Hello all! This post is a tad late and may be a bit short because my just barely 6-month-old is CRAWLING!!! She is now mobile and I'm trying to type this really quick while she naps.
Why did I choose to talk about this today? Well folks, it's because long armers dread them. With a passion. There are quilts I can't even think about loading onto my machine because of all sorts of "stuff".
There are things I don't mind like buttons for eyes or thicker stitches with a pearl cotton or similar thread around appliques and such...
There are also items that make me scratch my head and ask, "Why?"
Here's the short and simple of it. Ask your quilter first BEFORE you add anything extra to a quilt you want them to long arm for you.
The reasoning is simple. There's only so much room for the quilt layers between the machine and hopping foot. Sometimes that isn't enough room for all the layers AND the extras.
Also and this is the big one - if you didn't ask ahead of time, point out EVERY extra you added because if they don't find it (which they won't), the machine will and it may damage both your quilt and the long arm. Basically it's a disaster in the worst way possible. Think about it, put a button or a pin or a loose flange or some piping and don't say anything, then the quilter loads the quilt and takes their machine across the top to get started and it snags the "extra" and the damage is done before you know it. It's so easy with the momentum of the machine to snag something and drag it and rip the quilt. It can happen in an instant. I've heard horror stories of this exact thing happening with a computerized machine that was left unattended and the quilter came back to find a giant hole ripped into the quilt.
So what is the best option? It really depends on what extra you want to add. I always tell my clients to call me with any questions and we can talk it over beforehand. Some buttons and things have to be added prior to quilting - in that case I just can't quilt close to them. I can get as close as possible, but not right on top of it. Otherwise if it can be added after the quilting, always add it after if it doesn't matter (like with a wall hanging where nobody will ever see the back and see the extra stitches).
I recently just had a client that wanted to add prairie points to the outside of the quilt between the quilt and the binding. Luckily she mentioned it and she hadn't stitched them on the quilt top yet. With something like prairie points, they add both bulk and a snag possibility to the quilt. Also, one of the most important details for a long armer - we have to be able to quilt up to and off the edge to give you the best results possible. It's what keeps the foundation of the quilt as we work and keeps the shape and tension for the best quilting results. Anything that interferes with the edge of the quilt should be kept off until after quilting. Again any extra details you wish to add to enhance the binding should normally be left off prior to quilting and added when the binding is being stitched on.
What's the weirdest embellishments I've come across in my quilting career you ask? Well, let me tell you! The items that stand out the most were picture frames made of a thick ribbon that were hot-glued onto a quilt top... There were also these butterflies that were 3D-ish - they were adhered with a really small version of the plastic things that hold price tags onto clothes. I wasn't made aware of it and it tickled my arm as I was quilting and I about crapped my pants. True story. What else, I'm sure there's more... Hhhhhmmmmm there was that one with sheer fabric attached to another fabric to change the color but it was attached with spray adhesive (also a big no-no - nothing sticky that can gum up a needle. It's one of the quickest ways to ruin a quilt). There are so many more but I've pushed many of those details into the recesses of my brain.
I'd say the most common "thing" I run across are appliques adhered with iron-on glues like Heat-n-Bond. There are times where several layers are too thick to quilt through or where the glue is rock hard and can damage the needle which can set off a domino effect of troubles for the quilt machine. I've actually had the timing screwed up on my machine so bad I had to immediately take in my machine to get fixed because it locked up from appliques that were done so yucky (yes I said yucky, I wanted to say something much much worse, but you get the point).
Always always always ask your quilter before adding anything you wouldn't normally put on a quilt. If you have any doubts, just ask. I'd rather take a million phone calls checking about details than have to quilt one more disaster. I even have clients bring me pieces of quilt tops to run their ideas past me before they go any further to make sure it'll work. Don't always assume because you pieced it on your machine that I can finish it on mine. They work totally different.
Ooooo, and that brings up a good point. If you had trouble stitching through just the quilt top (say with thick layers of appliques), imagine how hard my machine is going to struggle with that AND two more thicker layers. My machine is strong, but...
So that's the topic for today. I'm sure I'm not the only quilter to run into these "things" and please do not be the person to deliver a disaster to your local quilter. Again, I cannot stress enough the fact to talk to your quilter if you have any questions. The best time to ask is before you hit the "point of no return". Your quilter will thank you. Trust me.