Thursday, 10 December 2020

let's chat about quilt backings

I've had another little rush on finishing things up, you know, before the end of the year. Backings & bindings have been at the top of my 'to do' list around here this month. And as I stitched away adding bindings to my latest quilted quilts, I began thinking about why we chose what we chose for our quilt backings. 

For years I've used sheets as backings as I had spare ones here and I had a few {new} vintage sheets given to me from my Aunty Freda. Using a sheet creates a nice wide backing, it's a no-sew solution if you have run out of steam following making the quilt top, and can also be ideal for use with longarm quilting machines.

I do love a scrappy back too and I've found piecing up fabrics together that I probably wouldn't use otherwise has been a good way to deal to the 'old-ish' stash. Usually I've tried to link the back to the front in some way, either with colour or style. 
I've found, however, that you can end up with lots of seams, and a wild range of colours, and it can be time consuming. 

Occasionally, being able to see the quilting has been a priority and so I've chosen something a little more tone-on-tone for the backing.  And I have bought wide backing fabric from time to time, usually if there's something that matches my quilt beautifully. and if it's 'on special', even better!
Some quilt backs do have their own story. Take my recent 'patch action' quilt top {scroll back to my last post to see}. It turned out to be a good size, so I’m now thinking maybe I could use it as an unexpected eclectic backing for one of my other quilts! 

And more recently, on a quest to get a softer, cuddly finish, I've found myself interested in the feel of the backing fabric, so I've been trialing a few cotton sateen and voile fabrics. 

Fern by Amy Butler cotton sateen

However, if I'm honest, I focus on my piecing & my chosen fabrics for the front, so the backings have usually been an afterthought.  

I haven't seen much written about quilt backs out there either, but I did stumble across a great post by Katie from sewkatiedid on creative backings, with lots of great ideas, {wink wink}some of her backs look like fronts! 
This post by Rachel from stitchedincolor is also a very good read. And this older post from Debbie at A Quilter's Table here is interesting too. Inspiration can be found over on Instagram too, exciting to see quilt backs getting some love, check out these links  #partyinthequiltback #quiltbacks
And recently, Leeanne from quiltmekiwi asked a few questions about our backing choices, which I've reposted with her permission …

♡ Is the back of a quilt important to you?
♡ Do you like to look at the back, check out the quilting, check out the backing fabric?
♡ Do you like the back to match the front?
♡ Do you like a pieced scrappy back?
♡ Do you like to camouflage the quilting with a busy backing fabric?
 Looking forward to reading your tips & thoughts in the comments below. 

Anyway, here's one of my latest finished quilts... scrappy finish #4 is my 'trellis' quilt with great quilting by Leeanne, a messy back featuring a delightful 60's fabric gifted to me from my daughter's MinL and for my binding, a pretty pastel by AMH. Finished quilt measurements 44" x 60".
To see the enlarged photo just click on any pic. 
Linking up my latest finish with Kelly for 'needleandthread Thursday' here and with Wendy here 

- lots of favourite fabric snippets in this quilt

- full reveal of my scrappy backing

 Until next time, Linda


  1. Love the trellis quilt, and enjoyed reading your thoughts about backings. I've never used a sheet before. I used "ugly" fabric for a backing once long ago (just to be frugal) and never did that again. I'm casual about what I choose for backings, but I do want to like the fabric;). And I agree with you - sometimes it's about the feel more than anything else!

  2. I don't worry much about backings. I rarely have a need for it to "match" the front. I like wide backings for BIG quilts but I don't mind piecing "it has GOT to GO" fabrics for smaller quilts. It's a great way to get rid of uglies :-)

  3. I like busy backings so the quilting is not so obvious. They should be related in some way, color, style, etc for my quilts. Since so many quilts are throw quilts the backing is seen with the front more often than with a bed quilt so they really have to be a compatible pair for me. I like the sateen wide backing fabrics. I wonder if they will be so slippery that they will slide off the bed.

  4. Liked your post about quilt backings. I find spending money on backings really difficult. I favour busy backing fabric ( I think I was told that when I first took us quilting)as they don’t show up your poor stitching as much. I do like a pieced scrappy back probably because it’s more frugal! However, a backing made from one piece of fabric is so much simpler and quicker! But I do like the colours and patte4ns if the backings to reflect the front of the quilt.

