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Bad Machine Quilting

by Gail

I need advice...I sent two quilts to a long arm machine quilter who was recommended. I am heartbroken at the results - hard, stiff, threads pulling, quilting stitches coming out and the quilts are full of holes.

I started to bind them and got to thinking if washing them might help. Should I remove the quilting and then wash them?

They are both batiks and they are both very special. One is for our daughters birthday and the other for our granddaughter who we will finally see this summer. We haven't seen her in 6-1/2 years. She is turning 9 this summer.

Any advice would be appreciated.


I am so very sorry for you.

What happened to a friend of mine...

One of my bee friends has taken out the quilting from two quilts she had long arm quilted (at different times and by two different quilters).

For the first one, the quilting was a beautiful pantograph (an interlocking edge to edge design with flora and fauna) but it just didn't jive with her 'idea' of her quilt. In her opinion, the quilting design was much too contemporary for her traditional quilt. It was made from a pack of Cherrywood's "Crazy Ladies" hand dyed fabrics. I'm thinking the quilter took that as a cue that this quilt required 'contemporary quilting'. I believe that it was a miscommunication...or lack of communication...during the quilting planning process.

The second quilt where she removed the quilting was a reproduction of an antique pineapple quilt that she'd seen somewhere. Quite frankly, all the quilt needed was ditch quilting or some sort of grid quilting to emphasize the 'antique' feeling, but the long arm quilter did some curvy, cloud-like thing that really disrupted the flow of the pineapple blocks. On top of that, if I remember correctly, the quality of the quilting was not up to par either.

So she picked out all the quilting stitches and re-quilted it herself.

In your situation...

If you had no issue with the quality of the quilter's work, then if it was me, I'd rip out the quilting and chalk it up to mis-communication between you and your quilter.

And then strive to better communicate the next time around.

But because there is a problem with the thread and the quilting stitches coming undone, I would first take the quilt back to the long arm quilter. Those problems shouldn't be happening, especially when the quilt isn't even bound yet. See if you can get some remedy from her/him.

If you wash the quilt first, and the problem(s) get worse and THEN you go back to the quilter, the situation is muddied...perhaps the problems happened with improper washing. Does that make sense?

As far as the stiffness goes, that may simply be the density of the quilting stitches and/or the type of batting used. Your quilter will be able to tell if it will 'soften' up with washing.

The holes you are seeing...I'm not sure if you're talking about the threads in the fabric being torn and creating holes or holes left from the needle.

If its threads torn creating holes, again, I'd go back to the quilter for remedy. Having holes torn into a quilt top is not what you paid for.

However, I'm betting that the holes you are referring to are from the larger needle used in long arm quilting. I am not a long arm quilter, myself, but I understand that a larger needle like a 90/14 is commonly used. This needle leaves a larger needle hole in the fabric, but I do believe that with washing this hole will close up, at least somewhat.

While hopefully, you'll be able to remedy your situation with the machine quilter before your daughter and granddaughter arrive this summer, we quilters regularly deliver quilts later than we'd like. But our loved ones appreciate them all the same. I'm sure your daughter and granddaughter will feel all the love that went into the making. Please don't let this hamper time your with them. YOU have too much loving to do while they're with you. And time is all too precious.

Readers, I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions for Gail. If you've been in this situation...whether you're the long arm quilter or the quilt top maker, let us know how you handled it. Just use the 'comment' link below.


Julie Baird

PS Gail...If you haven't pre-washed your fabrics before the quilt was made, test them for bleeding before washing. Your fabrics will be less apt to bleed in cold water, though it's not a guarantee.

Comments for Bad Machine Quilting

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too dense quilting took dimension out of art quilt
by: Peggy

I made a large art quilt 42" x 56" of a sea turtle underwater with over 120 appliqued pieces.

After a long conversation with long-arm quilter (a now-former friend) whom I was paying for custom quilting, she ignored everything we talked about and densely quilted it with the same edge to edge pattern. Then she bound it.

It totally took the dimension out of the quilt (we had agreed that the custom quilting would ADD dimension).

I refused to pay her and she was fine with that. I would have so much preferred she send the quilt back unquilted but here I am.

The stitches are too dense to remove so how do I add dimension now?

I'm heartbroken.

If anyone has any ideas, I am so open to them.

by: Denise

We had a long arm quilter come and speak to our Guild.

