Zippers and the longarm
Last week's post about showing how I staple my quilt back to zippers brought a lot of comments to see how I use the zippers and I'm here to please.
On the longarm, the backing is attached to rollers by canvas leaders. When I got my first longarm the only way that people did this was by pinning the backing directly to the leader and that's how I did it for years. Then some smart woman figured out that she could sew half a long zipper (like those used in sleeping bags) to the canvas and pin her backing to the other half and then easily zip the backing to the canvas.
In this photo I have a white zipper on the canvas and my backing is stapled to a black zipper.
When I pinned toe leaders I had 3 problems:
- I had to stand over the machine to do it and that causes some back strain
- I used corsage pins and I got stuck - a lot
- If I needed to remove the quilt to work on another I had to unpin and re-pin. Zipping on and off is so much easier!
The other side of the backing has one too!
I'm really just including this photo because I like to look at this backing fabric. It was a fabric I custom dyed for a customer and I made a mistake in one of the colors. I dyed her a new one and kept this one for myself. I love it.
I have several sets of zippers and I keep them paired properly because I've marked a center mark on each pair. When I staple the backing to the zipper I start in the center and work my way out. That way I know the quilt will stay square on the frame.
Stapling is not a very popular method of attaching backing to the zippers. Most people worry about getting a staple caught in the quilt. But do 2 things to help prevent that. I staple the back to the leaders in my sewing room on my cutting table. (This saves my back and is much easier than doing it at the machine). I remove the staples in the living room while watching TV so that keeps them away from either sewing space. I don't rip them out. I use a staple remover so I can keep up with each one.
The trick is finding the stapler. This one is a vintage Swingline that my Mom gave me and I bought a spare one in case this one dies. These are called "hand grip staplers" and you can find then where vintage things are sold, like Etsy and Ebay. I think Swingline actually still makes a "soft grip" curved stapler. You have to have the curved bottom so that it can accommodate the zipper teeth when you press the staple in. A regular flat bottom stapler will not work.
Staples are not required. At The Longarm Network, where I teach, they use giant safety pins. Some people still use corsage pins. Others stitch their backs to the zippers with a machine basting stitch or a chain stitch on the serger.
Different strokes for different folks.
The biggest advantage is that I can prep several quilt backs at a time and, if I wanted, I could baste them all and then quilt them in any order. I could even zip 2 back together if I wanted to baste 2 quilts at once and then remove both and load whichever one I wanted to quilt first.
The downside is that if I get stuck on a quilt it's rally easy to unzip it and let it sit unfinished for a year or more. That happened with my Non Unus Pluma quilt. It hung over the back of a chair using up a set of zippers for over a year before I got the nerve to finish quilting it.
There you have it. The mystery of the zippers is solved!
People looking for a third option should check out Red Snappers. A lot of people like them too.
7/12/2017 11:09:33 am
thanks for the explanation and the photos! interesting how you do it - generally how long is a quilt on your long arm before it is finished and done. Although this way is interesting and most likely great for long arms for a 3 roller hand frame my quilts are on the frame for 3 to 6 months so just pinning it to the leaders as I do now with T-pins is great for me - but if I was putting a different one on the frame weekly or even monthly it would be something to think about as I think it would work for a hand quilting frame as well.
7/12/2017 01:31:23 pm
Thanks, that satisfied my curiosity.
7/13/2017 08:29:38 am
That was interesting. Not being a long armer, I have no idea how to mount the parts to a quilt. I can relate having your zippers tied up for a long time though. I pin baste my quilts and at one time I had so many pin basted and had more to do so I kept running out of safety pins. I would just go and buy more; problem solved! I eventually got those quilts quilted and now I have so many safety pins it is ridiculous!
7/13/2017 09:45:23 am
Right now I use long straight pins to pin the quilt and backing to the leaders. I get stuck every single time and just hate it. The zipper idea is great, but just not sure I want to try it without some serious help.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.