So you’ve finished that beautiful quilt top! Yeah!
But now you need a back for your quilt sandwich so you can get everything quilted, bound, and finished!
Below you will find 10 ways to back your quilt (it says 9 in the title and all the graphics because I counted wrong – couldn’t be bothered to change the title – so one extra for you – bonus!).
I’m starting with the simplest and moving down to the scrappiest (and sometimes most fun!).
There is a table of contents below as well as a video version of this post if you prefer!
Table of Contents
- How Large Should My Quilt Backing Be?
- Extra Wide Quilt Backing Fabric
- Duvet Covers & Sheets as Quilt Backing
- Simple Pieced Quilt Back from One Fabric
- Two Tone Fabric Quilt Backing
- Fleece Quilt Backing
- Use another Quilt Top!
- Pieced Stashbuster Quilt Back
- Scrappy Strip Quilt Back Extension
- Block Based Scrappy Quilt Back
- Improv Scrappy Quilt Back
- 9 Ways to Back your Quilts – Video Version
How Large Should My Quilt Backing Be?
A general rule of thumb is that both your batting and your backing should be 2″-4″ larger all the way around compared to your finished quilt top.
This is to allow for movement during the quilting process.
If your quilt backing and quilt top are exactly the same sizes and things shift even a tiny bit during quilting, you could find yourself caught short on the edges of your quilt and see the batting peeking out somewhere!
So better to measure large! You will trim everything down before binding after your quilt is quilted.
If you are sending your quilt to a longarm quilter, however, you will want to check with them how large they want your backing to be. Because of the way they attach the quilt back and top they often require a larger quilt back.
Standard Quilt Sizes
You may have noticed when searching online that standard quilt sizes are listed differently on different websites.
Basically you can make your quilts whatever size you like, but if you are following standard sizing on quilt patterns it is best to use standard quilt batting sizes to measure what size your backing should be.
Many folk say the backing should be wider than your batting but I have always cut my backing and batting the same size – the key thing is that they are bigger than the quilt top itself!
Below is a handy chart of pre-cut quilt batting sizes. Your quilt will be smaller than these sizes as you will trim it down after quilting.
Extra Wide Quilt Backing Fabric
Unless you are making a baby quilt the standard width of yardage at 44″ wide will not be wide enough to back your quilt in one piece.
So probably one of the simplest ways to back a quilt is to buy extra wide quilt backing fabric which often comes in widths of 90″ and 108″.
Most quilt shops will either stock this type of backing fabric or be able to order it in.
You can also find wide quilt backing fabric online from Quilt Shops that are also Etsy sellers.
For example the one above which is Ruby Star Society’s Cosmos print in a 108″ width available from Hartland Quilt Shop.
Extra Wide Quilt Backing Fabric – Pros & Cons
- No piecing! You can buy one large piece of fabric and all you have to do is center it where you want it and trim it down if necessary.
- You can get a range of prints from modern designers like Tula Pink and Anna Maria Horner as well as muted blenders.
- It can be expensive – especially if you are going to plump for the trendiest prints.
Duvet Covers & Sheets as Quilt Backing
I use secondhand duvet covers for quilt backing quite a lot.
It’s a simple way to get one large piece of fabric at a fraction of the cost of wide quilt backing fabric.
Quilts where I have used a duvet cover for the backing:
- Rainbow Raindrops Baby Quilt – Free Applique Quilt Pattern
- Quick Denim Quilt (Improv Quilt with Instructions)
- Easy 9 Patch Quilt – Quilt in a Week!
I know many quilters also buy a flat bed sheet for use as quilt backing too.
I tend to gravitate towards duvet covers because they have two sides to them so when you cut them apart you have two different pieces of fabric – two quilt backs!
They often have different prints on each side too!
What to keep in mind when using duvet covers and sheets as quilt backing:
- Be aware of the quality of the material. I tend to stick to 100% cotton and I know many other quilters who swear by flannel for this.
- Similar to the above it is worth checking the thread count to make sure the material will be thick enough for what you want. In general the higher the thread count the better quality the material.
- If you are buying secondhand check for bobbling.