One of the things she tried to impress upon us was, that you need to communicate what you want done. It is not enough to say "Do what you think looks best" to the long armer. It's no surprise then that some choices will not mesh with the quilter's style.

Of course, poor work is poor work, but clear communication can go a long way towards a successful outcome.

From the Editor: I completely agree with you. Communication is key. In fact, not just in words but in writing and pictures/images. We can both be talking about the same color of blue, but actually thinking of two different hues.

Better to take the extra time and be safe rather than sorry.

Thank you for writing

~ Julie

Dark color and clashing quilt pattern, can it be taken out?
by: RP

I picked up my quilt from the longarmer today, and it was not what I had envisioned. She said they could take it all out and start over, but I think that would do more damage??

It is all white backgrounds with vibrant flying geese in blues and teals. The border is a soft cozy dark blue flannel. The backing is a really cool dark navy blue print. So that is why she chose to use dark dark dark navy blue thread. To match the back. And it does blend in with some of the geese.

But we had Never discussed trying to match the back threads in this nor in any of our other happy transactions. I had so much white in my quilt, I was sure I had said to use white thread or light light blue, or light grey? I assumed she would.

Anyway, I was almost in tears. She said she can take it out. And re-do in white. But I hate the pattern too. I had said do a geometric squares or diamonds pattern. I had said, "I trust you".

Oh dear, this has triangles and what could be scythes?? No squares, no diamonds. It does have some wonky squares, I see now. It looks like the vision was that a very weird and angry someone scribbled all over my pretty quilt with a black pen! My family has said it just looks like it clashes, and not too bad. It is so ugly :( But I am concerned that taking it all out will ruin it even worse.

Won’t it leave thousands of holes to take out an entire quilting job?

Won’t it take forever?

Won’t it just fall apart?

She did not offer a discount at all. But offered to re-do, and I do not know if I would have to pay...

From the Editor: My heart just breaks for you.

Based on what you've written, this is what I'd do.

1. Have a face-to-face meeting with her to determine how you're going to proceed. First finding out what your monetary obligation is for both if she does nothing else or if she removes the stitching and a re-quilt or if you remove the stitching and she re-quilts.

2. I would want to see the design she intends to re-quilt with. A drawing would do. If a section is traced out on tracing paper you'll get a better idea of what it would look like

3. Approve the exact thread choice to be used. I agree, a dark thread on a quilt with lots of light fabrics is a bold look and is quite jarring if it's not what you expected to be done.

4. Don't listen to your family's recommendations. They want you to feel better, which is admirable, but this is YOUR creation. If you wince every time you look at it, well, that's just not a good thing.

5. Yes, it's going to take awhile. If you trust her work, have her take out the stitches. It'll be gut-wrenching if you do it, but if you love your quilt, you might feel better if you remove the stitches, it means something different to you than to her. She'll be on a deadline, you won't, which means you can stop when you're tired.

6. If you can wash the finished quilt, I suspect that the needles holes will close up just fine. If the piecing is good, I wouldn't expect there to be any problems with the quilt falling apart. However. I would remove the stitching around the edges first and then add a row of stay stitching a scant 1/4" in from the edges to hold all the edges piecing together and to help prevent pulling the borders out of shape with all the handling as the stitches are removed. Better safe than sorry.

There are no good answers for your situation, only best efforts—and a lot of work. I am so sorry this happened to you.


Julie Baird

About Black Batting
by: Cindy Roth

In a comment, someone had a quilt quilted with white batting on a (mostly) black quilt top. Here are some thoughts.

It is VERY hard to find black batting. Most batting manufacturers do not even make black batting anymore. And, if you can find black batting, it is more expensive and be of a brand that you don't like working with.

If there is any white or light fabric on the quilt top, black batting will have some "show through" and the light fabrics will look gray. You have to determine what (color) batting will work best for your quilt top.

Many times, the quality of the backing fabric comes into question when using dark backing fabric and white batting. Poor quality backing fabric can cause the white batting to "poke through". When longarm machine quilting, we must use a much larger needle which leaves bigger "needle holes" in the fabrics. Washing the finished quilt significantly reduces the size of the needle holes or eliminates them totally.

As a professional machine quilter, when presented with a black quilt, black backing and white batting, I make sure my customer knows that the white batting may show through and many times, there isn't anything that can be done about it.

