Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

I know I’ve been doing some of my own tips and tricks on the blog here, but today I’m joining in on Amy, Diary of a Quilter, series of  QUICK  Quilting Tips and Tricks.  She’s been accumulating lots of great tricks from bloggers from all over and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.  Be sure to check out her blog for the other great tips that bloggers have shared.

For my quick tip, I wanted to share with you my quick and dirty way that I sew together backings for quilts that are made from a single large yardage cut of fabric.  It’s lovely when I have the luxury of actually owning those 4+ yards that large quilts need and can whip out a quilt back with one fabric and single seam.

Quick Tips for Quilt Backs

I start with a long multiple yard cut of a single fabric.  I’m talking about 4 – 6 yards depending on the size of the quilt.  You know…that huge amount they give you in the directions and you say “whatever, I can piece together a backing and use up my stash too”.  Well this time we are NOT doing that. lol  We are using that great big long cut of fabric that you got at a screaming deal from someone’s sale section and thought “I’m going to use that for quilt backs!”  But there is no denying that working with that much yardage at a time can be cumbersome.  So I’ve developed a method that has eliminated the pain of this piecing by so much that I actually enjoy making that quilt back and am happy with it!

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

My trick is to keep the piece as one long cut for the entire time I sew the back together.  For years I would cut the fabric in half and then sew the two pieces together, desperately trying to match up the lengths of the long pieces.  I would get annoyed by the weight of working with fabric cuts that long and would even pin these pieces together. (Pinning is still a great method if you want to perfectly match a large motif on the back, but remember…this is a QUICK tip).

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

Well, no more.  Now I use the one piece and I open it up entirely to the full 45″ width.  From one selvage side (I always choose the cute side and I’ll tell you why later), I match up the two ends of the fabric, right sides together.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

Just line up that initial end to end and take the whole big piece over to your machine.  Give yourself a generous seam allowance so that you can trim it down to a 1/4″ seam allowance AND give you extra on the side of the selvage (this is for all of you selvage users out there).  I never sew on the selvage itself because the weave is drastically tighter there and it needs to be cut from the rest of the fabric for a smooth backing.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

I use the selvage edge as my guide and it’s a perfect way to hold on to those yards of fabric because you can’t pull it or distort the seam even with the weight of all of those yards of fabric…it’s simply woven so tight.  I move along the length of the fabric and continue sewing the two edges together aligning those selvage edges.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

I eventually near the end and you can see that I will have sewn the fabric to itself until it meets at a fold, which is, low and behold, the exact middle of the length.  And you didn’t have to measure to get there!  I’m done with stitching and now it’s all about ironing and trimming.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

I take the backing to the ironing board and give the long seam a quick press to set the seam and then lift up the middle fold.  I make sure that this is a nice fold across the whole length and give it a quick press as well to create a crease to trim away later.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

I take my long piece to my cutting mat and get out my longest ruler.  I line the ruler up with a quarter inch left next to my seam and trim along the entire long seam.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings
You will see that as you do this you are trimming away the selvage edge with plenty of fabric next to it! So all you selvage project lovers out there will be gaining that in the same step as piecing your back.  Two great things for the work of one!


Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

And then I take the folded short edge and line it up along my mat.  I use my ruler to trim away just the slightest amount to separate the two pieces (I cut fat quarters this way too if that helps anyone visualize it better).  When you have trimmed away the whole edge, you can now completely open up the fabric and you have one beautiful quilt back.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

The last step is just to press the seam open or to the side per your preference and you are all set to go!  As you can see, this works beautifully for small scale prints and solids especially.  But I’ve done it with large motifs with great success as well.

Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

And let me tell you that writing up this tutorial took far longer than actually making the quilt back.  Heck, reading the tutorial might have taken you longer than actually making one…I do like to go on and on. 😉

| Filed under Tutorials

106 thoughts on “Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

        1. For very large quilts you may need a third width of fabric. If the smallest dimension of your fabric is more than about 76” two widths won’t “cover” you.

