The case for attaching your quilt completely to the top and back rollers

April 26, 2022

Editor’s note: Karen McTavish is an award-winning quilter who owns and operates McTavish Quilting Studio – APQS Duluth in the Northwoods of Duluth Minnesota. She is known for her stunning quilting and her ability to use longarm machines to replicate traditional hand-quilted effects. In this article, she shares her thoughts on attaching quilts completely to the top and back rollers.

Loaded quilt on an APQS machine

I have been quilting on APQS longarm quilting machines for the last two decades and find the frame system of the APQS machines to be an essential part for a straight hanging quilt. Here’s why: the brake system.

The rollers on APQS machines can never be overstretched because the brake system will automatically “give” into the stretch. That means it’s impossible to over tighten a quilt … but only when you attach your quilt completely to the top and back rollers.

The key for a straight hanging quilt is to load the quilt top on the quilt top roller bar and the backing on the backing roller bar. I have found that floating a quilt can be challenging because you will not have control over the stretch.

“Floating” a quilt means letting the quilt top hangover the backing roller bar. In other words, it refers to skipping the step of loading the quilt to the top roller bar. By skipping this critical step, you may save about 10 minutes of pinning time, but the result could be a wavy quilt. In the end, your quilt might be wavy at the bottom of the border, making it so it won’t hang straight as a wall hanging.

The trend of floating a quilt started several years ago and has been adopted by many quilters. However, it’s important to remember that not all quilts are perfectly straight when the loading process starts. Even if your quilt is masterfully perfect, we will always need to use the quilt top roller so the quilter can quilt the sides and edges of the quilt without seeing any fullness to the sides. This will help the quilt stay straight and avoid wavy borders.

In this video, you can see the step-by-step process I take to load quilts onto my APQS machines.

Cheryl Dennison of McTavish Quilting Studio & Fabrics-
APQS Quilt Path instructor Cheryl Dennison of McTavish Quilting Studio & Fabrics in the APQS Duluth showroom.