Welcome to week 6 of the Down Memory Lane Quilt-Along! This week I am sharing some thoughts on choosing a quilt backing and binding preparation.
First, let’s chat about quilt backs.
Choosing fabric for the back of a quilt is one of my favourite creative tasks. The perfect backing makes me happy. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures!
A quilt backing should not be an afterthought or an ‘anything goes’ scenario. It is 50% of the finished quilt and can either enhance or detract from the quilt top itself.
If you are using a collection of fabric to piece your quilt top, you might consider using one (or two) of your favourite fabrics from the collection as a quilt backing. But, keeping to a single collection is not essential. Ideally you want to choose fabric you love, with a colour or pattern that will complement the quilt.
Fabric Options for Quilt Backings
Despite what you might have heard, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making quilts ;).
That said, I personally choose to back the majority of my quilts in 100% quilting cotton fabric to match the quality of the quilt top. From an archival point of view, it is my understanding that this will yield the best longevity results, and I want my quilts to be around for as long as possible. And from experience, this produces the most consistent and successful end result.
However, other backings you might like to consider are
- New or vintage sheets.
- Flannel fabric.
- Double gauze fabric.
- Minky or similar fleece fabrics.
Piecing the Quilt Backing
If your quilt is wider than 40-inches then you will generally have to piece a backing for your quilt.
The exception to this is when you purchase a wide 108-inch quilt backing.
When calculating yardage for a backing, it is generally accepted that you will require at least 3-inches extra than that of your quilt top on all four sides. This means if your quilt top is 60-inches x 70-inches, you will need your backing to be at least 66-inches x 76-inches. In this example, I would suggest you purchase two fabric lengths of 66-inches and piece the fabric horizontally, as this is the most economical use of fabric.
However, for the Down Memory Lane quilt the backing piece of fabric required is approximately 72-inches x 89-inches. Because the length of the fabric required is greater than 80-inches (the approximate measurement of two standard 40-42″ widths of fabric sewn together horizontally), it is necessary to create a backing piece with a vertical seam. You will require two lengths of 95-inches (approximately 5 yds/4.6 m).
The great thing about a vertical seam is that you can use directional fabric confidently, but the negative aspect is that there is generally a reasonable portion of ‘waste’ running down the side of the quilt. (As suggested earlier, an alternate option to piecing the back is to purchase a wide 108″ backing instead.)
If you want to use a single 42-inch wide fabric for the back of your quilt I have a tutorial on how to pattern match your fabric for the perfect finish. This is a good technique to learn when using medium or large scaled prints for the backing.
Or, you can mix things up and get creative with the backing! For my Down Memory Lane quilt, I used two coordinating lengths of fabric and pieced them as shown below.
Super cute, quick to piece and effective!! Don’t be afraid to experiment with the backs of your quilts and have fun highlighting some of your favourite fabrics.
And now some thoughts on binding…
There are a few different ways you can bind a quilt, but the most common is the double fold binding method.
There are a number of comprehensive tutorials online if this technique is new to you, such as
- How to bind a quilt using double fold binding by Faith Jones
- Quilt school: how to bind a quilt with double fold binding by Love Patchwork & Quilting Magazine
- Double Fold Binding Tutorial: Part One by Canoe Ridge Creations
For the most part I bind my quilts in the same manner as the makers above, but since there are a few things I do slightly differently I thought I would give you a crash course on how I bind and why.
Chain Piecing Shortcut –
Once the required number of strips are cut I chain piece the short ends together, stitching on the diagonal. I don’t trim the selvedge off beforehand because it will inevitably be removed when trimming the seam allowance back to 1/4-inch.
Pressing matters –
I prefer to press all the seams open. Reducing bulk within a binding is important for both wear and tear, and ease of stitching. This is why it is better to join the binding strips on the diagonal rather than on the straight edge.
And I ensure the binding is pressed well, wrong sides together, with the edges aligned as close to perfect as possible. When I don’t fancy standing at the ironing board being fussy, I will machine stitch down the length of the folded binding with a tacking stitch, and then take it to the ironing board for a quick and easy press. (It is a little wasteful in the thread department, but sometimes if there is a lot of binding to be pressed, it is worth the extra step.)
Secure the perimeter –
The next important step is to make sure the perimeter of the quilt, once quilted, is secured. I use a large running stitch and sew approximately 1/8-inch from the outside edge.
If you have had a longarm quilter quilt the top for you, then your quilt may come home with this step already complete :).
Prepare the quilt –
This next step is where my method changes slightly.
For a full-sized quilt (not a mini quilt), I leave approximately 1/4-inch of batting and backing extended beyond the quilt top. The reason for this is to fill the binding.
This is also a great technique to use when you have external points in the quilt design that you don’t want the binding to interfere with. If you cut back exactly 1/2-inch from the tip of the point you give yourself 1/4-inch seam allowance and 1/4-inch binding fill. As long as you have at least 1/8-inch of fabric secured under your seam allowance no one needs to be any wiser if your points weren’t exact ;).
Do a test placement run –
Once the binding preparation is complete I lay the binding on the actual quilt. Paying attention to where the binding seams fall along the edge. If there are any seams near a corner of the quilt, I adjust the placement until the corners are clear.
This ensures that when it comes time to mitre or stitch the binding there is no additional bulk interfering with the corners.
A Wonder Clip at the starting point is then all I need to indicate where to begin attaching the binding.
Begin to stitch –
As you can see in the image below, I attach the binding with a 1/4-inch foot, and there is a 1/4-inch of batting extended beyond.
Side note – On my Pfaff sewing machine used in the image below, a dual feed system is used to feed the top and bottom of the fabric evenly. If you don’t have this type of set up you will require a walking foot.
I use a slightly longer stitch length to secure the binding. If a quilt is loved well by your family, it may one day be necessary to repair or replace the binding. In the past I have done both of these things for one reason or another, and a longer stitch length makes it easy to do so. Think of it as a simple way to aid the preservation of your hard work ;).
The final press –
Give the binding a quick press to be sure all is as it should be, and you have caught the edges securely in the seam allowance.
Secure binding to the back –
When it comes to the perfect finish I am partial to a hand stitched binding.
A machine stitched finish is efficient yet in my opinion it doesn’t compare to the look of hand stitching!
And hand stitching is a good excuse to sit down and relax while catching up on the latest shows ;)! (I plan to finish this binding while watching the TV series Poldark – any fans out there?)
Here’s a quick video I recorded a little while ago that shows how I tackle hand stitching the corners…
If you would like to see a video of how I attach binding strips to my mini quilts, and join the beginning and end pieces – check out the highlight reel in my Instagram profile!
This week’s sponsor:
This week, Kait from Knot & Thread Design is offering each participant in the QAL a chance to win their quilt top quilted. (The winner is responsible for their own shipping and batting.)
So, if you would like a chance to win, all you need to do is share your progress on Instagram – follow and tag @knotandthread.
Kait has also agreed to offer everyone who has participated a special discount of 20% off her quilting services.
And, don’t forget to use the hashtags #dmlqal or #downmemorylanequilt so I can see your lovely work too :).
If you missed the start of the quilt-along you can still purchase the pattern here.
I am excited to see all your beautiful quilts come to life.
Until next time – happy stitching!!
|Week 2||Piecing the blocks|
|Week 3||Continue piecing the blocks|
|Week 4||Quilt top assembly|
|Week 6||Backing and binding preparation|
|Week 7||Quilt Parade|