How To Make A Modern Improv Quilt Back
What Is Quilt Backing
Do you give your quilt backing much thought as you’re designing your quilt, or is it simply and afterthought? Just another step towards completing your project. It’s time to give quilt backing a bit more attention.
Quilt backings don’t get enough credit. When was the last time you showed a friend how great your quilt back looked? They are an integral, necessary element to our quilts. Quilts are only considered a quilt if it has three layers, the bottom layer being the back. I’ve often wondered why we are satisfied with piecing lengths of the same fabric together or buying extra wide fabric for a quilt back. Quilt tops are usually the star of the show while the back seems to be an afterthought.
Don’t Miss This Creative Opportunity
A blank page can be uninspiring to me. That’s how I felt about quilt backs for a long time. Use a single color of fabric cut to size and be done with it. But not anymore! Designing quilt backs is a creative opportunity you don’t want to miss. No longer do we just use a single fabric across the entire length and width of our quilt. Instead, you can create an individual design for your backing. Whether it coordinates and reflects your quilt top, or it looks completely different, get creative with your backing.
How you piece your quilt backing is also a factor in determining a modern quilt. What I started by piecing my quilt backs out of necessity to use leftover fabric has now become a modern quilt staple. If you have an extra block or two left over, use them to design a beautiful quilt backing. Consider what might best compliment your quilt and create a backing accordingly. Or surprise everyone with a completely different look on your quilt back. Whatever you choose, get personal and have fun with it.
Improv Quilt Backs: What’s Your Back Story?
When I pull fabric together in preparation for a new quilt, I always grab more than what I’ll use. I like variety in my fabric choices so after my quilt top is pieced, I usually have plenty left over. When I’m laying out my quilt top, I want lots of blocks to choose from. So, as I’m making blocks, I also sew extras. Nothing is worse than getting to the end of piecing a quilt top and having too many similar color blocks. I’ll also have extra strips that didn’t get used. They’ll frequently end up as binding but can also be incorporated into the backing. These remaining combined fabric pieces are what led to changing up how I make my quilt backs.
Improv Quilt Backs
Improv quilt backs began quite naturally for me. I could never just sew two widths of fabric together with a single center seam to make a quilt back. That center line just throws me off. Every single quilt back I made had a full width of fabric down the center. The second length was cut in half the long way and then sewn to each side of the full width center piece. The spacing just looks more balanced to me with the seams closer to the edges. This pieced backing is how my improv quilt backs began.
Initially, I would find two fabrics for the back. After cutting one in half lengthwise, each piece was sewn to the wide center strip. While that was a great first step, it was very short lived. My second transition was to incorporate extra border pieces into the back. It wasn’t always long enough, which led to the improv aspect of my quilt backs. Before I knew what was happening, I was cutting and turning large pieces of fabric to get the size back I needed. It was such fun.
How To Sew A Modern Improv Quilt Back
How Much Quilt Back Fabric Is Required
Now, whenever I’m planning fabric to make a new quilt, I also pull enough fabric for the back too. Some may be used on the quilt top, but I like the back to be a bit different and distinctive. Any extra assembled pieces that didn’t get used in the quilt top may also be incorporated into the backing. Those pieces are arranged with the extra quilt yardage initially pulled aside for the project. Sometimes the back repeats a portion of a specific design that may emphasize the quilt top’s pattern. Though the quilt backs that have a unique pattern and story of their own have become my favorites.
How To Design A Quilt Back
Think about ideas for the backing as you piece your quilt. Is there another way to lay out the blocks that you can try for the backing? Do you want to carry on the same design or try something completely different? Maybe incorporate a new accent color. I always have left over blocks and plenty of extra strips including border pieces. Think about using these as a secondary pattern or design for the back. Be creative and build your own back story.
Use Fabric You Already Have
Stash quilting is my favorite way to start a quilt. Pulling a variety of batik fat quarter fabrics from my stash often stretches me to be more imaginative. Let your fabric stash lead you on a creative journey to an improv quilt back. Creating a one of a kind quilt back allows incredible originality and improvisation. For me, my quilt backs have become just as important as my quilt tops.
