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half the backing sags.

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I've done practice work on several pieces with only one width of fabric, which has loaded easily. Now I am loading a "double wide" -- that is a backing sewn with two widths of cloth.  The fabric is good quality, new 100% quilting cotton. I washed and ironed the fabric first, ripped the selvages and sewed them together so that they run the top to bottom (length) of the quilt.  When I pin these on my zippers, one side of the backing is perfect, flat and smooth. The other sags like a wet dishcloth. No amount of fiddling has produced a nice,  even back.  What should I do? I thought perhaps I should have taken the cloth in thirds so that the seams would run cross-wise the quilt. (I have a new MIlllenium machine.)

Any advice would be most helpful --  I've been sifting through the forums but haven't seen this topic (as yet.)

Thanks. Lark


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I do like the seams to run the same direction as the roller but.....I have experienced what you have described.  I am NOT an expert so I hope someone who is will jump in here, but when I have had this in the past, I have pulled up the slack and repined that area on the take-up bar.  Then proceeded to quilt the quilt.  I have never had a problem with this method but it could be wrong, wrong, wrong!  The quilt always has come off the frame nice and flat and did not have a "pulled" look to it on the back.  Sometimes we just have more fabric on one side than the other and sometimes the fabric just gets off grain.  Good luck to figuring out what works best for you.

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Hi Lark,

Congrats on your new Millie.

Here is what I do....

After loading, I roll the backing onto the take up roller and back a few times.

This seems to reduce a lot of the sag.

Then, when I'm quilting, I shove a hand towel into the space between the backing roller and the backing.

This smoothes it out.

Then, I check with every roll for sags and puckers.

Also, whenever possible, I tear backing to square it up.

If its real bad, I've done what Sylvia suggests.

But most of the time a few rolls back and forth and a dish towel does the trick.

Good luck.

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Ripping will stretch the fabric.  I much prefer to Sew the centre seam first about an inch wide, then cut off the selvedges and press open.

If that centre seam is going from the back roller to the front roller (vertically) it will need to be twisted and rolled to accommodate the extra fabric.  The seam itself pulls in the fabric, so you have to stretch it out.


It is much easier to have this seam parallel to the rollers.

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What I I learned the hard way is to use my walking foot when sewing those long seams together....I would make sure that my two halfs were exactly the same length...but when I reached the end if I did not use my walking foot...I always had 1-2 inches extra on one of the halfs...and if I pinned the length, I was always trying to ease fabric between the pinnings....the feed dogs on the DSM feed the bottom layer a bit faster than the top....so I use my walking foot...even when adding borders to my pieced tops where the 1/4 inch seam is not critical...but having nonewaving seams is..I also never rip fabric...but really can't say what the effect of ripping is......Lin

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Ditto on all the advice to load backers with seams horizontal. 

I advise any who ask that using a walking foot when sewing long backer seams goes a long way towards having the fabric feed evenly and will result in a flatter backer.

I've has three-piece backers with long seams where the middle is tight and both sides sag! Then I do as Meg suggested and tuck in an extra long narrow piece of batting as I roll the backer. Works like a charm and doesn't affect the quilting at all.


Looks like Sewingpup and I are on the same page and posted at the same time! :)

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Ditto the advice above about using a walking foot.  If one doesn't own a walking foot...PIN the fabrics together every 6 inches or so and remove the pins as you get to them.  Many of us can actually "pull" the top or bottom fabric without even knowing we are doing so.  Pinning keeps this from happening as you will notice that top and bottom are not feeding through the machine evenly.  I have the renters do this when putting on their zippers if they do not have a walking foot.

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Without reading the replies to your question. To me it sounds like your backing was not square before loading it.  Meaning if one side is longer than the other it will sag on one side.  I would check that first.


Not trying to do a sales pitch, but I recommend my Beginning Longarm DVD. There is a lot of information on it, including how to square your backing and dealing with not quilt square quilts to name a coupl of things. I believe you would find it very helpful. you can find it on my website aquilterschoice.com.


If you want to call me I will be happy to help you .



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Hello all you helpful folks....I haven't even had my coffee yet; just rushed to the screen to see who had the answer.

I am surprised not to get something that talks about the weaving grain of the fabric and so on. We had just about decided to unrip all the seams and construct it with all the grain running the same way and crosswise to the roller (what a PITA!!) 

I work with my mother and we have "mithered" over this with great energy!  We will take all your advice to heart and I'll let you know what comes about. Thanks for taking your time to help us. 

Off to the machine! Lark (and Sandie) in rainy Florida

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When any pieced back sags more on one side than another, take it out.. as in frog.


