Beginner’s Guide to Machine Quilting: Choosing the Right Backing Fabric

Beginner's Guide to Machine Quilting: Choosing the Right Backing Fabric

You’ve made your quilt top and you’re ready to start quilting, but first you need a backing fabric. What do you choose? The days of using a plain sheet are long gone! There are so many choices available to quilters in color, pattern, and even size. I’m often telling my customers there isn’t one right backing fabric, you have to find the one that feels right to you. In the latest post for the Beginner’s Guide to Machine Quilting let’s take a look at what you should consider when picking your quilt’s backing fabric.

Size

Have you discovered “wide back” fabrics yet? They are 108″ wide (3 yrds!). That makes them super simple to use as backing fabrics. It is much easier to work with a fabric that doesn’t have a bunch of seams when you are machine quilting. In today’s quilting world we have so many wonderful fabric choices in the wide back world! You’ll find over 100 different bolts of beautiful wide backs in our shop. In fact, we have piecers who buy the special batik widebacks to use for piecing because it is cheaper to buy a yard of 108″ width batik then buying three yards of regular 42″ width quilters cotton!

Color

If you feel confident with your quilting, try a thread with a color that contrasts with your backing fabric

When selecting your backing fabric for your project, consider the color of the thread you’ll be using for your project. As a beginner, I highly recommend you run the same color in both your top and bobbin. This doesn’t mean you have to run the brand, weight or fiber type top and bobbin- just the same color. In fact, you could get away with a bobbin thread that is just slightly darker or lighter than the top thread without an issue. Just be cautious about running dramatically different colors top and bobbin because if your tension isn’t spot on, you may see little dots of the color on the back or top where you don’t want them.

When picking out your backing fabric for your project think carefully about the thread colors you’ll be running during the quilting. If you choose a backing fabric that matches the thread color it will all blend and give you a little forgiveness if you aren’t feeling confident about your stitching design. Staying in the same color family will help your quilting blend and give texture but you won’t be able to see the stitching lines as distinctly. If you are feeling more confident then select a solid fabric or contrasting color to your backing from the thread you’ll be running. Your quilting will really stand out on the backing fabric and you’ll wind up with a two sided quilt! 

Pattern and Print

A quilt backing fabric with a busy print will hide any wobbles and bobbles in your quilting

Solid colored backing fabrics will show off your quilting while fabrics with busy prints will hide mistakes. I tend to avoid white or light colored backing fabrics for utilitarian quilts only because I have three teenagers at home and I don’t want a fabric that will show dirt easily. For example, take a look at this fabulous patriotic themed backing fabric.  Can you see how either a blue or a cream thread will both melt into that busy print to forgive some of the wobbles and bobbles you may encounter? As a beginner, be kind to yourself and choose a fabric that will be your friend.

We have over 100 bolts of wide backs in our shop and we are busy trying to get them all added to our online store. Take a look at this one that would be perfect for a beginner. It is a little more whimsical and contemporary. It would be a great choice for a light grey or white thread. I really love it!

For more guidance on how to choose thread color for high contrast quilts be sure to read our article about selecting the right color thread.

This article is part of the Beginner’s Guide to Machine Quilting series. Click here for more articles in the series.

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