memories of papa
patterns (PDF downloads)
creating with clothing
custom memorial quilts
Quilt backings are typically 100% cotton but there are other acceptable options,
especially when making keepsakes from clothing. On the Loving Arms Wrap Quilt, for
instance, I chose a jersey knit (like tee-shirt fabric) as I wanted the quilt to be extra
soft and cozy.
Providing that it is smooth and in good condition, any large piece of fabric with
sentimental value (sheet, table cloth, throw, etc.) can be considered as a backing,
particularly if the quilt will be tied. These fabrics may require special handling,
however, especially if they're stretchy.
The first consideration when assessing a non-traditional backing option is whether it
will be compatible with the quilt. How will the quilt be used? By whom?
How often will it require laundering and by what method? For instance, if the quilt
recipient is a small child, a backing of silk or velvet is a poor choice - fleece or a
knit would be more appropriate. The best policy - if you have any doubt about a
specific backing for your quilt, choose something else. There's no sense putting the
time and effort into completing a quilt only to find too late that the backing chosen has
ruined your project!
There are several alternative fabrics that, with proper handling, make wonderful quilt
backs. And there are some that are not so good.
- Fleece (my all time favorite for cuddly warmth) works really nicely as
a quilt back, especially for children's quilts. Using fleece as a backing often
eliminates the need for batting as the fleece may provide the desired level of
thickness and warmth. While the lengthwise grain is fairly stable, there's a lot of
stretch across the grain. Care must be taken when using fleece to avoid distortion
during the layering and quilting process. To prepare for quilting on a regular home
sewing machine, pin the layers in place every few inches, being sure the backing is smooth
but not pulled out of shape. Adjustment of pins during the quilting phase may
also be necessary. If quilting will be done by machine on a frame (my preferred
method), load the fabric with the stretch running parallel to the rollers so that
advancing the quilt doesn't cause unwanted distortion. If there is any chance the
finished quilt will ever be hung for display, make sure the stretch is running across the
quilt rather than from top to bottom.
- Jersey knits (tee shirt fabric) and other medium weight single or
interlock knits can be used successfully but, as with fleece, care must be taken to avoid
stretching the backing out of shape while layering and quilting. I've used jersey
knits as backings a couple of times and love the comfy, cool feeling - perfect for summer
quilts! Select medium weight knits for your quilt backs. Avoid lighter weight
or thin knits - they won't hold up well to regular use. As with fleece, these
fabrics have quite a bit of stretch across the grain, but very little on the lengthwise
grain. See specific tips in fleece section, above.
- Sweatshirt fabric is another favorite of mine. While it has a
little "give", the stretching is minimal so it's relatively easy to work with.
Unable to find true sweatshirt fabric (I didn't want fleece) by the yard, I cut and
pieced a backing from the usable portions of several old sweatshirts. This provided
the warm, lint-resistant, comfortable, durable backing I wanted for a winter baby quilt.
I simply cut the sweatshirts into large rectangles which I sewed together with
1/2" seams. As I sewed, I ironed the seams open and stitched the seam
allowances down about 3/8" from the seam on each side. Shortly, I had a large
enough piece of fabric for my quilt back.
- Double knits are medium to heavy weight fabrics and are the easiest
knit with which to work as they have little stretch. They may be denser or heavier
than desired, however.
- Velour (or stretch velvet) can also be used as a quilt back, providing
a touch of elegance to your project. Follow the tips in fleece section, above.
- Velvet is not recommended for quilt backing but you can get a similar
look and feel using velour, velveteen or uncut corduroy.
- Velveteen is another elegant choice that may be selected for some
projects. Usually made from 100% cotton, it will shrink (and possibly fade) so
prewashing in the same manner as the finished quilt will be laundered is
recommended. As it contains a nap, care should be taken if the backing is pieced to
ensure that the nap is all running the same direction. Velveteen also is easily
marked by pins, feed dogs and/or presser foot so tying a quilt with a velveteen backing
may be the best option.
- Uncut corduroy has an elegance similar to velveteen but is easier to
work with as it is less prone to marking from pins, feed dogs and/or the presser
foot. Like velveteen, it also has a nap so care should be taken if the backing is
- Satin is usually made from silk, polyester or nylon. When woven from
cotton (or sometimes rayon), it's called sateen. Although some satins may be
appropriate for some projects, sateen is probably a better choice. When choosing a
satin or sateen fabric, knowing the fiber content is valuable in determining whether the
backing will withstand the use intended (type of use, frequency of washings, etc).
- Spandex or other fabrics with two-way stretch are never recommended for