Scrappy quilt backs: Does she or doesn’t she?

It’s interesting to note people’s reactions to the idea of piecing a quilt back with more than one fabric. After three years as a quilt shop employee informally collecting response data for the survey question

Would you consider a scrappy back?

I would say the results indicate a near three-way split, with slightly more votes going toward the first of these categories:

1.         No, piecing a quilt back with scraps would shatter my life’s dreams.

2a.       Can you do that?

2b.       Hadn’t thought about it, but I’d consider it.

3.         Yes, it gives me an excuse to buy more fabric!

Regarding number one above, one quilter’s husband indignantly remarked to me one day after I suggested his wife make up the difference in yardage for her backing with leftovers from the top, “Well, that’s cheap!” First man I’ve ever met to declare unwittingly that money was no object when it came to his wife’s hobby, but okay.

I’m firmly in the third camp, enthusiastically embracing the idea of piecing a back with leftovers from the top, fat quarters or other suitable fabrics from my stash. Considering that I’m aging at a rate now measured in dog years and because I would sooner die than stop buying fabric, culling from my stash is a must.

So here’s the second installment of piecing the back for the blue/white lawn chair quilt with some general guidelines I’ve found helpful in the past:

1.        Square up your fabric pieces before sewing them together.

2.        Even if you don’t like pinning, use pins for long seams. No sense fighting it.

Pieces don't have to be the same size at this stage, just square (edges perpendicular).

Pieces don’t have to be the same size at this stage, just square (edges perpendicular).

3.       Use a ½” seam allowance.

I used a presser foot with a wide footprint to stabilize the layers and highlighted the ½" marking on the throat plate with blue painter's tape.

I used a presser foot with a wide footprint to stabilize the layers and highlighted the ½” marking on the throat plate with blue painter’s tape.

4.      Elongate your stitch length just a bit to minimize puckering on those long seams.

scrap backs lengthen stitch

5.      After sewing two pieces together, square up once again, this time, using the seam line as your guide.

Position a ruler line on top of the stitching line and trim both fabrics even with one another.

Position a ruler line on top of the stitching line and trim both sides.

6.      Press seams open.

scrap backs press open

7.        To easily find the straight grain of the 2¼-yard piece, make a one-inch snip at one end of the fabric width and tear off the selvage. Press the torn edge.

scrap backs large piece selvage

8.        Make sure the lengthwise grain for all fabric pieces runs in the same direction. It can run vertically or horizontally, but don’t mix.

scrap backs selvage

9.         Keep all selvages to the outside edge of the quilt. You don’t want a selvage trapped in the back—it creates a hard lump there, it’s difficult to quilt through and behaves poorly when washed. Keeping selvages to the outside also helps minimize raveling while quilting.

Will wrap this up tomorrow. Thanks for visiting.

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2 Comments

Filed under scrappy backs

2 responses to “Scrappy quilt backs: Does she or doesn’t she?

  1. Rhonda

    I have a question – should you elongate your stitch length with long seams on the quilt top as well?

    • Hmm, “should” is a really strong word in this instance, but to answer your question, yes, I do elongate my stitch length for extra-long rows of a quilt top, but again, just a little. Many of the details I share in this forum are picked up from reading how-to quilt books and magazine articles. If the tip makes sense I try it. If it works, it’s adopted; if not, I discard it and move on. One of the the purposes of this blog is to share with other quilters what works for me, but it’s certainly up to each individual to decide whether or not to incorporate what I do into her own quilting regimen.

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