August 18, 2021

Longarm Quilting: How it's Done

An Explanation of the Process From Start to Finish 

Welcome to Valentine Quiltworks! Machine quilting is the process of layering together a quilt top, batting, and backing, and then stitching through all of the layers with a decorative design. Unlike your sewing machine where you move the quilt through the machine, the quilting machine moves over the quilt that is attached to a frame. There are many steps in this process, and attention to detail is very important for the highest quality finished product. Below I have explained the process that I use to transform a quilt top into a quilt!  

The Consultation 

Make an Appointment: 

Congratulations! You have decided to have your quilt top professionally quilted, and you have come to the right place! Please contact me via phone or email, and I will answer any questions you may have. We will then set up an appointment for you to bring your quilt top and backing to my home studio. This is a good time to review the Quilt Prep page so your quilt top will be properly prepared!

I have a Gammill Statler Stitcher,  a top of the line computer guided quilting machine. Since starting my business in 2006 I have taken many classes and spent long hours becoming proficient with the skills necessary to produce high quality machine quilting with exceptional attention to detail.  I do everything myself, and as you will learn here, there is a lot more to my job than just pushing a button!! 

Choose a Quilting Design:  

When you arrive at my home for your appointment we will go into my quilting studio. We will lay your quilt top out, discuss who it is for, how it will be used, and ideas you may have. We will inspect your quilt together and discuss any issues that might cause problems during the quilting process, and identify any potential extra fees that might be incurred. This is a great teaching/learning opportunity! Then it's time to choose a quilting design. I have several books of designs, and I can get just about anything if I don't have what you want. There are thousands to choose from and it can be overwhelming. I have a lot of experience so if you prefer, I can make some suggestions. 


The next part of your visit is to measure your quilt, and choose batting. I will take a rough measurement, the final price is determined by the exact measurement of the quilt before it is quilted. I have several Quilters Dream products available and quilted samples to help with your decision. We will discuss the look that you want, the use of the quilt, and the type of batting you prefer. Please note: I no longer accept customer battings due to quality issues.


Quilting requires thread!  I have hundreds of quality solid colors to choose from, as well as many variegated threads. We will consider the colors in the top and the backing, and whether you prefer the thread to blend, or show as an accent. We will audition several colors, and you choose the color you like! 

Your Cost Estimate:

I will figure an estimate that will be very close to the final cost. We will discuss your timing expectations and estimate when your quilt will be finished. I will call or email when it is ready to be picked up! It can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on my backlog. Most of the time no deposit is required, and payment is due in full at the time of pickup.

The entire consultation process takes anywhere from 20 minutes to whatever! I enjoy getting to know my clients, and I do not rush! 

The Quilting Process 


Now my real work starts! First, I have to prepare the machine. That entails cleaning, oiling, changing the needle, and occasionally some serious maintenance. The machine is a $40,000 investment so it is important to take good care of it! Then I wind bobbins, thread the machine, and check the tension.  

I start the computer setup for the designs you have chosen. For an edge to edge design I decide on the approximate size, number of repeats, and nesting. I also make sure the design does not become distorted. The exact size will be set after I have the exact measurements of your quilt, and it depends on the design, the proportions of your quilt, and to some extent, the size of the smallest pieces in the quilt. It is easier to just make everything as big as possible so it gets done faster. But I don't do that because I like to make sure the density is just right for your quilt, and there is plenty of quilting so it will last a very long time!  


Next I prepare the quilt top and backing. I expect that you will have given your quilt top and backing a good pressing before you bring it to me. That means pressing the piecing seams accurately!   There are usually  creases from  being folded,  and I like everything to be wrinkle free.  A lot of machine quilters will skip this step, but I carefully press everything right before I load your quilt onto the machine. This step is important  because it gives me  a chance to identify problem areas,  fullness or other issues so I will know where they are and have a plan to deal with them.


