Let’s talk backing. Assembling your backing should be as painless and easy as possible. I don’t know about you, but by the time I get done with my quilt top, I want to spend as little time as possible on the backing. I’m too excited to have it done! Most patterns come with backing instructions and requirements, but just in case, here is the math to calculate how much you need!
Width of Quilt + 6″ = Minimum width of your backing
For Example: My quilt is 50″ wide + 6 inches = My backing should be at least 56″ wide.
Width of backing / 36″ = How many yards wide you need
Example: 56″ wide / 36″ = I will need my backing to be at least 1.556 yards wide.
Now, take the length of the quilt + 8″ = Minimum length of backing
Example: 60″ long + 8″ = My backing should be at least 68″ long.
Fabric typically comes in a 44″ WOF (width of fabric), your backing length will measure in increments of 44″. So, if you need at least 68″ of length on your backing, then you’ll need two rows of the width (1.556 yards), making the length 88″ long. Since you need two rows of the width (1.556 yards x 2), you would need to order a total of 3.112 yards. I would round up to 3.25 yards just to be on the safe side.
You can also get extra wide fabrics instead, which typically come in 102″, 108″ or 120″ wide. If you get something like this, then you would only need to buy the 1.556 yards.
Why the Extra Space Around the Backing?
As a longarmer, I have seen backings of all shapes and sizes. I am here to tell you that there IS a right and a wrong way to do it. In order to longarm your quilt, the longarmer needs to use the first inch or two at the top and at the bottom of the backing to pin to the canvas rolls. This holds the backing in place and centered. Then there are clamps on either side of the quilt which hold the sides and keep it stable while stitching. On top of all this, as the machine stitches, it causes some shrinkage of the fabrics. This is why there needs to be plenty of clearance and extra backing around your quilt top. If you cut your backing too close to the size of your quilt top, it could cause major problems and a frustrated longarmer.
So do your favorite longarmer a favor and give us those extra couple of inches all around!
Assembling Your Backing
Now that you know how much fabric you need, it’s time to piece it together. Follow the picture tutorial on how to get it all ready to go!
Special Note: Assembling Directional Fabric for Backing
What if you are one of the Type A’s out there (like myself) and want your directional fabric facing the same way as your quilt top, you’ll need to do it a little differently. It’s all done with the same math, but opposite directions. Since you’ll be working in increments of 44″ for your width and your length is the yardage you need.
Now, let’s take the same measurements we used for the previous example for a quilt that is 50×60. Since the top is 50″ wide, you’ll need two widths of fabric (each measuring 44″ for a total of 88″ wide). Here’s the math to find the yardage.
Length of quilt top + 8″ = inches needed
For example: 60″ long + 8″ = 68″ needed
Convert the 68″ into yards
68″ / 36″ = 1.889 yards
You need 1.889 yards in length, and you need two widths of fabric.
1.889yd x 2 = 3.778 yards needed. I would round up to 4 yards.
When piecing your backing the conventional way your seams will be horizontal, running from side to side. With directional fabric, your seams will be running vertically, from top to bottom. Be sure to press your seam. Since your backing is now way wider (88″) than is necessary, you should cut off the excess. It needs to be at least 6″ wider than your top, so it would only need to measure 68″.
88″ width – 68″ needed width = 20″ of extra width
20″ of extra width / 2 = 10″ to cut off of each side of the backing
By folding the backing in half along the seam, you can make one 10″ cut on both sides at once. Please be sure to take the extra step to cut off all that extra width to save your longarmer some time. We have to pin along the entire width, and 20″ of extra length is a pain! So help a sister (or brother) out!
I know when you quilt your quilts at home that you need to sandwich the layers together. Stop. You don’t need to do that for your longarmer. They are just going to pull the layers apart. Save yourself the time and effort. Just make sure all your seams are pressed well and your backs are straight and squared! I hope this helps you guys make great backings! Now go forth! Assemble those backings and make your longarmer proud!