Learning how to match prints along a quilt backing seam is easier than you might think! This step-by-step tutorial walks you through the process. So grab your glue stick and keep reading.
Click the photo below to pin this for future reference:
I’m not sure what it is about piecing a quilt backing that makes it so unappealing, but it is definitely one of my least favorite parts of the quilting process.
Maybe it’s because I have a tendency to choose backing fabrics that look best when I take the extra time and effort to match up the prints (gingham, large scale prints, etc.) Maybe someday I will learn to make things easier on myself by choosing solid backings or backing fabrics with subtle prints that don’t need lined up, but who knows.
The good news is, though, that lining up the prints on your backing fabrics is actually quite easy. I decided to snap some photos of my process when I was piecing one of my latest backs, this beyond adorable origami print from Robert Kaufman. So here we go! (I have also recorded myself doing this and it is saved to my highlights section of my Instagram page.)
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- backing fabric of your choice, cut into the separate pieces you will be sewing together
- rotary cutter (my favorite one is this one)
- long ruler (this one is my go-to)
- washable glue stick (these are what I use)
- quilting pins
- sewing machine and thread, obviously
For this quilt, I needed four yards total of backing fabric. I cut that large piece in half and stitched together (2) two yard pieces of fabric.
Step One: Trim
First order of business: trim your selvages off of the backing pieces you will be sewing together. This is one more step, but a necessary one for a couple of reasons. First, selvages have a tighter weave than the rest of the fabric (quilter’s cotton) and have a tendency to act a little wonky and not lay as nice sometimes.
Secondly, and I’ve learned this the HARD way, sometimes the print on the selvage can show through to your finished product once the seams are pressed open. This would most likely be the case with the fabric I’m using in this tutorial since the selvage print is a bright magenta and the background color of the rest of the fabric is a lighter cream color. So—learn from my mistake and just trim those babies off!
Next, take one of your pieces and fold the edge of the fabric (about an inch or so) the entire way down. Press that with a hot iron to form a crease. You only need to do this with one of your backing sections.
Step Two: Glue
So here is where the magic happens. And by magic, I mean glue. A washable glue stick is my secret weapon when I match up my prints. Make sure it is washable glue so that it will completely wash away when you wash your quilt upon completion of your project. You can use washable liquid glue, but I’ve found the glue stick to work best for me for this purpose. And remember: less is more when it comes to glue. You will heat set it with your iron to help hold things in place, so you really don’t need to use much at all.
So what you need to do is take your creased piece of fabric (on the right side in the photo below) and line up the prints along the crease with the corresponding print on the non-creased fabric (on the left side in the photo below.) You can see from the photo below that I’ve lined up the tail of the fox (I think that is a fox?) and the snout on the pig. Once you have your fabric placed where it needs to be, tack the creased piece of fabric (the one on the right) down with a little bit of washable glue the entire way down, taking care to match up all bits of print along the crease as you go.
I do reinforce the glue with quilting pins on the underside (see photo below) as I go just so that things don’t shift until I can get my fabric to my basement to heat set it with my iron.
This probably wouldn’t be necessary if you are gluing down right next to your iron and can heat set as you go, but I like to be extra careful since I usually glue upstairs where I have hard wood floors and better lighting and then take my fabric downstairs to heat set once I’m all done gluing.
Once you’re all done gluing, heat set the glue with a hot, dry iron.
Step Three: Sew to Match Those Prints Along Your Quilt Backing Seam
Once you’ve heat set the glue, fold the top, creased piece of fabric over so that the two pieces are right sides together and your crease is on the top (see photo below.) Take your fabric to your sewing machine and sew ALONG the crease.
Since I’m responsible, I will also remind you to take your pins out as you sew. Don’t be like me and sew over your pins. I know, I know. It's a horrid habit. I'm working on it.
Once you’re done sewing, cut the excess fabric. I always leave a ½” SEAM ALLOWANCE for my quilt backs. This makes for a stronger seam that will hold up well to daily quilt use.
Press your seam open (you may need to gently use a sewing pin to help separate the glued together fabric).
And that’s it! You’re done. I’m so thankful I took the extra time to match these cuties up. I hope this was helpful for you!
And if anyone is still reading this, bless your heart. Below you can see a sneak peek of my first pattern to be released, Ivy League.
Until next time,