Cindy Roth

From the Editor:

Thank you so much for sharing, Cindy. I've been a fan of the Longarm University for a long time.

Yes, I agree, it can be a challenge to find black batting locally. However, I did a quick search on 'black batting'. Click here to see the options I found.

While I prefer to support my local quilt shop to maintain the local resource, sometimes it's necessary to look outside.

For those without a computer at home, many local libraries have computers and Internet service available to them.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience!


Julie Baird

PS I would assume that if I wanted a black batting used in my quilt, that I would be supplying it, not the longarm quilter because I consider it a specialty product. ~JB

In the same boat
by: Joan

I feel for you. I'm in the same boat. I brought my quilt and batting to a machine quilter for the first time. I was expecting to get back a soft comfy quilt to put on my bed, the first quilt I ever made for myself.

Instead, it came back hard and compacted. I cry every time I take it out to use it and then put it back in the closet.

Do you think there is a way to rip out an entire quilt?


From the Editor:

I feel for you, Joan. I've had several friends find themselves in your exact situation.

Unfortunately, the only way to rip out the quilting is a stitch at a time. If it was me, I suspect the exercise would just be too painful and it'd end up in my closet.

The only thing that might help is that it softens up with washing. That might at least help a bit. If you didn't prewash your fabrics, just be sure to use several color catchers and cold water in the wash to reduce the chance of any dye running.

I feel for you.



Great Results
by: Julie

I have taken my quilts to a local longarm service and now relize that I got lucky to get such excellent results!

Maybe some of that is because we communicated directly about what I wanted with the quilt top in front of us. Also this longarm service has very specific instructions on her website on how quilts are to be prepared and the possible outcome if the directions are not followed.

This service will only quilt using their own high quality thread.

My advise is you and the quilting service cannot communicate too much. A lot of work goes into those tops and you don't want to be upset about how your potential family heirloom turns out because they did not understand what you wanted.

From the Editor: This is excellent advice, Julie. For my money, a long armer who knows exactly how she needs to have a quilt top delivered to her, knows what it takes to deliver a quality product.

Spending the necessary time to communicate each other vision is cheap insurance to safeguard our masterpieces.

Thank you so much for sharing.



Black quilt
by: Anonymous

I paid for a dark quilt to be quilted. When I got my quilt back and looked at it. She had used white batting and the batting was showing up through the stitching holes.

When I spoke to the lady, she got upset and told me she would pick it up and take it apart and redo the quilt with black batting.

When she delivered it she had used a black marker and colored all stitching lines. She said she used a fabric pen to cover it. After checking it I noticed she also didn't quilt a section of quilt.

Should I pay her for my 3rd quilt she quilted or pay the difference of ruined quilt?

From the Editor:

I would refer back to the contract to double check what remedies are available to me contractually. Then follow them.

If this was all done on a handshake, first I would write down to document what all the problems are. Next I would arrange a meeting with her, face-to-face, to review every problem. Then I would suggest the price that I was willing to pay with a check written out for that amount and no additional checks nor credit card with me.

Doing this in person is probably not going to be comfortable, but it is the honorable thing to do.

In regards to the section that was missed—that is something easily remedied. I've missed a line or two of quilting in my own quilts and had to go back and add them. The only thing I'd want is reimbursement for any shipping costs to get the quilt back and forth.

Personally, if someone took a marker to my quilt without my permission I would be furious.

If someone said they would pick-out the stitches and re-quilt and then didn't, I would be furious.

At each step along the way, there was a opportunity to call you to get a verbal OK to change tactics.

I am so sorry this happened to you.


Julie Baird

Just an observer
by: Anonymous

Batik fabric is difficult to quilt and the quilter should have warned you or suggested another quilter if she was not confident. The fabric is tight and often breaks the thread so I suppose she used a heavier thread.

I made a batik quilt for myself and understanding the problem quilted it with silk thread and it came out beautifully.

I would never think of using a heavy thread on a delicate fabric like batik. If you take the quilting out you may also have holes in the fabric that don't really close up.

I would also be heartbroken.

Quilting quality
by: Gideon

I work at a quilt shop in the Western US. I am disappointed by the quality of the work of their machine - loops galore on the backing. He claims it is the nature of machine quilting. I think not.

