Quilt Backing

Learn how to make a quilt backing
Your Quilt is not complete without one

When shopping for quilt backing some people like to purchase inexpensive fabric, or plain muslin for the backing of their quilts.

This is okay as long as it is good quality fabric. You don't want the back of your quilt to wear out long before the top.

I actually prefer to choose a backing that co-ordinates with the top of the quilt.

Sometimes it gets flipped over, or scrunched somehow and the back shows.

I think it looks prettier if it appears that you put some effort into choosing a complimentary back. 

Having said that, I confess that I do break my own rules sometimes by not purchasing nice co-ordinating fabric for a back.

An example would be my halloween quilt, which has a lot of one type of halloween fabric on it (see the my Quilt Gallery), but also has a section made up of great seasonal fat quarters which may never have been used on a quilt top.

It still "goes with" the quilt top, without being overly expensive.

I'm afraid I must also say that I have in the past purchased yards of fabric at a sale, thinking I could someday use it on the back of a quilt.

Its still waiting for the perfect top to use it on!  Maybe I'll try overdying it!

Sometimes I try to "use up" what I've got -- after all, isn't that what quilting is all about?

Quilting probably started when someone wanted to use up the scraps left over from dressmaking.

So, I occasionally "use up" bits and pieces for the quilt backing, and unfortunately I'm not always happy with the result.

Unless it is a fun and funky quilt like the halloween one, I think I'll stick to a co-ordinated backing!

I've learned my lesson.

How to piece your quilt backing.

It is possible to purchase extra wide fabric made specially for the purpose of quilt backing, and it is great.  

It saves you time because you don’t have to sew long pieces together, and if you are hand quilting you don’t have any extra seams to sew through.

If you cannot find extra wide backing fabric that co-ordinates with your quilt, then you have to purchase enough yardage of a quilting cotton so that you can sew it together and make it big enough for your quilt.

When sewing 44” fabric together for the back, rather than make just one seam down the center of the back, it is best to put one full width of the fabric down the center, and add two narrower widths down each side as shown below.

Sewn Backing

The reason for this, is that a quilt gets most of its wear down the center and a seam there will wear faster.  

Also it is more comfortable if you are snuggling under a quilt, to NOT have the seam down the middle.

Now, if for instance, your quilt is about 60” wide, then I would not make two narrow side panels, -- I feel it is already offset from center by having one full panel of 44” and adding about 20” on one side only.  

Your seam is not down the center so that is okay.

How to figure yardage for quilt backing:

The back of your quilt should be about 3-4” larger all around than the top of the quilt.

I usually measure the length of the quilt and add 8”, and then measure the width and add 8”.  

If the quilt is wider than the normal 45” fabric (it is also a good idea to measure the exact width of the fabric you are purchasing as widths vary from 40-45”), then you will need two lengths, i.e

  • if your quilt top is 70x85, add 8” each way making it 78x93, then you will need 93” times two, or 186”.

I would purchase 5 1/2 yds or 4.8 m (186" divided by 36" for yard, or divided by 39" for meters.

You can also make a horizontal seam on the back.

This means if the length of your top, plus the 4” top and bottom, adds up to less than 90" (45”x2)then you could use two widths of fabric.  

Measure the width plus 8” and purchase two times this number.

I prefer to use this method only if the quilt is going to be hung on the wall because I feel it gets more wear on the seams when they are horizontal.


Some quilters also like to piece the quilt backing, using the left over fabric from the front.

It can be squares or strips or whatever you want to create.

Finished with "Quilt Backing"? Go to "Lesson 5 - Basting/Layering"

Or Return to "Learn to Quilt"

Or Return to "Quilting Home Page"

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