Longarmer Quilt Tip: How to Load the Frame


Now that you obtained your dream of possessing a BERNINA Longarm Quilting Machine the question now arises, “How do I load the darn quilt?” And if that’s not enough to think about, we will present you with a second question of “Which method do you want to use?” Really, there are options? I know, you were under the assumption that the ONLY option was to pin your quilt to the leaders. Surprise my friends!

You’re not alone in that thinking, I also thought that I had to pin my backing to the leaders. For years I would pin, and put to the test all different pins hoping one would miraculously bring a pain-free and quick process. My attempts included but weren’t limited to corsage pins and flowerhead pins. You name the type of pin and I’ve tried it. I am sure that Costco loved me, I was purchasing Band Aids in bulk on a weekly basis. My poor fingers felt like they were being used as a voodoo doll, which is a bit ridiculous since I like everyone. I have developed a strong empathy for florists; those pins aren’t only painful but the “ouch” feeling lingers for quite some time! Lastly, the dollar bills I witnessed float away really saddened me. Oh, the money I could have saved; the cost of those sharp little weapons adds up!

Enough talking about pins and pain. What are the alternatives? There are two to choose from, and both are good choices. The first alternative to loading a quilt onto the frame is the Red Snappers method. In order to load the quilt, there is a rod and grip method used for attaching the backing onto the frame. Quick, easy, AND your fingers do not look like they were part of a crime scene. First, you will need to make sure your leaders are parallel with the quilt frame. Sew a 3/4″ hem/casing on the edge of the leader for the Red Snapper Rod. Mark the centers of each of the leaders making sure they all line up. Slip the rod into the casings.

Snap the Red Snapper clamps to attach the bottom edge of backing fabric to the proper roller, matching up the centers. Roll fabric evenly on to roller. Using the Red Snapper clamps attach the top edge of the backing to the proper roller, matching the centers and roll fabric till there is no sagging. Attach the quilt top in the same manner.

Attaching top edge of backing fabric

top loaded

For a detailed video watch, Installing Red Snappers.

Option number two is the Quick Zip Method. This has been my method of choice once I decided my fingers were worthy of being band aid and pain free as a result of pinning. The Quick Zip method incorporates applying one side of the zipper to the leaders, while the other side of zipper is attached to the backing fabric. In mere minutes your mission is accomplished! If you are professional quilter for hire, this system will quickly become your BFF. As quilters, our goal is to be ahead of the game. We assume once we’ve initiated a project that our thread allotment is accurate. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve miscalculated how much thread would be required. One too many times Murphy’s Law has found its way into my day indicating the need to remove a quilt due to lack of thread or tension issues. A good portion of my afternoon would then be spent ripping something out of the fabric. These beautiful zippers make frustrating moments a little easier to handle; I know I can quickly remove the quilt and then reattach without losing much time and patience.

Applying the Zippers:

To begin you need to determine the center of you leaders and the center of the zipper. I then pin from the middle out, I do this for both of the leaders. Yes, I did say the word “pin” unfortunately, pins will never be totally removed from the quilter’s world.

Pin Zipper to leader

Next, I zip the leaders together, but gently pull and be careful not to pull too tight. I use the BERNINA Longarm Quilting Machine with the Free motion embroidery foot #24 (this foot allows me to see the pins easily) and sew the zippers to the leaders removing the pins as I move along. This process of removing pins as I go prevents me from hitting the them.

Zip both Leaders together

Both zippered sewn onto leaders

Once both zippers are sewn on to the leaders, you can pull tight. You can also put a zipper on the leader where you attach your quilt top. I did not do this as I tend to “float” my top. If I do load it, I will use flower head pins because I don’t take my quilts off till they are stabilized.

BERNINA 750QE Screen

When I am ready to put a new quilt on the frame, I will take the backing fabric and zipper and put my BERNINA 750 QE to use, setting my straight stitch length to 6 and baste the zipper to the backing using the BERNINA Patchwork foot #37D.

Match center of backing with center of zipper

I start from the center out so I am assured it is centered. I can then simply move over to the BERNINA Longarm Quilting machine and zip directly on.

Finally, when my piece is completed there is nothing quite like the sound of “ripping” it off the zippers.

A Silver Lining

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