Batik fabrics, wrong design: prevention is in your hands, piecer
by: Laura Lee Fritz

When the batik being used for patchwork and for backing is the tightly woven fabric which doesn't let much light pass through it (when holding it up in front of a light), then you can be sure that it will cause many headaches in the quilting. Besides cutting the topthread like a knifeblade, it will itself break when the needle pierces it to make a stitch, leaving little tufts on the back of the quilt.

The best solution to both of these issues, is to soak the fabric in Milsoft, a professional fabric softener from

It has no color, no perfumes, no gloppy thickener.
Mix it with water 10 parts water to one part Milsoft, soak for five or ten minutes, hang dry without further rinsing.

This will let you and the longarm quilter sew without damage.

It is ESSENTIAL that you know your mind before you go to the quilter.

There are commercially printed books full of ideas you can use that are continuous line. I am only one author of many, who made such books, and I put out 5 that you can buy on

If you choose a couple ideas that you believe suit your quilt, then you have a visual start for the conversation with your longarm quilter about designs possible for your quilt. If the quilter cannot do an exact design for one reason or another, at least you have the same visual understanding, and she/he can find something else to quilt, knowing what you have in mind.

Milsoft, professional textile softener from Dharma Trading Company
From the Editor: Thank you so much for your comments, Laura Lee. I am a proud owner (and fan) of several of your books and can personally recommend them! :D

To my readers, you can click here to see and learn more about several of Laura Lee Fritz's continous line quilting design books (this is an affiliate link)

Click here to learn more about Milsoft, the professional textile softener mentioned in Laura's suggestions above.

Both are excellent suggestions. Thank you!

~ Julie Baird

Bad Quilting Response
by: Laurel Kindley

I have been a professional long arm quilter since 2003. I care a great deal about the quality of the work I do. I would not intentionally let a quilt leave my shop that I would not be proud to own myself. And, I think most, if not all, professional quilters feel the same about their work.

I have a satisfaction guarantee with my work. If a customer is not happy, for whatever reason, then they should definitely tell me so I can correct the problem. I think anyone who is unhappy with a quilting job that they paid money to a professional quilter, and don't tell them, then you are doing the quilter a huge disservice. You should give the quilter the opportunity to fix the problem. If a customer feels that a quilt was ruined by the quilting, it should be the quilter's job to take out the quilting and requilt the quilt. Or, at least take out the quilting and refund the money to the customer.

With that said, it is extremely important that you relay any opinions you have about how a quilt should be quilted to the quilter. As a professional quilter, it is my job to ask if the customer has a preference. Frankly, the customers that come into my shop and tell me to "do whatever you think best" are the ones that make me the most nervous. Just because the quilting I select for the quilt is what I think is best does not mean you share in the same opinion. So, please, please, please, open up to your quilter and tell them what you think.

On custom quilting, I usually show my customers the design I plan to use and make sure my customers are good with it before I quilt a quilt. Just makes for good communication.

response to bad quilting
by: Anonymous

Quilting for hire is a service--just like having a room painted by a professional painter.

If the work is not meeting your expectations, before doing one more thing to that quilt, I would call the quilter and ask for a sit down chat. You could make a list of the things that are concerning you so that you don't get nervous and forget things. I would give the person a chance to respond and possibly make an offer of how to address the concerns.

Quilting for pay is a word-of-mouth business, and I'm sure that any person doing this work would welcome a chance to make a situation right rather than risk having their reputation tarnished. I would not wash the quilt before giving the quilter your feedback about his/her work.

Batik Quilt Issue
by: Cindy Roth

I am a professional longarm quilter (15+ years)and would like to respond to this issue.

"True" batik fabrics have a different and/or more dense weave to them which presents many issues to the professional quilter.

Many times, especially if the both the quilt top and the backing fabric are batiks, there can be quilting issues. Most of the time when quilting batiks, we (professional quilters) might need to use a larger needle. This will mean that the needle holes will be larger. The needle holes usually close with washing the quilt.

Also, batik fabrics are notorious for causing more breaking of the quilting thread.

Batik fabric can be a little "stiffer" which will affect the outcome of the quilting.

You didn't mention what type of batting was used. Each type of batting has a "feel" to it and batting is affected by the fabric around it. If the fabric is batik and a little stiffer and the batting is a little "stiff", then the quilting will feel stiffer also.

I would recommend that this person bind the quilts, wash them, dry them in a dryer and see what happens. I would be willing to bet that the quilts will look and feel a lot better after washing.

Cindy Roth
Longarm University

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