Where to find duvet covers and sheets for quilt backs:
- TJ Maxx (TK Maxx here in the UK)
- Friends and Family
- Thrift Shops
- Facebook Marketplace
Duvet Covers & Bed Sheets for Quilt Backing – Pros & Cons
- Cheap – relative to quilting fabric
- Come in a lot of fun colors and prints
- If you buy secondhand you are reducing waste and helping the environment
- You might need to do a bit more hunting around to find a print you like in the size you need
- There can be some guesswork when it comes to exactly what material to buy
- If you are using a duvet cover rather than a sheet you will need to cut the two sides apart (it’s not that hard really though!)
Simple Pieced Quilt Back from One Fabric
This next option is probably one of the most common ways of backing a quilt.
Simply put, you piece together two or three pieces of the same fabric to create one large piece of fabric for your quilt back.
Since standard quilting fabric is 44″ wide if you piece two long strips of fabric together you should have a piece that is 87.5″ wide x whatever length you have cut your fabric.
A twin size quilt is approx 72″ x 90″ so two pieces of yardage sewn with a center seam lengthways should work fine for that.
If your quilt top is a double, queen, or king-size you will, of course, need to add an extra panel of fabric to make up the width you need.
You should also pay attention to the direction of the print.
If your print is non-direcitonal it may be possible to turn your fabric horizontally and get the width from the length of the yardage and make up the length by piecing extra panels of the same fabric.
The quilt back pictured above is the back of my X Marks the Scrap Free Quilt Pattern for Scraps.
Quilt Back Pieced from one Fabric – Pros & Cons
- Nice clean looking quilt back without the cost of wide backing fabric
- Minimal piecing required
- Some measuring needed
- Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are you might need to fiddle at the basting stage to get the seam sitting right where you want it in relation to the quilt top.
Two-Tone Fabric Quilt Backing
This is pretty similar to the option above. It is for when you don’t actually have enough yardage in your stash to piece the backing from just one print.
So you can choose to divide the backing in two and do one half in one print or color and one in another.
When I have done this I have actually kept it pretty simple and used two different navy blues split down the middle.
When I made my queen-sized quilt as you go quilt I actually pieced the whole thing in 4 sections – backing included but I didn’t have enough of one blue to do the whole thing so I did two panels in one blue and two in the other.
You can have fun with this and do two totally different prints or colors too of course!
Two-Tone Fabric Quilt Backing – Pros & Cons
- You can shop from your stash and use different fabrics to make your own creative backing
- The two stripes can bring out different colors from the front of your quilt.
- The piecing process is pretty straightforward and painless.
- You still need quite large pieces of fabric to use only two fabrics for your backing.
Fleece Quilt Backing
I really like using fleece for quilt backs. It is easy to work with and it makes quilts extra cuddly and soft.
I use anti-pil fleece when I buy fleece fabric specifically for a quilt back. This is so you don’t get bits of fluff everywhere!
I have also used old fleece blankets for quilt backing too like the one below I made for my sister.
The front of this quilt is in my Quilts in Review 2021 post.
I’ve done a whole post about my adventures backing my quilts with fleece here:
In addition to the quilts in that post I have also backed these quilts with fleece:
- How to Make a Modern Scrap Quilt – Improv Style!
- Free I Spy Quilt Tutorial (Easy Raw Edge Applique) (this one used a fleece blanket rather than yardage)
- Easy Stroller Quilt from 7 Jelly Roll Strips!
How wide is Anti-pil Fleece?
The width I seem to find most often is 58″ wide – so it’s a bit wider than your standard quilting yardage. But make sure to check with wherever you are purchasing to see what width they sell.
As with traditional quilt backing material you can also buy extra wide anti-pil fleece too!
Can I piece fleece pieces together?
Yes you can! I have done this and pressed my seams open and never had a problem with bulk!
Fleece for Quilt Backing – Pros & Cons
- Soft & Cuddly – tends to be a hit with recipients of quilts as gifts
- Easy to sew
- Can be cheaper than some quilting fabric
- Adds warmth and weight if you like that (see below) – I do!
- Adds weight – you can use fleece backing with or without batting so if you find it is too heavy you can leave the batting out.
- Adds warmth – this is usually a good thing but if you are making a summer quilt – maybe not the time for fleece!
- Most fleece is polyester, often made from recycled plastic bottles. That sounds eco-friendly but unless you have a specialist filter on your washing machine you could be releasing small plastic particles back out into the ocean when you wash your fleece-backed quilts.
Use another Quilt Top!
Another simple quilt backing idea is just to use another quilt top.
