It’s time, you’ve finished the quilt top, you’ve picked up some batting.. let’s make a sandwich and get that quilt finished!
Wait! Before you do, unless you have extra wide fabric, you’ll have to cut and sew quilt backing together to make a large enough panel for backing.
For some reason I just want my backing to magically be wide enough.. but sadly it isn’t most of the time!
Thankfully it’s really easy to do! And takes just a few minutes, so that you can get cracking on the rest of the quilt.
Calculating the Quilt Backing Fabric Yardage
Fabric comes in yards, and a yard is measured 36” wide by 42” long (or 41”-45” depending on the fabric brand). Many throw and full sizes are much wider than 42”, so we have to piece the back together to create one large piece of backing.
There are two ways to cut backing, one by width and the other by height. We’ll be doing width.
To start, make sure you have 4-5 yards (for a standard sized throw) of backing fabric ironed and ready to go. It’s easier if it’s one long piece. This is a free calculator that most quilters use to see how much backing they’ll need: FREE QUILT BACKING CALCULATOR
Insert your quilt dimensions and add overage. For a quilt that will be long armed, 4-7 inches of overage is preferred (always consult your long armer!). For quilting at home on a domestic, 3-5" is enough most of the time.
It will give you a yardage estimate, and show you how to cut your fabric to make your backing.
Cutting the Quilt Backing Fabric
Fold your backing fabric in half hamburger style (ahhh so many 2nd grade memories just came flooding back), not lengthwise. You'll want two large rectangles, not long skinny rectangles.
Using fabric scissors, cut along the fold, this doesn’t need to be precise. This is shown in the pictures. (Side note: Isn’t this print glorious!? It’s from one of the newest AGF lines by Bari J. called Bloomsbury).
There will now be two pieces of fabric that we’ll sew together.
How to Pattern Match Backing Fabric
If you need to pattern match the backing, this is relatively easy to do. Lay your quilt backing down face up, make sure the patterns are going in the same direction (yes I've made that mistake, and no I didn't realize until it was quilted).
Fold over one long edge of the pieces a few inches, until there is no selvage showing. This is the edge that you’ll need to match to the other side of the fabric.
Find where the patterns match (or start to repeat) as best you can. Some people love to iron their fold, or even glue it down to make it easier to match. I usually don’t have time for that, and I’m not a perfectionist with backing.
Once you’ve found where it matches, pin it so that the matching fabric designs are touching (or slightly overlapping), and flip one of the fabric pieces over so they’re right sides together. Now you’ll go along and pin ¼” away from where you need to sew to match your backing.
OR if it's too hard to maintain that straight line, pin exactly where you need to sew and remove them as you go.
You can also use a glue stick on the folded part of the fabric and align it to the other piece, then iron to secure before sewing. Again sew right on the fold where it's been aligned.
Sewing the Backing Fabric
It takes some practice but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Sew along where you pinned (or glued), checking to make sure that the patterns aren’t overlapping in a weird way (easier said than done).
If you didn't need to pattern match, flip the panels so they're right sides together and sew together on the long side of the fabric.
This should create one large rectangle of fabric that is large enough for your quilt!
Trim the seam allowance and iron flat! You’re ready to start basting!