Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sending a quilt to be quilted

Warning: this post probably reveals how crazy I am.  I have debated whether or not to post anything about my first experience sending a quilt to be long arm quilted and have decided to post for two reasons: (1) I am interested to know if my experience was typical and I am just OCD and (2) I had never heard anything but positive experiences about using long arm quilters and I wanted to throw in my two cents. I apologize if this post is a little negative.

My Giant Giant Hexagon quilt is about 100" square and I knew that I wasn't going to be up to quilting it any time soon.  We are in the middle of remodeling our master bathroom and I want to do a few updates to our room as well, including the quilt on our bed, so sending the quilt to a long arm quilter seemed to make sense.  I requested an orange peel pantograph pattern and sent the quilt off with 108" wide Architextures backing and some batting.

I received the quilt about 3 weeks later.  Getting a quilt this size quilted is not cheap, my total after shipping costs was just over $200 (of course this rate is completely fair, I am just saying that it was a pretty major expense for me).

1.  When I opened the box I immediately noticed that the thread used on the quilt was darker than I expected.  In discussing the thread color with the quilter I told her that I had been thinking of a light gray, maybe a white, and I would leave that decision up to her.  Since medium gray is neither light gray or white I was not happy.  Apparently she thought that when I said I left the decision up to her she could choose whatever color she thought was best, but if she had run this color by me I would not have been okay with it.  I have a thing about dark thread on lighter fabrics and I am very unhappy with the way the thread looks on the yellow prints in the quilt.
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2.  The next thing that I noticed was that the quilt wasn't trimmed completely.  Trimming and squaring up a quilt is pretty much my least favorite part of the process and one of the reasons I sent this out to be quilted was so that I didn't have to trim this giant quilt while 7 months pregnant.  Since the long arm quilter had said that part of the service was trimming the quilt, I was disappointed.  There was still 1/4" or more to trim all the way around the quilt and there were several places where the edge of the quilt wasn't cut straight.
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3.  There were also places on the edge of the quilt where the quilt top was folded down into the quilting.  It wasn't by much - 1/4" or 1/2" - but this isn't something that I consider acceptable when I do my own quilting so I was surprised to see this.  The quilter said that it should just be enclosed by the binding - which it wasn't - but I don't want folded down quilting in my binding.
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4.  The quilting was crooked in some places. When I complained about this the quilter said that this pattern is difficult to line up and it is normal to have it not be straight, but if I had known that in advance I would have picked a different pattern.
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5.  It is pretty impossible to see from this photo, but the tension seemed to be a little off.  I don't know what is normal with long arm quilting, but I can see the knot from the stitches on the quilt top.
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So am I completely nuts?  Overall, the quilting looks okay and washing and binding the quilt will take care of most of these issues and I know that these are little things.  I think the thing that that bothers me the most is that I worked so hard to be careful and precise with this project and there are so many things about the quilting that seem sloppy.

Once I calmed down a little bit I emailed the quilter.  She initially apologized and said that I could send the quilt back to her to be trimmed again.  I was going to do this until a couple days later she emailed me again and basically un-apologized.  At that point I decided that I just didn't want to deal with her any more so I will take care of it myself.

Are these experiences typical of sending a quilt to be quilted?  Have you ever had a negative experience with having a quilt long armed?

59 comments :

  1. yes, I was disappointed the first time I sent a quilt out
    but, after, I knew what to expect.
    I now long arm my own quilts at my LQS renting the long arm. I realize that it is not easy to run a long arm and many of my issues with the longarmer are understandable. the cost is actually reasonable.
    I use a new needle and up to $10 of thread per quilt
    freehand is actually physically demanding. It also takes at least 30 min to load a quilt. and if the quilt isn't straight or is not completely flat, the result is not ideal. a longarmer maybe makes about $20 an hour for her time.

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  2. Um, whoah. Not ok. I'm in total agreement with you, and would be frustrated, too!!! Sorry you had this happen. I'm glad you shared. I like reality in blogging!

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  3. So as to your quilting disappointments:
    First off, the price you paid is actually really low compared to what is usually charged around here. I'm not saying this warrants less care be taken, it's just an observation.
    1. The gray thread looks like it could be classified as light in the opinion of some, so I would give the quilter a pass on that one, and specify an exact thread color in the future. Some quilters may wrongfully assume that you do or, as in this case, don't want the quilting to be very obvious on a quilt.
    2. I've never had a long-armer trim my quilt, but I prefer this, because once a quilt is cropped, it can't be undone and I don't want too much taken off. Since your quilter said this was part of the service, that makes a difference.
    3. I haven't experienced folded over quilt edges. I wouldn't mind unless it protruded beyond the binding. Then it would be objectionable because picking out stitching could make the quilting come undone.
    4. This bothers my compulsive side. It would have been good to be forewarned.
    5. I can't see what you mean, so I'd let this one go.
    Probably this is more annoying since the quilter has not been eager to make things right for you.
    When I use a long armer, I have to settle for less perfectionism than I would practice when doing it myself, but sometimes it's worth it because of a quilt's size or since efficiency may be more important than my having complete ownership of the total product.

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  4. I'm glad you shared. I would only expect the design to be perfect if the quilter used a pantograph, so I think the uneven parts are understandable. Maybe orange peel isn't their favorite design or something. Then again, if I wanted it to be uneven I could have quilted it myself if you know what I mean. You expect high quality work from someone who is a professional.

