Category Archives: scrappy backs

Triple finish

Done, done and DONE! Finally, I finished two UFOs and all eight Santa place mats. I hadn’t done any machine quilting since before we moved in 2014, so I chose smaller projects to ease myself back into the groove.

I admit, shame was the motivating factor for crossing the finish line, particularly since each of these projects was started around the turn of the century. First is the 42″ x 42″ Fences ‘n Firs wall hanging.

Designed by Susan Preglow and Cathy Slatterly, the pattern for this was featured in the January 2000 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.

I loved the scrappy nature of the design, but as a newbie quilter back then, I had no stash and no scraps, so I used fat quarters and standard, quarter-yard cuts to piece the top. Now, 17 years later, I can’t imagine my quilting life with no stash, although I could definitely embrace the no-scraps aspect of it!

Quilting this little project was an exercise in one step forward, two steps back. Besides not knowing for the longest time how to quilt the tree blocks, once I did figure it out, I ended up re-quilting all 12 of them because I hated the way they looked. The nylon thread I had used just didn’t look right, so I ended up using matching thread. Tension issues led me to quilt nearly half of them yet a third time.

On top of that, I’m hoping the stain in one of the rail fence blocks hasn’t permanently set in.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there; it’s possibly an acid stain from the packing paper the quilts were wrapped and stored in while we moved and built our house. More likely, it was caused by a Texas cockroach (no amount of pest control keeps them ALL away). Disgusting, I know.

The backing is pieced with leftovers from the top:

I used a simple cable design for the border:

Here’s a look at the free motion machine quilting of a tree from the back:

and a maple leaf:

The vertical lines running through the leaf are the ditch quilting lines inside the rail fence blocks.

My machine quilting is definitely improving, but I still find it intimidating.

My second finish is this simple, 46″ x 54″ quilt:

There must’ve been a perfectly good OCD reason for the last square in the bottom row to be red instead of blue, but so much time has passed, I don’t remember what it was.

The squares are quilted with diagonal lines spaced two inches apart and the sashing strips and border are quilted with a single cable design.

It’s made with Aunt Grace Christmas prints, which were available between 1996 and 2001.

Check out these vintage cuties:

Here is the backing fabric:

The only two places I could have bought these prints is Houston or a little shop in Estes Park, Colorado. The striped fabric used for the binding was purchased at the Houston Quilt Festival in the early 2000s.

Completing the binding for all eight Santa place mats is the third and final finish. Here they are with their matching table runner:

Although the curved edges in this project required it, I discovered that I’m not fond of working with bias binding!

It feels good to say “done,” but there’s still a lot on the list, so I’d best keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks for checking in!


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Scrappy (and pretty) in pink

Last week I pulled all the leftover pink batik cuts from my pink lawn chair quilt to piece the backing for it.

pink white lawn chair quilt

I love the challenge of piecing the puzzle and the satisfaction of using up my stash.


Here is the binding:


Thanks for checking in!

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Not just a top, a quilt

I’m celebrating today because I finished Railroad Ties last night while waiting up for Ross to come home.

Railroad Ties front

The chevron design is John’s, and while it looks difficult to piece, it’s not at all when you sew partial seams.

I purchased plenty of extra fabric in case something went wrong during the construction phase of developing the pattern for this design. Turned out there was plenty left for a scrappy back, which I tend to favor.

Railroad Ties back


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Scrappy quilt backs: the finish line

The first step to completing the quilt back’s puzzle was to sew the extension pieces from the top to the three short pieces, trim both sides

puzzle trim

and press the seams open.

puzzle press seam open

The next step was to lay them out in an appealing order, pin, stitch

puzzle two panels pinned

and press the seams open.

puzzle two panels stitched

It was tempting to pretrim the long pieces, but I didn’t. I continued stitching the fabric sections together

puzzle pin small to large panel

until I had one continuous length.

Caption: Before I added the fabric that's second from the top, I was short the 79" length by 13". With it, however, the measurement grew to 83", four inches greater than needed, but that's okay. In fabric world, better to have too much than not enough.

Before I added the fabric that’s second from the top, I was short the 79″ length by 13″. With it, however, the final measurement grew to 83″, four inches greater than needed, but that’s okay. In fabric world, better to have too much than not enough.

Time to trim the 83″ unit. Yes, I did this the hard way. I joined all my cutting mats together with blue painter’s tape.

puzzle cutting mats taped

The width of each of the three pieced panels from top to bottom was

  • 22½”
  • 22⅞”
  • 23⅝”

Even though I only needed 20″ plus ½” seam allowance, I erred on the side of caution and trimmed everything to 22¼”. That little bit of extra width is not going to hurt anything.

I positioned a ruler line along each seam joining two panels and marked off 22¼” from the selvage edge.

puzzle marking

With the marks as guides, I trimmed the excess, once again positioning a ruler line on a seam line to do so.

puzzle final trim

I pinned the right panel to the left panel,

puzzle final pin

accordion folded it for easier handling,

puzzle accordian fold

and stitched the last seam using a ½” seam allowance, pressing the seam open.

When I laid the completed backing on the floor again, my bubble burst when I noticed all the hills in the big hunk of batik on the left.

puzzle done

I’ve never done a quilt backing with such a large piece of batik. Although I washed it beforehand, it’s still exceedingly stiff and likely the reason for those hills. Darn!

This hiccup with the batik is not going to discourage me from making more quilts with scrappy backs because I’ve had good success with the ones I’ve made so far. When it’s time to layer, I’ll take a little extra time and care smoothing and clamping the backing to the table; after all, quilting is a process and every one provides a learning experience. I resolve to embrace this one.

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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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Piecing a scrappy quilt back

We’re having another snowstorm today, and when I saw the cool snowman the boys next door made, I ran out to snap a photo. You can also see their fort in the background. They were all just too cute!

That's Ryan in the green coat and Andrew in front of him plus their two friends Arvan and Aryan.

That’s Ryan in the green coat and his younger brother Andrew in front of him plus their two friends Arnav and Aryan.

This past week, I managed to sneak a few minutes each day to piece the binding for the blue/white lawn chair quilt, using leftovers from the top. It was fun putting together my first scrappy binding, the goal being to use up as much fabric as possible and not buy anything new.

binding blue lawn chair

Here’s how I figured yardage for the backing:

First, I made a sketch on graph paper with 10 squares to the inch.

lawn chair backing diagram

The inside rectangle represents the size of the top which is 60″ x 75″. Quilting on your home sewing machine requires the addition of only two inches on each side, which brings the dimensions for the backing to 64″ x 79″. That’s the outer rectangle.

79 ÷ 36 = 2.194….round up to 2¼ yards.

Since I didn’t want to use white for the backing, I did go shopping (no arm twisting needed) for a medium to light blue batik and found this:

new blue batik for back

That takes care of the length, but only 44″ of the 64″ width. I have to make up another 20″ of width.

Instead of spending $25 to $30 on another 2¼ yards and having to store a 24″ x 81″ piece when it was all done, I dug through my stash to see if there was anything I could use to make up the difference. Here is what I found.

back with 4 fabrics on right

Even with these four pieces, I’m about 13″ short of the 79″ length. Don’t want to venture out in the snowstorm, so I returned to my stash and found this:

stash batik for back

It has some blue in it, so I declare it suitable.

back with 5 fabrics on right

Now there’s enough length for the right side of the back, but I’ll have to trim the two long pieces and build out the three short pieces a bit to get them to measure 20″.

No problem. There are still these remnants left from the top:

blue remnants

I like these:

build out1

build out2

Tomorrow I’ll talk more about scrappy backs and offer some helpful guidelines on piecing them.

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