    1. Awesome shortcut! 🙌
      🌸 I always thought you needed to piece different patterns together and make use of scraps too, but you are RIGHT! I’ve got beautiful material I put away for QUILT BACKINGS! Time to bust it out!!! Thank you.
      All I need is front and wrap quilt edge up and stitch over border seam. No more hand stitching part of back seam.😊

    2. If your fabric is 44” wide then after trimming the selvage side you should have at least 82-83” width backing. If your quilt is wider than that then of course you will need another length for the quilt (which when sewing the two selvages together will give you width. Make sure you have bought enough fabric) and don’t fold in half, measure thirds. Check you tube for how to make a wuilt backing. There are several videos

    1. hi this doesn’t always work because some fabrics have to be cut in half and turned around and sewn together because of the design . if not the design will be upside down on one side. I hope you understand what I mean, if not please message me.

      1. You are correct for any fabric, half of the back will always be upside down. Even if it’s an all over print there is a top and bottom to the design. You should never match the white selvage edges together. I know it doesn’t seem like that however if you’ve ever wondered why the back looks dark on one side and light on the other half this is why. It’s not your imagination or the lighting in your room.
        Sorry, I know it’s easier but it’s not the correct way.

  1. This is a very good tutorial, Angela! It's exactly how I do it too. The only thing I also do is sew the seam with a walking foot, especially if I want large motifs to match up. I'm sure lots of your readers will use your method. Great job!

      1. I saw a string quilt made with them at a quilt show in Pigeon Forge TN & loved it, so now I’m saving mine 😂

    1. I hope you enjoy it and it speeds up the work of piecing the back. This works well for any time you need to piece long pieces of fabric together! Perhaps for curtains?

      1. I sew down both sides ..as you do ..have made a tube..then tear down the middle…seams are at the sides and the middle of the quilt is the widest for strength and wear

  2. SO smart! I just sewed together a quilt back this morning and I wish I'd ready your tutorial first! I'm totally going to do it this way from now on!

  3. Great idea! As a longarm quilter, I have found that backing seams that are 1/4" leave more of a ridge than seams that are 1/2" – they just lay flatter…just something to consider. Also, thank you for NOT leaving the selvedge edge in that backing seam – those are miserable, deflecting the needle and not stretching at all!

  4. This is how I always do backs….unless the backing is directional. Like, if all your sheep are facing one direction on the fabric, if you sew it together like this, their noses or butts will meet up in the middle. (I speak from sheep butt experience.)

  5. What a great idea! I did this same thing for a quilt, but didn't realize that my fabric was directional. Luckily it is a very busy pattern, so no one will notice the fairies going in two different directions! Thanks for the tip.

    1. Yes! You definitely have to do a bit of extra work if you are working with a directional print. Then you will need to cut the piece in half before hand. But It's not too bad. And you can always say that the fairies are flying back and forth between destinations. lol

  6. Great tip! Thanks! I loved the bit at the end were you said reading this took longer, haha. I sure appreciate your attention to detail it made it so easy to follow!

  7. This is genius. I'm going to share the link to your blog post on our new group on Facebook … Late Night Quilters. The quilters on it will love this tip! Anybody who wants to join, please just send us a request on Facebook. It's a very supportive community, and we love to share ideas like this.

  8. I'm slow here…just got out of the dang hospital with a 7 mm kidney stone which could be lodged in my brain. So, the seam will be in the middle? That's fine with me. It's one less seam to feel through and wonder, "What in the heck is that bump I feel?" while I quilt…just wondering. Not a good idea, BTW to have a kidney stone malfunction while traveling in the wilds of Utah with foreign visitors…never plan of this. Really. A very bad idea. But, YOUR idea. Brilliant!

    1. oh my goodness! I'm both laughing at this and cringing for you at the same time! lol
      Yes, the seam will be in the middle ideally…depending on how you run it and your fabric estimates, it may run the length of the quilt and it may run the width of the quilt.

        1. trying to visual what you said cuz it sounds important and nifty but I just don’t understand what you mean. Could you please clarify?