    I would not be turned off from longarmers completely. Now you know what things to be very specifc to ask for (like, show me the thread you plan to use!). If you can go to someone local that is probably easier, because you can meet in person and talk through your expectations and ideas for the quilting. Also then you can hopefully get recommendations and referrals for someone who is great! Good luck!

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  5. I've not sent a quilt to a long armer but I would expect more precision. The folded down area would eat at me!

    If you didn't like her tone, don't use her again, it was kind of you not to publically name her. Thanks for being real.

    Seems like an expensive lesson but I hope you find a new partner you can trust and be smitten with her work.

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  6. I've only ever sent two quilts out - both to Krista Withers - so what can I say...my experience is/was totally different to yours. I would only ever send out for custom quilting. If it's an all-over regular design I would do it myself. I would agree with you on the tension issue (doesn't look right) and the folding over of fabric at the edges is (to me) unacceptable.

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  7. I had 2 poor experiences about 10 years ago....one actually forgot to quilt a 12x12 section of my quilt and another ran out of batting? Unsure how since I had 4 inches on all sides.
    Since then I only use quilters I know or was recommended. My last two quilts were done by Abby Latimer and I was very happy with both!

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  8. I have been quilting for a few years but have never sent a quilt out. This is for the very reasons that you have shown us. When I make a quilt it becomes a part of me, almost as much passion and pain goes into it as giving birth. If it came back ruined by shoddy workmanship I would be raging. When I make something I put my best into it, anything less will not do. When I make an item as a gift or to sell it has to be even better. In your place I would not know whether to howl at the moon in pain or be incandescent with anger.

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  9. My friends all think I'm crazy sending my quilts half way across the country to be quilted, but I read blogs and kept noticing a certain longarm quilter being mentioned for quilting on many designers quilts. It was worth connecting with her! I think communication is key and unfortunately you had a bad experience. My quilts are sent back to me trimmed and ready for binding. All threads are clipped and I am ready to sew on the binding. Long arm quilters are worth the expense - please try one again.

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    1. can you share her info? pretty please?

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  10. It feels like your longarmmer needed to communicate more. If an orange peel is a difficult pantograph to line up, she absolutely should have said something! The thread color and tension, well that will become less noticeable after washing. The trimming is unfortunate, especially with you being pregnant (not that trimming a 100" square quilt is ever easy!). But the misalignment on the pantograph is not something you can ever fix or get to look right - and it's a pantograph, you expect pretty close to perfection there. Or at least I do. I guess this just goes to show that asking too many questions, while it might feel like harassment actually might end up saving your quilt. I'm sorry you had to go through all this!!!!

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  11. Thank you for sharing your experience. I've learned from each experience I have had with a longarm quilter and appreciate not having to learn some lessons the hard way. I've used three different longarm quilters. My first experience was done indirectly through the quilt shop where I took my first quilting class and I was very pleased with the results. The quilter and information necessary were predetermined by experienced people. My second experience I sent out 3 quilts (something I will never do again) to another long arm quilter. They were months past due (which seems to be a common experience) and the quilter clearly rushed them at the last moment. One was supposed to be an all over stipple and turned out fine. One was supposed to be an all over leaf pattern and was done in an all over stippling design. The quilter offered to redo this, but it would have been months longer and I don't know how much of the needle holes would have shone through later. The third was supposed to be closely quilted with designs chosen by the quilter to suit the quilt pattern (Lemoyne stars). The quilt was beautifully, but inexactly quilted with designs going outside the area they were supposed to be in and overlapping some. If you didn't look closely you wouldn't notice. Mistakes will happen, so I was willing to dismiss all of the aforementioned. Where I drew the line was with the following things. The quilts weren't squared and were trimmed crookedly after I specifically asked before hand about trimming and squaring and was told not to do it. All of these were lap quilts so it shouldn't have been a challenge. The final straw was that there were threads that weren't finished off and several small places on the quilt where the quilting had gaps or thread running from pattern to pattern where there should have been quilting such that I had to try to match the thread colors and patch the quilting myself.
    On to quilter number 3. I gave her a giant quilt, which I think was probably more challenging than she expected. I gave her a picture of what I wanted. She quilted the border in with the main design and her quilting could have started a bit differently to better accent the quilt. A heavier thread would have been better too. Thread tension issues were also present. My big issue was that her quilting ran several inches beyond the edge of the quilt and attached the batting the backing. It wasn't trimmed at all. The situation was going to require me to unpick inches of quilting around the entire quilt so I had to change my binding. I want to see some of her work on smaller quilts, because most of the issue might have come from the size of the quilt and insufficient communication. I think it's rare to find a longarm quilter who will quilt it as lovingly as you would and I think many are taking work to support their own habits rather than because they are particularly skilled. With practice they will probably get better, but may not care more and they can never see the things we see in our heads so being ridiculously specific and learning from our communication mistakes is the only insurance we have.

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  12. Wow, I would definitely be unhappy with the pattern not lining up and certainly the quilting on the edge with the quilt top folded over. The trimming to me is okay as if she trimmed too much.....I'd rather have too much. I am not in love with the thread color but your price paid was amazin. I have paid almost that for a throw size with no batting,backing or mailing. I think each long armer is different. The one I use is awesome but she over quilt and I like a simpler pattern.

