Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wrinkle Free Quilt Backing by Serena Smith Of Embroidery Treasures

Starting with a smooth and sturdy quilt backing is the first step to achieve a quilt with the back free from tucks and puckers. What fabric is the best? Should it be prewashed? How can the backing gain more body after it has been washed? Read on to discover some tips for preparing your quilt backing!

What is the best fabric to use for quilt backing? Before choosing the fabric, consider what kind of quilting you will be doing on the quilt. Will it be machine or hand quilted? Will the stitching be dense and close together or will it be spread out? Will you be creating feathers, circles, squiggles or just stitching in the ditch?

Most of the time your fabric needs to be 100% cotton to match the remainder of your quilt. Avoid cotton/poly blends; they are much harder to quilt through by machine and especially by hand. If you are hand quilting, do not use a dense cotton fabric with a thread count of 200 or more. The threads are woven tighter together, which makes it much harder to work the needle in and out of the fabric. You will also want to avoid polished or specially treated cottons; the finished coating on the fabric makes more work for the needle as it is stitching.

To quilt by machine, any 100% cotton fabric is a good choice, even flannel. If you can find a coordinating fabric that is available in a 90" -120" width, this is the easiest. However, when using 45" wide fabric, you will just need to pieces the panels together to create a backing large enough for your quilt. To avoid extra bulk in the seams, be sure to trim off the selvage and trim the seams to 1/4". The selvage is treated so it will not ravel and is hard to quilt, plus you do not want the holes in the selvage on a lighter fabric to show through on the backing.

Should you prewash the backing fabric? If you have prewashed the quilt top fabrics (you should to prevent fabric color runs and shrinkage), then, yes, you should also prewash the backing. Cotton fabrics tend to have a little more body and support before they are washed, which is an added plus for a quilt backing. But, if the backing shrinks when the top doesn't or the color in the backing runs to the quilt top fabrics, you will be very disappointed in your finished quilt. Even though prewashing tends to soften most fabrics, it is best to prewash the backing before attaching it to the quilt top. Some wide cotton backings have already been prewashed. If this is the case, it will be clearly marked on the bolt of fabric. If you are unsure, always prewash first.

How can you add body to the quilt backing after it has been washed and dried? The simple answer to this question is starch! Yes, starch is great for piecing bias and odd angled quilt pieces and eliminating puckers from the fabric caused by embroidery designs, but it is also perfect to help prevent tucks and puckers in the backing fabric. Adding starch is more time consuming, but worth the extra effort.

When I prewash my quilt backing, I add liquid starch to the water. I use the smallest amount of water I can in the washing machine to cover the fabric and pour in the liquid starch, letting it sit for 10 minutes or so. How much starch do I use? This depends on the stiffness of the cotton fabric I am using, but for most cottons, I use 1 part starch to 4 parts water (1 cup of starch to 4 cups of water). After it soaks in the starch water, I run the fabric through the rinse cycle and then throw it in the dryer. I always pull the fabric out of the washer and completely spread it out, so it is not tangled or wrapped around itself before sticking it in the dryer. This will save you tons of time pressing out wrinkles later.

I take the fabric out of the dryer while it is still slightly damp. Then I press it, as large of an area as I can fit on the ironing board at a time. The slight dampness in the fabric makes it easier to press out the creases and wrinkles. If the fabric does not have the body or stiffness that I like, I use my bottle of spray starch and starch the fabric as I am pressing. (See What is the Benefit of Starch? for more starching tips.) Large pieces of fabric, especially wide widths are harder to press. Just press it sections at a time and you will reach the end. For fabrics that you piece together, consider prewashing, starching, drying and pressing each panel before stitching the backing together. It will be easier to handle during the washing and pressing process. After each panel has been pressed, stitch them together and trim and press the seams.

Quilting your quilt should be fun, not a frustration from puckers and tucks in the fabric. Try to prevent these little frustrations before you even start sandwiching the pieces together by fabric selection, prewashing and starching the backing. Hand fun with your next quilt or wall hanging!


Serena Smith is an avid embroidery and quilting enthusiast living in Kansas. Creating new projects and sharing them with others through local classes and online lessons is one of her greatest joys. Visit her website, Embroidery Treasures, for fun projects, helpful tips, inspiration, notions, fabrics and embroidery supplies!

You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided the entire article, author's name, bio information and URL remain intact. Thank you! ©2007 Serena Smith Embroidery Treasures

Copyright ©2007 - All Rights Reserved - Written By Serena Smith. Serena is the owner of Embroidery Treasures http://www.embtreasures.com/

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