How to prepare a Quilts of Valor Quilt

If you have any questions please refer to the Quilts of Valor website at: The information here is just for reference.

Quilts of Valor specs:

  • 55"x 65" minimum size, 90 x 90 maximum
  • 60 x 72 is perfect. If you use this size you can do 4 x 5 12" blocks with a 6 inch border
    or 5 x 6 10" blocks with a 6 inch border.
  • Colors: avoid novelty fabrics. They encourage red white and blue, but they can be any color.
  • The machine quilter provides the thread, batting, and shipping
  • The quilter provides the top and back, a standard pillow case, and shipping to the quilter.

What is Machine Quilting?

A longarm quilting machine is a large, commercial sewing machine. It moves across the quilt with virtually little effort. The length of the typical longarm machine throat is between 24��� and 30", thus making it possible to handle even large quilts with thick batting. The machine rests on wheels, which move effortlessly along rails on a 12-14 foot table.

The quilt top, batting and backing are attached to rollers, creating a "sandwich."

this eliminates the need to pre-pin or baste the three layers together. As the longarm machine quilts the quilt, the rollers are manually advanced to keep the quilt secure and wrinkle free. The longarm machine is then positioned directly over the three quilt layers. The longarm operator stands on one side of the machine to follow a preprinted pattern called a "pantograph," or on the opposite side of the machine to do free-motion or "custom" quilting. Longarm quilting machines can generally stitch up to 3,500 stitches per minute in contrast to domestic or home machines, which average 750 stitches per minute. Longarm quilting is therefore much faster and less cumbersome than other quilting methods.

Longarm quilting machines are not intended to replace hand quilters. There is certainly room for both quilting methods. However, longarm quilting can be more durable, and in many cases more artistic in interpretation.

Types of Quilting

Edge to Edge or Allover—This is a single pattern or pantograph pattern, which is quilted over the entire quilt top.

Free Motion — Random edge to edge quilting without the aid of a pantograph pattern

Meandering — Free motion quilting in a consistent pattern over the entire quilt top.

Custom — Any combination of free motion, pantograph patterns, meandering, blocks, stitch-in-the-ditch, border treatments or templates used to complete a quilt top.

Outlining — Free motion quilting around appliqu��s or around preprinted designs on a quilt top. Considered Custom Quilting.

Stitch in the Ditch — Stitching in between seam lines to add definition to quilt blocks. Considered custom quilting given the tedious nature of the quilting so that the stitches do not show but the desired block definition does.

Heirloom — Typically intricate, heavy quilting designs that are very labor intensive such as trapunto, wholecloth, or designs requiring that the entire quilt be marked prior to quilting.

Preparing Your Quilt Top For Quilting

Make sure the quilt top lays flat. If the top is flared or has extra fullness it may end up with puckers or pleats after quilting. Your longarm quilter can possibly take out some of the fullness with quilting patterns or styles that disguise this problem. This does not assure, however, that there won't be some puckering or tucks around the edges.

Press your quilt top. Turn your quilt top over and make sure the seams lie flat and are pressed in opposite directions so as to minimize thick seam junctures.

Is the quilt top square? Measure the center of the quilt vertically. Then measure the outside edges vertically. If there is more the �� inch difference, it is possible that your quilt will have tucks when quilted. Do the same measurements horizontally.

Check quilt top for loose threads. Make sure there are no dark threads on the back showing through lighter fabrics. If these threads are not trimmed, they will end up being quilted and they will permanently show through on the front.

Backstitch outside seams. When a quilt is loaded onto the quilting machine frame, it is stretched to assure no tucks appear on the quilt bottom and that the stitching is even on the top. Therefore, stress is placed on seams and junctures. To prevent seams from separating or tearing during the quilting process, always backstitch at the outside seam ends. Also, if you run a 1/8th inch seam all the way around the quilt edge, this will help prevent "splitting at the seams."

Do not baste or layer your quilt.

To avoid "pokies" request the same color thread on the top and bottom. This will mean more than one thread color showing on the back.

Preparing Your Quilt Back

Select 100% cotton for your backing fabric. Poly/cotton & 100% polyesters stretch differently than cotton and can cause tucks and puckering during the quilting process. Polyester fabrics tend to also cause "bearding" or migrating of the batting fibers to the surface of the quilt. That said, the very popular Minkee fabric, which is 100% polyester, can be used successfully if your professional quilter is willing to work with it.

Avoid the use of high thread count bed sheets or sheeting for backing. This type of sheet, especially a new one, causes poor tension and constant thread breakage for the quilter. When you must use a sheet, prewash the sheet (ideally several times) to soften it. Avoid thin sheets, which will not hold up over time.

For best results, select a printed backing fabric similar in color to the quilting thread to be used on the top. Printed backings are especially desirable for tops which have been pieced from highly contrasting fabrics and which will be custom quilted. Backing fabric that contrasts highly with the thread color will show the thread (including knots or backstitching) and may not be an attractive choice.

Remove selvages from seams. Sew with a 5/8" seam allowance using 12 stitches per inch. Backstitch at the beginning and end. Press seams open or to one side.

Please cut your backing AND batting a minimum of 4" larger than your quilt top on all sides. Some quilters require the backing to be 6 to 8" larger than the top. (Cut the backing as square (90 degree corners) as possible. Ensure that all edges are straight. Packaged batting does not need to be cut.) Many quilters provide batting, if requested, and keep a variety on hand such as 100% cotton, cotton/poly blend, wool, polyester, and bamboo.

If applicable, mark the top of the quilt back with a label stating "top."

Press the backing well. Backing seams should be pressed open to one side. It is just as important to take the time to press the backing as it is the top.

Fold the backing carefully to prevent wrinkles.