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  13. I had a an absolutely terrible experience this summer. Thank goodness it wasn't my first time sending out a quilt, I might never do it again. We had recently moved so I needed to find a new local quilter. I met with this woman. Looked at lots of her quilts. Watched her work on a project in her studio. Everything seemed great! I handed over my quilt. A very large (50 inch) lonestar falling off the side of the quilt with a solid background. I asked for an all over pattern and brought a picture of some quilting that I really liked with stars and asked if she could work in a couple stars to echo the shape of the lonestar.
    When I picked up the quilt everything looked great! I was so excited. I took it home and set to work binding it. That's when I noticed that the quilter had quilted a giant tuck in to the quilt top. and to top it off she had poorly whip stitched the tuck with a thread that didn't match! I contacted her and asked what happened. She seemed to ignore that this was an issue at all and certainly didn't apologize. I'll never go back and I certainly won't recommend her.
    I was able to rip out the hand stitching and more carefully organize the tuck edge. Some parts were quilted down so this took some time and to me it was still obvious. I slip stitched the edge to conceal it and make sure that it doesn't curl up with use/washing. I bound and washed the quilt. Then I asked my mom to find the problem. It took her a long time to spot it and she said that she didn't think the recipient would notice.
    I know that lots of long arm quilter take great care in their work and don't ask enough for their services. It's just a shame that some do not take the time to be careful in their work.

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  14. I've only had one long arm experience (my first quilt) and it was a positive one. Maybe I'd be more discerning as a more experienced quilter I'm not sure, but what I know from restaurants, etc that there will be discrepancies and not every quilt is going to be a tear-jerking success, I think you've been unlucky this time.

    Saying that, there's no accounting for poor customer service, it would be interesting to see your email to the long armer prior to them unapologising, perhaps they took offence to something that reads badly in text but if it was said over the phone would not have caused any offence at all....

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  15. Okay, I am a longarm quilter who has won several awards for the quilting, and I feel need to put in my two cents. Every quilter knows: light on dark, NEVER dark on light. Sometimes the quilt has a variety of values, and then it is always best to use a lighter thread. The tension on a longarm machine is a bit more difficult to keep even because we quilt in every direction, pulling the thread in ways it is not meant to go. Your machine goes straight, period. With a pantograph, the quilter needs to speed up and slow down frequently, which may cause what you see as a knot, but is really a slight build-up of thread in one spot while she hesitaites before turning in a different direction. Unless the quilter has a computerized machine, this is almost inevitable in a couple of spots. Lining up the panto with each roll should be a no brainer, so I am with you on this one. Having the edge turn in like that is totally unexcepable. Trimming is done to help the quilter when she goes to bind ythe quilt. I do not cut the actual quilt at all. If the top isn't square, it will be un-square when trimmed. I trim with a 1/2 inch of batting on all sides. This way, if the quilter needs to block the quilt to square it up, she has an edge to do it with. Only if the quilter requests a close trim, do I do it. You can always trim as you bind, but you can't add back!
    I hope you give us longarmers a break and try again with one whose work you have seen and like.
    Thanks! Good luck in the future, I hope this doesn't turn you off to longarm quilting in the future.

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  16. Personally I think this person sounds a bit lazy--she either does consider this thread to be a light grey, or it was the only grey she had. If getting the pantograph to line up is tricky then she should be expected to spend extra care in making sure it DOES line up correctly--what she did here is just shoddy workmanship and/or pantograph pattern. It's hard to see from the photos how the tension is off, and if it isn't a consistent issue across a big area, it's probably just a minor problem with the thread, machine, and/or bulk. The work "trim" could mean a lot of things--maybe just trimming the extra batting and backing off, maybe squaring it for binding, maybe not--something she should clarify, especially with new customers. The turned up edges don't make sense to me--I thought the edges of the top and backing were basted down to avoid this during quilting on a longarm and to say that the binding will cover it is again just lazy--she's not taking any responsibility for the mistakes and shortcuts she took. Despite all that, I'm really impressed you were able to get such a large quilt quilted for ONLY $200.

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  17. Longarmers are human. It is never going to be perfect. Quilt tops aren't perfect either. If you have never used a longarm, you really shouldn't be so harsh with your judgement. It's not as easy as it looks. Most of the things you mentioned won't be noticeable after washing and others can be fixed easily. Don't let your emotions get you all riled up! It's just not worth it.

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  18. I'm so sorry that your first experience with a long arm quilter was a negative one, Erica. I have no experience with this, but I would have thought she would know what to specifically ask her customer. Clarification is a key element. Thread colour is a big deal when you ask for light grey or white, and don't get either. The complete mismatched orange peel sections would have made me nuts! As I just recently did orange peel on my domestic machine, I know it can be difficult. But I would have redone those sections that are so obviously wrong.
    I am wondering if she was recommended to you, or how you decided on this particular quilter. I hope you try again, And I guess you need to be really specific about your expectations. We all know there are so many brilliant LA quilters out there.
    Good luck, and thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sure it was difficult to do. You are a kind person, and wouldn't complain un-necessarily.

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  19. I have found that what works best for me is to go to the quilters place of business and discuss your expectations face to face. Sometimes the thread you think you want doesn't look good. The only way to find out is to unwind the tread off the spool and lay it across the quilt. I have specific likes and dislikes about quilting , some of them break the quilting rules , lol, so this is what works for me. Sorry that you had a bad experience :(

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  20. The offset panto pattern would really bother me and that is something I will add to my questions for future quilting services. I had a bad ending with my 1st LAQ when she mixed up the backings on 2 quilts and didn't use the batting I requested on 1 of them despite emails beforehand and my instructions on her forms. Since one of the backings was from the same fabric line as the top it was pretty obvious that she was not only reading her paperwork but also not paying attention. When I contacted her about it she acted like like I was being way too picky. In fact the way she handled it made it much worse. No immediate apology, no offer to discount my bill or remedy the situation. I ended up telling her I would only pay her hard costs - batting, thread, shipping but not the quilting. She got really angry and then insisted that I send them back to be redone... But by then I had lost faith. There are many great LAQs out there and I've had great experiences since that. But I do ask more questions and request that they contact me before they load my top so we can go over things again.

