This is the on point quilt that's going onto the machine now. On point quilts have a unique set of issues. The setting triangles have more stretch than square set quilts. If a machine quilter isn't careful about how the quilt is loaded onto the machine; the quilt will stretch and distort causing areas of extra fullness next to very tight areas and especially friendly borders. If you can educate your customers to simply do a line of stay stitching around the blocks and setting triangles before sewing the rows together it would prevent a lot of the stretching issues.
Since this top does not have any stay stitching, I know there was stretch when the borders were sewn on. No matter how carefully an on point set quilt is pieced, it stretches when the borders are put on. Also, many people simply cut a long strip of fabric and start sewing it on the sides. Many people don't take the time to measure the top for the correct length of border nor do they pin it to the top before sewing. As a professional machine quilter it's my job to "quilt that out" and give them a fantastic quilt back no matter what the issues are.
The first thing is to measure in three places. Measure the top edge, the bottom edge, and the center.
I usually fold the top in half to do the measuring on my intake table. I can fold back to measure the two ends.
Turn the top around on the table to measure the center.
The measurements for this top are 104 at the top edge, 103.25 at the bottom edge, and 103 across the center. I use 103 as my target measurement. Why? Because it's the smallest measurement. It's easier for me to work in fullness than it is to try to add fabric where there isn't any. In other words I can shrink 104 down to 103 by doing the quilting but I can't stretch 103 out to 104 if there is no stretch in the fabric. Borders are usually straight grain with no stretch. I hope you understand. Sometimes it's hard to put into type talked words what I see in my mind.
After I've got the backing loaded I measure from the center of the leader out to the side. See the blue mark? That's center of the leader. I measure out from there.
I make a mark at 51 1/2 inches from the center. That's half of 103. I make the mark right on the batting. I do the same thing on the other side. It doesn't matter if you float your tops or not. You can do the same for both techniques.
Now bring the top up to where you plan to stitch (or pin) the top to the backing. I had found the center of the top before putting it on the machine. I had put a safety pin at the center. With this pin I place the center of the top right at the center of the leader.
Moving out to the side I place the edge of the top where I made the mark on the batting and put a pin to hold it there. I do the same thing on the other side. This will be the beginning edge of the quilting.
See the fullness that will have to be worked in by the design? I use the single stitch function on my machine and stitch the edge of the top to the backing and batting. If you don't have a single stitch function you can use pins to hold it. I work with the extra fullness to distribute it as evenly as I can as I stitch along the top edge.
Ok, before I start the actual quilting, I also need to keep the quilt at 103 all the way to the end. I have a tape measure specifically set up for this. I measure from the end of the belly bar to the edge of the top. The measurement is 43. It's backward from normal reading a tape measure because it's the side with the numbers I can read. I need a new tape measure.
See the velcro on the bar? There's a piece of velcro on the back of the tape measure to hold it steady in one spot. I write the measurement on a piece of masking tape so I don't forget if I am taken away from the machine for any length of time.
I go to the other side of the machine and measure there too. It is 43 too so I know the top is loaded correctly. Each time I advance the quilt I'll check this measurement on both sides. If the top is off a little I can easily adjust it. Being off a mere 1/4 and not correcting will multiply each time the quilt is advanced. At some point, while advancing, the extra fullness of the side borders will become apparent. With on point quilts the fullness usually shows up about half way. Keeping the side measurement the same, I can work with the fullness to distribute it as evenly as possible.
Now I'll start stitching in the ditch around all the blocks and along the border to stabilize the top to the batting and backing. If you don't do stitch in the ditch you can pin the whole top from beginning to end. Why do I stitch around the blocks instead of just doing a design? Well, I want to know the end of the quilt top actually comes out to 103 before doing a lot of quilting. It's much easier to pick out a single line of stitching around the blocks (or remove pins) than it is to pick out a whole bunch of designs. I can also find the areas that are going to give me problems when doing the design. Like this.
If I get all the way to the end of stitching around the blocks, and there is a problem, I frog stitch back to where I made the mistake and do that part over. After the whole top is all stabilized and squared I can work with designs that will deal with areas of extra fullness.