Quilt Backing

Learning and sharing the art of quilt making

Quilt Backing

Postby jsm » January 25th, 2014, 9:50 am

In an attempt to decrease my stash, and make non-heirloom sewing or smocked items for those who do not appreciate that type of sewing, I have started looking at some very simple small quilts for baby gifts. I now also better understand Nonie's recent attraction to quilting for family and friends! :)

However, I am really stumped about the backing requirements in several patterns. For instance, a quilt that is finished 36 x 39 inches calls for 2.625 yards of backing fabric. That fabric is only for the back, as the pattern includes different fabrics and measurements for binding and all piecing.

I understand on larger quilts, you may need to piece the back. But, if the fabric is 45" wide, and the finished quilt is only 36" wide, and 39" long, why would the backing require more than 1.25 - 1.5 yds? It seems that would allow enough "shrinkage" on all sides, for quilting and squaring up.

Even the "easy" and "beginner" patterns I find, speak mostly to measurements, supplies and directions for completing the quilt top. Then, it is just "baste, quilt and bind". I understand the general steps in finishing the quilt. The instructions just never explain how that much fabric is used on the back!

I am sure it is something VERY simple, and I will be more than embarrassed when it is explained. :oops:

And some think heirloom sewing and smocking is difficult? :roll:
Thanks for any help!

Jan M.
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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby KathyD » January 25th, 2014, 9:59 am

I'm with you Jan - no clue!!! Maybe they just want you to buy more fabric and support the economy. :rotflo: :rotflo: :rotflo:

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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby jsm » January 25th, 2014, 10:41 am

As a former shop owner, that was the first thought that popped into my mind! :D

It is not just one pattern, but many, where the backing requirements are almost twice what I would expect.

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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby Rosieq » January 25th, 2014, 11:49 am

1. Remember the fabric probably does not measure 42 inches.
2. If you go to a quilting machine person they want 4 inches extra on each side.
3. If you are doing the wrap around binding method, that would require extra to wrap around.
4. You might allow for shrinkage, if you prewash.
5. People cannot think outside the box, and just two lengths to make it fit if they need a wider backing.
I.e. Using a diagonal backing. This is very nice with a lovely print as the seam in the backing is not easily seen. Scroll down to diagonal back. http://www.flynnquilt.com/workshop/FreeLessons/
Continue on wigh this next posts, there are some drawings to use. http://www.multi-patch.com/html/diagona ... ulator.php

I think you should be fine with even a 42 wide piece pre washed for a 39 " inch quilt.

I would piece my top and see exactly what you might need. The seams, fabrics and threads all play a part in the I finished block size. Thus , your quilt could easily end up an inch or two smaller of larger than what the pattern says.

Hope I have not made this more unclear.

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Last edited by Rosieq on January 25th, 2014, 12:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby Rosieq » January 25th, 2014, 11:55 am

I did not mention that I do not like to buy patterns designed by fabric designers. Their yardage requirements leave you a lot if leftovers, even with the pieced top requirements . Some gals have made a queen quilt And a full size quilt with the requirements called for the queen.
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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby jsm » January 25th, 2014, 12:13 pm

Thank you, Rosie.
I know most of the fabrics are not "really" 45 inches wide, even though that is how they are sold. Still, a 36" wide quilt would have at least 3 inches excess on even 42 inches of fabric. That might not be the 4" required, if it is taken to be quilted by someone else. It just seems that one flat piece of fabric, would be better for the back, than one with seams.

In my shop, when I pleated bishops, the seams that some customers brought in were almost impossible to put through a pleater. If a shop/professional is quilting a customer's quilt, I would think they would also want to avoid possible problem seaming by some customers.

None of these patterns use the wrap around binding method. They all call for binding cut of a different fabric/print.

I admit to being more familiar with heirloom quality fabric. While I do prewash, before sewing, most of our heirloom quality fabrics do not shrink that much. Of course, there are exceptions with netting, corduroy and knits. Maybe some of the quilting cottons shrink more than I realized.

