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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. 😉