Before we can begin machine quilting, we must layer our quilt top with batting and backing. Last week, we talked about quilt batting and its impact on the final look and feel of the quilt. This week, we will consider the quilt back and how to choose fabric strategically to complement your machine quilting. I will also give you a peek at the back of some of my quilts!
The back of the quilt (and the batting) needs to be slightly larger than the quilt top. I add a minimum of 4″ to the length and width measurement of the quilt top – giving 2″ extra on all sides – but you may want to add 6″ or 8″ for more leeway. The extra inches are helpful during the layering and basting stage and allow for any shifting during quilting. While most of the excess will be trimmed away after quilting, I also like to keep a little extra to ensure my binding is completely filled.
For large quilts, the backing may need to be pieced. Some quilters prefer to avoid placing the pieced seam along the vertical center of the quilt but I must confess that I don’t worry about that. I have been known, however, to place the seam where it will continue the design lines in the fabric – like hanging wallpaper! (Can you find the seam line in the above photo?) Other quilters piece their backs like patchwork, using up leftover fabrics or extra blocks from the front.
Wide fabrics specifically designed for quilt backings are available, but often the color and pattern selection is limited. Because I choose my backing fabric carefully to coordinate with the front and to complement my machine quilting, selection is critical! So, what am I looking for when selecting a backing fabric?
First, I am looking for the same colors that appear in the quilt top. This coordinates the back with the front and helps with thread selection for machine quilting. For quilters who like to use the same color thread in the needle and the bobbin, threads that work on the front will also work well on the back. Second, I am usually looking for pattern. If you want to showcase your machine quilting, choose a lighter color solid or near-solid backing fabric. But if you want to disguise minor tension difficulties, starts and stops, and back stitching, a busy print can be a strategic choice! I also enjoy pairing a backing print that connects to the subject matter on the front, and here are some of my favorite examples.
Tools of the Trade features papercut appliqué blocks of sewing and quilting tools.
The backing fabric is a color-coordinated print with buttons and thimbles!
King of Hearts includes a Card Trick block and papercut appliqué blocks of the four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.
Here’s the backing fabric!
The Lord is my Shepherd depicts the 23rd Psalm with a patchwork block called Shepherd’s Light and papercut appliqué blocks of imagery from the psalm.
What better backing fabric than a print with sheep grazing in the pasture!
The backing fabric for Instruments of Praise was actually the focus fabric used for choosing the colors in the quilt.
And the fabric pictured at the beginning of this post? That’s on the back of Flourish on the Vine!
The sheep fabric is called “3262 Sheep” by Makower UK fabrics in England. It was purchased in 2003, so you may have difficulty locating any more of it. Good luck with your search!
Where can the sheep backing material be purchased? It would be perfect for the quilt top I just finished.