Using a single fabric for your quilt back is quick and easy. It can also be very uninteresting and, let’s face it, boring. Instead, as you’re piecing your quilt top, think about how the backing will look. What about using your extra blocks or strips in a creative secondary pattern or design for the back. Is there another way to lay out a few blocks that can be used on the quilt back? Do you want to carry on the same pattern style or do something completely different? Perhaps incorporate a completely new color group to totally change the look.
Make More, Have More, Use More
Plan ahead with extra fabric to make additional squares and strips while making your next quilt. The first benefit is you’ll have more blocks to choose from when laying out your quilt, and fewer of the same fabric blocks together. Secondly, you’ll have a good collection to get some backing ideas started.
Consider using the left-over blocks in a different layout. Use extra strips and border pieces to create large color blocks for you back. Creating an asymmetrical layout is a must! Find a new blender fabric, an accent color, or both to add more interest to your back design. Try setting blocks on point for a very different look. Use all your left-over fabric and make large log cabin squares and piece with additional strips. There are endless choices to consider.
Improv Quilt Back Process
This improv process is very forgiving because there’s no specific pattern. It’s all your creative ideas. Also, remember it’s the back so be a bit daring. Don’t forget to apply your label on the back, or they may not recognize which side it the front!
Inspired Quilt Backing
How To Piece Quilt Backs
My favorite quilts are those that I was inspired to make. Finding a gorgeous fabric that excites me to make a quilt on the spot is exciting. I love seeing how a great fabric looks combined with pieces from my stash and building a fantastic color scheme for a new project. Other times it’s a pattern that totally intrigues me. When I love a quilt pattern, the first thing I do is determine the individual block and want to begin immediately. Then there are those unique patterns that captivate me, and I can’t wait to get started. But wait, I’m supposed to be writing about the quilt back!
How to Piece Your Quilt Backing
The best way to determine how to piece your quilt back is to let your creativity take over. Consider what you have on hand to work with. Begin with the leftover blocks from your quilt top and add any remaining lengths of border fabric. You may choose to replicate the quilt top pattern or some variation of it to begin the backing layout. Select other fabrics that complement your developing design. This is where your creativity takes reign. Add pieces in a pleasing layout that appeals to you. Perhaps it’s bold and dynamic or reflects a more subdued tone. How you piece quilt backs is all about what you want it to be. Make it as interesting as your quilt top.
What’s The Best Quilt Backing Fabric
As a long-time quilter, I quilt with 100% cotton fabric. It’s a tradition I don’t veer from because it gives me the best results. Not to mention the immense array of cotton quilting fabrics available today. High-quality quilting fabric makes the difference between just a quilt and an heirloom that will be passed down within families. They are a beloved keepsake and deserve the best materials available to create them.
On the other hand, you want durability if you are making a utility quilt to take to the beach or on a picnic. Heavy cottons such as denim makes a great quilt back for that purpose. It’s a sturdy fabric that will take a lot of use and abuse with plenty of endurance.
How To Pick Backing For A Quilt
Generally, thoughts of a quilt backing come much later in the project plan. When designing a quilt, plan the general color scheme of the backing just like you would for the top. Keep in mind though that the design will be a distinctively different pattern. Consider an introduction of some new colors just to change it all up a bit. The combination of the similar colors with a different design is very appealing and adds a lot of interest. Most folks are often surprised by my quilt backs which is a response I really appreciate.
How Much Quilt Backing Do You Need
As a general rule when you are planning fabric for you quilt, you will need as much fabric for the back as you do the top. If there are many smaller pieces on the quilt top that require lots of seam allowances, you may use less fabric for your backing but it generally isn’t a significant difference. For example, if your quilt measures 65” x 70”, you will need 4 ½ – 5 yards of fabric for the top and the same for the backing.
How Much Larger Is A Quilt Backing
Figuring how much backing you need for a quilt will depend on how the quilting will be done. Standard machine quilting requires less extra fabric around each edge. Measure your quilt top and add at least 3” to each side. That means adding a total of 6” to the length and the width. A quilt top that measures 60” x 70” will need a backing that is 66” x 76”.
