So you have spent many hours planning and sewing your new quilt together and it's finally finished.  You want to have a longarm quilter put it all together and apply a beautiful quilt pattern that will be the icing on top of all your creative work.  What does the longarm quilter actually do and what do they need in order to make the process as efficient as possible?  
Once you have selected a quilting pattern and a thread color, the quilter will need to know if you are supplying the batting (filler material) and if not, what type of batting you want.  Most quilters have a preferred batting material that they keep in stock.  Hopefully you have also selected a backing fabric and sewn it together (if needed) and cut it and the batting (if you provide batting) to be at least 8 inches longer and wider than your quilt top (that means the batting and backing fabric will be 4 inches larger than the quilt top all the way around).  The quilter will also need to know if you plan to apply the binding around the edges or if you want the quilter to do that.  In my case, I will apply a machine binding for you at an additional cost.  You will need to provide about 1 yard of the binding material with your order (I will return any unused material).  
Now, probably the most important step is to make sure your quilt top and backing fabric are as close to "square" as possible.  Realizing most quilts are rectangular, by "square", we mean that the corners are 90 degrees and the sides are straight.  Before this step I would do a preliminary press of the quilt top and backing fabric to make sure there are no wrinkles that could skew your measurements.   Then lay the quilt top out on a clean floor, or other totally flat surface, so you don't have any wrinkles or folds.  You may need a helper for this.   Measure the quilt top width wise across the top, middle, and bottom.  All three measurements should be pretty much the same.  Then measure from top to bottom down both length sides and down the middle.  Those measurements should also be the same.  If the measurements are off by more than an inch you probably need to do some trimming to get the measurements closer to the same.  Don't overdo the trimming.  Figure out where along the side, top, or bottom that the fabric starts getting too wide or long.   Start trimming there along a straight line to bring the measurement in line.  If you don't feel comfortable trimming your quilt top, some longarm quilters will do this for you at an additional charge.  It is almost impossible to make a quilt perfectly square without the need for some trimming.  A longarm quilter can make some adjustments to try to correct for lines that are not straight but that process can be difficult.  Once you have the quilt top close to "square" you should stay-stitch around the edges 1/4 inch in from the edge (optional depending on fabric type).  This will keep the fabric edges from fraying and the seams from pulling apart.  Trim any loose threads on the quilt top and backing. Finally, press the quilt top and backing making sure that no seams are sticking up that the quilting machine might snag when moving across the quilt top.  Pressing both top and backing fabric will also help ensure no puckers exist.  Once you have a smooth quilt top you should pin a note to the quilt top that says "Quilt Top".  This will make certain that the quilter knows for sure which fabric you want on top (to me this is kind of like the doctor marking which knee needs the operation).           
DO NOT pin or sew any of the layers together.  The longarm quilter will need to load each layer (backing, then batting, then top) on the quilting machine individually one at a time.  Fold the layers separately (top, batting(if you are providing), backing, binding material (if required)) nicely and put them in a plastic bag along with your order sheet and then in a box for mailing.
Once the quilter receives the pieces, he or she will inspect everything including square measurements, loose threads, pressing, pattern choice, thread color, etc.  If anything is uncertain they should let you know and discuss anything that may need clarification.
Here are some You Tube videos that I like.  If you have time give them a watch:
I hope this helps to explain the steps and importance of preparing a quilt for longarm quilting.  As always, if there are any questions you can call me at 254-292-3379 or email me at and I will be happy to assist.
Below is a button that will take you to my "Prep Your Quilt" web page.  There are also some sketches below that may help explain how to "square" a quilt top.​​​​​
The quilt shown above is an example of a quilt with an even red border all the way around.  If this quilt top is not constructed square, trimming any one edge could make the red border around the edge appear distorted or uneven.  In that case it might be possible to trim all four edges very carefully, but even then the center square needs to remain level and straight with the red border.  If you build a quilt like this and discover it is not close to square, you should discuss with the quilter how best to proceed.  
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