          1. what she is saying instead of sewing the same piece of fabric 6 or 8 yards of fabric starting with both ends right sides together and sewing the salvage edges together and then trim off the end at 1/8″ =there is nothing to square up, what Hager is doing she takes two different cordanating colors of yardage length needed -1 plain & 1 print, places them right sides together with the salvages matching and sew a seam about 1″ from the salvage edge from one end to the other end and sewing the other two salvages together, basically making a tube, then tearing nicely down the middle of one of the fabrics (plain looks nice) (tearing the fabric is easier/straighter and the raw edges will be cut off later before binding) open all three seams and iron open, your results will be (approx.) 22″ of plain, 44″ of print and then 22″ and plain = 88″ by length needed. hope that helps someone. I know pictures helped a lot….

  9. I have 7 quilt tops that I completed while wintering in Florida this past year. Now that I have read your tip, I feel ready to finish each one. Thanks for sharing such detailed instructions and pictures. It made this so easy to follow. Thank you.

  10. I’m a 70 yr old quilter & have always dreaded getting the backing ready…now I want to piece a quilt real soon so I can try this great tip. Iol! Never too old to learn something new. Thanks!👍

    1. I am also 70 years young, and have been quilting for 50 of those years. Back in the day we tore all of our fabric! I just want to caution everyone that sometimes fabric can be quite twisted and it will tear crooked. I have had this happen to me.

  11. Thanks for the great tip! Great timesaver!!

    Only thing I would change is to leave the seam wider than a 1/4 inch. There’s a lot of pull put on this Seam when you quilt the quilt. I leave my backing seam at 1/2 inch.

  12. I was thinking just the same. … why did I not think of that. I really never enjoy piecing the backings. The lady from my local quilt shop told me you don’t have to cut it and explain the above step to me but then at home i couldn’t remember. So I thought i google it and see if someone else had this brilliant idea and here you are with pictures and all (i am someone who needs to at least see pictures to get it) :-). Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. This is excellent 🙂

  13. Tried this and now I am ready to make the backings for all those quilt tops waiting to be put together, have always hated doing the backing…this so great and since the 104 to 108 backings are getting so expensive and there is not a large selection to chose from, this makes fabric sales more excting……

  14. Great idea. But isn’t widebacks the reason we don’t need 4-6 meters of fabric. Widebacks are 108’ wide so that covers the longest measurement. So you only need to buy 2-3 meters and you’ll have some leftover. Although the. choice is not as comprehensive. Just a thought. Fabric is really dear in Australia. Thanks for the tip cheers

  15. This method means you have two contrasting grains sewed together. This means any give or stretch or bowing in the weave will be different on each side of the quilt and may cause issues with buckling esp for longarm. I was always taught to cut in half and reverse the pieces, cute selvedge to ugly selvedge to prevent this. And of course a one way fabric will be half upside down by this method. Fast and easy isn’t always the best or correct fine sewing way.

  16. Thanks for sharing, I am a newby and love quilting. I did this on my first quilt but did not realize until I read this the reason it worked so well, I thought I had my seams all wrong but since it turned out fine I just kept doing it this way

  17. I am on my 14th quilt, so I’m still learning. I did this today and it came out looking great. I’m not sure I will always do it this way. But for now as I am still a beginner I might make a few more this way. I have to get all the pro’s and con’s.

  18. I take it just one step further. After sewing one side and before cutting, I sew the other salvages, then I cut the bottom. This gives you a tube. Cut salvages like you said, Then match both salvages together and fold up the middle fold and press one of these folds. Now you can use that pressed line to cut fabric This makes it so you don’t have one awkward seam in the middle, rather a nice panel in the middle and two small panels about 22” on either side of the middle panel.

    1. Exactly, I’ve also done it this way for years, except I sew the other salvages together then cut one piece up the middle so that there are two seams…seams that run down the edges of the bed/quilt, instead of one seam down the middle. In making bedding for bedrooms throughout the years, this is how you make a bedspread. I believe it looks much more professional as well.

  19. Makes it 84′”. Measure fabric across the fold to see what width will be, i.e. 42″ 44″ 36″., then double when you sew salvages together.

  20. Sorry to be a downer, but the verb ‘salvage’ means to rescue a wrecked or disabled ship.
    Selvage is the edge of fabric – with an ‘e’.

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