Hi all! I haven't been doing much blogging in the past couple of years. I've gone the easy route and started posting photos on Instagram instead of taking the time to write everything out. You can find me @lauradaviesquilts if you'd like to see what I've been up to.
That being said, I've been thinking about writing this post and have been waiting for just the right quilt back for photo purposes. This tutorial works on an AQPS longarm frame. I know of at least one quilter who squares up the quilt backs all the time. I almost never do that. I think I've squared up 2 quilts in the 3 years that I've had a longarm. I don't know how other quilters do it, but this is my method.
This method works for quilts that are mostly square, probably within 2" or so. If it is much more off than that, you might want to consider cutting after all. It really helps if you have at least one straight edge, ideally a selvedge. I fully float my quilts, so this method works great for this.
If you are standing at the front of the machine, here is the order of the bars:
-Quilt top roller (I have removed this one)
-Pick up roller
This particular back looked like it had been cut down from a piece that was larger than 44" and it did have one selvedge. So I start by laying the fabric over the pick up roller and pinning the selvedge edge to the backing roller.
Pull the back fabric taut over the pick up roller so it hangs smoothly over the back of the frame. Note that the canvas of the pick up roller hangs down a few inches above the table.
Roll the fabric onto the backing bar until it just clears the bottom of the canvas. Here is where you determine how straight the backing fabric is if there isn't a selvedge. See how the right side of the blue fabric is closer to the edge of the canvas and the left side is higher up. The same thing is happening at the other end of the fabric. The edges are slightly longer than the middle. If you load this as it is, the sides of the backing fabric will sag once it's loaded.
I have a permanent mark every 6 inches across my canvas on both sides. I almost never load a quilt back completely center because I have a small room and I start running into furniture if I quilt to the edge of the frame. It makes no difference where you pinned the back fabric to the backing roller and it doesn't have to be centered. Find one of these registration marks on the canvas of the pick up roller, roughly in the center of the quilt back, and make a mark on your backing fabric. so they will align.
Here is how it should look. You've pulled both the backing fabric and canvas together between the two bars and back over towards yourself. Pin the backing fabric to the canvas where you marked the line. I like to put my magnet pin holder on top to make sure that the fabric stays in place while I smooth everything out.
Smooth the canvas along the pick up roller.
Now you can bring up the rest of the quilt back along the pick up roller as well. The backing fabric will still be sagging between the pick up roller and backing bar.
This step is why it is important to have some sort of magnet holding the fabric in place. Roll up the fabric on the backing roller just enough until it is taut. Taut, not tight. If you pull it too tight, you'll pull everything off the pick up roller and you have to start again. Pin the backing fabric to the canvas at each end.
See how the backing fabric at the middle of the quilt aligns with the edge of the canvas and it hangs over the canvas about an inch at the left edge of the photo.
Now you can pin all the backing fabric to the canvas, pulling slightly as you go to keep the fabric taut. The line of pins is along the edge of the canvas and you can see where the extra backing fabric is.
Another important note as you are pinning, is to always make sure that the narrowest part of the backing fabric lines up with the edge of the canvas. In the photo below, you can see the gap between this section of fabric and the edge of the canvas. You can always have extra backing hang over the edge of the canvas, but you can't have any that is too short. If you pin any sections higher up on the canvas, the backing fabric will be pulled too tight in that section. So in this case, you would have to loosen up some tension on the backing roller so that shorter section will line up with the edge of the canvas and then pin from there, making sure the backing fabric is taut as you go.
Below you can see the extra fabric hanging over the edge of the canvas.
When you have pinned the entire back, remove your magnet and roll up the backing fabric on the backing roller until it pulls the canvas over the bar and everything is taut.
Here is the view from the front of the machine. Your quilt back is perfectly level and you can see how the extra fabric lays. You can always trim this back a little if it is in the way, but you don't have to worry about cutting someone's backing fabric. The backing fabric lays flat and it ready for loading!
Good luck! Hope this helps. Most of my backs have two selvedges to load to, but I get the odd pieced one. I always load my quilt backs this way, even if I don't have to make adjustments. Then I know they are straight.