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How do I "float a top"?

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Hi out there,

I'm brand new to this site today. Can anyone give me info on "floating a top?" I've heard of it and saw it demonstrated once but to me it seems very time consuming. Do a lot of you do this? Pinning on the quilt is so time consuming itself. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


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My baby isn't here yet, but "floating" the top refers to setting up the quilt top from the 3rd rail leaders. the batting and backing are on the two front rollers. There is a video of the process on the cd I got with my manual.

It looks like it will take a bit of practice, but proper alignment can make or break the quilt, and you certainly don't want to ruin a customer's quilt. I'm sure there will be more experienced responses than mine!

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Hi Selah

I'm by no means an expert, but this is how I float a top:

First, as with every quilt, I attach the backing to roller one and roller three. Then I lay the batting on top of the backing so it's edge is just beyond where the backing is pinned to the take-up roller. The batting then goes under roller #2 and drapes down under the machine table - making sure it's smooth and straight as it lays on the backing and under the machine.

Next comes the quilt top itself....I place the edge of the quilt top an inch or so away from where the backing is pinned to the take-up roller - letting a little extra backing and batting extend beyond the edge. I gently smooth the top, making sure to keep it square and straight. The quilt top also goes under roller #2 and drapes down under the machine table.

I then pin baste the top edge of the quilt and down the two sides, double measuring to make sure I'm keeping the quilt square. When it's pinned in place, I then run a machine baste line of stitching across the top and down the sides as far as I can.

I remove the pins and I'm ready to begin quilting.

With each advance of the quilt, I measure, pin baste the sides, measure again and then machine baste the sides - double checking that the quilt stays square.

This is considered a "Full Float", I think. A half float would be the same except that the bottom of the quilt would be attached to roller #2 instead of hanging loose.

I don't do a full float on every quilt, some are half floats....and I base the choice on the quilt top construction and which batting I'm using.

Hope that helps - it's a lot easier to do than it is to explain!;)

Sherri Dolly


Overland Park, KS

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I've put the process of floating the top on my web site under Tips 'n Tricks. There is a series of pictures so you can follow step by step.

This is my way of loading a quilt. Everyone seems to do it a little bit different. As long as you're getting the quilt on square, you're doing it right!


I hope the pictures will help you visualize the process a bit better. I think The APQS CD shows all 3 layers being attached to the takeup roller as one. I prefer to mount the back, and then layer on the batting & backing. This allows the quilting to fill the space completely, and also allows you to do ruler work right to the edges.

Darlene Epp


APQS Sales, Service & Supplies


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  • 1 month later...

I have a 12 foot wooden table, so this may not apply to everyone. But I have discovered a silly help to loading a quilt.

Red Wine.

Yup, red wine. I don't drink red wine but keep it around for my friends that drop by.

I was struggling to load a quilt and needed more hands to help and then put the full red wine bottles on the quilt at the back of the table. (There is a raised ruler on the wooden table.) And just rolled it up.

Some of my quilts have been three bottle quilts. I did two 'Pansy Parks' that were seven bottles!

Do you think we could use this method for pricing? :-)



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