Still, on a 36" wide quilt, I cannot figure out how I would even piece the back. I would not want a seam going up the center back. To me, that looks like you really did make a boo-boo of some type. If you divide it into thirds (equal 12", or a wider center panel flanked by more narrow side panels), it just seems like a lot of seaming in the back for such a small quilt. Since I plan on doing straight line quilting on my regular sewing machine, I am afraid the back seams could pose more problems.

I will keep researching and trying to figure out the why. In the meantime, I will probably just do what I think looks best! I don't plan on entering it in any contests!
Thanks again for your comments.
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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby Rosieq » January 25th, 2014, 12:23 pm

Jan, I added more to my original post. John Flynn developed the diagonal seAm for quilt backing to save fabric and also help the issue of quilting with that straight seam on the backing. With 36 inch or even 39 inch top you should do fine
Last edited by Rosieq on January 25th, 2014, 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby Rosieq » January 25th, 2014, 12:23 pm

Extra hit
Last edited by Rosieq on January 25th, 2014, 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby Claire623 » January 25th, 2014, 2:41 pm

I always double check the backing measurements. They use computers to calculate the yardages and they're always wonky. A little math will tell you. Ignore the 2 yd nonsense. If it finishes at 36 inches, then 1 1/4 yds backing is plenty. My long arm quilter does prefer 3-4" clearance but in a couple of cases, where the fabric width is only a little bit wider than my top, I've simply added cheater strips to the edges when I don't want to shell out for a whole extra 2 or 3 yards of the expensive print fabric - it's a great way to use up left over fabric, especially if it's ugly :). I just cut strips about 6" x WOF and then use a three step zig zag to attach them to the edges to widen the backing. Since the excess is going to be cut off anyway when you bind, who cares? The designers and fabric companies prefer we buy extra.

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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby jsm » January 25th, 2014, 6:30 pm

Claire, I think you hit the nail on the head!
I have come to the conclusion that many of these are written based upon a quilt backing "calculator". Personally, I think that calculator must have missed a few classes of Math 101. Or maybe the pattern designer or proof reader missed a day of Reading 101. Anyhoo . . . . .

Most of the calculators plainly state that the measurements are for quilts wider than 40". However, when I compared its calculations with some of the patterns, it would seem they used those calculations, even though the quilt was not wider than 40".

I believe it is one of those cases where you cannot win for losing. If a designer suggests a really tight yardage, there will be some customers upset. The store may have cut the yardage short or crooked, the fabric may have shrunk more than normal, or the customer may make a cutting error.

If they recommend a larger amount, customers tend to think they are just trying to push fabric and make more money. When I owned my store, many customers would insist on purchasing a quarter to a half less fabric than indicated on the pattern envelope. Even when I KNEW they really needed the measurement listed on the envelope, they would insist. Nine times out of ten, they would come back upset that they did not have enough fabric.

None of us want to over spend or over purchase. However, I do not believe all designers, fabric manufacturers or shop owners necessarily run up the suggested yardage on purpose. Some people never look at the layout, and just start cutting. I probably tend to over analyze everything first! Maybe that is why there is more thinking and planning, than stitching in my sewing room! :o

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Re: Quilt Backing

Postby jsm » January 25th, 2014, 6:44 pm

Linda, thank you for the additional info and links. Those were interesting and enlightening.

I am considering a print for the backing. That is another reason I did not want seams on the back, unless there was some real advantage or quilting theory for it. Seams could really disrupt some prints.

I can see where a diagonal joint would make more sense than a seam right down the middle, or several more narrow pieces across the quilt's width. I will definitely keep that technique in mind, if needed. It is kind of the same philosophy as joining our binding strips on the bias, instead of straight seams. It is a more pleasing and less noticeable.

Since I will probably use a print on the back, and my quilt will be 36" or less, I will go ahead with one piece of fabric.

I certainly understand the frustration of purchasing more fabric than needed. However, I would also hate to miss out on truly wonderful patterns and creations by some of the designers. They do a much better job than I could, and I can always experiment, measure and ask questions to keep from over purchasing fabric. As a former independent shop owner, I know just how important it is to our craft to keep supporting designers, fabric manufacturers and shop owners. We have lost so many in our sewing world, due to the economy and other factors. I don't want to lose more.

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