A Word (or two) About Quilt Backings…Part III

Squaring up – what exactly does that mean? Well when you load a backing onto a longarm frame, if the fabric isn’t’ a nice square shape, there will be areas that droop and as I quilt your quilt, these can and will cause puckers in your quilt backing. If I catch it in time, I can sometimes pull and yank and get it to work, but if I don’t catch it there will be a pucker in your backing. The easiest way for me to square you backing (which you can do yourself) is to tear it. There are some people that will gasp at that last line, but I find it works on 98% of the backings I use. Here’s a quick run through of how I prepare a backing for one of my quilts.

For Wide Backings:

  1. Measure the fabric and make two 1″ snips where you want to tear (top and bottom)
  2. Grasp the fabric firmly on either side of the tear and pull apart.
  3. Snip about 1″ in from the selvage edge and tear the selvage off, discard or give to your friend who’s collecting selvages for a project.
  4. If your fabric is from a decent manufacturer you should now have a quilt back with 90 degree angles on all four corners. This is a good thing!

Piecing a Backing so it’s square:

  1. I’ll explain a one seam backing – to do more than one seam just repeat the steps for each piece.
  2. Measure double the length of the fabric you’ll need (if each panel needs to be three yards, use 6 yards)
  3. At the top and bottom of the fabric length tear off each end to make the ends square.
  4. Snip about 1″ in from selvage edges and tear off selvages.
  5. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise (right sides together) so you have the selvage edge touching and the edges you just tore matching.
  6. Starting at the raw edge, sew 1/2″ seam allowance towards the fold stopping about 1″ from the fold. Using your scissors, tighten the fabric edge so the scissors are in the tight fold. Snip.
  7. Carefully tear from the sewn side to the edge. Once torn all the way, continue your seam to the edge (which used to be the fold).
  8. Press seam open and you should have a nice seamed backing with 90 degree angles on all four corners.

I hope to get a video up showing how I do this in case the written directions are confusing. Give me a week or so!

On a side note, too much backing is almost as bad as too little – if your quilt is 80″ by 90″ and you give me 120″ by 120″ wide backing, I will most likely tear it to a more reasonable size and send the scraps back to you.

I hope this helps with your confusion about backings – feel free to email me if you have a question or leave a comment.

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