How to make a quilt back - modern or traditional

Yippee, you have finished your quilt top. Such a great moment, am I right? Now you want a quilt, yay! If you are bringing your quilt to a professional longarm quilter she will usually want you to provide the back and if you are quilting it yourself, you need a back. If this is your first quilt back or if you want to perk them up, then this How to make a quilt back – modern or traditional tutorial is for you.

qbre8Quick review – parts of the quilt.

Top done? Check

Batting a bit bigger than top purchased? Check

Onto the back.qbre1bis

First, a basic quilt back.

In other words, you need a big ole piece of fabric which covers your top and then some. The “then some” is really important as things will shift a bit. In Longarm quilting you need an even bigger “then some” as everything gets attached onto the machine and that requires fabric to work with.

qbre0Here’s a basic quilt back I made recently.

I am very happy with it because it complements the top, I love the fabric and even though I had to piece the fabric, it’s really hard to see where I did.  It’s a nice overall print that hid the seam.

Nowadays, I always use fabric I really like for the back. I didn’t always. I would buy sale fabric or cheaper fabric. But now I feel my quilts are worth premium backs. Plus I have a sister and a Dad who are constantly having the quilts out with the back side up. Solution: make those backs nice looking.qbre2

What if the fabric isn’t quite wide enough? (Length is never a problem, you just buy more.)

Simple solution – cut it down the middle of the back and insert a fun fabric. This is the back of a baby quilt I made for Zara. When I took it off the longarm I had 16″ to cut off the end. I made that piece into a pillow but this time the strip was in the front.

This little walk on the modern side inspired me.

qbre3For my hearts quilt, the middle strip of fabric I wanted to use wasn’t long enough and the main fabric was very lacking in width. A wider middle strip was needed and I had to make it longer.

I cut the strip I had into irregular pieces and measured how much more length I needed. I added 3 inches for seams and added 3 strips at irregular intervals. Then I sewed that strip down the middle.

I wanted then to do even more cutting up and adding strips in but the main back fabric had a lot going on itself so I stopped. But you can see where I am going, right?qbre4

This time I had scraps that were neither long nor wide enough. I calculated what I was missing and added strips on both side pieces and in the middle piece.

I even got all fancy on the first strip I added in. I sewed it all together and realized I hadn’t added in the extra to make up for seam allowances.

Oopsie! So I cut it apart and put the strip in that goes all the way across.

That is why I adore modern backs, you really can’t make a mistake.

qbre5But all this piecing fun does make creating a back a bit more time consuming.

Look at this one which I originally wanted to be the red striped fabric but I used it on the front. I cut it into 2 pieces and then cut one of those into two pieces. I was almost cross eyed keeping straight what I was working on.

I wanted the bottom to be off asymmetrical so I just cut a bit off one side. qbre6

You can see where I cut, combined, cut and combined.

This last one I sewed the wide strips with the narrow polka dot strips inbetween, cut it apart and flipped the strips plus placed them on different spots.

This last one was the most complicated and quite frankly, I didn’t know where I would end up until the whole thing was done.

Now I kind of like the back better than the front.

With modern quilting you can piece your back with the same or different fabrics. You can really make what you want as long as it’s wider and longer than the front.

And no matter what kind of back you choose to make, value yourself and your creative project enough to get quality fabric for this heirloom.

Valuing yourself and your creation, that makes me happy.

Sew happy!

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Here are posts for the front of the Christmas quilt, the baby quilt, the heart quilt, the really fancy back and the traditional back.

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    Kathy Mathews

    My passions are quilting and sewing. Add to that French, Spanish, books, swimming, travels, new restaurants, yoga and chocolate and you have me. All of these are best shared with family and friends. Except for chocolate, don't touch my chocolate. You can email me at

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