I carefully measure the quilt in several places, both width and length. Based on these measurements, I determine what the final dimensions of the quilt will be, and make slight adjustments to the measurements I entered into the computer earlier. Part of a quality quilting job is to keep everything straight and square all the way down the quilt. It is much easier to just put the quilt on the frame and quilt it into whatever shape it arrived in, but I want every quilt to be straight and square when it is finished! 


After pressing, I carefully inspect the backing and check it to be sure it is square. That means the parallel sides are the same length, and the corners are square.  I feel this is a necessary step to insure a quality product. I check every backing, and almost every one needs to be squared up, even just a little. If you fold the backing in half, ends even, it should hang perfectly straight. You need to check both directions, side to side and top to bottom. 

The backing can be put on the frame unsquared, but it tends to pull, pucker and pleat, and I don’t want that to happen! The edges all need to be cut even and straight. The backing needs to be 4”-5” larger than the top on every side, or a total of 8”-10” longer and 8”-10” wider than the top. 


When I am satisfied that everything is just right, I mount the backing on the machine. This involves locating the centers of the top and bottom, and pinning them to the leaders. I roll it back and forth to be sure the backing is straight and flat.

The batting is cut from a large roll, and it usually has a few wrinkles in it. I put it in the dryer on delicate for about 10 minutes, and it is much nicer to work with! This is another extra step, it takes more time but the result is a smoother finished quilt. 

I lay the batting on top of the backing, smooth it out, and baste straight across the top. Then I line up the quilt top with this stitching line, and measure, and baste it down. I position the sides of the quilt top so that they are perfectly square to the top edge, and baste down the sides. The smoothing, squaring, and basting, takes place every time I roll the quilt top after every row of quilting is finished, which is every 13"-20" of the quilt length, depending on the design height. Many quilters do not square up every row, because it takes time. But that can lead to problems at the bottom of the quilt, in the form of an uneven quilt bottom. I want that bottom edge to be perfectly straight and square, and the same width as the rest of the quilt! 


Wow, it’s finally time to push the button! Many quilters with computer guided machines will start the machine quilting a row and then do something else while the row stitches. I NEVER leave your quilt unattended! You are paying me to quilt your quilt, and I take it very seriously. This is my chance to be sure your finished quilt is the best it can possibly be, and make sure everything stays flat, square and straight. 

I stand by the machine the entire time it is running, for hours at a time, and I am able to manipulate the fabric with my hands and get it to stay exactly where I want it. This is especially important if your quilt has a bit of fullness anywhere in the piecing or the borders, and this is very common! 

When the row is finished, the machine stops, and I have to roll, smooth, straighten, square, and baste. Then I take a peak underneath to be sure everything looks good on the back, and push the button again….. when I finally reach the bottom edge of the quilt I baste straight across, manipulate everything into place, and quilt the last row. 

Final Inspection:  

When the quilting is finished, the quilt is unpinned from the leaders and I trim all of the excess quilting thread ends. I inspect your quilt, and if requested, I will trim off the excess backing and batting.

The quilting process is finally done! This whole process takes anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on the size of your quilt and the complexity of the quilting. Some people can do it faster if they skip the extra steps. I am meticulous and want your finished quilt to be of the highest quality possible, and that takes extra time! 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you have learned something about all of the steps involved in the quilting process! I look forward to meeting you soon!



©Copyright 2006-2021 Valentine Quiltworks


July 25, 2021

Red Sox Surprise

For several years there has been talk in the quilting community about photos of quilts made by very talented people being stolen off the internet, printed onto "blankets", and sold as fake quilts by fly-by-night internet sites. Since I'm not one of those famous quilters I knew it was an ongoing issue, but hadn't given it much attention because it didn't affect me personally. Or so I thought. This is a photo of a Red Sox t-shirt quilt I made and posted for sale on my website several years ago. A lovely lady from Massachusetts bought it for her infant grandson.