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  21. I quilt this design fairly frequently, and not having the segments line up is NOT a normal thing. Yes, your quilt was large, but that is what long-arm machines are for...and this is a pretty big scale orange peel so should have been fairly straight forward to quilt, particularly with a panto.

    With regard to the thread...I would not be happy with it either. It is neither light grey, not white - it is a medium to dark grey - and really does not suit some of the fabrics very well (from my perspective).

    With regard to the price, I cannot comment because prices vary widely depending on the skill of the quilter, and the demand he or she is in, as well as where they are located geographically. The price definitely does not seem high given the size of the quilt...but the workmanship also does not seem high, at least not to me.

    If this were my quilt, I must confess I would be experiencing the same level of disappointment that you are. And, on my own quilts, I do not give second chances. I'd be looking for a different longarm quilter.

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  22. Oh I would SCREAM!!! I am only just learning about quilt making and have become rather passionate about it all. I was born to a Sheet Iron Worker who taught us the importance of precision and of, the job that's worth doing is always worth doing Right. When leaving school, although at the time I had no interest in sewing, I went into a clothing factory to work for the sole purpose of a wage at the end of the week. The factory supplied clothing to a top end UK wide and beyond clothing and household store known for top quality. So I had the best in teaching to which I still totally feel priveledged. I later went into the soft furnishing side of things when my family had grown a bit and gradually became to truly enjoy my job. I became a home "window dresser" and maker of soft furnishing.
    I would be so hesitant of giving my work to anyone to finish for Any reason, definitely for my own use but so more much impotantly if it was for any else.
    I know that in this world there are so many who without knowing of sewing or how it "should" be done, are delighted with their Soft Furnitishings because it "seems" to look so nice and New. But I am absolutely horrified to see what gets produced by some so called Professionals who charge for their "talents". I don'tdoubt it will be the same in any industry. If you claim to be a Professional and charge others for the priveledge, your work should always be Professional and Precise!!! No excuses. Wrong thread colour has been a massive error in this case. It shows the imperfections so clearly. Folded over edge's to me are a definate No No, something I could maybe let go on something for myself should I be in a real hurry but Not for paid work. And regards costing, if I buy leather, water proof boots I get get a "good deal" if they are "less expensive" than others but I certainly don't get the good deal if the rain gets in and the leather turns out to be manmade materials. Sorry you have had such a raw deal. It is important that you don't get put off having your Quilt's done again, you just need to be more carefully of who has this job in their hands. If I can be blunt, you also made an error in telling this person the final desicion of thread colour was for them. All too often I see people, when they know something is not quite right this seemingly see this trust as an invitation to say "AW well, she did say to do as I saw fit". Hope all your other home improvements turn out just as your minds eye see's them. Best wishes

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  23. Sorry you had a bad experience. I haven't had any experience sending my own personal quilts out to be long-armed but I have always seen amazing work done, nothing negative until this post. I agree with previous posters that perhaps this person is just lazy? I wouldn't just chalk it up to miscommunication though... as the professional offering the service she should have been more explicit with you. The sloppy edges and the quilting not lining up seem very unprofessional and something that should have been done correctly despite apparent lack of communication IMHO. Good for you for not publicly shaming this person on your blog, however I would write a review on her business FB page, or Google reviews to inform others about your experience and help them make an educated decision about using this particular quilter.

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  24. I can understand you wanting to send this out because of the size. I've done a little longarming on rental machines but have decided only to do the smaller ones myself. Trimming and squaring and/or piecing the backing for even a full size quilt is a big chore.
    Your photograph showed the uneven trimming well. Did the longarmer specify that whe was leaving 1/4 batting extending? did the backing also extend?
    I am fortunate to have a number of long arm quilt services in my immediate vicinty so I wouldn't have to send out. We would be conferring on thread color and design face to face with the quilt in front of both of us. Your experience makes me appreciate that. The cost probably was low compared to some of my local quilters.
    Someone commented that only pantographs could be perfect. I had to laugh because I love freemotion and my pantograph work is far from perfect. I would say only computerized quilting is perfect and then only if the piecing is perfect. Sounds like yours was and I'm sorry for your disappointment.

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  25. I have a good friend who began longarm quilting at a LQS and then branched out into her own business. She hasn't done a quilt for me (yet), but I know her work ethic well (she's a perfectionist!), and I've seen some of the work she's done in person (she got two honorable mentions in our local quilt guild show this past weekend - one for quilting someone else's quilt and one for her own). I would trust her with my quilts (because I'm nowhere near as perfectionist as she!), but then I know her pretty well. I think if I didn't have the LQS or my friend at my disposal, then I would have to rely on reviews from several sources to trust my quilts to someone or some place I didn't know personally. I may not be a perfectionist, but I have heard horror stories (much, much, much worse than yours here, sorry!). I hope that you can salvage the edge and live with the thread color and uneven pantograph - wow, okay now that sounds like a lot! In the end, you have a story for this quilt, and every one should have a story!

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  26. I would be so angry. You put so much work into your beautiful quilt. As a professional, she should have put more attention to the trimming and panto, should have put more attention to everything! The threadcolor was a really bad choice but also a matter of taste (always the lighter color for me)...so sorry for your bad experience but don't give up yet, I'm sure there are other amazing laq's!

