Fixing More Quilt Problems

Now, several more charity quilts later, I promised to show you how I fix some other common problems with longarm quilting.  Once again, the main reason for this post is to educate those that send quilts to a longarmer, but new longarmers may find something useful here. First up, the issue of using sheets as backing. Oh heavens, I know there are those of you that think there is a lot of fabric without seams, and it makes a perfect backing, but it doesn’t. The weave is rarely even, it stretches like mad and not evenly, and it is difficult to quilt through keeping the tensions balanced. But, the kicker is when someone gives you one that has been washed dozens of times.  This one was pieced by my neighbor, such a sweet lady.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Note that the sheet is the backing, and is fine on the far side, but the side closest to the camera is sagging like crazy. Not just a little, a LOT!  Both ends are pinned to the leaders and rolled evenly from the bottom.  I swear I am not making this up.  Not even my fertile mind could come up with this, LOL!

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

I unpin it at that edge, and pull up some of the fullness. This is going to make it off grain, but I can’t help that.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

After I roll it up again, I stuff some batting between the canvas leader and the roller to take up the rest of the fullness.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Adding the clamps, and now it is close to being flat.  I quilted it like this.  Each time I advanced the quilt, I removed the batting, then replaced it under the roller, just enough to get this side reasonably flat.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

The saddest part of this is that stained glass quilt with all those black sashings, diagonal seams and bias edges was entirely hand pieced and absolutely flat with perfectly applied borders! Without a doubt, this is one of the most wonderful piecing jobs I have ever has the pleasure to quilt.  It would have been so much nicer in the end to have a pretty tone on tone print for backing.

The next three quilts had a lot of fullness in the middle. Rule of thumb, if it won’t press flat, some adjustment to the piecing is needed. Some quilting will take care of minor puffiness, but even a miracle worker can’t fix D-cups.  The puckering in the picture below happens when the longarmer cannot take up the fullness with other techniques.  If the quilt will be washed and used a lot, this will be camouflaged in the puckering that happens with washing.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

This one is not too bad, but still very puffy.  Sometimes if the whole quilt is like this, you can add another layer of batting to take up the fullness.  But that isn’t a solution if the puffs are just here and there.  So here is how I handle that.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

One thing I do is use a solution of Best Press, diluted 50% with water. This works just as well as full strength and goes twice as far.  I buy it by the gallon online, and refill the spray bottle. Spray generously on the section needing flattening.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Then plug in the iron with an extension cord, and steam the you-know-what out of it while it is on the frame.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Smooth the wrinkles out by hand as much as possible, distributing the fullness over as wide an area as I can. Here’s the same spot after the steam treatment.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

And same thing again on a different quilt.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Spray with 50% solution, steam like crazy, and smooth as best I can.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Then quilt. Not bad, still some minor puckers. Since this is a charity quilt it will get washed, and will shrink up all over and hide this bit.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

Last problem for today, I am continually amazed at the number of poorly applied borders. On this quilt, when I was almost done quilting, I found this.  I put a pin in to hold it, but notice that there is no extra to tuck into the seam.  How this got by the piecer,  I’ll never know.

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

I put a tiny bit of fusible web under the broken seam, stuffed the ends down as best I could, and topstitched it with the longarm before continuing the quilting.  It looks terrible, but it was the best I could do.  This is one of my pet peeves, why should the recipient of a charity quilt deserve any less than our best effort?

Fixing Quilt Problems ~ From My Carolina Home

If you missed my other post on quilt issues, click on Loading the Longarm.  Even with all the issues, I still enjoy quilting and helping with charity quilts.  I am gratified by being able to take these lovingly made tops and help them become beautiful quilts to brighten someone’s day at a hospice, hospital, or shelter.  A quilt on a bed helps make those places feel more like a home to a person who really needs comfort, and that is worth our best work.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Fat Quarter Shop Daily Flash Sale

15 thoughts on “Fixing More Quilt Problems

  1. Rosemaryflower

    All of this is really very interesting to me.
    I have heard of using sheets for backing. I do not know enough about that, but if the sheet is 100% cotton, I would probably feel better about using it. that being said. Why a sheet? To have a solid backing?
    what about cotton polyester sheets?

    I like pieced backings. I try to make them flat. That is a pretty quilt.
    I am getting better at not being sloppy 😛 crummy seams. I do not think I have ever ever ever in my live long days seen or done any kind of sloppy sewing like you show here. That is a big oops.
    You are so kind to quilt this for your neighbor. I learned a lot in this post. Thanks for sharing all of your vast knowledge that is busting out of your huge brains 😀
    Happy Wednesday

    1. Rosemaryflower

      another thought that tumbles out of my head:
      If you have a huge piece of fabric that you wanted to use as a backing. Wouldn’t it be better to first lay it on the floor or somehow be sure that the large piece of fabric is FLAT?
      Is that something that was overlooked when she put the backing on the front? Was the sheet not square? That is pretty common is some sheets and I am not even sure if the 100% cotton is better, I would imagine yes

  2. I used a sheet to fix my husband’s t-shirt quilt but it was a bad idea. Rough go of it but it used a sheet that wasn’t going to get used. I’ve used jersey knit sheets for backs and it worked but i won’t use them again.

