Thursday, January 3, 2013

Backing Material

Backing Material for quilts.  This seems like such a simple thing but it can actually be one of the most important when it comes to your finished quilt!

I wanted to talk about just a few things when it comes to backing material.

You can use just about any type of material for your backing material.  It all depends on what you like and for what quilting project you are doing.

Some of the most common types of backing material are:


Cotton Backing Material:

In my opinion is the easiest to work with.  You can pre-wash or not pre-wash before using it.  Depends on what you prefer.  

If you don't pre-wash:  I think it is easier to work with this material because the sizing is still in the material and it helps the material keep its shape and also makes the material smoother.  You will have some shrinkage after you wash your quilt for the first time and it may cause the front of your quilt to pucker and give it a used/antique look.

If you pre-wash:  This can be difficult in some ways but beneficial in others.  couple of difficulties I come across when using pre-washed backing is once the sizing is washed out of the material, your material is not as smooth and creases can occur while quilting if your not careful.  (the backing material will cling to the batting)  I quilted this up last week and had some issues with my backing material because it had been pre-washed:

Beautiful on the front.....not so pretty on the back:

I had to fix quite a few of the pleats....I wasn't able to fix a couple though.  So what happened is my backing material was clinging to my cotton batting and because I didn't go under my machine to check for the pleats to smooth them, I ended up with pleats.

How do you fix the pleats after it's been quilted?  It's not easy and sometimes impossible.  You have to un-stitch the pleated area and re-stitch by trying to ease in the extra fabric.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Of course by pre-washing you will not have as much shrinkage after the first time you wash your quilt and your quilting design will not pucker so much and will be shown more.

Cotton/Batik Material:  There are some beautiful batiks and many times I've used batiks for backing material.  I've never had a problem with using this material for backing.  I will say this though, my quilting stitched seem to lay on top of the material rather than sinking into the material and that is because of the way batik material is made.

Flannel Material:  A couple of things about Flannel for backing.  First and most important.  Always pre-wash flannel before using it.  Flannel will shrink a lot and you want to make sure you get most of the shrinkage out before using it for the back of your quilt.  It to will also not be as smooth and so you'll want to make sure you smooth it out as you quilt so you don't get pleats on the back of your quilt.  

Second, flannel is a thicker material and will make your quilts heavier.  This might make a difference when it comes to choosing the batting you use.  It also might make a difference with your binding.  You may want to give yourself another 1/4" for your binding.  This will make it easier for you when putting your binding on.

Fleece/Minky Material:   Usually you can use fleece and minky with know difficulties.  You do want to pay attention to a couple of things though.  First, make sure not to stretch it when using it.  Depending on the fleece/minky it may stretch in one direction (to check this, just simply pull it apart with your hands in both directions, you'll know which way it stretches more) and if you notice it does stretch then make sure you load it on the longarm the opposite direction or opposite sides it stretches.  That way when you advance your quilt you are not stretching the backing material also.  You want it to even sag a little just to make sure your not stretching it.  If you stretch it as you quilt, you may end up with a VERY crinkly top and it wouldn't be good.

Second,  some fleece/minky may pull up through the stitching holes to the quilt top while you are quilting and it usually looks really funny.  You could try matching the backing as close as you can to your quilt top, but I've found that after washing your quilt for the first time those little buggers wash back into the quilt and aren't noticeable anymore.  It also might make a difference with your binding. (your quilt may be thicker)  You may want to give yourself another 1/4" for your binding.  This will make it easier for you when putting your binding on.

Again feel free to share you thoughts, advice or opinions on this subject and of course these are just a few things I've learned over the years on using backing material and wanted to share them today.



  1. This is very helpful. I have been so scared to try minky on the back that I may just finally have to give it a shot!

  2. I am doing a quilt now with minky on the bottom and ultra suede on top. Just doing all over feathers for a little more elegant throw!

  3. One thing I would add on this subject would be to avoid inexpensive extra wide backings as they are made with a looser weave and let the batting beard as well as poke out of the needle holes. This is more noticeable on darker coloured backing fabrics.
    Also dark backing that are heavily dyed on the right side but not the wrong side, show white needle holes on the back.
    Can you tell I don't like dark backing!!

  4. Thanks for the wonderful tips. Although I'm a machine quilter, I find these tips very helpful. I've used minky as a backing and found it to be no trouble; I found using the right needle made a world of difference.

  5. Thanks for the great info. Do you have any thoughts/opinions on using bedsheets for backing? I know some completely avoid them and others have no issues...just wondering what your perspective was? :)

  6. I would also like to know your thoughts on using sheets as backing

  7. Question for Jackie M or anyone that knows. What IS the right needle for Minky?

  8. I really like to put minki on the back of my quilts. Sometimes I get thoses little dots and sometimes I don't. I think it depends on the minki. Some have a longer nap than others. I would also like to know what needle you like to use on minki.

  9. Wondering if it would help to starch a backing fabric after washing. That would be like putting sizing back in?
    Just found your blog and I'm enjoying it very much. I'll be learning on a new to me mid-arm and can use all the tips I come across. Thanks!