Saturday, January 16, 2016
I am actually a bit embarrassed about how long it has been since I posted in my blog! Life just got busy, and time got away from me. I hope to do better in the new year!
Today, I want to talk a little bit about quilt backings. Do you ever give a lot of thought to what goes on the back of your quilt? I remember back in the early 90's when I began my quilting journey, we always backed our quilts with inexpensive muslin. All of my early quilts have muslin backings. In the mid-90's, I made a quilt that I backed with pieced yardage that matched the front of my quilt, and, boy, did I think I had done something extra special for that quilt!
Nowadays, quilters almost always back their quilts with patterned fabrics. We have available to us a fairly good selection of 108" or 118" wide backings, which save us from having to piece the backs for our quilts. Sadly, those wide backings tend to be neutral, and usually have very little print, or small prints. A pieced back, using fabrics from the front of the quilt tends to be more interesting, and also, hides the starts and stops of machine quilting. As a longarm quilter, I love busy backs! The photos above are from a quilt that was backed by a batik 108" wideback fabric. Batik wide backings do tend to be more fun colors and prints, but are more expensive. Because the thread count of batiks tend to be higher, the stitches of the quilting can tend to want to sit on top rather than sinking into the fabric causing more tension-related issues. For that reason, some longarm quilters don't care for them.
My biggest problem, as a longarm quilter, with pieced backs is trying to deal with backs that are not completely square. When I load a backing into the steel frame for my longarm, it absolutely MUST be flat and square. Any ruffles, waves, or puckers in the backing WILL NOT "quilt out" and will, in fact, cause pleats and puckers in the backing to be quilted right in to the back of the quilt. Once the back is loaded, covered with a batting, and a quilt top, the quilter has no way of seeing or knowing what is going on with the backing, unless they climb under the machine to look. Once it is loaded, there is no changing the outcome. Because I know this is the case, I always do everything in my power to make sure the backing is flat and square before I load it. Sometimes, that means re-trimming and squaring the back. In that process, a few inches may be lost. For that reason, longarm quilters always ask that you make your backing 5-6" larger all the way around the quilt. We need that extra for possible squaring up, and to make sure that we have enough extra to load into the frame, and to clamp our clamps on the sides to keep even tension on the backing, so as to avoid puckers and pleats in the backing as the quilt is advanced and quilted. For the best possible outcome, the piecer needs to make sure that as much care is taken in piecing a nice flat, and square, backing as was used in piecing a beautiful flat, and square, quilt top. In many cases, it does tend to be safer to purchase and have the quilter use a wideback that is all in one piece and eliminates the possibility of puckers in the back of the quilt.
Hopefully, this information has been helpful in explaining the importance of presenting your longarm quilter with the perfect backing for your quilts! Happy New Year to you all!