Preparing Your Backing for Quilting


When preparing your backing, the fabric used to back your quilt should be good-quality, 100% cotton. If you prewashed the fabrics in the quilt top, prewash the backing fabric also. When hand quilting, you should always prewash backing fabric to remove the sizing. This allows for greater ease in moving the needle in and out of the fabric.

If you plan to hand quilt or to quilt with a home sewing machine, the backing should be at least 4″ larger than the quilt top on all sides. If your quilt top is 80″ x 80″, for example, the backing should measure 88″ x 88″. The extra fabric allows for any slight shifting or “shrinkage” that might occur during quilting. It will also allow for any irregularities in the size of the quilt itself.

If you plan to quilt with a long-arm machine, most manufacturers recommend that the backing measure at least 6″ larger than the quilt top on all sides.

Caution Never Use a Bed Sheet

Using extra-wide fabrics in specialty widths -90″, 108″, and 120″ – eliminates the need to piece the backing. If you prefer to piece the backing and you plan to machine quilt your project, think about doing something creative. Try piecing the back with excess fabrics from the front. Pieced backings are a great way to use up leftover fabric and any extra quilt blocks.

Pieced Backings

If you decide to piece the back of your quilt, be careful to position the grain lines of the fabrics appropriately. Also, pay attention to the colors of the fabrics. You don’t want darker fabrics shadowing through to the top, which is especially a concern if you’ve chosen a thin batting.

When using continuous yardage to piece a backing, the following method always produces good results. To make a backing that measures approximately 80″ wide, measure the length of the quilt, adding an extra 4″ to the top and the bottom. For example, if your quilt length is 72″, you would add 4″ to the top and 4″ to the bottom, resulting in a total desired length of 80″. Cut two equal lengths of 42″ -wide fabric to that measurement and place the pieces right sides together. Using a 3/4″ seam allowance, sew the pieces together along both long edges. Trim away the selvage edges, leaving at least a 1/4″ seam allowance. Align the sewn seams one on top of the other and press along one folded edge. Cut on the fold. Open the fabric and press the seam allowances open.

Seam Allowances

To piece a backing that measures approxi1nately 120″ wide, you’d simply need to sew three widths of 42″-wide fabric of appropriate length together. Also, be aware that a backing can be pieced either vertically or horizontally, so you’ll want to evaluate your quilt to ensure the most efficient use of fabric.

Seam Allowances Pressed Open


Marking Your Quilt for Quilting

How to Mark Your Quilt for Quilting

Marking for Hand Quilting or Quilting on the Home Sewing Machine

When marking your quilt design on a quilt top, you’ll need to choose a marking tool and a transfer method.

Marking Tools

A variety of marking tools are available to quilters.


Choosing a Marking Tool

To mark a quilt top for hand quilting or quilting on a home sewing machine, use a marking tool that is visible but easily removed. There are a number of marking tools to choose from.

Mechanical and quilter’s pencils: A sharp pencil is the most common marking tool. A high-quality mechanical pencil with a 0.5 mm lead works well and always maintains a sharp point. A silver quilter’s pencil creates a line that is visible on dark fabrics, and the markings wash out easily. Regardless of what kind of pencil you use, remember to mark lightly.

Chalk pencils: Chalk pencils are available in several col­ ors and show up clearly on dark fabrics.These pencils can be sharpened to a fine point without crumbling, and they flow smoothly across fabric. When using a chalk pencil, mark the quilt top after layering it with the batting and backing. Mark as you go because the chalk rubs away easily.

Testing on ScrapsMarking pens: Pens with disappearing ink can be found in both air-soluble and water-soluble types. All of these pens come with specific instructions and precautions for making the lines disappear. When using a disappearing­ ink pen, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly.

Masking tape: Masking tape is useful for marking straight lines and grids. It comes in several widths and can be used to mark small areas at a time. Be sure to remove the tape at the end of each quilting session, since it can leave a residue if left in place for a long period. If you want to mark a quilt top with masking tape, do so after layering the quilt top with the batting and backing.

Tracing the Design

Once you’ve selected the right marking tool, the next step is to trace the design onto your project. Trace the quilting design onto the quilt top before basting your quilt.

When marking light-colored fabric that you can see through, place the pattern sheet under the area to be marked. Using masking tape, secure the design to a hard surface. Place the area of the quilt to be marked over the design and anchor it in place with vveights or tape. Trace the design directly onto the fabric, remembering to mark lightly.

When working with medium-value fabrics, use tape or clamps to secure the pattern sheet to a light box. Place the quilt top over the pattern sheet and then trace the design onto the fabric, repositioning the quilt top as needed.

For dark fabrics, you can mark directly on the quilt top by tracing around a hard-edged template. To make a template, trace the design motif onto template plastic, and then cut it out along the outer edge of the motif. Place the template on the fabric and trace around it. Add the inner and connecting lines of the design by drawing them freehand on the quilt top. The template method is time-consuming, and I rarely use it.


6 Tips and Tricks Every Quilter Should Know

6 Tips & Tricks Every Quilter Should Know

By Mary Covey

I recently read the following post by Sherri McConnell titled “Tips and Tidbits” from her blog.  Sherri offers 6 tips and tricks every new (or seasoned) quilter should know. I really enjoyed her pictures and her very useful tips her grandmother shared with her many years ago.