If you are the type of quilter who has a lot of WIPs including piles of unquilted quilt tops this might be a great option for you.
Pick one with similar colors (and size!) to your quilt top and pair them for a double-sided quilt.
I have yet to use this method but I do have one quilt top that I made and never had the heart to quilt which I have earmarked for a quilt backing one day!
Quilt Top for Quilt Backing – Pros & Cons
- Two quilts quilted at once!
- No need to piece a quilt back or buy extra fabric
- Double-sided quilt
- The quilting design that suits one side may not suit the other
- You may need to trim one or the other of your quilt tops to make them fit together
- Depending on how much time you spent on the quilt top it may feel like a letdown to use it as a quilt backing instead of the star of the show.
Pieced Stashbuster Quilt Backing
I really like this way of making a quilt back.
It’s a fun way to use leftover fabric, fat quarters, and other larger pieces of fabric.
It’s basically the halfway house between piecing large pieces of yardage for a quilt backing and making a scrappy quilt back that takes more time and thought.
You can use so many different layout ideas for this option.
I tend to have a look at my quilt top to start off and then head to my fabric stash and find some pieces that coordinate. Anywhere from a half a yard to a jelly roll strip.
All we are going to do is piece a quilt back in sections until it is big enough. Kind of like crumb quilting on a super large scale!
One of my favorite quilt backs I made in this way started with a fat quarter and then I added larger strips of fabric remnants and jelly roll strips around and around in a log cabin kind of a way. I then finished it off with large strips of white fabric.
A note on scrappy backs: One thing I was keeping in mind with this backing is that the bottom 2/3rds of the quilt top was made of dark fabric and the top third was light so I didn’t want to put a mix of dark and light in the top third of the quilt as it would shine through – this is worth keeping in mind for any patchwork or scrappy style quilt back.
You can see the front of that quilt in this post here:
Here is another stashbuster style quilt back I used for a disappearing 9-patch quilt.
I used one large piece of yardage (the blue) for one side and then pieced together the rest from a half yard, a fat quarter, and some other remnants. I really like how it turned out.
Stashubster Quilt Back – Pros & Cons
- It can be fun to quickly choose larger pieces and piece something that looks like a modern quilt top – it can give you inspiration for future quilts!
- You can use up beautiful prints that you don’t want to cut up but aren’t quite big enough to be a backing on their own
- You can shop your stash rather than going out to buy fabric specifically for a backing
- It can be frustrating if you don’t have quite enough pieces of the colors you want to use.
- There is a little more sewing and a little more thought necessary to come up with fabric choices and a layout that you like and that will fit your quilt top (I enjoy this bit myself though!)
Scrappy Strip Quilt Back Extension
This is another hybrid of a scrappy back and a quilt backing made from one fabric.
So for this method, you might have one piece of fabric that you would like to use for the quilt backing but it isn’t quite big enough.
Basically, you are just going to add a strip down the middle as an extender.
You can do this with leftover blocks from other quilts or workshops; you can use a single stripe of fabric; or you can use a scrappy pieced stripe.
I used the braided improv scrap quilt block technique for the largest strip in this quilt back.
That is what I did for the quilt top above. In fact, I used several pieced scrappy strips from the scraps leftover from making the quilt top.
I had a beautiful piece of fabric that was just that bit too small so I just kept slicing the back and adding strips to extend it until I got it big enough!
You can see the front of the quilt above in my Quilts in Review 2021 post.
You can keep this technique as simple as you like – do one strip of blocks or jelly roll strips down the middle or make a cross if you need your backing to be both wider and longer.
Scrappy Strip Quilt Back Extension – Pros & Cons
- A great way to use up orphan blocks or leftover scraps created when sewing your quilt top
- You can add a scrappy touch to your quilt back without piecing a whole other secondary quilt top
- You can make that beautiful piece of fabric stretch just far enough to use it for your quilt back!
- The quilt math can get complicated if you are adding skinny strips – remember your seam allowance will also subtract width (or length) so this works better with slightly larger inserts
- Piecing long improv scrappy strips can be time-consuming – if you enjoy the process that is no bad thing but they do tend to take time.
Block-Based Scrappy Quilt Back
So now we are venturing into the territory of piecing a completely scrappy back for your quilt.
We aren’t using large pieces of yardage anymore!
This essentially equates to making a second quilt top specifically for the back using blocks as the method for piecing and arranging your layout.
