So you’ve finished the perfect quilt top! Congratulations! Now, it’s time to think about your back. I have customers that tell me they’re “back impaired.” Hopefully, this post will help you navigate that problem, especially if you use a long-arm quilter! I also have a confession about my backs.
For the long-arm quilter, your back needs to be at least 4″ larger than the top. Check with your quilter to see how much extra she would like to see. I like it closer to 6″ larger, with the system I use to attach the quilt to the machine. So, here is the basic math for backs:
- If your top is 72″ x 90″, add 6″ (or whatever your quilter asks) to each dimension. So your back would need to be at least 78″ x 96″.
- When seaming a back, most quilters would prefer to only have one seam.
- When figuring yardage for backs, assume that your yardage is 40″ – 42″ wide. So in the above example, I would figure 42″ x 2 (widths of fabric) = 84″.
- I would run the 84″ width-wise, so the 78″ direction. That means I would need 96″ of fabric, twice (for each width.)
- That is 192″, which, divided by 36″ (per yard), leaves 5.33 yards, so 5 1/3 yards.
Wow! That was a lot of math! I hope it made sense. Download this free quilt back worksheet to help you figure out your back yardage. (There are 4 worksheets per page.)
Lastly, always trim up the back so that it is square. Don’t leave a little tail on one piece of fabric that didn’t quite line up.
Now, for an easy way to seam the back when using two widths.
- Square off both ends of the long yardage and fold it in half length-wise.
- Seam along the selvage. I leave the seam wide enough that I can trim it down to 1/4″, to minimize bulk.
- Cut the folded end off and you’re done!
This is way easier than trying to trim to the same length later.
A lot of people swear by wide quilt backing fabric. It comes in widths from 108″ to 120″, and that means you don’t usually need to seam it. It does make a great back, without having any extra bulk of a seam. The drawback is that it only comes in limited prints, but if you find one you like, it’s great.
As a long-arm quilter I beg you to please, please square the back up. It never comes off the bolt square. This is the only reason I hate wide backs, is that no one bothers to trim them.
Now, for my confession! I am cheap! I hate spending a lot of money on a quilt back. I rarely use a single-seam back, and have never used a wide back. I like to use the left-over fabric from the top to make my back.
Sometimes, this is insane, because it almost takes as much work as the top. (Not really, it just feels like it.)
Occasionally, I don’t quite have enough fabric left over, but I can get part of the back out of it, then I just purchase what I need to complete it.
Here’s the back to the Hey Mama! quilt. I had enough on that one! It creates a lot more seams, but, honestly, that doesn’t really bother me that much when quilting. (Check with your quilter, though. It might bother others.)
This opens up a lot of other possibilities, too. You can also use extra blocks from the top to make a fancy back, as these two quilters did.
If you are seaming as described above, and it still isn’t quite wide (or long) enough, you can add a strip of pieces from the top. These can be planned pieces or just random. So, have fun, think outside the box a little bit, and no more impairment! Let’s have empowerment instead.