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  27. Hi there Erika,
    Oh, I am so sorry that your longarmer was such an unprofessional, lazy person. For shame on that person!!!
    I am a Virgo…read...perfectionist and all of the above would make me go absolutely nuts.
    I have never sent out one of my quilts, preferring to do them at home, but I do understand the lure of getting a quilt professional quilted. I have a super-king size ready to machine quilt and am stalling…
    Your LAQ should have confirmed the thread colour with you, for sure, without blindly going off and quilting with a colour that is not white or light grey. The pattern not lining up is just plain old shoddy workmanship. Oooo and the fabric folding over back on itself…unbelievably bad. You'd have to pick out all of the stitches in that area to release the fabric, then try to match your thread when you go to re-quilt what you had to tear out. Very bad. The fact that she offered to fix the mistake(s) and then reneged on you is poor customer service and truly bad for business…don't you agree???
    Do you happen to know if that quilter belongs to a long armer group or association? or, were they suggested to you by your local quilt shop? Either way, you must notify the group/association/LQS that such and such a person does shoddy work. It might help other people to not get stuck the same way you did.
    Just a thought.
    Anyway, There are many excellent long armers out there, you just might have to do a bit of research…i.e.: ask them if they belong to a professional LA organization, etc.
    I have heard that Natalia Bonner and Angela Walters(both are ribbon-winners) do excellent work, but they might be expensive.
    Thanks for writing about this…I would have never thought to ask about fixing errors, before sending the quilt out.
    Jacqueline in Pitt Meadows,
    http://www.quilt-sewhappy.blogspot.com

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  28. I have never been disappointed however I meet with my quilter in person, choose the thread and ask a lot of questions.... My longarmer knows where I and she are at by the time I leave and we both feel good about it.
    I would say you both made some mistakes this time around... her moreso than yourself... she should have insisted you suggest a thread colour or you should have been very clear, especially if you don't like dark thread on light fabric... I actually love the thread colour she chose for you but can understand your disappointment... the pattern not lining up is her fault and it's not off by just a smidge... disappointing.... and the folded over edges-- so not okay with me! I wouldn't be happy with that either.
    I have never had a longarmer trim right up to the edge... what she did is what I consider trimmed in the longarming world and in all honesty, is it really that big a deal? Are you picky? Maybe... but you are the customer.. but some things I would agree with you wholeheartedly... from the tone of your post I think the thread colour set you off... if it were the right colour and the pattern lined up you probably wouldn't care about the other things... I'm so sorry about your experience.

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  29. A couple of years ago I spent a summer making tops and then took them to a local LAQ to be quilted when school started. I just flat ran out of time! Anyway...I took the quilts one at a time and wasn't happy with any of them. Same problems you list along with tucks on the lining where it hadn't been "stretched" smoothly. when put up. So now I just pace myself differently and do my own. Back to your points. The price is about in line with what is charged around here. There aren't a lot of LAQ's in this area so there is no competition as to pricing. Or quality of work either for that matter. I would be disappointed in the color of the thread also, along with the folded back edges and the trimming. As for the tension and the lining up of the design, not sure how I would feel. Mine all have tension that is uneven, having a few loops and knots on each of the quilts I have had done. I really don't know haw hard it is to get the quilt into the LAQ straight and square but it's a pain getting it into my hand quilting frame so maybe it is hard to line that up. To me it sounds like your LAQ was in a hurry and just didn't pay attention to the little details that are so important. I would advise you try a different LAQ for next time if you decide to send a quilt out again. Get everything in writing and still expect to be disappointed. No one else's work ever measures up to my expectations and so I have learned to either do it myself or expect disappointments.

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  30. It sounds to me like this is a new quilter who's just learning ropes? I would be very surprised to hear about any of these issues with an experienced professional quilter (except maybe the thread color, since that's pretty subjective and she might perceive that color to be light gray). These all seem like pretty "rookie" errors and like this is as much of a learning experience for her as for you. I wouldn't be crazy about her un-apology but the price you paid is *SUPER* low compared to other quilters so I imagine she sets them low based on knowing she's new to the game and can't offer as great a product yet.

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  32. Oh I'm sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with having your quilt long-armed. I have had LOTS of quilts long-arm quilted and I haven't had any of the issues you've faced.

    I think it is helpful to be super clear with long-arm quilters about what you want. I'm lucky enough to be able to visit mine in person, and I'm always very specific about the thread colour, if the quilt top is directional and the top edge has to be the top edge, if the backing is directional and needs to go a certain way, etc. As much as I love my long-arm quilter, I know her tastes are different to mine and I wouldn't let her pick a thread colour or quilting design for me.

    I definitely think the petals not being lined up in the orange peels is not acceptable. A tiny bit of variation is fine, but they are WAY off. It would bug me too. The edge being folded over is pretty bad too - I have experienced a tiny bit of edge fold-over with my quilts but its always been 1/4" or less which I can live with.

    I've never had my quilt trimmed so I can't really comment on what's normal practice for that.

    It's hard for me to see the tension being off in the photos. I suspect it will come out in the wash and if that had been the only thing wrong with the quilting you probably would have lived with it.

    I hope you don't get totally put off my this experience. I wouldn't use this quilter again, but I'm sure people will have recommendations for you. I think this quilter has made a real error of judgment in un-apologising. While I have always been happy with the quilting my long-arm quilter has done, I know friends have had issues sometimes (like not being happy with the thread colour, or having a directional back put on the wrong way). In each instance I'm pretty sure she has offered to unpick the quilting and re-do it, and that has put the problem right for people (although they did find it upsetting at the time). I do know of other local quilters who do not do such a good job, and everyone in my local quilting community knows it too! Word of mouth is a powerful thing.