Whether you are a beginning quilter or a seasoned one, you will enjoy this practical advice.

Enjoy reading and have fun with your latest project!




Quilting Tips and Tidbits

It’s actually been many years ago now that I received my first lessons in quilting from my grandmother, and many of the tips she shared with me on that sunny afternoon are bits of information I use daily in my quilting…twenty some years later. Here is a round-up of my favorite tips and tidbits to share with new quilters: these are review for seasoned quilters but are simple steps that can make a big difference for new quilters just joining in and learning all about this amazing past time.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

This was the first thing I learned from my grandmother and one of the tips that helps me most in my daily quilting. It’s a simple rule, but it really does work. A good start…including accurate cutting and measuring…is essential to a good finish.


Know Your Seam Allowance

Know Your Seam Allowance

My grandmother also told me to use a 1/4″ seam allowance for all of my quilting (unless directed otherwise by a pattern), but it was a few years later while taking a class at a local quilt shop that I learned what this really meant. A wonderful teacher showed me that my seam allowance was actually a thread or two bigger than 1/4″ which resulted in some of my piecing being just a bit off (those 1/16″ inch variations can really add up in a big quilt)! So measure your seam allowance periodically to make sure you’re on track. You can adjust your needle to the right or left if necessary, obtain a 1/4″ seam guide, or use painters tape to mark the true 1/4″ line on your machine.


Pin and Mark

Keep it Together: Pin and Mark

Somewhere along the line pins seem to have received a bad reputation. While it does take a little longer to pin…the results can be wonderfully surprising. Although it isn’t necessary to always use pins, if you’re having trouble with matching seams or getting a lot of different points to match up, pins might be the best solution. While I don’t always use pins for simple chain-piecing, I always use them if there is something that needs to be lined up.

Properly marking is important, too. Use a pencil to mark on the wrong side of light fabrics or chalk for darker fabrics to mark lines for half square triangles and corner square (“flip and sew”) corners. While it often looks like it’s going to be just fine if you “eyeball” it, marking can also improve accuracy by leaps and bounds.


Fabric Preparation

Fabric Prep

Fabric preparation is another step some quilters like to skip: after all, most quilters love fabric so much they just want to jump right in and sew. But your fabric may need pressing before cutting, and this can be especially important when using pieces from fat eighth and fat quarter bundles. Just think of it as a little extra time you get to spend with the fabric!

Some quilters like to use steam when pressing their fabric for the first time. This can cut down on shrinkage later on–an important step especially when working with lots of pieces or smaller pieces. An additional step many quilters use is to both starch and press their fabrics before beginning any project. Whether or not to pre-wash your fabrics is another decision to make before beginning. Although I pre-wash only when I’m going to use fabric for garment construction, there are many others who pre-wash all of their quilting cottons.


Quilted Pillow

Handle with Care

Fabric can be stretched, and if your fabric is stretched enough your blocks might end up distorted. Use care when handling bias edges: don’t fear working with triangles for half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles, and flying geese … just handle with care to prevent stretching.

2014-08-20 10.48.01

Handle with Care

I do have one final tip, and it’s my favorite one to share. Enjoy yourself while you are sewing and quilting. Your projects are yours, and they should bring you great joy while you’re working…quilting is the best hobby!

What is your favorite advice for new quilters…?

#Tipsandtricks #quilting #sewing


How to De-Clutter Your Work Space

By Mary Covey

Tips and Tricks

Organize your stash –

I have always considered myself a pretty organized person. In my previous life, everything you did had to be documented to perfection. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place”.  Then I started quilting. At first I followed my work motto to include quilting. But after kids left home and it was just John and I, all I had to do was close the door to the quilting room and no one would see the mess. I would pick up things and store them neatly from time to time until my next project. This was not a very good system. Instead of using precious free time to sew I was looking for things and picking up my mess from the last project. So I decided to put my work practices back into my quilting.

Here a few tips that helped me make a place for everything (i.e. de-clutter your work space):

Organized supplies

How to Organize Your Supplies –

1. Downsize your stash the same way you clean out your closet. Donate the fabric that you will never use to a charity that makes donation quilts like Quilts of Valor or Hearts and Hands.

2. Organize your fabric. I organize mine by color. Some of my friends organize their fabric by type. An example would be all the flannels together, all the batiks together, etc. If you don’t have a lot of space use stackable, clear storage boxes.

3. When I am finished with a project, I cut leftover pieces into my own stash of precuts – 2 1/2″ squares or strips, 5″ squares, 3″ strips – well your get the idea. I put these into large zip lock bags with the size written on the outside. I line the bags up in empty shoe boxes where they are easily visible. Next time I am making a quilt, I look through these precuts first. I know it will be hard but discard all the tiny little pieces that are unusable.

4.Organize supplies into clear plastic jars that are available at places like Target for about a dollar depending on the size. Put all your scissors, seam rippers, and snips in one – all marking pens and pencils in another -rotary cutters in another.

5. Once your sewing/crafting area is organized it can be a big challenge to keep it that way. Make a habit of putting things back immediately after you use them. It may take a few uses  to develop these practices, but in the long run you will have more time to sew!

#quilting #tipsandtricks #organization