• The Back Of Your Quilt

    Many quilters like to piece a backing for their quilt. Pieced backings are very popular on art quilts but can be equally beautiful on a traditional quilt. And the back of the quilt may be totally different than the front.

    Sometimes a quilt back is pieced as intricately as the front. Other times it is much more simple and in fact may be only utilizing the fabrics that are leftover from the piecing the front. A creative backing may also be pieced because there is a shortage of the chosen backing fabric.

    Scrappy quilt backing

    To piece the back of a quilt using scrap fabric remaining from the front. Trim fabric pieces available making as large a rectangle or square that is possible. Lay them out on a table. Move them around and place the fabric pieces in any direction needed to make that particular piece fit. Trim and add pieces as necessary.

    When enough fabric pieces are spread out to make the backing large enough, begin stitching them together. Stitching a 1/2" seam is preferable for the backing. Then press the seams open so they will lay extra flat. Also seams pressed open will be easier to quilt. Trim and add pieces as necessary.

    Using some yardage with leftover pieces

    Sometimes you have only one 44" wide length of fabric that you wish to use on the back. Cut this length in half parallel to the selvages along the center fold line making two 22" wide strips the length of your quilt. Cut your scrap pieces into strip widths. They could all be the same width or of different widths. Then stitch your strips piecing leftovers together, trimming even. Stitch this pieced section in the center between the long 22" wide yardage strips. You have a great pieced backing with a minimum amount of effort.

    When you are layering quilts with a pieced backing you will want to be careful to center the backing wrong side up on the table. Place batting next and then center the quilt top right side up. This way the pieced area will be centered when the quilt is finished.

    After the quilt is quilted you might wish to make two sided binding to finish your two sided quilt.

    Two Sided French Fold Binding

    When the back of the quilt is a very different color than the front of the quilt, it might be difficult to find a binding fabric that would be compatible to the colors and fabrics on the front and also the colors and fabrics on the back of the quilt.

    When this is the case a pieced binding might be called for. A pieced binding is very simple to make and takes only a small amount of extra fabric and minimal amount of extra time.

    Here is how to make a pieced double fold or French fold binding. Strips may be cut from crosswise or lengthwise grain. Cut strips of binding fabric that you wish to be on the front of the quilt 1" wide -- piece the length as necessary. Cut strips of binding fabric that you wish to be on the back of the quilt 2" wide -- piece the length as necessary

    With right sides together, stitch the front binding strips to the back binding strips using a 1/4" seam. Press seam toward the narrow (front) strip. Binding is now 2 1/2" wide.

    Fold binding in half lengthwise wrong sides together. Press. Folded binding is now 1 1/4" wide. Stitch binding to the front of quilt. Front binding will be face down next to the quilt top and back binding will be up. Stitch 1/4" seam. For best results use a walking or even-feed foot. Turn the binding to the back of the quilt and hand or machine stitch as usual.

    The binding seam separating the two fabrics will be at the very edge of the quilt. So easy and will make your quilts so special!

    Mitered Corners For Borders

    These instructions for mitered corners for borders are different than any I have seen in a book or pattern. In piecing our quilts we so careful in our perfection but when it comes to putting on the borders we become very casual. I have seen instructions that say just cut the borders extra long and sew them on. Then fold them at an angle and press. Stitch on the pressed line and trim. How inaccurate is that? For all the talk about accuracy in piecing it seems we make mitered borders very haphazardly.

    I will give you the instructions for cutting mitered borders perfectly first -- before stitching them to the quilt. Once you do it this way you may never go back to the old inaccurate methods again. This is a "cut first" method. All mitered angles are cut at the cutting table and then stitched to the quilt all at one time.

    Tools you will need -- You will need a rotary cutter, mat and ruler, marking pencil, and sewing machine. It might be nice to have a ruler that has a 45 degree angle actually cut off one edge. This ruler would be useful but not absolutely necessary.

    Measure your quilt

    Measure the length of your quilt edge to edge. Measure it in the center and another place besides the edge. The edge can stretch. Subtract the seam allowance -- minus 1/2". This is your length. Write this number on a scrap of paper as length. Measure the width the same way. Write this number on a scrap of paper as the width.

    Piecing borders strips

    If you are making multiple mitered borders, machine piece all the border strips together in the order and widths you desire. Do this first. The miter is cut all at one time. Press border seam allowances toward the outside border.

    Cutting the length of your borders

    When planning the cutting length of your borders, be sure to allow enough fabric. Mitered borders take up the finished width and length of the quilt so you need to add the side of your quilt plus 2 times the total width of the border (include width of all borders stitched together). Add an extra two or more inches for insurance. Cut your border strips this length. You will be instructed how to cut the 45 degree angles later.

