I was very excited to tie dye a symmetrical spiral quilt back for the commission t-shirt quilt. After gloating over my dyeing success for a few days reality struck.
How the heck am I going to get the quilt top centered on the back? It took a few days of pondering but I finally figured it out. Here's a little tutorial.
First the backing needs to be square and not on the grain lines. It has to be squared on the design. I folded the backing fabric on the vertical and horizontal center "lines" of the dyed fabric. These are the same fold lines that the tie dye design was done on. Square up the backing off of these folded center lines. Unless the design is perfectly centered, this will bee slightly off grain. Mine was but it wasn't a problem at all.
1. Load the backing on the longarm (either on the long edge or short edge depending on your quilting plan) with the pinned edges centered on the backing and take-up leaders. I loaded this one with the top and bottom (short sides) of the quilt attached to the leaders but that was simply a function of the way I wanted the quilt design to flow across the quilt.
2. Roll the backing onto the take-up and backing rollers until the true center of the backing fabric is centered in the work area of the longarm.
3. For this to work, the top has to be fully floated. You cant put the top on the top roller.
Find the center of the batting and position it on the backing so that the vertical and horizontal center of the batting roughly lines up with the centers of the backing. Place a pin at the edge of the batting (and through the backing) on the center point of the backing design. DO this at both edges of the batting. The red circle points out the positioning pin on the left side of the batting. At this point there is an equal amount of backing fabric rolled on the backing and take-up rollers and half the batting is above that pin and half is below that pin.
4. Lay the top on the batting. Center it left to right on the backing and position the center of the top across the center of the backing. This is where those positioning pins will be helpful. This is a t-shirt quilt and the center point between the top and bottom of the quilt is right in the middle of the SPAM block.
You can see that I have the top part of the batting and the top scrunched up against the take-up roller. I quilted from this center point to the top (toward the take-up roller).
5. Baste the sides of the quilt and quilt the center section of the quilt. My pantograph has two passes and you might be able to see that it runs across that green Acadia block and a little into the bullseye block. I had to watch the top edge so that the loose batting and top did not get in the way of the quilting. Now the quilt is stable.
6. The bottom part of the quilt and backing need to be rolled onto the backing bar so that you can quilt the top of the quilt. See the green Acadia block? That's where I quilted and that is my reference point. I unrolled the backing fabric and loosely spread the backing and top over the backing and rolled it all back onto the backing roller. At this point you have to be careful with that stitched area and make sure there isn't too much torque on it. If it has odd pressure on it you could risk tearing a hole in the quilt.
7. The rest of the process is pretty normal. First I quilted from the middle to the top being careful to keep the loose batting edge and top out of the way of the machine.
8. After the top part is quilted, unroll the bottom of the backing, batting and top from the backing roller. Roll the backing only back onto the roller and let the batting and top hang loose as normal. Finish quilting the quilt.
Was it worth it?
Yes it was! It did turn out centered. The is the back of the trimmed quilt. I will have better photos after the binding is done but it centered perfectly.