How to recognize good quilting from bad

I’m working on Maryann’s pretty Riptide quilt today so I’ll share a photo then show you a couple close ups of the quilting. Its a tad hard to see in the close ups.

 What her quilt looks like in process.

When I first began learning to longarm quilt I had to learn a lot and practice for at least 6 months before doing any quilting work for others. At that time I did freehand quilting and often followed pantograph designs using a laser light. Even after getting computer robots for my machines it took some time to learn how to use them.

When a customer picks up a quilt I lay their quilt out on my table so they can get a good look at the quilt before I package it up for them. It’s usually a surprising moment when they pick up a quilt because the quilt has been out of their hands for a week or two and the quilting can really change the look of the quilt.  I’m fairly sure that in that moment they are looking at the quilting design, texture and the color thread that they chose and how it looks on the top.

What I’d like them to look for when they pick up a quilt from me or any other quilter is the quality of the quilting. Here are a few things to look for:

How does the stitching look? Are the stitches small (not giant basting stitches) around 10 per inch.

good tension

Does the stitching look the same on the front and the back of the quilt? That means the tension is well balanced. This is what will hold your quilt together so you want to pay for good tension.  Bad tension is where the thread isn’t really pulled into the quilt and can be easily removed. If its not good your quilter should be remove and fix it or if you prefer leaving it should offer a reduced price.

The quilting design should look smooth. Whether its a robotic design or freehand quilting, the curves should be smooth and the points should be pointed. If it looks wobbly or shakey its not a great quilting job.

And finally, the rows of a pantograph should be spaced in a way that it doesn’t look like extra large gaps between the rows. The rows should be spaced so it looks like a continuous design. It should also not be so close that the stitching overlaps.

Basically you are paying for quality quilting. Unless someone is doing you some favor or charging way below the average, if its not good quality, then you need to speak up and ask about it. Give your quilter a chance to make it right. They may have missed seeing a spot.

Most of us are working hard to build a good reputation and want you to be thrilled with the end result. In the end you want to get what you are paying for. The best way to do that is to know the difference.