Update to ‘My Favorite Longarm Tools’ – Loading the Backing

After posting about my favorite longarm tools last week, I received several questions about using a fine mist water bottle to remove wrinkles when loading the backing fabric. Today I loaded another quilt and took some pictures of the process. While it’s much easier to see the technique in a video, I hope these pictures are helpful in explaining what I do.

First, I attach the backing fabric to the front leader and drape it over the back, allowing it to hang below the table. I give the fabric a good spray of water – all over.

Backing Fabric Attached to Front

Backing fabric attached to front leader

Backing draped over table

Backing draped over table in back. See how wrinkled it is?

TIP: See that white strip of fabric along the bottom edge? The backing fabric wasn’t large enough to allow me to attach it to the leaders. So I sewed a 6″ strip of fabric along each end. This gives me enough fabric to attach to the leaders, front and back, and allows the entire piece of backing fabric to be used for the quilting. The white fabric will be cut off when I trim the quilt after quilting. This can also be done if extra fabric is needed to clamp the sides. I use fabric pieces I have saved from the backing fabric of other quilts I have quilted, so it is not an expense to me.

Also, you’ll notice the backing was pieced with a seam running down the middle. I am loading the quilt sideways so the seam will run parallel to the bars. This puts less stress on the seam, and makes it easier to keep the seam straight to the quilt top when quilting.

Okay, back to loading and misting the backing….

Removing wrinkles from backing fabricAfter spraying the backing, I start rolling it on the backing bar smoothing the fabric as I go. I usually advance the fabric 8 – 10 inches and then spray and smooth again. In the picture above I have just sprayed the fabric – you can see the wrinkles are starting to loosen.

In the picture below, the same wrinkles are almost gone:

Removing Wrinkles from Backing Fabric

Keep up the good work – spray, smooth, roll, smooth, spray, smooth, roll, smooth. (Repeat that a few times in your head, it will put you in a meditative state.)  🙂

When you get to the end of the backing, attach it to the leader on the take up bar. Tighten everything up, and voila! wrinkle free backing without an iron!

Backing Loaded

You can see some of the water on the backing here where I have smoothed the fabric. Don’t worry. It will dry in about 2.1 seconds. Or maybe 5.1. You get the idea.

One of my readers, Carole of From My Carolina Home, says she uses this method with one difference. She adds a bit of Best Press to the water in her water bottle. I haven’t tried that yet, but I think it’s a great idea.

I hope this helps answer any questions you had after last week’s post. I’d love to hear how you handle big backings – just leave a comment!

Have a great weekend,


About Beth

I'm a wife, mother of two, and lover of all things crafty. I love to cook up new things in the kitchen and in my craft room, and sometimes get "licking the spoon" mixed up with "licking the fabric"!!
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9 Responses to Update to ‘My Favorite Longarm Tools’ – Loading the Backing

  1. Kate says:

    Looks like a great solution. Ironing those backings with just a regular ironing board can make the wrinkles worse I think.

  2. Bonnie in VA says:

    Hum, I’ve been spraying backings for several years but I never roll it on the rollers until it dries. I tend to load the take-up roll first and then let the fabric hang down over the front roller. The weight of the fabric helps the mist remove the wrinkles. I live in a humid climate and just don’t trust rolling damp fabric. This way does mean it takes me longer to load a quilt. Since most of my quilting is for myself or charities it isn’t a big issue. I prefer seams to go width-wise too but you can’t always accommodate that preference.

  3. Nice tutorial! Although I don’t longarm, I used that process on tablecloths for a wedding reception and it really does work!

  4. Brian McCoy gave me this great backing tip when I purchased my Avante from him in 2014. I almost thought he was “pulling my leg” at first until he demonstrated. I’ve not ironed a backing since! I’m glad you’ve passed this information on….Blessings…..

    • …and I almost forgot….I don’t used distilled water…we live in the country and have a well with wonderful water. I keep a spray bottle filled next to my longarm and never see any sediment in the bottle nor have ever had any discoloration, etc. on my quilt backs.

  5. Great tips..l especially loading the quilt and backing so that the seam runs horizontally!!

  6. Great post on your process, pretty much the same as I do. One other thing I do if I have to add fabric to the backing is put that bit at the top leader. Then I can ensure that the top is as close to that seam as possible without going over it, which ensures that it doesn’t get caught in the quilting.

  7. I’m not a longarmer, but you made that look easy! Thanks Beth! I was wondering about the distilled water also.

  8. Liz W. says:

    Thank you so much for that tutorial! I will definitely give it a try for the next large quilt I load. One last question … does it have to be distilled water?

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