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  33. Wow. People have a lot to say about this! It's interesting to read all of the comments. I haven't sent any out and I'm pretty sure I won't now. Mostly because I'm too cheap. :) Plus, I would expect everything to be way better than I could do on my own. Hopefully as time passes you become more ok with the finished quilt.

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  35. I hope I am not intruding but, I have read each comment and so amny say they do the quilting at home. Do you hand quilt or use your home sewing machine ? If a sewing machine, what brand and what videos /classes would you recommend for learning to use my home machine?
    Thank you in advance.
    ~Karen

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  36. :( sorry your experience was bad. I'm a perfectionist, too, and all that would bother me, too.

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  37. Your experience resonated with me. I recently had a bad experience with a longarmer in my quilt guild. I blogged about it http://myquiltingaddiction.blogspot.ca/2014/11/double-crossed-and-longarming-problem.html

    I'm sure the problem was just down to inexperience, and I should have hesitated before handing over all my hard work and expense. Now I'm renting time on a machine. I've completed one huge quilt so far and am booked tomorrow for two smaller ones. At least any mistakes will be mine! First impression is that loading the quilt is time consuming and that long arming is hard physical work.

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  38. Erica, thank you for relaying your experiences and expectations, and commenters, thank you too. For what it's worth, I didn't think anyone was being harsh or bashing the quilter. On the contrary, I think people are generous for offering up the lessons they themselves learned the hard way. I would have expected better work also (and if the relatively low price was meant as license for lower standards, that should have been conveyed up front, like a salon charging a low rate for a trainee hairstylist). I really appreciated everyone's candor.

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  39. I have a similar experience with sending a quilt to a professional (awardwinning (!)) quilter. When i think about it i can still cry. All of the above fits except for the squareing .... she left all on which i didn't mind. I did however mind that she ruined a very special quilt. What bugged me also is that she had me pay full price and didn't seem to be bothered by it. If it were me 1) i wouldn't dare deliver such bad work 2) if i did deliver something my customer wasn't happy with i would at least offer a (partial) refund if the customer had legitimate issues.

    Having learned from that horrible experience,the second experience was very positive. I sent it to another quilter and she did an awesome job. Except the squareing. I didn't expect the quilt to be squared and thought i would cut it a little wider to make the binding a bit bigger. The quilter made it perfectly square but now i can't make a wider binding. Next time i will just ask to either not square up or make the squareing wishes known. I will most definitely take another quilt to the quilter who did the second quilt.

    May i just say how brave i think you are for being so honest in this blogpost?

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  40. So sorry to see such poor workmanship on a panto. REALLY?? Shouldn't be too difficult to follow it. I don't like the darker thread on lighter fabrics either. The folding over at the edge ?? That's just plain WRONG. I don't think you've been unkind but being a realist looking at a "professional's" work, I would expect better. Hope you will try a different LAQ as there are a LOT of them that do great work !!

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  41. I quilt my own quilts. I really can't afford to send all of mine out to be quilted since I make so many and don't really sell them. I did send a small one out to a local longarmer several years ago and it came back a hot mess with the backside thread all messed up. She apologized and said it was a problem with her machine and she'd been waiting on a part for it for weeks. She refunded my money & I had to pick all that quilting out - thank goodness it was a smaller quilt. I'm sorry for your experience and on such a large quilt that you put so much time into. When I started quilting in 2001 I did my quilts on a simple Brother machine, I seemed less intimidated in the beginning than I do now! I moved up to a Janome Quilters Companion machine and now have a Jamone Memory Craft 6300. It's not the most expensive machine or the newest out there for quilting but so far it has been wonderful for my quilting needs.

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  42. That's a lot of money to not be happy with the service you received. I think more than anything, the poor customer service is what would get to me. I quilted a quilt for a repeat customer once years ago, and she was not happy with the quilting. There had been a miscommunication between us. My first response to her was "What can I do to make it right?" and we did exactly what she wanted. She was more than fair as a customer and I still think about the upset that the miscommunication caused.

    With a pattern like orange peel, getting them to line up once the quilt is rolled can be hard. I really try to avoid quilting this pattern if I can. I have a computer that does the quilting, but my quilting can only be as good as the quilt itself. It sounds like you take great care in your piecing, and that this wasn't the issue. 9 times out of 10 the tops I receive are not square and full of pulled and crooked seams that cause all sorts of trouble when quilting. I have had a quilt that was so poorly pieced, with all sorts of bubbles and crooked seams where they had been pulled when sewn together, that when I wrangled the quilt to be flat so that tucks wouldn't be quilted in, the pattern then didn't want to line up because it had to be tugged so much to try and stay square and flat. It's times like those I want to quit quilting because I can't do a perfect job, but i'm limited by what i'm working with. So these things do happen, but sometimes its out of our control. I think in your last photo the misalignment looks like that is the pattern itself. If she was using a computer to quilt, you are limited by the software. You have to be careful how much stuff overlaps or points will interfere with each other and the computer can't quilt. This drives me nuts, personally. Free-motion quilting is definitely easier to get things to line up and fit, but it's free-motion which means it's full of lots of human error as well.

