This method is a compilation of things I have learned from others, adapted to my own style for what works for me. I hope it will work for you too. I am not associated in any way with APQS (American Professional Quilting Systems) except that I bought my machine from them, and I like it.
You may want to print this and have it next to the machine while you work. Just out of curiosity, I’d like to know if it has helped you, so if you get time, I’d love it if you’d shoot off a quick e-mail to let me know if this has been any help. Thanks. firstname.lastname@example.org
Measure the lining, top, and batting, and decide which way you want each to go with each one. Write these numbers down!
You need at least one straight edge on the lining. You can find out how to do this by asking other quilters, writing me, or at the beginning or end of some magazines, they have pictures and show how to do it. Also quilting books can show this.
On the freehand side of the machine, if you lean against it, is the lining roller; the one above and behind it is the top roller, and the take-up roller is under the machine head.
Roll down the leader of the lining roller about 2-3 feet. Then whip it backwards and up over the top roller and drape it back down on top of the lining roller. Roll it until the edge comes to the edge of the roller. The top roller should be covered.
At this point, my personal favorite is using the selvedge edge of the lining. It’s usually straight, with no bias. While pinning, I pull it a LITTLE tight, as it tends to be tighter than the rest of the fabric and should be stretched out a little. You can also use the one straight edge that I mentioned before. Pinning instructions are next.
Take the lining and drape it over the take-up roller. Lay the whole straight edge smooth, matching centers if you’d like (I never do this anymore), and even with the edge of the leader. Lift both up, and holding them together in front of you, pin the center of the lining to the center of the quilt, about 1/8 to ¼ inch away from the edge. Your pins should be going into the leader first, the fabric behind it. Pin every 3” or so, down to the end, and then come back to the center, pinning the spots in between. Then do the same towards the other end. Your pins should be head-to-head.
Unroll the leader on the take-up roller until it is 1” or so above the table (I do this before I begin pinning the lining at all.) Go to the panto side, and pull the lining clear down to the floor, making it taut. Smooth it out. Then go back to the other side and slowly roll it, keeping it as straight and smooth as possible. Sometimes the take-up roller will move as well. Just do the best you can. I lean down and look under there, and when it the first spot of the lining becomes even with the take-up leader, stop rolling. Then UNroll it a little to give some slack, about 6 inches or so. You will see at this point, places where it’s not even with the leader. It’s okay. It may be because: 1. The edge of the leader(s) are not straight (if you need help with this, write me), or 2. The lining isn’t square. It’s better to have it a little long, than short. The shortest edge of the lining should be even with the leader, or a tiny bit longer.
Stand on the panto side, and with your left hand (if you are right handed, opposite if you’re left) hold the 2 edges together where they meet. Then bring them up in front of you, holding them in place, and pin. Go down about a foot and do the same, etc. all up and down the edge. Then every 6” or so. The lining edge may be jagged and askew, hanging over the edge of the leader too much. This is why you keep the 2 together when you pin, so you’ll create an even edge. Pin the whole edge, head to head.
Tighten the lining roller, then loosen 1 notch. Lay the batting (hopefully it has a straight edge) on top, touching the pinned edge. Smooth it out real nice. Using the channel lock, run a basting stitch about 1″ from the edge, all the way across the batting and lining, creating a straight edge. (This will also show you if your leader edge is straight.) It depends on how much lining you have to play with (here’s where you check your measurements), and if you (or your customer) are going to use the lining for the binding. You can baste as far from the edge as you want. Then loosen up the lining bar some more, and gently pull the batting under there. Tighten up lining bar and batting, smoothing it all out.
Give the lining bar a little slack. Unroll the top bar and lay the leader over the edge of the lining bar (it will be laying on top of the batting). Drape the quilt top over the take-up bar, and lay the edge of it along the edge of the leader. Find the center and pin to the center of the leader (I also don’t do this anymore. I put it a few inches from the edge. That way you don’t have 1 foot on both sides of wasted fabric, you have 2 feet on one side that can be re-used). Measure down both sides and mark the edges, where the top should end up, with pins, into the leaders. Smooth it all down, and lay it even with the edge. Then pin the edges down, and follow the same procedure as with the lining. I begin at the center and go out. You may have to ease it in, and sometimes when I get to the end, I have to move the pin out a little, if the border is too wavy.