If your quilt will be quilted on a longarm machine, you will need to add 4” to 6” to each side for a total of 8” to 12” to both the length and width. This extra fabric is needed to secure the layered quilt for the longarm quilting process.
How Many Yards Do I Need For A Quilt Back
Once you have measured your quilt top and decided what size backing you need, you can figure out how much fabric it will require. Since most quilts are wider than the standard 42″ width fabric, you can count on doubling the length of your quilt top measurement as a starting point. If your quilt top is 72″, you’ll need to start counting at four yards and add the extra needed for basting
When staging fabric for a quilt, I assemble twice the fabric I need so there will be enough for both the front and the back. Usually I’ll pull at least six yards for each side for a total of twelve yards. This gives me plenty of fabric to work with and options to mix it up a bit. Check out my Stash Quilting post for more details on fabric selection.
How To Make Your Quilt Back Fit
Your quilt backing should proportionately be the same as your quilt top. A rectangle top will need the same shape backing. When your quilt top is laid on the backing, there should be a uniform amount of backing around all sides.
Sometimes you may find one side may be too short. It may be an easy fix that requires an extra length of fabric sewn to one side which add the additional length needed. A more complex solution is to slice the backing in two and sew a strip between the cut pieces. Or get jazzy and piece a great strip that will compliment the quilt back. You may even decide to make it a bolder design element of its own to make an impact. No one will ever know it wasn’t part of the original plan. It’s all a matter of personal taste and what your design plan is.
Backing A Quilt
Throwing away fabric simply isn’t an option for me which is why stash quilting works so well. For my Wild Rails quilt, I made lots of extra blocks for this triple rail fence quilt so I could have plenty to choose from as I was laying it out. When it came time to make the back, I had enough blocks to continue the pattern selectively on the quilt backing. I love how this quilt turned out on both sides.
How To Overcome Common Quilt Backing Problems
Common Quilt Backing Problems
There are some common quilt backing problems to watch for when backing your quilt. Always ensure your quilt back is the same shape as your quilt top. Your back should also be bigger than the quilt top which makes quilting much easier. Basting is essential to keep all your quilt layers in place during the quilting process.
Pieced Backing Doesn’t Look Straight
If your pieced quilt backing doesn’t look straight or doesn’t square up to your quilt top, you may need to take a couple more measurements. The best way to determine the size of your quilt is to measure across the center in both directions. It’s not uncommon for fabric to distort at the beginning and end of a seam.
Fold your quilt top in half and measure the folded edge from end to end. Then open up your quilt top and fold it the other direction. Also measure this dimension along the fold from end to end. By measuring the center, you will get a much truer dimension of your quilt. Then determine what size backing you need.
Backing Fabric Puckers When Quilting from The Top
Who hasn’t had a pucker or fold show up on a quilt back? The best remedy to avoid this problem is to baste your quilt very well before you even start quilting. When preparing the quilt back, make sure it’s taut and not too loose. You can pin it to your design wall or tape it to a flat surface. Either way, give it just a bit of a pull to keep it flat. Then add your batting and the quilt top.
Basting is essential for the best quilting results. For years, I used safety pins and my fingers would be dented from all the opening and closing. Then I discovered 505 Temporary Adhesive. It is a life changer for me. Simply spray a light coat over the quilt back after it’s secured. Then spray a second coat over the batting. Once the quilt top is laid on top of the adhesive, it’s secured for quilting. It truly is amazing and so easy to use. Everything stays in exactly the same place and then it simply washes out. Try it on a small quilt and you’ll see what I mean.
Backing Fabric Gets Caught
Do the outside edges of your backing fabric fold over and get caught in the quilting? The easiest way to eliminate this problem is to keep your backing the right size and baste it well. If your backing fabric is too long in any direction, that loose end may fold over as you’re turning during the quilting process. Keep your backing fabric no more than 3” to 6” wider than your quilt top on each side. Any longer and it becomes very difficult to manage. Also check that your basting is secure all the way to the edges. If your basting along the edges is too loose, there’s a greater chance that the excess fabric will get caught when quilting.
Following these guidelines will make your quilting much easier and you’ll get the results you want. Get creative and try some new backing ideas on your next quilt. It’ fun and the results are amazing.
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