Again, carefully press out flat making sure threads are going in the right direction

on the ripped part.  I admit this is where I usually iron, not press.  just be sure the

iron is going length wise or across grain, as the fabric is woven.


Two easy things to do before piecing a back.

One is spray starch the salvages before ripping.  It keeps it from getting badly fuzzledy

muzzly along the rip.


Two is to then rip, and put back on board to iron.   

Then steam and help the edge lay nice and flat and in grain line as close as you can.


It takes a lot less time to frog and sew nice and flat backs, than to have to frog a quilt,

or try to tuck and hide the excess.


The other, no matter which way the seam goes, is to make sure the areas on either side are

laying nice and flat, not sagging as you had on one side.


If not nice and flat, see if you can find a big varience of the weave, straight or at an angle,

It should be very close to straight.


Also you can use Bonnie Botts "Steam and Press" method.. so easy, so helpful, and

makes it so much More fun to work with.


Steamers can make a big difference, too.

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Wow -- more to think about! I do have a question as this expression is one I don't know and keep seeing in needlework forums -- FROG. As in "discard?" Unrip? Throw it in the street and let a truck run over it (common frog fate in this area)?  Seriously - I want to be certain.

Thanks for everone taking time to lead us along the APQS path!

Lark and Sandie

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Dear helpful sewing angels.........

I've frogged and ripped and starched and ironed......even bought a new walking foot (the old one died from over-use long ago)..... now, the time to approach the beast is near!  Thanks to all who took time to give me guidance! I've made a list of the hints and are following carefully. I'll let you know later this week how it all goes.

In gratitude --- Lark and Sandie

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  • 5 weeks later...

I rofling (rolling on floor, laugh ing) at the "frog" explanation - because I didn't know the answer either.  I'm having the same problem, and as I zipped my take up and backing leaders together, I discovered the leaders are only taut on one edge, and there is probably 3" of sag on the other side.  So I "frogged" my zippers and am going to try Angela Huffman's tips on re-applying my zippers, and leader grips as well.  wish me luck, ladies . . .

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I just had a quilt where the quilt was 103 inches long and 87 inches wide. I received the backing (minkee) 60 inches wide and just long enough so that if the minkee were cut and seamed on the selvedge, she would have a piece 120 inches x 90 inches.  Turned so that the seam was horizontal, would be the only way this would fit her top lengthwise. The piecer did not make her backing, and I was / am just inexperienced enough not to have checked it when she handed it to me in a bag with the top and batting. (1st lesson)


When I discovered this, I emailed her and she said, "Oh, I forgot, so just go ahead and charge me for making the back."

I told her that the fabric stretch would be rolling up on the rollers and her quilt might curl when it came off. I would not guarantee it wouldn't. She said, that's ok. I told her that her quilt might be narrower than she made it, cause there was just not enough to use clamps or quilt all the way to the edge. ( I had 90 inches for a top 87 inches wide. Nothing fazed her, she said, go ahead!


Well, I stared at it for about a week. How in the heck, was I going to cut, square and stitch this! It moved all over the place when you just touched it. And the end I needed to put on the roller, was as stretchy as a rubber band. Gathering my courage, I finally pinned the cut ends together, trimmed them even and carefully pinned all the way across and down to the other end where the fold was. The entire time I was doing this, I kept telling myself, "I'm calling her to come pick this up". Being as careful as I could, I cut the tinest bit off the fold to turn this one piece of minkee fabric into 2 pieces. And because the minkee has a nap, I had to turn one of the pieces around so the nap went in the same directions on both pieces.


Next, I had to sew it. After 2 tries with 2 different machines, one a walking foot machine and still coming up with puckers and about an extra inch difference in the top and bottom fabrics, I had a light bulb moment. Taking it to my long arm. I pinned both pieces, to the front and back rollers. Set the channel locks and away I went. I made sure I had a generous inch of seam allowance to leave me plenty to cut the selvedge off. And, since I didn't know if a hot iron would hurt the minkee, I used water soluble glue to press and hold the seam apart. 


I ended up with the straightest and flattest, pucker free seam I have ever sewed! I will never again use a sewing machine for long seams - this was perfect. And no sags.


PS Lesson 2, same as lesson 1...always check your backing while the piecer is still there!

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  • 4 months later...

Taking it to my long arm. I pinned both pieces, to the front and back rollers. Set the channel locks and away I went. I made sure I had a generous inch of seam allowance to leave me plenty to cut the selvedge off. And, since I didn't know if a hot iron would hurt the minkee, I used water soluble glue to press and hold the seam apart.

I'm not sure that I understand. Are you pinning them both at the same time? Horizontal or vertical? Do you have to remove and then reload? Sometimes I run short on backing and I would love to know how to add more with out removing.

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