So you can choose any size block you like – ideally using the scraps from the front of the quilt.
If you are super organized you can even be chain piecing your quilt back blocks at the same time as the blocks for your quilt top!
In order to not overcomplicate things, it’s usually best to use a simple block for this type of backing. Here are some ideas but of course, this is also your chance to get creative and do whatever you like!:
Keep in mind that you will be quilting the front of the quilt to suit your quilt top so keep that in mind when picking the blocks for your backing.
This photo above is the only block-based backing I’ve done so far.
It was inspired by Karen Brown’s After Quilts video which is definitely worth a watch.
At the time I made this, the blocks were improv blocks with the scraps from the front, but I have since made a tutorial about a Floral Spring Scrap Quilt Block that is an improved version of these!
Block-Based Scrap Fabric Quilt Back – Pros & Cons
- Use up the scraps from the quilt top
- Blocks can be easier to conceptualize and therefore easier to finish
- If your blocks are a set size you can easily calculate how many you will need for your quilt back
- You can chain piece blocks
- Gives you a double-sided quilt!
- Time-consuming (compared to some of the simpler quilt back methods)
- Depending on how light or dark your quilt top is you may have to consider the placement of light and dark fabrics on your quilt back so you don’t see one or the other through the opposite side (see my photo above- you can see the quilt top through on the lighter areas of the quilt back – whoops!)
Improv Scrappy Quilt Back
This type of quilt back can be the most time-consuming and often also the most fun!
I was actually working on a super scrappy improv quilt back (that took me two weeks to piece!) when I was inspired to write this post about quilt back ideas.
This method involves going at your quilt back with no plan at all.
You just go with the flow and piece sections using your scraps until you have made something large enough for a quilt back.
But how do I piece the scraps?
There are lots of ways to approach this.
Improv means different things to different people including how much they plan or don’t plan what they are going to do.
If it helps think of it as not following a pattern.
Here are some ideas of techniques you can try in a scrappy quilt back:
- Crumb Piecing
- Braided Scrappy Piecing
- Scraps on Adding Machine Paper
- Small Scraps Modern Improv
- Sew strips together, cut, rotate and sew to something else.
- Sew your version of a traditional quilt block without measuring
- Try curves
I tend to set some parameters such as ‘I am going to use all the scraps from the front and one additional background fabric (or color )’.
That makes it easier to get started and figure out when you are done!
The back above was from my first ever denim quilt. I used the scraps from the quilt top plus a thick piece of utility fabric I bought by mistake on ebay!
The photo above is an unironed work in progress!
It’s a scrappy back that turned into a triangle as I went.
I used lots of strips using a few leftover triangles from the quilt top and some scrappy strips made using the improv braided scrap quilt block technique.
This quilt back was actually meant to be a block-based back but I ended up cutting the blocks up and piecing them into strips and then making this improv triangle shape!
Here it is finished!:
Tips for making an Improv Scrappy Quilt Back
- Choose set colors or limit yourself to the scraps from the quilt top plus a limited number of other additional fabrics
- Press often – depending on what type of piecing you feel inspired to do improv pieces can often have lots of intersecting seams so press often to keep things flat as they can be
- I tend to gravitate towards one technique or two per quilt back – so if that helps you then limit yourself to a set number of techniques as well as colors (if you prefer to try everything at once – go for it!)
- Get in a rhythm – I set up my cutting mat on my left-hand side my iron on my right-hand side and then I chain piece and swivel around on my chair in front of the sewing machine in the middle. I can get into a real mindless meditative state sometimes!
Improv Scrappy Quilt Backs – Pros & Cons
- A chance to do some mindless sewing without worrying about how it will turn out
- You can use up the scraps from the quilt top
- You can try new techniques in a low-risk way
- You might surprise yourself with what you create!
- This type of back can sometimes take longer than the quilt top (at least for me!)
- It can be hard to calculate how big it will turn out and how many sections you need to sew. (I tend to lay the sections out on top of the quilt top as I join – I get a bit frustrated near the end when one corner doesn’t quite fit but there is usually a solution!)
- You might get to what you think is the end and find that you need more fabric to make it big enough – a border can be good in such cases!
9 Ways to Back Your Quilts – Video Verison
What type of Quilt Backing is your Favorite?
I’d love to know which type of quilt backing you use most often and why. Drop me a comment below or join me over on youtube and drop me a comment there!
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