Now for a little background. My husband's grandfather was Smoky Joe Wood. He was a Red Sox pitcher from 1908 to 1915 and he was famous back then. So there is some real Red Sox history in the family. Fast forward to Christmas 2018 when my nephew (great grandson of Smoky Joe) posted these photos on Facebook. It's a printed "blanket" that his wife bought for him from one of those fly-by-night websites. Little did she know.

Imagine my surprise (and shock) when I saw the photos! I did a double take and said "THAT'S MY QUILT!!" Those people who are stealing quilt photos and printing them on "blankets" stole the photo of my quilt! It was photoshopped a bit so they could mass produce it without getting into trouble with the real Red Sox. Wow. What are the chances that my nephew would end up with one of these fake quilts, and that I would see the photos? I should have bought a lottery ticket!

After we attempted to track down where it had been purchased (of course the website scam was long gone) I decided there was nothing to be gained from being angry.  I figured I should just continue to make real quilts because there are people who recognize the difference. And try to educate people along the way because as the saying goes, "you get what you pay for". I commented on the Facebook post with a lighthearted explanation and my claim to being the creator of the original quilt. At least a few people read it but there was a general disregard for where and how this fake quilt originated, and how wrong it was that this "blanket" even existed. They just thought it was funny. I know the truth, that I spent many hours designing and carefully sewing the original quilt, and that is what really matters. 

It has taken me two and a half years to share this story. The original Red Sox quilt I made won two awards at the Machine Quilter's Expo in 2007. After I made and sold the second one above I was commissioned to make two others, one for a gentleman in Utah and more recently one for a gentleman and his family in Texas. I won't be posting photos of those any time soon, at least not until I perfect my watermark skills. For all of the honest hard working people in the world, there will always be a few who are not. They may be scamming people with fake quilts, but they won't win unless we let them. I put my heart and soul into every quilt I make, and I know the people who have them appreciate the time and love that went into creating each and every one.

December 7, 2015

My Alaska Shop Hop!

I don't travel very often, and never very far (my husband won't fly). So last spring when my son suddenly insisted that we go to Alaska (we live in Connecticut) my response was that he had been there three years before with his college friend! So why go again?? But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. It was all because my sister in law was about to retire from 6 years as the Superintendent of the North Slope School District based in Barrow, Alaska. It was our last chance to visit Barrow, because well, no one goes to Barrow without a really good reason! So my son quickly planned the trip, and I made sure there was just enough time to visit at least one quilt shop in each city :)

The trip consisted of 9 flights, Hartford - Chicago/Midway - Seattle - Juneau - Anchorage - Barrow - Fairbanks - Train to Anchorage - Seattle - Baltimore - Hartford. That was more than I have flown in the last 9 years! Thankfully the flights were all uneventful, and we met some really interesting people along the way.

Our first stop was Juneau, to visit my brother in law and nephew. Rain Tree Quilting was first on the quilt shop list.

It was a beautiful shop, as you can see!

Traveling for two and a half weeks with only a carry-on, I didn't have much room for fabric. I bought a few small pieces of a newly released fabric line by Northcott called Eskimo Snow, designed by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee. I didn't know at the time that it was so new it had only been released in Alaska!

Our next stop was Anchorage. After a day on the Alaska Railroad to Seward, we spent a little time checking out the city.  The Quilted Raven was my fabric fix for that day! 

They had an incredible selection of Alaska related fabrics and patterns. I bought a few more pieces of Eskimo Snow, and a couple Alaska wildlife panels. I could have spent several hours in there, but the parking meter was ticking and we had many more places to go!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was meeting a fellow Statler (quilting machine) owner that I had known of from various quilting forums. I have always respected her talent and knowledge, and it was a real pleasure to meet her! We had lunch, which turned into a few hours of talking "Statler" and a well needed break from our busy schedule. Oh, I wish Jo Ann lived closer. A LOT closer!!

Almost forgot to take a picture, so please excuse the parking lot!

Our next stop was Barrow, Alaska, to visit my sister in law. Barrow is the northern most point in North America, far north of the Arctic Circle. It was May, and the next time the sun would set was August! It's really hard to describe Barrow, it was an experience I will never forget. Here I am outside the general store.