After it’s all pinned on, go to the panto side and drape it the same as you did the lining. Back to the freehand side. Roll it carefully. Loosen up where seams are by putting your thumb under the bar, and fingers on top (“C” shaped) and grabbing hard and pulling downwards. ( If there’s a seam in the middle of the lining going down the quilt, when you put on the lining you may have to do the same thing.) Watch the wavy edges, and try to keep the edges even. Sometimes you’ll have to “tuck” them under. When you go to quilt it, you can stretch the quilt a little to ease this in. Also as you roll it up, watch the lines on the quilt, making sure as they go under the rollers, that they’re parallel to them. Here’s where I also squeeze some down if it’s going under too fast. It takes lots of tugging and pulling here and there. I wish I could show it.
Roll it until the other edge comes over the take-up roller, and ends up at the basted edge. If you keep the top smooth as you go along, it should be easy to see where the center ends up. Unroll it, more than just a little, to give some slack, about 4 notches. Pin the center down where it falls. I don’t match it to the center of the leader. (Put all these pins in perpendicular.) Measure down both ends and see where the top should end up, marking as before. (Nowadays I don’t do any of this measuring, I just eye-ball it.) Pin the ends. Matching the edge of the top to the basting, pin as before. A little trickier here. You may have to tug in some places to get the top where you need it to be. That’s why you give some slack on the top roller. And other places you’ll have to pull back on excess fabric. This will all work out. When you’re done pinning, roll the top roller and take up the slack. Do not make it taut. Don’t worry about all the waves on the top of the quilt at this point.
Take another basting stitch, beginning at the right end, and about 1/8 from the edge. I go a little ways, then put a clamp on the edge to make it a little taut. I go over the pins, but slowly. Or you can stop at each one and move the machine over them. When you get to the end, leave the machine there, don’t cut threads. Take out the pins. Roll up the bottom and top rollers to where you like to quilt. Now that the edge is basted down, you can pull it to where you want it. Smooth it out as best you can. I put one hand under the whole quilt (it’s hard when there’s a lot of batting to deal with) and the other on top, pressing them gently together and smoothing from the center to the edge. Keep the smoothing even, you don’t want more top on the edge than lining, and visa versa. Now finish basting up the edge of the quilt, towards you, until you can’t go any further. Then baste the other end. If the edge is too far from me (I’m short), I begin at the freehand side and go backwards. Either way works (the Ult. I can quilt backwards, not all brands can do this). I don’t do this edge at the beginning because I haven’t basted the long edge and smoothed the whole quilt out yet. I trim the edges to about 3”. Put the clamps on. And begin quilting. Each time you roll it, baste the edges before trimming and clamping. With this method, you never worry about running into clamps or pins.
Basting the 4th edge
Here’s what you do when you get to the end of the quilt. If you SID (stitch-in-the-ditch), then SID around that far border. If you don’t, and your border pattern doesn’t go to the edge, go ahead and do the border. Take out some of the pins: Beginning at the right end, leave one pin, take out 2, leave 1, take out 2, etc. At the left end, take out the last pin, leaving in the second to last. Loosen the rollers just a bit, or you won’t have equal amounts of lining and top. Begin the basting stitch at the left, where you left off from basting the edge. Come up to the end, take out the pin, go down a little, then put on the clamp, real snug. Baste along there, pulling back the leader, and unpinning each pin as you get to them. Watch that the batting doesn’t bunch up (poly batt. is a little trickier all the way around) inside the 2 layers. And if you gently push down on the fabric with your left hand, on the left side of the machine, it should stay even. This especially helps when you have a wavy border. (You can also do this as you baste the other 3 sides; you’ll see what I mean when you do it.) You may want to clamp the other end to give a little tension, as well.
When you are quilting, and have a spot that’s tighter and a little skewed from the parts around it, just squeeze the bar and tug like you did before. It’s loosens it up a little and makes it more even. This is sometimes difficult at the ends where it’s pinned in. But it works well in the body of the quilt.
That’s all there is to it. I hope I didn’t leave anything out. Let me know if you want more details explained, or have any questions. I hope this is all clear to you. It’s difficult without being able to show you.