I feel like I watched roughly a bazillion YouTube videos, both from Handi Quilter as well as professional long-armers, etc. on tips and tricks for using this machine. It literally took me a few minutes to get the first quilt loaded and ready to go and I didn’t have any big issues once I started quilting it. But I didn’t see a couple of tips that I’m going to write out here in case anyone else uses a long arm and has never tried it this way.
In this top picture, I’m about to quilt my last row across. I used a pantograph and if it’s not obvious, my pattern is going to be larger than the length of the quilt. Before I stitched the final row, I basted along the bottom row before beginning (the sides were already basted).
What I had done previously was to question if I really needed to cut my batting first and as it turns out – I don’t. I can just leave it on the big roll underneath the Avante and let it roll off as I advance the quilt. You can see that in this 2nd photo. Since the batting is doubled up on the spool, I just gave myself plenty of slack once I unrolled it to unfold it to one width apart. In this photo, I was just about to smooth it out and as you can see I let the extra just hang on the floor. What that meant was when I got to that last row in the first picture, the weight of the batting held that final row when I changed plans from what’s recommended.
Instead of marking on my pantograph where the horizontal line should go, I took out all my straight pins from the leader and rolled the leader up. If you’ve ever used one of these, you’re probably thinking I’m nuts right now but hang with me. The quilt stayed in place. It was basted at the bottom and wasn’t going to move because of the weight of the batting pulled it down.
At this point, I quilted my final row – I still had the side clamps on as usual so there was plenty of tension to keep everything nice and straight. And then….I took my scissors and cut away through all 3 layers at the very bottom of my quilt. That meant I had about 3-6″ extra backing fabric that I would’ve had otherwise. And the quilt top was the guideline so there was nothing wasted there as you would expect.
Here’s the bonus though. Because I didn’t pre-cut the batting to a specific length (in other words the length of the backing), when I cut that off as shown in the picture, I used 3-6″ less batting than I would have otherwise. I don’t recall how much it was exactly but I’ll word it this way – 6″ x 10 quilts (or however many you can get out of a roll of batting) equals 60 inches – a full lap-sized quilt.
The key here is to always have slack in the batting when you advance the quilt so that the batting lays out flat.
Literally the only excess batting I had was the small amount at the very top of the quilt that was basted to the backing after it in turn was pinned to the top leader. And as you can see here, I had excess to the right of the quilt because of the width of the quilt. There’s enough there to make a couple of baby quilts. I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to end up with 4 pieces of batting left at the end where I’ve cut it off on each end and then each side.
In this case because of the way I laid it out, I had next to no excess on the left side or the top side; I had zero excess at the bottom, and a pretty wide swath on the right that’s large enough to actually make a couple of projects out of in the future. When I was done, I just rolled the extra batting back on to the roll (and not too neatly since I’m going to load another quilt tomorrow so why bother).
I don’t have pictures of my other shortcut I took, but when I initially loaded the quilt. I pinned the backing to the top, and then to the back and let it hang loosely in the middle during that process. When I was done, then I rolled it up until it was flat. Then I laid the batting on next using the process I described above and basted a straight line across the top of those 2 layers. Then finally I laid the quilt top on and basted it across the top and then rolled it onto the roller.