  5. I love your trellis quilt especially, but they're all beautiful! I was surprised to read that you find bed sheets to be ideal for long arm quilting, though. Although some bed sheets might be suitable, often bed linens have such a high thread count and tight weave that they cause excessive needle flex on a long arm machine, resulting in directional tension issues that only show up when the machine is quilting in certain directions. I had a couple of quilts given to me by a church charity group with Walmart bed sheets as backings and I was on the phone with tech support and reading every trouble-shooting article I could find, but I was still not happy with the stitching I was getting on those quilts. Loaded a regular quilt shop backing for the next one, and I was back to gorgeous stitching with no tension tantrums. So I won't accept bed sheets as backings anymore, and I know quite a few other long arm quilters who won't accept bed sheet backings for the same reason.

  6. I have some very definite thoughts about backings - what a good idea for a post on my own blog. You've done a marvelous job here.

  7. I love reading about your thoughts about backings. I usually use what I can find that suits the colours and design of the front. But more importantly it had to be affordable! I think I have your green vintage floral sheet in yellow! I love the backing in the first photo- the floral is gorgeous! Your trellis quilt turned out fabulously!

  8. Thanks for those links! Personally, I like to use a BIG, bold print to back most of my quilts. Bonus, if they coordinate with the front!

  9. Interest post. I worked on some backing too and just had a post about it. See it here
    I love the backing in the first picture. Gorgeous. I used bed sheets before and will do again, but I do love a pieced backing. As most of my quilts are scrappy, a pieced backing is appropriate. It has to be coherent with the front somehow and most of the time it is flannel because I love the feel of it. I usually do flip a quilt to see the backing. I like to see what others use. ;^)

    1. Sorry, it should say "interesting post". Oops! ;^)

  10. Lots of great ideas and thoughts on backings. It really is an individual thing and comes down to what you want and like. I enjoy seeing what others choose.
    Your latest finish is delightful and the backing is great fun too. Lovely way to use those fabrics.

  11. Such a good topic to review. Backings can be easy or complicated, and can make a quilt better, or worse (due to too many thick seams). Being German by heritage, and raised frugally, I am most inclined to take time to piece backings from fabrics I already have. It's not always fun to spend time doing it, but in the long run, I'm always happy I did. Interestingly, I've never used a sheet as backing, as I was taught - back in the 1980s - that sheets should never be used because the thread count was too high and could make quilting difficult. Us quiltmakers have perspectives that run wide, don't we?

  12. Very interesting topic to me as well! I think that the backing is very important to compliment the front (that can mean very many different things:) But first and foremost to me is the weight, type, and feel of the backing fabric as I find that this makes a huge difference in the overall softness and drape. As almost all my quilts are meant to be used, it's important to me that they feel soft and cuddley. In this case, my first choices for backing are voile, flannel, or minky. I think that voile (or lawn) is hands down my favorite weight and feel for a quilt back. Sadly there's not many wide width voiles around any more. Free Spirit used to make some, and there's always Liberty but that's pricey!

  13. (Thanks to Julie for mentioning your post on her blog.) In the late 1990's I needed to lengthen a quilt back so I added a strip of a contrasting print. I thought I was very daring! Now I piece backs all the time -- sometimes with blocks left over from the quilt top, very often with yardage of several prints. I like the back to have some relation to the front. And yes to sheets--vintage cotton, preferably (not modern ultra-high count).

  14. Love your trellis!
    And thanks for the links on backings - several fun reads and lots of inspiration there!

  15. Love the backing on your new quilt, I generally try to have a petty backing, but a lot does come down to cost. I will often keep a quilt top waiting till I find the perfect backing.

  16. I like pieced backings and frequently use up fabric left from making the top. I love your trellis quilt, have made a few and am inspired to finish one that is a ufo.

  17. I love this scrappy trellis quilt. Is there a pattern for it? It is a great way to use up a variety of fabric from your stash, and yet it is very cohesive.

  18. Love the way how you have quilted this one. How do you do your patterns. Are they drawn on or do you have a quilting frame. Your work is lovely


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a comment. I love to hear your thoughts.
For those of you who are a 'no-reply' blogger, I will respond within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.
Happy sewing!