Longarm Quilting Terms

Hi, my name is Charisma. I am so excited to be a Master Maker at Fairfield World! It’s a great opportunity to work with these great designers. There are a few things I get excited to talk about and longarm quilting is one of them. Well let’s be honest…quilting in general. What is not to love about quilting?   I feel so blessed that I get to earn a living by doing something that I love.

Even though I know many of you ( that I work with regularly) know some of this information I am sharing it with any new comers to my blog.

I wanted to kind of give a brief description of some quilting terms. These are just some general guidelines and observations to help you during the process of deciding to use a longarm quilter. This is just my experience and knowledge. Of course, there are always going to be exceptions to the rules…we are after all dealing with art and that is always subjective.  I have my own theory about quilting for others and that is that I want to bring life to the work that the quilter pieced. I want to enhance what is already there. It’s not my job to “take-over” the quilt. The original creator took all of that time to choose the pattern, fabrics and sew the quilt. I want to respect the original maker. However, in some cases, there are exceptions.

You see, there is a difference between a Domestic Sewing Machine (DSM) and a Longarm Quilting Machine ( LAQM). Either machine can be used to quilt a quilt, of course. But there are some differences. When you use a DSM you move the quilt under the needle of the stationary DSM. When you use a longarm you load the quilt onto a stretch frame and use the LAQM over the stationary quilt to create designs.It’s like drawing with thread.Those are the main differences. The DSM machine loves straight lines and the LAQM loves circular designs. Longarm quilters have to use tools to create straight lines. I don’t happen to have a computer system so I do everything freehand.  When you take a quilt to a longarmer you do not want to baste the quilt. The quilt is loaded on a stretch frame and the top, batting & backing are loaded separately. If you take a quilt to a quilter using a DSM they may ask you to baste your quilt ahead of time.

A typical longarmer charges by the square inch or square foot. I decide what to charge based upon the designs and type of quilting that will be needed or wanted on the quilt. Prices vary from quilter to quilter. There is no way to say across the board what a longarm quilter should charge, all of that is based upon experience, style, region, and productivity.  Depending on your quilter there are additional charges for threads, thread changes and bobbins. I don’t charge for bobbins or thread. However, if I have to change the color of thread, I do charge for that. So always ask your longarmer if there are any additional costs.

Here is a list of the terms that we use in that decision process:

  1. All Over Designs
  2. Custom Quilting
  3. Heirloom Quilting

There are variations of all of these so I will go into more specifics on each one. So you can get a better idea of each category. This is where you need to have a good relationship & communication with your longarm quilter so you can express the type of quilting & vision that you expect on your quilt. I am able to give a quote on a quilt when I see a quilt and take measurements. I like to do this ahead of time so my customer knows what the cost will be before handing the quilt to me. No Sticker shock in the end.

  1. All over designs – All over designs are just that. You choose one design and that is the design that is quilted from the top to the bottom of your quilt. A continuous design is nice for those quilts that are going to be used & loved a lot. They are also good for really busy quilts that won’t allow the quilting to show. It’s also good for traditional quilts many times because traditional designs like baptist fans and clam shells were used many times on vintage quilts and those are “all over designs.”  When a longarm quilter uses a term like Pantograph or Loricle board (or other boards) they are referring to all over designs. Computer quilters will be able to give you a copy of all of their computer generated designs for you to choose from  and these are typically all over type of designs.  You can get a variation of this and say choose an all over design in the center of your quilt then choose different designs quilted on the borders. Now we are in between an all over and a custom design. So I charge an in between price in this category.
  2. Custom Quilting – Custom quilting is the next level of quilting. Custom designs mean that your longarm quilter is going to put several designs on your quilt. This is where many longarm prices vary. Custom quilting is a process of looking at the quilt and deciding what will enhance the quilt in each area. Is it a sampler quilt? Will each block get a different design? A different design in each border?  How many different designs am I putting into this quilt? I base the price off of the size and the amount of time that I think, I will be spending on the quilt. I have been doing this for so long that I know how long each quilt will take to complete. Most longarmers have a custom start point that they work from. Then once it gets to a certain price/point/time, you are leaning into Heirloom type quilting.
  3. Heirloom Quilting – Heirloom quilting is the highest tier for pricing a quilt. Heirloom quilting is going to be Ruler work, pebbling (HUGE areas of a quilt), tiny fillers, whole cloth type of quilting. The prices vary across the board in this category as well. The reason is time and experience. This level of quilting takes a HUGE chunk of time and you have to trust your longarmer to do this type of work. Typically, a lot of thread is going to be laid down…and it’s not something that can easily be undone. It also takes time for a longarmer to learn those skills and get the training…practice-practice-practice. They are valuable skills that call for a higher price point.

So I hinted at Straight lines up above and in the custom category you saw the terms :

  1. Ruler Work – Anything with straight lines. That is stitch in the ditch, cross hatching, rays, angles, etc. There are also specialty curved rulers to do curved cross hatching, clam shells, circles, cables…really just about any shape or design you can think of.
  2. Pebbling – Little (or bigger) circles that are used for fillers. They use up a lot of thread and fill in areas very nicely.
  3. Tiny Fillers – Filler designs like tiny stipples, swirls, pebbles, and lines.
  4. Whole Cloth – Whole cloth quilts are usually a solid color of fabric in which the quilting is the complete design on the quilt.


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