Loading the Quilt onto the Table
We will be using three of the rails. Each bar has a ratchet-type action that keeps the quilt taut. The rail at the back of the table is called the Take up Bar. Eventually, most of the quilt will be rolled up onto this rail as it is finished. There are two rails in the front of the machine. The rail closest to you is called the “Belly Bar” because it is at your belly. The quilt back will be pinned to both the Take up bar and the Belly bar. The bottom of the quilt top is pinned to the other rail. Mark the Centers of your rails. (The lowest rail is used to keep the batting off of the ground and doesn’t have any tension to it.)
Leaders are pieces of fabric that are attached to the ends of the quilt to enable the machine to reach the entire quilt. The quilt may be basted, pinned or zipped onto the leaders. Leaders are attached to the rails in various manners. At TinLizzie18 we attach them with Velcro. The leaders should hang off of the rail in the opposite direction than the rail rolls when the ratchets are engaged.
After assuring that the quilt back and batting are 6-inches longer and 6-inches wider than the quilt top, mark the center of both the quilt back top and bottom.
Mark the Center of both the top and bottom of your quit top. Mark the center of the batting top.
- Load the quilt back first. We will begin with the bottom of the quilt back. Lay the quilt back across the Longarm table with the right side of the fabric facing the floor and the top draped over the take up rail. Match the center of the quilt back to the center of the leader on the Belly Bar. (Remember: Quilt Back Bottom on the Belly Bar.) Using T-pins or florist pins and beginning in the center, pin the quilt to the leader with the pins on the canvas side. The sharp end of the pins should point out towards the outside of the table. Carefully, roll the quilt back onto the rail, smoothing out any wrinkles and keeping it straight. Continue until the top of the Quilt back is touching the take up bar. Starting at the center pin the top of the quilt back onto the take up bar leader. (Make sure that the quit back is under the third rail, not over it.) Always pin from the center out. The Quilt Bottom should be coming off of the bottom of the Take up bar and over the top of the Belly Bar.
- Next the quilt top will be pinned to the remaining leader. Lay the quilt top (right side up) over the table with the majority of the top towards the back of the table. Starting in the center pin the bottom of the Quilt Top to the remaining leader. (This rail rolls in the opposite direction from the others and is able to be raised out of the way.) Carefully roll the quilt top onto the bar, smoothing and making sure it is going on straight. Roll it until the top edge of the quilt falls off of the Take up bar.
- Drape the unpinned edge of the quilt over the rail you just pinned the top onto. This rail is able to be lifted out of the way to place the batting. Lift it now.
- Mark the center of the batting and lay it over the quilt back and placing the top of the batting just along the take up railing and even with the pinned edge of the quilt backing. Place the rest of the batting between the rails in the front of the machine using the lowest rail to keep the batting off of the floor. Make sure the batting lays flat and smoothly across the quilt back.
- Baste the “quilt sandwich” at the top of the quilt just below the take up rail starting at the center marking. Using the Longarm machine baste from the center marking to the right edge of the quilt, then down along the right side of the quilt. Go back to the center mark and baste towards the left side of the quilt and down the left side of the quilt. It may be necessary to smooth the quilt with your free hand as you stitch. Baste as close to the edge of the fabric as possible or about ¼ inch. Every time the quilt is rolled baste the edge before quilting.
- Tighten all of the rails for a taut quilt. Remember, rolling too tight will misshape the quilt. Taut, not tight.
- You are ready to quilt. The batting and backing of the quilt are cut larger than the top because quilting takes up more of the backing than the top. You may take advantage of the larger backing to use as a test area to assure that the tensions are correct.
- When you need to roll the quilt, release the rails in the front of the machine and carefully roll the take up rail until it is positioned correctly for your next quilting area. Replace the ratchets on the rails and roll the rails for a taut quilt. Each time you roll check the layers of the quilt to ensure the wrinkles are smoothed and the batting is flat.
- The Take up rail is able to be raised as the quilt becomes more bulky on the rail. Keep enough room for your finger tips under the quilt. If the rail is too low the quilt will drag on the machine bed. If it is too high there may be thread breakage or skipped stitches.
- When the quilting is finished, carefully remove the quilt from the leaders.