Baby Got Back

Hours and hours are spent pulling the right fabrics, settling on the perfect pattern, making sure your points are perfect (or close enough) and getting all your seams as flat as possible. The top of your quilt is finally finished and now you just can’t wait to get it top-stitched and bound.

BUT WAIT!  What about your backing?

You may be thinking, “What about it? It’s just the back. I’ll pick a fabric, sew two big lengths together if necessary, and ‘BAM,’ I’m done!” There is nothing wrong with a simple, one-fabric backing.  

When I was learning to quilt, I only made baby quilts, so for the backing I would just get a yard or so of a print I liked and that was that.

Then one day in college, I made the Jeni Baker's Vast quilt, the biggest quilt I’d ever made at that point. (Get Jeni's book here) I got everything pieced and had a “Well, shit!” moment when, for the first time, I had a quilt top that was wider than 40". I was at a complete loss of what to do. So I marched into my local quilt shop, explained my problem and fully expected to be laughed right out of the store. I mean, I’d been quilting for over a decade at this point, but had no idea what the solution was.

The owner was wonderfully kind and explained that I could sew two pieces of the same fabric together or try something a little more intricate. I could do whatever I wanted. Duh! How could I have forgotten one of the main reasons I love quilting: there are no rules, except the ones you make, and even those can be broken.

That was the moment I began to think of backings as a B-side to the intricately pieced A-side (you know, like vinyl and cassettes). They could be just as special as the top and help to tell a complete story.

On that first quilt I used up some extra bits of fabric I had from the A-side and pieced a flying geese strip to separate the two panels of navy.

Here are a few B-side examples. Often I’ll take a motif from the A-side and really highlight it on the B-side.

For my Geese in Flight quilt I added a few of the extra geese I had on the back and lined them up so that angled matchstick quilting would play along. (Geese in Flight by Jeni Baker Patterns)

A-Side (left) and B-Side (right) of my Geese in Flight quilt

While piecing my Star Quilt, I fell in love with the black and pink combo of my small center start and wished I had chosen that combination for a large star instead. But because I had made it a smaller one, I had just enough fabric left to make a medium star, which made the B-side of this quilt a hit! (Variable Star Quilt by Craftsy)

A-Side (left) and B-Side (right) of my Star Quilt

Paint Chips is all about swatches of color broken up by strips of white. For the B-side I flipped with theme and had a patchwork of white-on-white fabrics broken up by a large swatch of colorful Tula Pink fabric. (Paint Chips by Blue Mungo)

A-Side (left) and B-Side (right) of my Paint Chips quilt

I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with a one-fabric background. But if you’re feeling adventurous, try creating a B-side instead.  t’s almost like getting two quilts for the price of one.