It's About Squaring the Quilt Backing

If the quilt backing is out of square, chances are you're off to a crooked start.

Most beginners’ quilting patterns fall short when it comes to adding the backing.



The quilt backing should be as pretty as the quilt itself, so...

use the same quality fabric for your backing as you did for your top. Be creative. Don't be afraid to use scraps.


And most of all watch for sales on 'backing' fabric which comes in super size...widths of 104 inches wide.

All you need to do is buy enough yardage to cover the length of the quilt.

Wide fabric can make the quilt reversible and easier to quilt as there is no seams as a result of  piecing the backing.

Quilt Backing

Aesthetically, your choice of backing should complement the front.  Spend the extra money to buy a nice print for your backing, as it will mask a multitude of quilting imperfections!

You can even be creative and use up some of the larger pieces of fabric that you may have stored on your shelves. The point in making a good backing is to disperse the seams to avoid any build-up of a long continuous seam.

I had fun making this backing and it complimented the quilt top perfectly for my youngest granddaughter's Dick and Jane Story Book quilt.

Below we have outlined the steps on how to square a quilt backing. Feel free to put this web site in your favorites and come back often. Look around and you will find many, many tips on how to make a quilt.

Be sure and visit our Machine Quilting Patterns  and Continuous Line Quilting Patterns for quilting ideas on quilting quilts.

If the backing edges are uneven, then chances are your quilt will be loaded on the quilting frame crooked and can cause tucks or puckers on the back of your quilt.

Below is a simple quilting technique that shows you how to make the quilt edges even before loading. This tip will save lots and lots of headaches for the beginner quilter.

If you outsource your quilting, it is good to know that a professional quilter bases their prices on the size of the top and the amount of detail in the pattern. Each quilt top is unique and one of a kind. Therefore, the quilting is also unique which allows for some negotiation in costs.

Most of the time there will be an additional charge to piece and square the quilt backing. This may be another good incentive that will encourage you to learn to quilt by studying the easy steps described here.

To avoid disappointment with the finished quilt, it is very important to have a backing that has been squared, pieced properly and large enough to obtain a nice finish.

If you plan to display your quilts either on your walls or at a quilt show, you will need to know how to add a hanging sleeve. We show you the steps on how to hang a quilt. You will need at a minimum an 8-inch strip of matching fabric, the width of the quilt.

This is another reason to follow the rule of always buying more than you need when you purchase the fabric for your backing.

Figuring the Quilt Backing

The third layer of a quilt is known as the backing. The top layer
features the main design and the in-between is the quilt batting. But, the backing takes special piecing such as flanking a width of backing with another split width of equal size.

Another acceptable method for constructing a quilt backing uses an offset to avoid a seam down the middle.

Quilts are frequently folded down the center when stored. A center seam adds bulk which translates to more stress both when quilting and when storing.

For these reasons, a center seam is less desirable. Plan your piecing strategy to avoid a center seam.

When figuring how much quilt backing fabric to buy, start with the measurements of your quilt top. Enhance these measurements by adding 8 inches to the length and 8 inches to the width...also be sure to add at least 1/8 yard for squaring the material.

Quilting Instructions are sometimes vague but if you plan to pre-wash your fabric add another 1/8 yard for shrinkage.  A good rule to follow is always buy an extra one-fourth yard of material for your backing. Remember, if you don't need it you can add it to your stash! Don't worry, your stash never gets huge!

To avoid piecing the quilt backing, check with quilting stores in your area. You can also search on-line. You will find that both sources have extra wide fabric especially designed for a one-piece back.

Over-sized fabric comes as wide as 120-inches which is enough for a king-size quilt. This size is ideal for the quilter. Quilting a Quilt requires the backing be pieced to minimize the way the seams come in contact with the frame's rollers. When piecing a backing there are tips for getting it to lay flat in order to square it up.

This might be a good time to mention any fall-off pieces of fabric bigger than 2-inches wide go ahead and cut it into a square and save for that scrap quilt you plan to do someday!

Removing the Selvedge is Critical

Never sew two pieces of backing fabric together without removing the selvedge first.

Because selvedge does not have any give, if left on, it will cause your quilt backing to pucker and not lay flat once quilted.

If the professional quilter has to remove any selvage the repairs, most likely, will involve an extra fee.

When there is not enough material to trim selvage and then make a new seam, and still leave the piece big enough to use as a backer, the end result may be another trip to the fabric shop.

learn to quilt

The selvedge edge of any piece of fabric will not allow the fabric to relax. That is why it is best to trim the selvedge edge. This is a good rule to follow when working with all fabric. Not just the backing! Preventing raveling is the only purpose for selvedge! Cut it off!

learn to quilt

Press the seam open so it lays flat. Use small stitches when sewing this seam as there will be some stress on it once loaded into the quilting frame. Use 12 stitches to an inch.

Give the backing a good general pressing to remove all the wrinkles as this too helps when loading the fabric on the frame.

When first learning how to make a quilt, it is also important to know how to press a seam. Our Quilting instructions  will show you how to properly press all your seams without stretching and distorting the fabric.

Squaring up your Quilt Backing

learn to quilt

Fold your backing in half on this seam with selvedge edges together at the other end.

Smooth it out so that the fold is nice and flat and there are no wrinkles.

Standing at the seam fold, fold again from right to left.  Now you have a fold at the seam and a fold to your right.

You will have 4 layers of material.  Pinch the fabric at the second fold to make sure all 4 layers are in the fold and that there are no hidden wrinkles or lumps!

learn to quilt

Another way to make sure all 4 layers are in the fold is to take a ruler and run along the inside of the fold...be sure and be gentle so as not to distort the layers.

If your backing is extra large, continue to fold until it is small enough and will fit on your cutting mat.

Be sure to smooth out all the wrinkles and pinch the fold each time you make a new fold; just to be sure all layers of fabric are accounted for.

learn to quilt

Go to the opposite end (uneven cut edges or non-selvedge ends) of your folded backing and using your ruler and rotary cutter, make a nice straight cut to even up the edges.  Continue to cut the width of the quilting fabric on the other end if not folded twice. 

Turn your fabric so the longest part runs parallel to the longest part of your mat.  We now have all three edges straight and lined up on the mat (the seam fold, the two uneven cut edges).

On the other selvedge edge, check all four layers and trim to even the backing fabric with the shortest edge.

After squaring up your backing, measure it again to make sure that it is a total of 6-8 inches larger than the top, if you are going to have it long arm quilted.

A machine quilter will require a minimum of 3-inches of excess fabric on all sides.  If you are using a professional machine quilter, often 8-inches will be needed. Guess what? If you cut too short, you must add it back on in order to be able to put the backing on the quilting frame. So always ask before cutting.





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