Help me make your quilt look its best by following these guidelines whenever possible.

BATTING SIZE: The batting needs to be bigger than the quilt top by at least 2 inches on all sides. I carry the types of batting I like to work with on my machine so it you’d like to provide your own, please check first to see if it’s a brand and content I can work with.

BACKING SIZE: Please make your backing at least 8 inches wider than your quilt top and at least 8 inches longer. Your backing will not be exactly centered on the quilt top; 2 or so of the extra length in inches will be at the top of the quilt, and the other 6 will be at the bottom. This extra length is needed to establish proper tension on the backing when it is on the rollers of the quilting frame. The more extra room you give me on the batting and backing in width, the more room I have to test the thread tension before sewing on your quilt. If you have chosen several thread colors, I need more test space in the width to check the tension of each different type of thread.

BACKING CHOICE: A busy print or batik (or hand-dye) makes for a cleaner looking back because a neutral bobbin thread will effectively disappear.

BACKING COLOR: If you can pick a backing color that is close in hue to the majority of the top, then it’s easier to match the thread colors, top and bottom. The closer the thread colors are on top and bottom, the less show-through you’ll have of the little ‘pokies’ of thread from the opposite side. Think about it like this: if you have a white top and a red backing, and I use a white thread on top, and a red one on the bottom, the top of your quilt may show little red dots between the stitches, where the bobbin thread pulls up. For a clean-looking top and bottom, pick a backing that is in the same range of colors as your top.

HARMONY OF MATERIALS: Try to match the type of material that is on the top for the backing. If the thread count is significantly denser or looser then it may be difficult for me to balance the tension of the top and bottom threads to produce a clean-looking stitch. You might want to consider shrinkage, too. If the top and bottom layers of your quilt shrink at different rates then the quilt may not lay flat after you wash it.

THREAD COLORS: I’ll try to match your backing color in bobbin thread unless I feel it might show through in an ungainly way on the front of your quilt. I may change bobbin thread colors in different parts of your quilt to get the best look on the front.

MIXED FIBER TOPS: If you’ve mixed things like flannel, minkee, velvet, silk, or chenille in with your cottons, I may cheer you on, but also want you to know that the varying heights and density of the fabrics may play havoc with thread tensions. I will always do my best to make your quilt look great and will place more priority on making the front look pretty than the back.

STAY STITCHING: If you have a top that has been pieced with several different fabrics, consider stay stitching, at a basting length, around the entire top, at a quarter-inch in from the edge. That keeps your seams from raveling before I can quilt them. Likewise DON’T TRIM YOUR EDGE SEAM THREADS flush with the edge of the fabric. They will ravel the second you trim them unless you have back stitched or stay stitched to secure them.

BASTING: To secure the quilt top to the backing and batting, I will baste around the entire edge of the quilt, at roughly a one-quarter inch interval. After quilting, I will trim and serge the edge, and sometimes the basting still shows. This is easy to pull out so if I miss any basting just lift it out with a seam ripper or tweezers if it shows after the quilt has been bound.

SQUARE YOUR QUILT BACKING: The quilt I return to you will only be as square as the top and backing you provide. This just means that the top and bottom of the backing should be clean-cut lines that are perpendicular to the left and right edges. If you really want to make the set-up go faster, when you square the backing, leave a safety pin or a tiny notch marking the center of the top and bottom. Then when I baste on the velcro leaders that attach the backing to my machine, I can align the centers without having to re-measure and re-square the backing. The more square the backing is, the straighter it will lay on my machine, ensuring sound tension and no skew, meaning no puckers or pleats on the back of your finished quilt.

MARK TOP/BOTTOM OR LEFT/RIGHT: If you have a particular way you’d like your top to lay with respect to the backing, please mark which end goes up, so I’m sure to put the two together the way you like them best.

WASHING HINTS: I’m not a huge pre-washer of fabric so if you’re like me then the first washing some of your fabrics will get is in your finished quilt. This requires a fair amount of courage on pieces with reds, pinks, and turquoises, since much of the dye might still migrate. For my first washings, and sometimes subsequent washes, I use Color Catcher sheets by Shout. Just throw them in with the quilt and they pick up most of the migrating dye. Also great to wash your tie-dyes with. I’ve also been told that a bleached white towel will also pick up migrating dye if thrown in with a quilt, but I haven’t tried that yet. I wash the quilts in cold or warm water in mild detergent or shampoo, with a similar rinse and minimal agitation, and then gentle tumble dry or line-dry if the weather is great.