My last blog post, I mentioned pieced backings, and how I like making them as leaders/enders, so the backing is finished before the front. For me, if I plan to make a pieced backing, but don't make the backing as I make the top, I usually end up caving and using yardage or even going and buying a wide back. I was asked how I like to piece my backings. Well, here is one of my latest backings.
I have a large stash of novelty prints I am trying to use up, left over from my scrub top making days. Rather than use yardage for the backing of a current quilt, I chose a theme, and am using up several sea themed fabrics (which complements the quilt top). In this case I did lay out the squares in a pattern, but I often go completely random.
I was asked what size pieces I like to use. For me, 10.5 inch cut squares are perfect. I first tried that size after reading about it here. I know Bonnie is often doing much scrappier backings than this these days, but I still prefer the 10.5" square method.
If I just need a bit of extra width or length for a backing using yardage, then I will add a row of orphan blocks to a backing. If I don't have appropriate yardage available, I try to choose a color or as above, a theme, and piece a backing from 10.5 inch squares. The thing about 10.5 inch squares, is that they finish at 10" so the math is simple. If I have a quilt top, say 65x82, and I want to make a backing using 10.5" squares, I just round to the nearest ten, and then drop the 0's. 65 rounds up to 70, drop the 0, and I need 7 squares across. 82 rounds up to 90, drop the 0, and I need 9 squares down. 7x9=63 so I need 63 squares for that backing. (Note-if you are 100 inches or over, only drop the last 0, or you are going to be wrong, so 100 inches would go to 10, not 1 ;-)
If my dimensions are really close to the next ten, say 89 inches, I would probably add a whole extra row, rather than sweat out centering it just perfectly.
So, the math is easy, but why else use 10.5" squares? Well, on most fabrics, if you have WOF, you can get four 10.5" squares with nothing left but the selvages, so you use it all. I like to cut borders length of grain when possible, so I often have long skinny pieces left, that are awkward to put back in stash. Or those times when you need 2.5 WOF for a backing you are using yardage on, and you end up with that weird long skinny piece left over? Those I cut up into 10.5" squares. Am I worried I will need that fabric for something else? NO, and here is why.
I have an Accuquilt Go! cutter, and here is a 10.5" square, sitting on top of a square die.
Can't see it? How about now? I can use almost any die I have with a 10'5" square, and if I trim off 1/2 " on two sides, I can use it for any layer cake pattern.
Need another reason? It's easy to find containers that hold 10'5" squares. 12" squares wouldn't fit in here, but these fit great. I only have one container of this size square, I've never needed another. This container holds enough squares to back about 4 queen sized quilts. If the container is getting full, it's time to piece another backing or two, which makes a considerable dent in the stack.
I also said I liked making the backings as leaders/enders. Anything much larger than this would become unwieldy pretty quickly, especially if I've got lots of small pieces all over my sewing cabinet from the front. I tend to piece the rows of the backing while I am working on blocks, but I sew the rows to each other when I am sewing the blocks of the front into rows. I basically am working a step ahead on the backing, and use other leader/enders in between times.
You may or may not like the look of pieced backings, but when I have given quilts as gifts, and they've had a pieced backing, I've only had positive responses. Most people are excited to have a "reversible" quilt, and can't believe you'd take the time to do that for them. You need never tell them you did it to clear out some fabric, or just to save some money. Just say you were glad to do it and move on.
I am making more and more pieced borders as well, and those I like to use as leader/enders while working on the quilt top as well.
I hope this helps someone. I've made it over five months without buying any fabric, and by piecing backings, it makes it easier to stretch that out considerably.
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