Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back Before Basting

I have never heard anyone say "I can hardly wait to make the back for my quilt!".
Some art quilters do make two-sided quilts, with a back most of us would be proud to have as a front. But for the most part, the backing is a huge amount of fabric to it's time just get to it!

If the quilt is wider than 40" you will be sewing at least one seam for the backing. There used to be much discussion about the correct placement of seams, with the classic preference for length-wise...not one down the center but a full width of fabric down the center, and a 22" half-width (like cut along along the bolt fold) on each side.
Today, with machine stitching, it doesn't matter as much, and I say put one seam down the center or across the middle side-ways, whatever uses the least amount of fabric. 
This time I bought a pretty fabric for the back!
For the back of my scrappy Groundhog Day quilt I got twice the length of the quilt (2 x 78" = 156"...divided by 36" for a yard = 4.3 yards, so I got 5 yards to be sure)(and continued blessings on whoever invented the calculator). Remember, you need a couple extra inches on each side.
If your quilt is wider than 80" you need to do more figuring...maybe 3 x the width. I like to draw a little diagram to figure out which way to run the seams to use the fewest yards of fabric.
Cherry-cherry says that the extra-wide backing fabrics (90" or 108" or more) can be a better purchase, even though the per yard price appears high. You will need to buy less yardage, and can avoid sewing a seam.  
NOTE: if you are planning to take your quilt to a longarm quilter, please ask first to find out what their requirements are. You may even want to purchase backing and/or batting from them.

Here's how I made the back this time:
A really wide seam allowance
It's a good idea to pre-wash, even though I hate ironing that many yards! Taking it out of the dryer before it's completely dry will make the ironing easier.
Fold the whole length of fabric in half across the center (not along the length).
Match up the selvedges, and sew with a big, fat seam allowance. I like about 1"or more. 
I started at the cut edges, but you could sew starting at the fold.
When you're done, press the seamline to set the stitches, and then trim off the selvedges together, leaving some fabric for the seam does not have to be even! Don't worry about the selvedge on the other side...that will be cut off when you trim after quilting or basting. 
My ironing board cover does have little irons printed on it!
Then you cut along the fold, and yes, you must remember to make a little snip in the seam allowance.
No measuring, just slide those scissors along the fold
I think it's easier to use scissors than a rotary cutter for all this, as precision is not required.
Press the seam allowance open. I bet nobody who's reading this blog would hand stitch a backing seam...but if you took leave of your senses and did, then you should press the seam to one side to keep the batting from sneaking out. It's good to know the reason why something is done, so you can decide whether to follow the old traditions or not.
I run my finger along in front of the iron to open the seam...don't let your attention wander if you do this!
As Gary Larsen of "The Far Side" might say: Trouble brewing?
Now what do you do with all that nicely pressed fabric until it can be used? I have to lay it out on my Pile O' Quilts upstairs railing:
Sometimes it's hard to get down the hallway
You can see I have a batt "airing out" (de-wrinking?) and ready to go.
The next stop is hauling all my basting equipment over to the church, where there are nice big tables and lots of space...unlike at my house!
And, of course, Cherry-cherry will meet me there to help.

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