To my surprise, they had a very large fabric section. I guess a lot of people make their own clothes, and quilts too!

Animal furs are not something that I am used to seeing in any store!

Our next stop was Fairbanks, the first fabric store on the list was Material Girls. Wow, lots of fabric!

I found more pieces of the Eskimo Snow fabric, and some northern lights fabric.

Last stop on my Alaska Shop Hop was Northern Threads, also in Fairbanks.

I bought a quilt pattern called Northern Wilderness, here is their sample. Now I just need to find time to make it!!

We had a fantastic trip, ending briefly in Tacoma, WA to visit my brother and sister in law. Would I do it again? Absolutely!! And I would buy more fabric and have it shipped home :) I ordered more of the Eskimo Snow line when I got home, enough to make a long overdue king size quilt for our bed. I still have to design it... and piece it... and quilt it... that will keep me busy!

April 24, 2015

Published Again!

Imagine my delight when the editor of Modern Patchwork Magazine asked me to quilt a quilt for the Spring 2015 edition! Seeing the finished quilt along with my name in print was sure to put a smile on my face, so of course I bought the magazine as soon as it was published. I anxiously read the article about Tula Pink on pages 32-33, and admired the photo of the quilt made from her unique fabrics. Imagine my dismay when I found no reference whatsoever to either the piecer, or the quilter. Don't get me wrong, I can deal with not being given credit because I know I did the quilting, and that's good enough for me. But I really think it was unethical not to acknowledge the makers of the quilt. Anyway, here it is.... :)

February 20, 2015

Off to the Races

Making a Jelly Roll 1600 quilt had been on my list for awhile. So when Hancocks Paducah had a sale on Timeless Treasures "Jack Frost" I swooped in and ordered a half yard of every color! I diligently cut about 40 2.5" strips, and sewed them together. And sewed, and sewed, and sewed. Not the most interesting quilt to piece, but it was fairly quick and I am happy with the result! I quilted it with a swirly design called "Alex".  

OK, I confess, I had plenty of fabric in my stash to make one of these, and probably a few hundred more :) but it was appealing because they were all from the same fabric line so color selection was easy! I don't normally "collect" batiks. In fact, I think this is the first batik quilt I have made! I  have plenty of fabric left over to make two or three more quilts, but they will be something different! 

February 2, 2015

When Will Winter End?

This groundhog wants nothing to do with going outside during an ice storm, just 6 days after a blizzard!  Does seeing his shadow from a lamp count? The weather has been tough, but as long as we have power for the furnace (and the well too), life is good! And all the bad weather is a great excuse for staying home and quilting! I was straightening up my sewing room the other day, and I found some fabrics and patterns that I didn't remember I had. Imagine that! Has that ever happened to you? ;)

February 20, 2014

Lots of Dots

And a little bit of fun! Another almost black and white quilt, and more intrigue with the modern style. This one was going to be lots of colors, but I gravitated to black and white. Probably because it was easier to decide what fabrics to use! I quilted it with variegated thread to give it a little sparkle. It is 33x38, a nice size for a walhanging.

February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love Valentine's Day :) I have been busy quilting for other people, but recently I pieced and quilted a black and white tumbler block lap quilt. The quilting design is called Modern Maze, and I used a multi-colored variegated thread. I like the way it gives the quilt a tiny hint of color!

October 6, 2013

The Local Fair

I always do my best when quilting. And I rarely see a quilt again once it goes back to its owner. Who knows where it might turn up! A client recently told me that the quilt she had meticulously pieced, and I had meticulously quilted, won a blue ribbon at the local Guilford Fair! Now I know a lot of quilters who have a lot of ribbons from a lot of fairs. But the fairs around here do now allow me to enter anything because I am a professional. Not a professional piecer, just a professional quilter. Someone else can piece the quilt and I can quilt it, but I am not allowed to piece my own quilt. Makes no sense to me, but that's the way it is. So anyway, I am very pleased that the quilt won :)

July 22, 2013

New Ventures

Well, it's not exactly a brand new venture. I bought the new "toy" 11 months ago! It's a Brother PR1000e 10 needle embroidery machine and it's awesome! I have so many ideas and envision many new projects. I'm not sure where it will lead me but I'm up for the ride!