    Tension is another hard one. One of the comments above talked about how longarms go all directions and that does cause some build up of thread (even with the computer running things) as well as tension to vary slightly. Another factor is when there are different fabrics used throughout the top or even on the backing. If it's Art Gallery fabric mixed with an organic cotton and an average quilting cotton (with a square of Liberty thrown in) then the tension is going to change from fabric to fabric and the machine can't adjust on a whim for that. The same goes with if the backing is multiple pieces, rather than just one fabric. At that point you're potentially talking about lots of bulky seams for the needle to go over, which causes all sorts of trouble in and of itself. I'm sure once you wash it, everything will settle into place.

    The thread looked light grey to me, but that is subjective. Something I like to do is offer several suggestions of thread and then drape them across the quilt itself, if there is indecision, and take a photo and send it to the client to decide. I talk about why I think one will work better than the other and we make the final decision together.

    I don't think you should give up on longarm quilters, there is someone out there to meet your expectations. I think it's good you wrote about this and it seems like most of the comments are constructive and will help others to know what to expect when giving over their precious quilt to be quilted. I don't think longarmers talk about these things enough, so the client doesn't know what to expect. When you choose the next quilter really take a close look at everything that bothered you on this quilt. Now you know what to look for and how to judge the next longarm quilter you choose.

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  43. This is incredibly sloppy work!! I agree with you on every point! This is NOT a professional job. I don't see any excuses for not taking care to line things up, no matter how difficult it is.
    Knowing what happened to you, i would pick a thread, myself, in future and give the thread number. I would also specify trimming, our long armers always leave 1/4" bc they feel it fills a 2 1/2 inch binding! $200 is very cheap for quilting any quilt larger than a crib quilt, so this longarmer may be a beginner. hugs to you! I would be disappointed, too!!!!

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  44. I am very sorry you had a bad experience. I have been quilting for 3 years and I've had about 6 quilts professionally quilted by two different individuals. I have never had a bad experience. I hope you will try another long-armer in the future because when working with large quilts, it is a life saver. My opinions - I think I could give a pass on the thread color simply because people seem to see colors differently. However, folding fabric over is not something I could justify. I live in Dallas, Texas and the price for a large quilt is about $150.00 (when I say large, it covers my 6'3" son!). I have never had one offer to trim it for me. That would be sweet! As a side note -- I made a football quilt (the material made a football on the front) for my quarterback son. I had put a border of "grass" on it to bring it to size. When we were discussing the quilting, she tried to talk me out of a "program" (I'm not sure of the correct word) that had a football, whistle, cleats, etc. on it because it was so literal. My son is VERY literal and he loved it. So I appreciate what my quilter does in the sense that she talks me through alternatives, thread colors, etc. I do hope you give it another shot.

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  45. I'm guessing that we sent quilts to the same place! I just had that same design done on my quilt and I had the same issues with the tension looking off, quilt tucked under stitching and I had to trim up the whole thing before I could bind. This was only my 2nd quilt I had quilted by someone and from now on I will stay local and go with the gal who did my first one. There is a big difference in the stitching on my 2 quilts. Also if we did go to the same person, I saw thru IG that she was rushed to get quite a few done before she went out of town. Not that that makes it any better!

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  46. I'm quite surprised at the number of people who have given this longarmer a pass. I think the work is very poorly done and shows no integrity and terrible craftsmanship. I understand why you haven't put a name out there and that certainly speaks volumes for your character but I hope I never send a quilt to that person. I have sent quilts out to be longarmed - all to the same person. She is local so I can meet with her in person and I do. She has done "good enough" but I feel she lacks creativity - but I know that and don't expect great things from her. I gave her the biggest quilt I have ever made - took me forever to put all those hst's together ! I had asked for an all over design in the main part of the quilt and then a design in the border and corners. I was so disappointed. She must have been having tension issues because there are nests of thread all over the backing and the design in the border looks very shabby - she has missed the centre of the crossover on almost very space. Even though she has been long arming for quite sometime this is just obviously above her skill set. I never did discuss all these problems with her - she has all the confidence in the world and I already know how she would handle the conversation it would be frustrating and there would be no growth. I found a place 3.5 hours away and have taken a class and rented a long arm there and quilted two of my own quilts - I used pantographs and it's just not that hard ! The other quilts I've made were smaller and I could do them on my own machine. Thanks for giving me space to blow off steam. I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business so I haven't talked about my experience at all until now ! I'm very sorry that you had such a bad experience. You make very beautiful quilts and the mess that this one came back in is a real shame.

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  47. You are right to be unhappy with the work you showed in this post. I've used three different longarm quilters and was very satisfied with all of them. None of them did sloppy work and were very pleasant to work with. I will say that I paid more than you did -- maybe that is an indication. All of the quilters were recommended so that would be what I suggest you try in the future. Good luck!

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  48. I use a LAQ that I am actually able to drive to her home. On a quilt that I had done for a full bed I asked for gold thread she even took out a few different color golds to view and choose from. I finely selected wheat when I picked up my quilt it was quilt with BLUE thread. I paid $115.00 for this quilting. I have noticed the edges are trimmed very sloppy but I assumed this was normal.

