better for my body too.
I hope you enjoyed this quilting tutorial! Be looking for our next tutorial on how to use the Slice Quilting Ruler on this quilt coming on Friday!
Don't forget to check out the tools and supplies I used in this quilting tutorial:
Let's go quilt,