Friday, May 1, 2015

my process for a pieced backing

i have always loved a pieced backing on a quilt. it's one more place to have a little fun with fabric and even an opportunity to play with a more modern, large-scale, improv-pieced scheme than i would normally go for on a quilt top. if you have a beloved fabric you want to feature in a large panel, the back is the perfect place to do so. unless i'm making a baby quilt, i always make a pieced backing. even on my very first quilt, i made a pieced backing. i didn't know much about quilting at all, but i knew i liked pieced backings. so my first backing, for "at last" was a four panel piece which echoed the block pattern used on the front. i remember carefully selecting the four fabrics so the colors and shapes best represented my ideas for the front. it just might be the best part of that quilt. it's definitely one thing i did right when i was struggling with so many aspects of launching a first quilt.

"taite" uses large panels of fabrics from the front interspersed with leftover chain-pieced block strips wherever seams were needed in the panels. my daughter chose the main panel and i chose the two side fabrics. the fabric selections also reflect the pattern i used on the front. this was another backing i carefully designed with the design elements of the front in mind, and also to use up leftover pieces.

not all of my tops are so carefully laid out and designed. there are also those that are improvised and less structured.

a pieced backing can make a great home for leftover or bungled blocks or yardage that were originally for the top. when i made "twirly" i accidentally cut the large fabric panels too short, so they went on the back. because they were oddly sized, i joined them with leftover border blocks in the seam. i also had a few extra blocks and more leftover border strips that went into the back, too. the rest was made up of excess fabrics not used in the blocks. since i usually buy generously for the fabric requirements, i always have leftovers to play with on a backing. in fact, this is one reason i over buy.

knowing i can use pieces on the back makes it less stressful when something doesn't work out or gets miscut. i'll just use it to make the back more interesting. this makes the "what do i do with this now?!" problem solved and i grieve mistakes less, too.

sure, you can always make a backing inexpensively out of a plain muslin or you can sew one or two seams in the same fabric to make one great big piece. but i like to have fun with the back. also, i don't like to pattern match and mismatched patterns bother me. so even if i do use large pieces of fabric for the back, i will put at least a small strip of something in between the panels. my all-time favorite backing is on my "out on a limb" quilt. it's just three 2.5" wide strips sewn together and placed in between two large vertical fabric panels of the same fabric, but i really, really love this one - as much as the front, maybe more. a pieced backing doesn't have to be complicated at all to be effective. 

some other quilters that come to mind when i think of pieced backings are elizabeth hartman of oh, frannson! (especially in her book the practical guide to patchwork), kelly of my quilt infatuation, and rachel hauser of stitched in color (like here and here).

in my experience, a pieced backing can be either a planned design to compliment the front or a place to use up leftovers from the front. or maybe sometimes something in between. as i got ready to make my backing for my latest quilt, "dreaming easy" i decided to document the process in case anyone was interested in trying their hand at a pieced backing but didn't really know where to start.

this backing was unplanned until i saw what was leftover once the front was complete. i did have one feature print in mind for the backing - a 4 yd piece from the main fabric line i used for this quilt ("dream on" by urban chiks for moda). i could have made a backing out of that, but of course didn't want to use just one single fabric. so i pulled out what i had to work with: the 4 yd cut (green floral), a 2 yd cut of another fabric i had used on the top (pink "modern meadow" joel dewberry print), a small piece of "meadow dot" in robin's egg, and a few charm squares that were too low-volume/light for me to use in the checkered arrow blocks on the front. if i didn't have that large piece of pink fabric, i probably would have used the green fabric for both large panels with a strip in between. however, i did have it and liked the variety of prints.

 you can go about the process mathematically, but i prefer to just lay out the top and build organically over that. as long as the back i'm building has a few inches more on each side than the quilt top does, i know i'm good to go. so first step - lay the top out on the floor. really, you could place it face down so it's oriented the way the quilt will actually be put together, but i didn't here. that only matters if you want certain pieces under other pieces. this time that wasn't a concern and i just did it for sizing reference.

 next i lay out my largest pieces across the top to see which way they are going to fit. i could have placed these panels vertically, but the pink print wasn't quite long enough when laid that direction. in order to avoid extra piecing, i turned the pieces horizontally. here i had plenty extra of that lower floral print, so once i decided on the orientation, i cut the excess off with my shears, leaving it a few inches larger than the top. same with the upper pink print.

now i have two large panels and i'll just need to make a strip to put between them in order to use up those charm squares. the top was composed of blocks that included hsts and i could have made some out of the charm squares to echo the design on the front, but i chose a simpler route.

 the charm squares were all very similar in appearance to each other and hardly distinguishable if placed next to each other in a row. i wanted to break them up visually a little, so i cut half charm square pieces (2.5"x5"cut) of the random "meadow dot" piece and placed that between all the charm squares.

i just did this without measuring until i had a strip long enough to cross the width of the quilt top, with the needed excess inches on each side.

 then i attached the two large panels to the pieced charm squares strip and i had a pretty pieced backing. this one was quite simple and came together in no time. if the pieces you are working with are of various sizes or you have blocks to include, you can just play around with fabric placement, sort of like building a puzzle, until you have the back big enough to cover the top. next time i make that sort of backing, i will make sure to take photos so i can walk you through that process, too.

 something else i did on this backing - i included the selvages on the large pieces. i've done this twice before and find it can be a very nice design feature, like when i did it on "paris daydreams." if the print on the selvage is placed right, you can see it well and it's kind of cute, i think, to have it showing.

 the "dream on" panel had it's selvage print mostly well placed and it showed nicely. the "modern meadow" print did not have a good selvage for display purposes, but i was feeling lazy and didn't want to trim it off that long piece of fabric before i sewed the backing together. so i included it, too. lazy, i know.

once you have a back, you are home free to sandwich and baste your quilt! i positioned the top so that the charm square strip fell about 2/3rds the way up the quilt, making the green panel on the lower portion of the back larger than the pink panel on the top portion. if you don't cut off excess backing before sandwiching you can play around with top placement like this.

that ends the tour of piecing a backing splish splash stash style. i hope you found it informative, interesting, or at least entertaining. or maybe you just like looking at the pretty fabrics. that's alright by me.

linking up with kelly at my quilt infatuation's needle and thread thursday.

1 comment:

a kind word is always appreciated. thank you for your visit.