Have you ever looked at a quilt back at a show or your guild’s show and tell night and thought, “How did they back that whole quilt without a seam running down the quilt?” The secret? Wide back quilting weight cotton fabric.
More and more manufacturers like Riley Blake and Free Spirit are releasing 108” wide quilt weight cotton fabric in designs to match their currently available collections. But, for some quilters, the back of a quilt is a favorite place for large prints, leftover blocks, and to show off additional piecing techniques. How to decide? Here are 5 considerations when thinking about the best way to back a quilt.
Not all quilts require such a wide backing fabric. Lap quilts, baby quilts, and any quilt under 70-75” wide can be easily backed with two lengths of standard width fabric. And since wide back fabric is typically about 40% more per yard, it may be an option best considered for queen and king-sized bed quilts but not smaller ones.
Compared to the vast selection of quilt weight cotton fabrics available in the standard 44’ width, the 108” wide back options are extremely limited. Selection is improving with popularity, but most wide backs are blenders in a limited color line of neutrals and basics. Due to both the increased cost and the much larger bolts, your local quilt shop may choose not to carry wide back fabrics. Depending on your location, wide back fabrics may not be readily available.
Quilts are weakest at the seams and a seamed back can create weak points over time. If you use a wide back fabric, you won’t need to worry about the seams at the back. If not, consider how your quilt will be folded, stored, used, or displayed before choosing where to seam the back. The most efficient seaming may not be the most durable.
Ease of Use
Your longarmer will love you for choosing a wide back fabric. Seams can be a challenging part of longarm quilting, and a seamed back only adds bulk in a way that can’t be readily seen from the front and may disrupt intricate or computerized quilting. Most longarm quilters also require 6” of backing fabric all around a quilt top to ensure there’s enough to properly load on to the machine and baste the top. A wide back fabric can be a simple way to make sure your backing can accommodate the extra inches.
Some quilters really love to see and admire the quilting on the back, where it is easier to see with a simple backing fabric. And some quilters like the look of a pieced back and see the back as an opportunity to complement the top with scrappy blocks or pieces of leftover fabric. Some quilters have even been known to make ‘double-sided’ quilts, skipping the back altogether and putting two same size quilt tops back-to-back before quilting. Your preference may drive your decision on whether to use a wide back quilting fabric or not.
Regardless of your choices in using a wide back quilt fabric or not, the back of your quilt is a design opportunity that shouldn’t be skipped. Thoughtful decisions about the back of your quilt will help add long life and enjoyment to the quilt you’ve spent hours making.