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  49. As a longarm quilter who quilts as a business, I can say that this quilt would not have left my studio looking like this! When doing a pantograph, a quilter is standing at the back of the frame and cannot see what the needle is doing, which is why the edges got pulled over - she should have picked out the places that were folded over and free-hand quilted the pattern in those small areas. (I hate pantos and don't use them after using one once). If she was using a computerized system, this fold-over can happen if the quilter isn't standing there making sure it doesn't happen. Tension...she didn't see it when it happened and if she didn't look for it, she may not have seen it at all. BUT it should have been noticed and removed/replaced. Miss-matched pattern - that is simply laziness on her part - she should have checked when she started a new row, noticed it was not lined up, rip out the quilting, re-align and start over with that row. Trimming - some quilters leave a quarter inch of the backing beyond the quilt top so that they can get a really full binding. Not my favorite task either, but if a customer is having it mailed back, I'll trim, but I trim right up to the quilt top. About the thread color - the thread may have looked "light gray" to her - I prefer to lay out several options on a quilt, take a picture and have my customer pick the color they want used. I'm sorry you had such an awful experience with this LA quilter. If you decide to try again, please do tell your new LA quilter about this experience so they won't do a repeat. I would suggest finding someone who is as particular about their quilting as possible - translates into a better job done on your precious quilt. They may be slower to get your quilt quilted and back to you, but you should be happy with your quilt.

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  50. Wow. Reading most of these comments leaves me really impressed by those who choose to quilt their own quilts or rent a machine. First I think it gives a person who sews a quilt top a real appreciation of the challenges of machine quilting a top that may not be prepared well, or has wavy borders, or loosely woven fabric, or even polyester batt. I am not saying any of these ladies would have a quilt done where a top is not clean or might have many loose threads untrimmed. I am just saying machine quilters get all kinds of tops in all sorts of condition.

    In your case the thread choice bugs me. It sounds like the quilter had a sloppy moment. The first quilt I had done was disappointing. I ended up picking it all out because I liked the top. I did not know what parameters to set and foolishly chose a clamshell pattern that ended up being too small and did not fit the top at all. She used beige thread that did not blend nicely. I chalked it up to experience and since then have tried to watch closely and learn how people choose designs and types of thread.

    You are very kind to detail your experience with images to help us all chose carefully in the future. This post helps me appreciate so many diverse opinions.

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  51. It's unfortunate that you had a bad experience. Putting all your hard work and time into your quilt and not having it turn out like you thought, is heartbreaking. I get that. Knowing this quilter personally and loving all the work she has done for me, The thing that I don't understand, is after she tried to make things right and refunded you 100% of your money, you put her in a negative light on your blog. I am sure she felt bad enough without having to read all the negative comments written by people who don't know her or anything about the situation. Maybe post a bigger picture of the whole quilt to show how beautiful your work and how the quilting complimented it. It's a shame that you had a bad experience, but what was your purpose in trashing someone's character and her talents online?

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  52. I found reading this very interesting. I bought myself a second-hand computerised longarm machine a few years ago, with the aim of starting a quilting business. All of the mistakes you list in your article I made multiple times even after quite a few practice quilts ( and still make them on occasions). It took (and still does take) a lot of effort and time to get thread choices and tension "good enough" to satisfy me and I ended up coming to the conclusion I wasn't going to make much of a wage quilting customer quilts to the standard that I wanted to achieve. Lucky for me I had another means of making money and now only quilt for myself (and I'm still not always happy with the results!)

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  53. I have sent one quilt out to be quilted and it was done in a satisfactory manner. I would try again but I have seen a lot more long arm quilted quilts now and I would discuss what ai wanted, just as you did. I think the quilter should have asked you about the the thread color she chose. I can get past the trimming but the folded edge is sloppy and I would be totally unhappy with the way the orange peel shapes meet. If your quilt had been pieced with gaps or points not meeting, then you might have said I'm not a perfectionist so your quilting can be sloppy. I would not use this quilter again.

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  54. I have sent many quilts out to be quilted by a professional longarm quilter and have been thrilled with the results. The designs were intricate and appropriate to the design. I am now trying to learn how to do the quilting on my own but I cannot say anything against the professional who has done work for me in the past.

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  55. So disappointing! I can't believe she behaved that way! What happened to standing behind your work!!! I have had a similar experience with long-arm quilting a few times (there were folds in the quilt backing and in the batting in many places) and was so disappointed and even a little angry that someone would take their craft so lightly and be so uncaring about it. I mean, after all, this is an heirloom, handcrafted item you have made and you expect for someone long-arm quilting to have the same thought in their heads of how special and priceless it is. And I agree with you, it's completely unacceptable and very sloppy of this person to send something back like this.

    I have my own long-arm but I have never quilted for anyone else, just my own quilts, mostly because I realize how special a quilt is and I'm terrified of ruining someone's else's art! My sister-in-law is a long-arm quilter though and she is amazing. Truly, amazing. She does all her work free motion and she does an absolutely phenomenal job. I'd be happy to pass on her contact info if you'd like it for the future. She's also very picky about the work she turns out (she does work for quilt guilds and magazines also) and she has taken out quilting before because it was not "perfect".

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    1. I know the quilter they are talking about and she has been totally misrepresented. She offered to do what she could to make things right, and also refunded 100% of the money. She has quilted for seven years and had about 7 unhappy customers in the thousands of quilts she has done. She is truly a professional. Too bad this blogger hasn't printed any of that.

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  56. I can see you have a lot of opinions on the matter... I am actually Rachel Mc's SIL, and read your blog on occasion, your quilts are beautiful! I would never had stood for this in a LAQ... I have been using the same lady out of UT for years, and my MiL has used her for even longer, and this would never have happened! She freehanded several of my quilts and they all were better than this quilt job, lined up, accurate and beautiful, enperfect way to end a quilt that I have spent tons of time and money on. I'm so sorry this happened, not the result you want from a long time of waiting to see your project finish.

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  57. I'm so sorry - I think someone needs to make a Long Arm Quilter Review site. Like rate your professor, or rate your MD.

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