    Cutting the miter

    When you are cutting the miter, visualize a picture frame. Picture frames are two long pieces and two shorter pieces with the end of each piece being cut at a 45 degree angle. These pieces are then fastened together at the corners to make a picture frame.

    Mitered corners for your quilt will work the same way. You have two long pieces for the long sides of the quilt and two shorter pieces for the short side of the quilt. They are cut at a 45 degree angle the same as a picture frame.

    Fold your border or pieced borders to mark the center. Press with an iron, finger press a crease, or mark with your preferred marking tool. On your cutting table, place the wrong side of border fabric facing up with the inside edge you are sewing to the quilt toward you. Take the number you wrote down for the length of your border in an earlier step. Divide this number in half and begin measuring from the center mark toward the edge of the border. Measure an equal amount on each side of the center mark. Place a "dot" or small mark exactly 1/4" from the inside cut edge of your borders strip assembly. At the opposite end, place a "dot" or small mark 1/4" from the inside cut edge of your border strip at the opposite end. Recheck your measurement, measuring from one dot through the center mark to the opposite dot. If this is the same measurement as your quilt minus the seam allowance of 1/2", this is the correct measurement. Don't cut yet, you will add your seam allowance in the next step.

    The "V" rule

    Lay your straight ruler on your border strips, lining the 45 degree angle on the inside edge of the fabric. You might need to turn your ruler or flip it over to get it to line up like you wish. If you have a ruler with the 45 degree cut off, simply place this ruler with angle making your border strip a very large flat bottomed "V". Draw a line with your marking tool. This is your sewing line. Move your ruler and draw another line 1/4" to the outside -- toward the ends of your strips. This is the cutting line. Don't cut yet -- just draw lines. Repeat for the opposite end of the border strips. Remember the "V" rule.

    Imagine this is how your border strips should look --

    \ . border strips . /

    (the \ / are the cutting lines, the .. (dots) signify the stitching line or point to match to the seam line corners of the quilt top)

    -- you have an outside 45 degree cutting line, a dot for your seam line, the length of the side of your quilt minus seam allowances of 1/2", another dot, and an outside 45 degree cutting line. This is how your piece should look.

    Now you will need to cut your 45 degree angles. Double check to make sure your angles are making a "V" -- remember your picture frame. The inside of your border will be the narrow part of the "V" and the outside will be the widest part of the "V". Using your ruler and rotary cutter, cut on the cutting line angles. Remember the line with your "dots" is your sewing line, the lines toward the ends are your cutting lines. Discard fabric ends.

    Repeat for the remaining three border strip sets.

    Stitching borders to the quilt

    You will need to mark the corner dots in each of the four corners of your quilt. On the wrong side of the quilt top, simply take a small ruler and measure 1/4" from each edge at the corners and make a small "X". Where the "X" crosses is your "dot" that needs to be matched to the "dots" on the border strips.

    Pin your dots on the border to the dots or center of the "X" on both ends of the quilt -- matching them accurately. Pin the center mark on the border to the center mark on the quilt. Pin border along the length of the quilt as necessary. Stitch 1/4" seam. I usually stitch borders to the quilt with the quilt on top and the border strip on the bottom. That way I can manipulate the seam allowances in the direction I want them to be. Either way is OK.

    If you need to ease a little because your sides are not quite even, it works better if you stitch with the larger piece down on the feed dogs of your machine. The feed dogs will automatically ease in a small amount of excess fabric. Pin along the border as much as you need. Once the quilt is finished -- no one will know how many pins you used!

    When stitching backstitch at the dots at the beginning and at the end. Continue with the remaining three pre-cut borders. It doesn't matter what order you stitch them on. Once they are cut accurately you won't have the problem of getting a border on the wrong side. The long borders will go on the long side of the quilt and the short borders will go on the short side of the quilt.

    Stitch the diagonals

    The diagonal corners of the miters are still unstitched. Fold the quilt in half on the diagonal bringing raw edges of border/quilt seam together. Match the dots near the border/quilt seam, the seam intersection of border strips, and the outside edge. Pin.

    It helps to put pins perpendicular to the diagonal edge, not the seam allowances of the individual strips.

    Stitch 1/4" seam -- begin at the inside seam -- one stitch away from the dot so you don't catch the main part of the quilt in the corner of the mitered seam. Stitch a few stitches and backstitch. Stitch slowly and pull pins as you sew. Back stitch at the outside of the quilt.

    Repeat the same for the other three corners. Press corner seams open and border seams toward outside. You will have very accurate borders with a very neat miter.

    For practice cut mitered border strips using scrap fabric or paper toweling. Once you cut a few borders you will see how simple and fast this method is.

    Cutting mitered borders first is so easy because all you have to do is cut. The angle is perfect. You don't have to fold, press or stitch on lines that are hard to see. This miter is cut perfect and is ready to sew using your 1/4" sewing machine foot as a guide.
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