Here is something I did today, it's a linen tea towel. I prewashed the towel so it won't shrink after the embroidery is done, that way it won't pucker. I think it turned out great!

July 7, 2013


Wow, it's been a long time! I've been busy quilting for other people, and quilting a few of my own. This quilt is from a workshop I took with Karen Combs called Patchwork Illusions. I was going to make more blocks with the risk of the whole project ending up in the UFO pile indefinitely. So instead I decided to just sew together the two blocks I made in class and go with it! The quilting was all improvisational, and it was fun! And it's d-o-n-e :)

June 3, 2012

My Ohio Quilt Shop Hop, Zanesville to Toledo

A few weeks ago I attended Statler Stitcher Days in Zanesville, OH, hosted by Doug and Martha Creasy at A Touch of Thread.

It was a three day seminar where I met lots of nice machine quilters. We all share the love of quilting on our Statler Stitcher computer guided longarm quilting machines. I learned a lot of new tips and tricks that will take my quilting to a new level, and it was well worth the trip!
When it was over I had a few days to meander my way up to Michigan to visit my parents. So I did some research and mapped a route from Zanesville to Toledo through farmlands and over back roads of eastern Ohio that would take me to several great quilt shops!

After leaving Zanesville, my first stop was Berlin, OH for an overnight. I stayed at the Berlin Grande Hotel, it was fairly new and very nice, except there was NO cell phone service in the area! Berlin is located in the midst of the largest Amish community in the US.

The following morning I was up early and on my way to Millersburg, OH to visit Miller's Dry Goods. I was in search of fabric, of course!

I was looking for a specific fabric that I had seen on their website, and they were very helpful in finding it for me! A very nice selection, and a wonderful experience!

I was soon on the road to my next destination, Country Fabrics in Shiloh, OH. It was challenging to find because at one point the Google maps directions, the 8 year old GPS, and the AAA paper map all showed different directions! I sat at an intersection with no one around and finally decided to trust the 8 year old GPS. There was nothing around other than farmland and an occasional barn. But lo and behold, there it was, a relatively new building with lots of cars parked out front. That must be the quilt shop!! 

I am much less overwhelmed if I have something specific in mind when I go fabric shopping (that doesn't mean I stick to my wish list LOL). So it didn't take me long to make my selections, and find some other fabric that I needed....

Soon I was on the way to my next destination, The Door Mouse in Bettsville, OH. I continued heading northwest, and by that time the roads were getting straighter and the farmland was getting flatter. I had to fool the GPS several times because I wanted to stay on the back roads even though some of them were labeled as highways!

Again in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, there was a barn like building that was bursting with fabric!

I had been warned that it could feel overwhelming inside. Here is the green aisle...

And the red aisle....

I made my selections upstairs in the novelty section. And on my way out I stopped in the ladies room and found even mores stuff for sale in there!

One more stop at Checker Distributors in Maumee, OH. They sell wholesale quilting supplies to businesses, and since I have a longarm quilting business I have an account there. I was very curious to see the inside of the warehouse first hand! 

Once inside, there was a spotless showroom with samples of all the items they sell. All I can say is wow, I never knew there were so many cool quilting gadgets!

But the fabric warehouse was the coolest part... words can't even begin to describe the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of full bolts of fabric.... (If you are a quilter and you have read this far, you probably know that feeling!) So much fabric everywhere!

And more fabric, as far as you can see, arranged by manufacturer.

I made my selections, paid for them, and was finally on to the final leg of my adventure to Michigan. It was a day filled with fabric, definitely a good day for a fabricaholic :) It was a fun adventure and I look forward to doing it again!!