If you haven’t been following along, I’ve been blogging the process of an amateur’s approach to a patchwork quilt. Today I am talking about the backing to my quilt and how I prepped my quilt for the quilting process.
When it comes to the backing of a quilt, it can be as simple or complex as you like. Many quilts just have a simple solid back – you could stick with a classic white, a bold color, or even a fun pattern. OR if you’re feeling adventurous you could add a design on the backside as well.
In my case the backing was the whole inspiration for my quilt, so I decided to design a special back for two reasons: 1. I wanted to make the Muppets characters stand out and 2. I didn’t have enough fabric to cover the whole back anyways.
After much deliberation I decided to do a central box with the Muppets sheets with a patchwork border, and a patterned outer border to fill the rest of the space.
The Muppets Rectangle
I started by looking at my sheets. (If you’re new, these are my childhood bedsheets and I was inspired to turn them into a quilt for my daughter.) I had a fitted sheet and a top sheet to work with. Unfortunately the fitted sheet was very worn in the middle and the design was very faded, so I needed to work around that part. In the end I decided to take the design from the top sheet and put it in the middle. I took two rows of Miss Piggy’s from the fitted sheet and put them above and below it. I made it as wide and tall as the original sheets would allow. I had to “patch” two corners in for design continuity to make it match the width of the other squares. I’m sorry I am being vague – this part was actually quite complicated due to varying factors – a worn out middle sheet, the missing corners on the fitted sheet after I removed the elastic, a repeating design, etc. I was going to explain it more thoroughly but realized it will apply to virtually no one since this part of the project is unique to my needs.
SO all you really need to know is I turned the sheets into a 45×62″ rectangle of fabric. (But if you have any questions just comment below or email! I’m happy to explain further.) Sorry for the terrible photo – I was doing this very late at night!
The Patchwork Border
After I finished my topside, I had around 6 squares of each fabric leftover. I decided to use them as a border on the backside. But since I didn’t have enough to go all the way around with my 4″ squares, I decided to cut them in half as use them as a brick shape.
To save myself a lot of time, I sewed them together first and cut after. I sewed the squares into a long strip of squares (rotating between green, pink, white), snipped the thread tails, and ironed down the seams. Then I used my rotary cutter to cut down the middle – 2.25″ wide each strip.
(Note: Since my outer border was the pink triangle fabric I removed it from the patchwork border. Instead I alternated between my two other fabrics with a white background.)
I started by sewing on the bottom edge of the Muppets rectangle and went around clockwise. I wanted to end on the bottom right corner to best hide any mistakes (kind of like wallpaper – where will your mistake be the least noticeable!?). With a bit of moving strips up and down I was actually able to end each side on nearly a full rectangle – a very happy accident.
Taking my very long strip of brick shapes, I held up my strip along the side of the Muppets rectangle I wanted to sew. Then I cut it with scissors at the end and sewed it on. This gave me sharp corners to start my next side.
The Outer Border
After debating solid white, light pink or a pattern, I ended up going back to Joann’s to buy 4 more yards of the pink triangle fabric for the outer border. I didn’t think new white fabric would match the white part of old sheets, light pink felt too delicate when compared to the bold topside, and dark pink or green felt like it was competing with the Muppets too much. In the end it was kismet – the pink triangles was the only fabric I used on the front I could still find at the store and I bought the very last of it!!
(Here is where I give a shoutout to my friend Audrey for taking the time to watch about 700 snaps of me asking for her opinion on basically every possible design scenario on this quilt backing. I was hemming and hawing and bouncing my ideas off her was super helpful. Thanks Audge!)
After washing, drying, and ironing my fabric I began to cut it into 4 pieces – top, bottom, left, and right borders. I cut the pieces so there were a few extra inches on all sides to make sure I didn’t end up with a backing that was too small, and I sewed them on as well. I figured out my measurements by measuring the Muppets + Patchwork border and subtracting that from the overall quilt size I wanted. Then I added a few inches for good measure. It’s much easier to trim off excess fabric then to add more in!
And now we celebrate! The top and backing are both done. It’s time to prepare for quilting!
Preparing Your Quilt for Quilting
From here on out how much of this process you do yourself is up to you. Many professional quilting services will provide the batting, thread, and can put the binding on for you. It all depends how much you’d like to pay. Also, your professional quilter may have specifics types of batting or thread they need to use.
Because of this, it’s best to first figure out how you’d like to have your quilt quilted. “Quilting” is the topstitching that holds the topside, batting, and backside together. You will want to choose a method – three that I’ve used before are machine quilting (doing it myself on my regular old sewing machine, long arm quilting (professional quality, lots of available stitching patterns), or hand quilting (lots of work, but beautiful!)
This time around I considered having a fun hearts and flowers stitching pattern. I priced out a few long arm quilters – you can generally expect professional long arm services to cost 2 cents/sq inch, so around $150 for a quilt my size. But in the end I decided to go with the woman who hand-quilted my men’s dress shirt quilt, she did such a beautiful job and I knew the hand-quilting would look extra special on this quilt. Because she does quilting as a past-time, she also charges less. My quilt cost $90 for a fairly simple handquilting pattern.
But before we get there, I was to do some of the prep work myself.
First you’ll want to choose your batting. I decided to try a new kind of batting this time around – a natural cotton batting that is less squishy than what I’ve used in the past. Less fluffy batting = less puffy quilting and I wanted this one to look a bit flatter. I bought a queen size batting from JoAnn’s and cut it down to match my patchwork topside. (The twin size was slightly smaller than what I needed.) You can also buy by the yard, but with the 50% off coupon it costs about the same.
After a lot of research, I decided to wash and dry the batting. Quilters debate which way is better and I’m a beginner, so I don’t know which way is the better way. BUT, I decided that I was too worried about the batting shrinking strangely after the quilt was finished, so I decided to go for it.
I used a basting spray for the first time to get my batting and quilt to stick together. It was helpful, but I’m not sure I’d bother next time. I think using safety pins is just as easy and it’s easier to tweak misaligned fabric. (You should also ask your quilter how they’d like the quilt to come. I didn’t realize until I dropped my quilt off that I didn’t need to pin OR baste it for her.)
However, if you’re interested in spray basting your quilt, here is an video with a basic overview.
I will do the binding myself at the end, but if you are choosing to have your quilter put on the binding you’ll want to choose the binding fabric as well.
Lastly is you’ll want to choose a quilting thread color. This can be a huge element of your quilt that it’s easy to forget about! You will want to pick a color that will either blend with your fabrics, or maybe go wild and pick a pop of color. I decided to go with a light pink thred.
I dropped my quilt off last month and I’ll pick it up next week! I decided to go with a simple “X” through all the patchwork squares as the quilting design. I can’t wait to see it!!!!