Quick Tip for Quilt Backings

quilt backing

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.

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!

quilt backing

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).

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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!

quilt backing

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.

quilt backing

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.

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. 😉

158 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. I have used flat sheets that I have bought at Walmart. Twins are 4.97. More than enough fabric. If u can find the right color….fo a twin quilt. Any size , up to King….

          1. Sheets are okay for machine quilting but the weave may be tighter so harder to hand quilt. Also, if your quilt top is 100% cotton, make sure the sheet is also. If not, there may be problems after washing; there will be problems with top shrinking while backing will not.

          2. I was told by a quilting instructor to never use a sheet as a backing unless it was a vintage sheet.

        2. If you buy backing fabric that is 102-108 inches (not 42-44) wide won’t that do it? then buy the length you need and if need wider double length and stitch one salvage, if you want to spit you could then sew to other selvage and split cut in half (length of fabric).

          1. I bought 108″ fabric for my duvet. I liked not having a seam, but it was a pain to muscle all that cloth around for my super king. I’m still not sure if I want to give up on having no seams. Thanks for explaining with the piece of paper example. I was lost!

      1. This does sound easy however as a long arm quilter, I find that pinning the selvage to the top roller keeps the quilt much straighter and a nicer finished product.

        1. Bonnie L. Spielman

          Imagine a sheet of 8 ½ ” x 11″ piece of paper. Fold in half top to bottom. sew up one side of this folded piece. Then cut off ¼” along the folded edge. This opens the piece and you now have a sheet that is 5″ x 16″. Press open the seam and this seam will go approximately down the center of your bed lengthwise when completed. So if you used this method on a piece of fabric 44 inches wide by 6 yards long; you would end up with a piece approximately 88″ wide by 3 yards or 108″ long.

          1. Do you have to cut the fold after you have sewn? I am picturing two open sides, 1 folded side, and 1 sewn side. Or am I confused?

    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. Most of my quilts are wider than the 88″ or need to be wider for the extra over bit.
        I don’t spend money on an extra three yards of fabric.
        I do it differently. I work out the difference I need, and after I ‘ve cut the first length of the fabric, I add a border to each side of that length.
        I then cut the second length and split it down the middle, adding one strip (usually about 22″ ) to each side.
        This means that if you want to use the back of the quilt for a change, the two borders of the different fabric usually sit nicely down each side of the bed top. It makes it look reversible.

    3. I have prepared my backing like this for years . Definitely not necessary to cut all of that fabric before you sew! Makes it easy! makes it easy

    4. The width of your fabric (which is now X2- or about 84 inches) becomes the length of your backing. The length of your fabric has been divided by 2 and if you had 4 yards of fabric, you’re backing would now be 72 inches wide.

      I hope that makes sense.

    5. I do this all the time EXCEPT I use the seam to create some beautiful detail with fabric from the from of the quilt and I sew those pieced in between the seams. The width of your quilt comes from the length of the backing. In other words the seam you sewed will run across from side to side of your quilt.

    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. Have been throwing away salvage butttt Will now crochet into rugs – can’t thank you enough . Wish I had known this sooner.

          1. My quilting group saves all those little bits and salvages to use in dog beds to donate to dog rescue services

      1. Jackie Behymer

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

      2. I use mine to tie up my tomato plants to their cages which they always seem to outgrow. Can use for beans or other veggies.

    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.

    1. Pat Meinecke, John C. Campbell Folk School

      This is exactly what happened to me when I had the brainstorm to sew and cut like this. Was longarmming away and when I peeked under to check the backing for wrinkles or pleats, just about fainted (not really) when I saw this huge ballon hanging down on one side. No amount of tugging and reclamping that side would get rid of it. All I could do was pray and keep going and yes I did end up with a few pleats near the end of that side but luckily the fabric was busy and they are hard to see.
      This probably works for hand quilting or domestic machine quilting when all layers are pre-basted or pinned, or, maybe spray basted.

  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’.

    1. I was going to mention this as well. I always have to chuckle when I see everyone using the word, “salvage” when they’re talking about their quilts!

      1. A number of the “girls” in my quilting group (most of us are over 60!) say “salvage” as well. I’m a tad OCD and it makes be buggy but I bite my tongue and say nothing because they’re my friends and I don’t want to offend them. My tongue is often sore! ; – }

  21. Can you tell me about the washi tape on your machine?

    Also, thanks for the tip. I”m piecing out my first quilt as we speak and the backing has been the last thing I needed to think about…but I feel more confident, so thanks! 🙂

  22. This is a fabulous idea, but if you’re like me, you’ll visit QuiltedTwins.com and buy some beautiful 108″ backing fabric for only $8.59 a yard. Really! And they have oodles of gorgeous quilting fabric for 3.99 and 4.99 a yard. I’ve been buying from them for quite some time now for myself and my quilting group. The quality of their goods is excellent and they ship very quickly. Even with shipping you can come out ahead because their shipping fee is always a flat $5.00. In addition to quilts, we make about 20-25 colorful pillowcases a month for children in a local hospital. As you can imagine, this uses a lot of fabric. My last purchase for 12 yards averaged out at approximately $4.49 per yard, including the shipping! We’re a church quilting group and our funds are limited so these prices are very helpful.

  23. I want to thank you so much for putting you tip out there for us to read. I tried to picture what you did and I have it in my head where it would work out. You make it sound so easy. Thank you.

  24. Hi, I am confused! I understand about sewing along the salvages, right sides together, but where do the folds come in? Thanks!

  25. I have a question I have a blanket but I’m not sure that it is done I purchased it at a garage sale years ago how doDwAnna I finish it ?

  26. Please add a warning to your post — this will NOT work if your fabric is a one-way fabric (directional print)! One side will end up opposite direction to other and will be very noticeable! Will only work for 2-way fabrics, and even then one side may appear a darker shade than the other due to weave of fabric. Please warn folks of this!

  27. Thank you so much for posting this. My sister and I make at least 200 quilts a year, this has saved us so much time. We can’t thank you enough for this info. Sue & Pat

  28. Bless you my child !!! I am 80 and wish that I had come across this years ago. I will certainly use this tip on my next quilt back. You might think that anyone who has been sewing this long would have discovered this at least 50 years ago, LOL. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Mary Fisher-Smith

    Thank you! I was just about to cut two cumbersome pieces of ombre fabric to make the backing for a 58″ x 72″ quilt. This is going to be a way more manageable method of piecing the back!!!!

  30. I have just found this article and did not read all the comments. It is very informative. The only thing I would like to have seen is a picture of the two pieces sewn together. Thanks.

  31. I apologize, I still can’t figure how how to do that and have a big enough piece of fabric. If the wof is 45 inches and I have 1 1/2 yards how big should the final piece be?

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