Quilt Back Tutorial #1 – Side-to-Side Method

I’m going to share two ways I make quilt backs when using a single fabric for the back. This tutorial is for Method #1: the fast and easy, side-to-side method. It works for non-directional prints.

Sketch the back and its dimensions on a piece of paper:

In this example, the quilt tops measured 48 x 60. 8 inches are added to the length and width to make life easy for the long arm quilter. If I plan to do the quilting myself on my home sewing machine I add 4 inches.

Draw a picture of the back, draw how the pieces will go together, calculate their finished sizes and then calculate the cut sizes (I use a 1/2 inch seam when piecing the backs). I then do the calculations a second time. I’ve made a LOT of cutting mistakes in my life!

Calculate the total amount of fabric required. This is easy in the side-to-side design. The 56″ width will run with the lengthwise grain (the lengthwise grain is parallel to the selvage edge). 56″ x 2 = 112″. Divide 112″ by 36″ to yield a 3 yard 4″ fabric requirement.

The top photo shows laying out the fabric and cutting the first 56″ piece of fabric (the width running with the lengthwise grain of the fabric). Take the fabric, fold it so the cut edges align, fold it again so you can fit it on the cutting board and whack off the selvages so the length (running with the crosswise grain of the fabric) measures 40 1/2″.

Cut a second 56″ piece of fabric:

This time when trimming the selvages the final length dimension will measure 28 1/2 inches. A remnant measuring approximately 56″ x 14″ will be leftover.

Here’s a layout of the pieces after they are all cut:

Check out this cool new trick I just learned. The leftover fabric from cutting the second piece is located in the upper left hand corner of the picture. That remnant will go into my stash with the selvage containing the name of the fabric intact. I never used to pay attention to which selvage edge I cut off. Now, when I have a choice I always preserve the one with the fabric name on it.

Now for the easy part, sew both pieces together along the 56″ edge:

View from the back:

View from the front:

Next up: Piecing a back with a directional print!

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15 Responses to Quilt Back Tutorial #1 – Side-to-Side Method
  1. Kristin L
    March 25, 2009 | 11:51 pm

    Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I do this a lot. I got a little crazy piecing backs from fat quarters and half yards but they were looking all leftover-y instead of interesting, so I’m back to investing in more yardage. I’m also liking the Denyse Schmidt trend of adding a strip of something coordinating (and maybe pieced) between the two main panels — but not too much — then I’d be back to leftover-y.

  2. Jen Eskridge
    March 26, 2009 | 4:49 am

    Great tutorial. I do piece my backs, from yardage, but I never thought to save the selvage edge. And let me just say- that is THE LONGEST cutting mat I’ve ever seen! Holy smokes. …cutting.mat.envy…

  3. Charlie
    March 26, 2009 | 5:33 am

    Yes, I agree with Jen. That is the longest cutting mat I have ever seen. I am guessing you put more than one end to end? Great tutorial. Thanks for the info. I never thought of it like that.

  4. Cindy
    March 26, 2009 | 5:35 am

    Good morning. I’m envious of your long cutting mat and table too. I hate working with a long piece of fabric on a 3′ mat!

  5. Kathy
    March 26, 2009 | 8:10 am

    About the cutting mat: I taped two mats together with duct tape in the middle. The table is definitely a luxury!

  6. jacquie
    March 26, 2009 | 8:53 am

    i have to tell you how much you are helping me again…this is making backs for the project improv quilts so much easier for me. i was going to ask about your cutting mat too…who’da thought about taping a couple together. great idea! thanks, as always!

  7. Lisa
    March 26, 2009 | 7:12 pm

    Yes, but I have LOVED your pieced backs with several different fabrics so much I think I may never again go back to a backing of only one fabric… the other way is so much more fun. Like a little unexpected surprise if you peek on the other side :)

  8. marty mason
    March 27, 2009 | 6:06 am

    This helped me bunches so decided to share your site on my blog.

  9. Cindi Huss
    March 27, 2009 | 8:10 am

    Hi–great tutorial, and love the fabric you chose!

    Re: saving selvage, I save long pieces of selvage to use as string, and the strips off backing are certainly long enough to be useful. When string might be too hard and fine for tying up plants, for example, selvage works great. I also use selvage as ribbon when I wrap presents in the funny papers–fun, cheap, and guilt-free.

  10. kris
    March 27, 2009 | 12:32 pm

    Thanks for such easy instructions. Love your taped together board.

  11. swooze
    May 21, 2010 | 12:32 pm

    I was googling a tutorial for John Flynn’s diagonal backings. This post was a great find. Never thought to piece the back the way you described and this methos requires a lot less yardage than the diagonal method.

    Thanks a bunch!!

  12. Trudy
    June 12, 2011 | 12:35 pm

    I just watched your tutorial for backing a quilt. Of course my fabric is directional. Did you do that tutorial? I didn’t find it.

    Thanks your tutorial was fantastic!

  13. healthy chocolate chip cookies
    August 28, 2011 | 7:35 pm

    Thanks for the ideas you share through this blog.

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