Floating a Quilt on a Longarm


During my training on my longarm, my sales rep explained that I would be doing a “full float.” I had no idea what that expression meant (along with many other things we covered that day!).

I have since learned that “full float” refers to how the quilt top is loaded on the longarm, and means that the quilt top is not attached to anything (zippers, rollers or backing). The backing is rolled onto the machine and attached to leaders, zippers, or some other mounting gizmos. Then the batting and quilt top are laid on the taut backing. The quilt top and batting are basted to the quilt only at the very top. The rest of the quilt top/batting is not stitched or zipped to anything … thus it is floating.

There is much debate over whether floating your quilt is a good idea, or whether the bottom edge of the quilt top should be rolled onto a roller. From my experience, most people like to float the quilt because it provides a better chance of controlling the quilt as you are quilting, and leads to less distortion as you reach the bottom of the quilt. However there are many teachers that argue that attaching the bottom edge of the quilt top to a roller is a far better method for keeping the quilts straight and flat.

One thing I’ve noticed from all the classes I’ve attended is that every teacher does things slightly differently. Some are very careful to stabilize the quilt; others don’t bother. Some use clamps on the sides of the bottom fabric; others find clamps get in the way. Some use a lot of rulers and templates; others enjoy freestyle or pantographs. The “right” way is the method that works best for you.

Here are two resources that I found useful in learning how to float my quilts.



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