It’s been days (weeks? years?) but all your effort has finally helped you persist in finishing your quilt top. But little do we remember that the front is only half the battle. You still need to choose a backing before you can begin to quilt. Somehow, the more I quilt, the more I think about the backing. I’m starting to see it as another face of the quilt rather than just the back, and I’ve started to get more creative with my backings. Below are some of my favorite quilt backing ideas, starting with the simplest backings to the more creative.
Whole cloth Quilt Backing
The easiest quilt backing idea is just to get a whole cloth that you don’t need to piece. This is a great choice if you have a busy front you want to keep the focus there. It’s also great if you want to get the damn quilt done as quick as possible. For lap quilts and larger, you can find extra wide backing in a limited selection of solids and patterns in most in-person and online fabric stores including Joann. They’re usually a bit pricey, around $13-25/yard. But its cheaper than if you bought double the normal-width yardage to sew together for the backing.
The widest quilting cotton you’ll find comes in a 108″ width. The widest minky you’ll find is 90″. If you have never used minky before, I highly recommend it for soft baby quilts and any quilt you want to have extra warmth and comfort. I used it on my Space Travel quilt. It can seem daunting to quilt with, but I have some tips here to help with that.
Large Pieced Backing
If whole-cloth backing is not accessible to you or you want to use up some of your own stash, large pieced backing can be another fast solution. By a large pieced backing, I mean just sewing a few large pieces of fabric together. For example, sewing 2 two-yard pieces of standard width fabric gets you a quilt backing that’s roughly 72″ x 84″.
But this backing doesn’t have to be quite so simple. By using just a couple different fabric in a few large pieces, you can make designs that are a bit more fun.
A word of warning — If you are making a quilt over 80″ in length and width, this method starts to become less economical. Standard-width for yardage is 42 inches (though some is 44-45″). At over 80″ (because you need to think about seam allowance and selvedge), you’re going to start needing 3 widths of yardage to cover the back. This can be more expensive than using the whole cloth method above. Think about using an extra wide whole cloth backing or adding some stripes as we’ll discuss in the next section.
Some of my favorite quilt backing ideas use stripes. Adding stripes to a quilt backing are a simple solution to get you that little extra width or height but also add a great pop of color to break up an other wise boring backing. You can add a single stripe, multiple in a row, stripes broken up by larger piecing, or vertical and horizontal stripes. My favorite so far as been the stripes on my Out of this World quilt. I was missing just a little bit of length so I pieced small scraps of the same color groups together and added about 10″ to my backing!
Here are some other ideas for adding stripes:
If you’re looking to dress up your striped backing a little more, try adding some pieced detail with in the stripes. This is a little more work, but can add a nice flare to back. You can make the stripe a rainbow cascade,a length of half square triangles, or a checker board. The personalization is endless.
Simple Quilt Top Quilt Backing
Using simple quilt tops as backing may not be for most people, but it definitely a good option if your favorite part of quilting is the piecing. I usually design my own quilts which are quite heavily pieced and scenic-based. This leaves me with little time-or money- to make whole quilts of other designs I still enjoy. But I have found that I can still make this quilt work as backings just by simplifying the pattern.
How to I simplify these patterns? There are three ways. First: increase the size of the pieces. Larger pieces mean less piecing you need to do. Larger pieces also mean less fine detail to detract away from the front of the quilt. I used this method for my Princess and Pony backing. I made each stripe 3″. In an evening, my quilt was ready to be basted.
Another great way to simplify a quilt is to change out some of the piecing for a large piece of fabric. If you love log cabins like me, make all the pieces bigger and then exchange a row of log cabins for a ‘stripe’ whole cloth. This can also switch out single blocks for a piece of fabric the same size to make a checker board with whole pieces and log cabins. But don’t be afraid to try this with other patterns, too.
Lastly. toning down the colors will make the back less distracting from the front of the quilt. Take the star below. It uses nice large piecing, but also calm colors that won’t steal the show from the front of the quilt.
The quilt backing an important consideration for every quilt. Whether you just want to ‘get ‘er done’ or add a little spice, the back half of the quilt deserves more thought and consideration than the quilting community currently gives it.