How to Add, Piece, & Square Backing

So, you have your quilt top done and you've already cut your backing to the same size of your quilt top . Now, you're excited and ready to bring it to your longarm professional and they ask you to add more fabric to your backing...what do you do?

Why is this? Here at Heartbeat Quilting, we request that your backing (and batting) be at least 8-10 inches longer and 8-10 inches wider than your quilt top. For example, if your quilt top is 90 x 90, we ask that your backing be 100 x 100. This is needed for pinning the backing to the rollers and for clamping the sides. These two steps help so we don't get tucks in the backing.  This also helps account for the movement and/or shrinkage that occurs during the quilting process, any loss of fabric necessary to square the backing, and allows for full movement of the machine head If you do not want to piece the backing yourself, we are happy to provide the service for you for an additional fee ($10 for the first seam; $5 per addt'l seam). 

What do you do when you don't have extra fabric for your backing? How can you add more fabric to your backing without compromising the quilting quality or the edge of your quilt top? If you've already cut or pieced your backing to match the dimensions of your quilt top, never fear! Check out some samples below. The colored portion would be considered your original backing and the white portion is either the same fabric, or consider adding a different fabric for some fun, too!

Why can't I just add a border around my existing quilt backing? If your backing measures exactly as your quilt top and you sew borders on to your backing, not only is it difficult to center a quilt top on a backing on a longarm machine (see below), but it will also add unnecessary bulk (and difficulty) to the binding.

Why are none of these samples centered? We recommend against trying to center your backing or making double-sided quilts. This is because of many reasons, most importantly being that the backing and batting shift during the longarm quilting process and centering can never be guaranteed. Purposefully offset pieces will be less noticeable in a finished quilt than a failed attempt at centering.

How to Cut & Piece Wide Backing to REDUCE Waste? For quilts with the smallest dimension larger than 98", even if you use wide back fabric, you will most likely still have to piece your backing together. Save money and effort by following our instructions for calculating cut sizes and piecing your backing together. Click here to download your FREE How to Cut & Piece Wide Backing PDF!

How to Square Your Backing? 

  1. Fold the backing fabric in half.
    1. Fold it in half again, the other direction. This finds the center of your backing.
    2. If there are very noticeably "extra" pieces/lengths, do not include then as part of your halving.
  2. Place the edge that needs squared (also the same edge that will have the zippers pinned on to) on your cutting side.
  3. Line up the fabric with the grid on your cutting mat to get a base line.
  4. Place your ruler on the grid and look through the uneven layers to see how far back you need to cut.
    1. ***Be aware of how much extra fabric you have before cutting. We don't want to cut too much off where it won't be enough extra needed for the longarm machine.
  5. Take your rotary cutter and cut the straight line.
  6. Your backing is now squared and ready for the zippers to be pinned on.