I admit it, I'm an artist who loves the creative side of quilting. I'll spend hours creating an intricate quilt design. Then I'll spend days hunting down the perfect fabrics at thrift shops and second hand stores. I'm at peace as I carefully stitch each piece of my quilt top. But once that is complete, I truly lose interest. The result was a hope chest full of quilt tops and nothing to put on the beds. My exasperated mother finally looked at me and said, "Digby, why don't you just send it to a longarm quilting service to finish it." I had no idea of what she was talking about. After some quick internet research, I found that there are professional quilt finishing services. These savvy entrepreneurs use a longarm quilting machine to help out people just like me. It was somehow reassuring that I wasn't the only one out there.
Longarm Quilting Services
Let a professional longarm quilting service attach your beautiful quilt top to the batten filling and quilt back.
What is Longarm Quilting
A longarm quilting machine is a very large piece of equipment. It has two rollers that are large enough to hold a king size quilt. Instead of having a person manually hold the quilt and push it through a sewing machine. The rollers do the work. This is handy for a variety of reasons. It cuts down on the amount of basting and pinning that's necessary. The longarm quilter has to line up the quilting top, filling and back. Then these layers have to be carefully inserted into the rollers. The sewing machine has a "long arm" that moves above these layers and joins all three layers together. If this all sounds very confusing you can watch an actually longarm quilter at work in the video below.
There are two basic kinds of longarm quilting. What you see below is a quilter manually guiding the longarm quilting machine over the quilt. This can either be done in a random pattern across the entire quilt, which is known as side-to-side quilting. The quilter can also create a design within a specific area of the quilt. The second type of quilting is much more precise, takes a lot more time and is obviously more expensive.
In the second kind of longarm quilting, the machine is programmed to move from side to side and create a uniform pattern. The rollers keep pulling the quilt through at just the right speed to coordinate everything. If you're a budget-conscious quilter, this is your best option.
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Yes you can even find a longarm quilting service on ebay. Which ever professional quilting service you decide to use, there are some similarities. You will have to pay for shipping each way. You have to discuss with them if you send the batten filling or not. I usually don't. But I do send the quilt top and back. If you have any kind of allergy then you might want to ship your own quilt filler.
Speaking of allergies. Always ask if it's a smoke-free and pet-free environment. Once the quilt arrives back at my house, there are going to be cat hairs and dander on it, so I'm not particularly concerned about that. But I know people who are horribly allergic to cats and dogs, so if was giving the quilt as a gift that would be an issue.
I only ask for the free-form side-to-side quilting so my instructions are minimal. If you want a design within a specific area or a border, you might have to even speak with the longarm quilter on the phone. Most of the ones that I've dealt with have bent over backwards to accommodate every artistic whim.
Usually they have a website where I can go look at the various side to side designs and I choose one. I'm not in any rush to get these back. Generally, they are returned in two to three weeks. I'm partial to hiring longarm quilters, who also have shops. But there are many who just work out of their homes. I'm just glad that these businesses exist. I can let my inner quilt maker go crazy and let someone else pull it all together.