Sparrow Studioz - APQS Canada's Studio Blog: Layer #2 - Quilt Backing

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Layer #2 - Quilt Backing

Quilt Backing

We are currently covering the five layers of a quilt. Last week we chatted about bobbins and you can find that post here. This week I am onto the next layer, Quilt Backing! As the owner/operator of a longarm rental quilting studio, let me tell you, I have seen every possible option when it comes to quilt backings. Quilters are creative and it does not end at the quilt top. So what is the best option for a quilt backing? Let’s go over some of the different ideas I have seen.

1. Bed Sheets. 
2. Fleece Blankets or fabric
3. Patchwork cotton - essentially another quilt
4. Denim.
5. Wide Back Cotton 
6. Minkee
7. Vintage fabric - could be absolutely anything

1. Bed Sheets. Typically bed sheets have a high thread count which isnt a bad thing when it comes to softness. However my large high speed needle tends to puncture those closely woven fibres. In a looser weave, the needle can usually part the fibres. I am concerned that the longevity of the quilt could be compromised simply because the weave is just too dense. Bed sheets still remain an economical choice and very popular for utility quilts.

2. Fleece Blankets. While these are plush and cozy, they are also extra thick and STRETCHY. In both directions. Not exactly a good feature when the fabric is being stretched tight onto a frame. Also due to their thickness, they are more work to attach to the quilting frame. Often requires a second person to help with the loading process. The pile of the fleece can be problematic as it tends to sneak up through the needle holes and show on the quilt top. The pile also causes the machine to drag causing resistance when moving the machine. If you simply must use polar fleece, take your time, stitch slower than normal and use a strong polyester thread.

3. Patchwork. Many quilters like to use up the scraps from their quilt top and stitch up a backing which perfectly matches their top. This option is fine, as long as accuracy in cutting and piecing is a priority. The biggest trouble with a patchwork backing is that the quilter wants a seam or particular fabric perfectly centred which is very challenging when working on a longarm quilting frame. A simple rule of thumb is the more piecing your backing has, the more challenging it will be to avoid small puckers.

4. Denim. Not very practical. Typically a denim top will also be paired with the denim or flannel backing. Straight line quilting makes for a very easy job on denim, where as curvy quilting can cause more needle flex which can compromise stitch quality! The same rule applies here as with polar fleece. Stitch slowly.

5. Wide Back Cotton - My favourite of all the possibilities. This is typically the easiest choice. No piecing required, just ensure that you have purchased enough! As we all know, cotton fabric does shrink, so if the quilt top fabrics have already been washed, then I advise also washing the backing. 

6. Minkee fabric -  A favourite of many quilters. I have learned the best ways to work with it due to popularity. It is better if piecing is not needed. It is difficult to be accurate with minkee due to the stretch and pile. Sometime I will do a video tutorial on the best ways to deal with minkee. Please, please for the sake of your own sanity (or the sanity of your longarm quilter), avoid using minkee on both the top and bottom of your quilt. That is all I am going to say about that.

7. Vintage Fabric - While I must admit that at some point, all fabric will be vintage. I like to compare the backing fabric to the foundation of a house. Using good quality fabric will ensure the longevity of your finished quilt. 

My thoughts on backing fabric are based on experiences with thousands of quilts.

Did you know that we are giving away a queen sized quilt back? Visit the contest on our Facebook page for more details!


  1. Wide backs cotton or flannel,are my favorite to load and longarm with. No seams!!! I do like fireside fleece over minky, if it means pleasing a customer I will take on the challenge of minky! Elkstone Studio

  2. I prefer wide back cotton for hand quilting no seams! if I am quilting as I go regular width backing is fine! Thanks for the chance to win!

  3. I love wide back cotton and flannel! Thanks for the chance to win!! :)