Most of the time I can hardly get through a quilt top before I have a million other ideas lining up, so why should constructing a quilt back be any different?
In the past year I’ve been brainstorming ideas to get past this inspiration block. I’d like this step of the creative process to be as enjoyable as the rest, so I created myself a little list of ideas to inspire creative quilt backs. I thought I’d share.
My Go-To Quilt Back Ideas and Inspiration-
*Buy What You Love- Well duh. The most obvious, but not always the most economical is buying fabric you currently fancy. I only stock up on sale fabric if I would have paid full price for it. The longer it sits in stash the more my tastes change, especially in regards to color trends.
*On my bucket list is the technique of flawlessly matching seams so that two panels of the same print appear as one.
*Browse Flickr Quilt Backs Group or Pinterest Quilt Backs Board. This is usually powered with a few cups of tea and time to fall into the worm hole. Pinboards that collect images of Minimalist patterns can be very inspiring for building out your backs.
*Building a Quilt Back Out with Stash: This is a fun visual approach.
-Build On the Design Wall- Before I even take a quilt off the design wall I do a fabric pull from stash. Using the quilt as a template I start pinning the pieces on top of it until covered. I stare and move them around a lot until I have a desirable layout. Then I back into piecing to an extra 3″ per side larger than my quilt top.
–Taping Out- On the design wall or floor I tape out the size I need the back to be, not forgetting a little extra. I essentially do as above and build out with fabric pieces until it meets the tape and sew it all together.
–Magic Numbers– Magic Numbers are perfect for designing quilt backs, pattern free, especially if you’re not quite ready to improvisationally free piece or figure out the math. Magic Numbers is a system of using block sizes that automatically fit together for flexibility in design without alteration. You could go BIG with your block sizes. You can learn more about them here.
*BIG ASS Blocks: This is probably my favorite to use with large prints. I generally border or log the centers of the blocks with a contrasting solid so they show up nicely.
*Leftovers. Using cast-off little bits from the front is a good way to start a back. When I go this route I sometimes like the back better than the front.
*Slice and Insert- This is a great technique if I just need some width or length to my quilt back. I slice yardage vertically or horizontally (so I have two pieces) and insert a width/length of fabric needed.
*Words or Phrases: I generally improv these, but you could easily make your own paper pieced patterns.
Flannel: Flannel is my go-to, I can never go wrong with flannel. It’s perfect for Seattle, all seasons for the most part.
*Improvisational: “Play is the highest form of research.” -Albert Einstein
Often I can get inspired by allowing myself the opportunity to play. That new technique or block I’ve been thinking about? I try it now. Loads of seams mean an opportunity for them to come apart while quilting, so I stay-stitch the perimeter of the quilt back if I choose this option.
*My Solution if I Still Don’t Like It: If I just think it’s boring I slice it either vertically or horizontally (which ever direction I think it needs) and then I switch up the large pieces.
Most of these quilt backs merge two or more of these ideas. Then I’ve got my basting tool kit ready to go and a podcast lined up. Just in time for me to overthink how I’m going to quilt it;)
It’s all a cycle of motion and action Peeps!
Beautiful!! Thank you for the inspiration!! I would also love to know what your go-to batting is. After using one that pilled on the outside of the quilt after washing (AAAAH!!!) I love to hear from others what their favorites are.
Hi Rachel, That’s a total drag! I love wool or Quilters Dream. They quilt nicely and don’t hold folds.
Thanks!! Much appreciated!
Sharon Collins says
My friends in my old guild & I loved the quilt backs! You could see the quilting so well. The backing were interesting, too. Now they are better than I ever dreamed they could be. Thank you for sharing.
Oh that’s so great!
I was taught that integrity is when the back is as good as the front. Looks like you nailed it.
It’s a good standard to aspire to;)
Victoria Peabody says
OK Katie! Now you have hit my sweet spot! Backings! Oh how I get upset at a guild meeting or show and tell and they proudly show the front of the quilt and then promptly fold the quilt and take away. Are they ashamed of the back? Did they just throw something on it? The bigger question is…Or did they just not think we are interested in a backing? Even if it isn’t pieced…most spend a lot of time, consideration and money to ensure we have a cohesive quilt (that includes the backing). So after all of that I Thank you for dedicating the entire email to the subject. There is so little that comes up If you google quilt backing ideas. So Thank you again! BTW Shouldn’t you be building a new book for us on quilt backings? Gee! what a concept from someone as talented as you!
P.S. Alice struck the right cord with this…”I was taught that integrity is when the back is as good as the front”.
I thought that was well said as well. I’ve heard it for clothing, but haven’t applied it to quilting and it’s so true;)
Beautiful!!! Such great ideas – I love your work!! <3
Thanks for your kind words!
Lots of great ideas! I’m going to link to you post from my next newsletter. Thanks!
Thanks Debbie;) xo
Thank you for a bit of instant inspiration for the backing of an improv scrap quilt I’m just finishing off tonight!! I’m completely ready to dive into the back improv now!! Great timing. and great ideas.
Glad to help! xo
Wonderful quilt backs ! I’m already using up leftover blocks and different fabrics from my stash, but I love the idea of trying new ideas… I’ll have to try that too :-))
Beautiful ! nice choices of materials…
Pattie C. says
OMG your backs are so coordinated with the top’s colors. Do you pull the back fabric as you are picking out fabric for the front or do you just have such an amazing stash that you always find just the right thing?
My stash is out of control, but it is getting smaller;)
Gail hyde says
Oh I wish I had seen this BEFOREHAND I backed the quilt I am working on now. It could have been so much better using your ideas,,,,next time, I have gone one step beyond the backing and just made two “fronts” or tops, batting in the middle and quilted,,,,
I just want them done to move on to the next quilt,
Thank you so very much for the inspiration loved them
There will always be the next quilt! Unusually before you have the current one done;)
Unless I read the words (which I tend to do) I would have never known this was about quilt BACKS. They are all just stunning. Worthy of front.
Thanks, you are always so kind;)
Thanks, Katie! This is great. When you are fitting large and small pieces to fill your taped space, do you worry about just sewing them together without specific measuring?…I worry about “flapping” or wavy seams that may create a basting and quilting problem.
Good question. I always trim the pieces square and I do use a tape measure if needed;)
This is such a great post. Thank you, my small business sells only crib size quilts due to my disdain for piecing quilt backs… After all I’ve JUST finished piecing the top! With this post, I feel like I could possible spread my wings (and my quilt sizes!) in the coming months! Thanks again x
Good luck with your business!
Love this post Katie, your work is beautiful. I’m in the process of making three quilts, two tops are done, and I’m looking for ideas for pieced quilt backs using fabrics from the front. You have given me so many ideas. Thank you.
Thanks Barbara. Always good to have more inspiration than you need!