Safety Pin the center top:

Some quilt patterns are very subtle as to what is the top of the quilt. One person may feel the top is a certain direction because the leaf in the border “drops down”. While an equally viable interpretation is that the leaf is “drifting up”. You made the quilt, it is your masterpiece, let me know what you want as the “top” of your quilt.

Do not baste your quilt:

You have to love a rule that saves you time. A longarm machine is loaded with three separate layers; the top, batting and backing. If you have not seen the process be sure to ask to see my machine I usually have a quilt loaded for you to see.

Backing & Batting:

The quilt backing and batting should be a minimum of 3 inches wider than the quilt top all the way around. If your quilt top measures 80 x 90, the backing needs to measure 86 x 96 as a minimum. The quilt is held in place with clamps when it is quilted to keep the top taut. The clamps need to be away from the quilt top to not interfere with the quilting.

The Borders:

When constructing your borders, take the time to make sure they are the right size and not flared or wavy. Borders that ripple make it nearly impossible to quilt without forming pleats. Be sure to measure the quilt center in three places and take the average measurement as your border measurement. Always attach the quilt to the border, not the border to the quilt. There are many great reference books on applying borders or ask me for a free lesson.

Backstitch all the seams of the outer borders. This will prevent any border seams from popping open when the quilt is loaded onto the longarm machine and quilted. If your final border is pieced, run a row of stitching 1/8”-1/4” from the outer edge all the way around the quilt top. This helps stabilize the seams, keeps them from pulling out and will be hidden in your binding.

Is your quilt square?

Check your quilt to see how “square” it is. One of the best methods is to fold both the outer long edges to the center line of the quilt. When you do this, observe if the original corners of the quilt lie exactly on the quilt top or if they are longer or shorter than the center line of the quilt. Repeat the process for the other side of the quilt.

The corners of the quilt should be checked to see how square they are with a minimum of a 12” square ruler. A 6” x 24” ruler will not give the true story.


The complete quilt top should be pressed. All the seams should be pressed to one side. Careful pressing during construction will make the piecing and quilting process much easier. Try to avoid seams that “flip” especially if you want custom “stitch-in-the-ditch” quilting. If your seam flips then the “ditch” will also move making it more difficult to quilt.

Threads buttons charms and pet hair:

None of the above should be on your quilt before it is quilted. Unclipped threads on the surface can get caught in the hopping foot. Check the quilt top for seam breaks as well. The hopping foot can get caught in a seam break causing the quilt top to rip. Dark threads left on the underside can show through lighter top fabrics. Once the quilt is quilted you can embellish it to your heart’s content and let the family pet take a nap on it.