    1. i used jersey knit on a t-shirt quilt that was tied. The ties pulled through both front and back therefore i was constantly sewing on more shirts and taking all the fluff out of the dryer screen. after about 11 years of use and 5 years of fixing the quilt i had to replace the back. At this point it didn’t matter what it looked like (truly, i do not jest) i put it on the long arm and quilted the lyrics of a song in cursive.

  3. I don’t mind using sheets…the low thread count ones, 200ct. I have a few elderly clients that bring them to me for their backings. I have them wash and dry them a few times and cut off the hems and they work fine and it is affordable for them. And, yes, they always sag on one side! LOL! I make comfort quilts out of them, too, using 2 sheets and batting, quilt a pretty design and sew a pretty binding on them. And I love getting second hand cotton sheets from the thrift stores. They make the softest and quiltiest comfort quilts. 🙂

    1. That is key, low thread count, not the 600 thread! And they have to be 100% cotton, not cotton poly blend. Some of the finishing on sheets makes the threads very tough to sew through. If a quilter has to use sheets, pick cheap, 100% cotton with a low thread count. Be prepared for a few issues, but it is doable.

  4. BJ

    So glad you discovered and fixed the commenting problem – I actually have a question about the quilts (charity or not) you take on. Do you ever provide feedback to the piecer about the issues you encounter? I am by no means a perfectionist (although my seam ripper is never far away), but I really didn’t work hard at getting better at piecing until a long arm quilter commented on how my piecing impacted her ability to quilt as well as she liked. She had been afraid to say something until she’d worked on about 5 or 6 quilts for fear of hurting my feelings. I so-o-o appreciated her feedback and wished she’d said something sooner. Now I ask anyone quilting for me to let me know if they encounter problems. Frankly, I’m surprised that I don’t see a listing of potential “extra charges” for fixit services on long arm job order sheets. Is there concern about losing the business? Or fear of hurting the piecer’s feelings? As I said, I’m not a perfect piecer, but I love constructive criticism – if I can fix something on the next quilt, great! Win win. And, no, I don’t use sheets as backings except on dog beds. They can be much less expensive than fabric, though, so I understand the temptation.

    1. Joan

      I know this was a long time ago but I wanted to say how I agree with you. This is a very close relationship between piecer and longarmer. There needs to be honest dialog. I just got 2 quilts back from the quilter. Both had huge 12 x 12 areas in the side center – same place in both quilts – that were “wonky”, bunched and badly stitched. If she had trouble I wish she had said she couldn’t quilt it without my correction. I am still debating whether to go back to her. I’m embarrassed and a little angry that I had to take all that stitching out smooth, iron, re-quilt regardless of my fault or hers. After hearing from you I think going to her and having an honest discussion is the way. Thanks.

  5. One of my very first quilts was a king-sized log cabin. Before rotary cutters were invented, fabric marked with pencil and a yard stick, cut with scissors. Machine pieced and hand quilted with a cotton/poly blend sheet. Yikes, not a good thing and never repeated! Fortunately, that quilt moved on many years ago, although it did give give good service for quite a while!

  6. dezertsuz

    Very interesting fixes on the puffy and the sagging problems. I don’t think I’d ever have thought of either one of them.

  7. These are great tips! I have used sheets for a few quilts and have not had any issues (but they were smaller quilts quilted on a domestic machine). I like the best press tip too.

  8. Good Morning Carole! I was fascinated by this post and all of the trouble shooting facts and problems that you face. Deanna and I spent quite a bit of time discussing it also yesterday while sewing. I have never had the opportunity to use the services of a long arm quilter artist nor the opportunity to rent and use one myself either.
    I may get the chance though soon, therefore all of the information you are presenting is so helpful! I do not think I have ever used a sheet as a backing. Yet, I do know that I have used lower quality cotton material and I expect that it would present some of the same type of problems. With my memory problems, Carole, I do not know what type of problems I encountered quilting on my domestic machine. I am truly fascinated with the way that you handle these issues and really make them work. They almost completely disappear. Carole how did you learn to fix these types of problems? Are they written in a book or are they just solutions that you have come up with tried and found worked. I know that I could spend hours and that is so understated just watching you quilt and deal with these issues on your long arm. I also realize that in the reality of it, I would be standing over your shoulder pointing at this and this and asking a million questions until withing ten minutes you threw me out. LOL.
    So, since I am just fascinated and love learning about your adventures on your long arm, plus it appears that everyone else is gaining a lot of knowledge and enjoying your posts, are you going to continue to make this a regular part of your posting like your table settings. You know how I love your table setting posts!!!! Seriously, I am loving your long arming adventures just as much!!
    Thank you for sharing and have a fantastic creative day!

  9. Thank you for that fascinating insight. I have sent quilts to my longarmer, who always made a first class job, and did’t realise the potential problems she faced before. I had heard of using bedsheets as backing as a low budget solution but I’ve never tried it, preferring patterned fabric, especially when quilting it myself on my domestic, I need it to disguise my errors.
    Coming through from Lets Be Social

    Smiles from

  10. I always think that people with longarm quilt machines have it easy, but I see that there are still challenges. Thanks for giving me a reality check! Also, it is good to be reminded to be just as consistent with my seams on charity quilts as I would be on one I would keep.

Comments are closed.