Ask Jo: Quilts and Backings

Hello, and welcome to another edition of “Ask Jo”.  I get many comments in and questions from all sorts of places, the comment section here, Youtube, email, and from our Facebook group.  Sometimes I think others of you might want to know the answers as well so I answer them here on the blog.

There was a lot of interest in this quilt that Ronda recently finished…many were trying to figure out the pattern. If you read through the comment section there were many coaching many others through the possible construction of the block.

Blog reader, Pam, sent me a note to let me know that she found the pattern.  HERE is the link.

It is a fun pattern that I’m sure many of you will enjoy and the good news, the pattern is FREE!!

I have gotten this question time and time again…Patti asked, “I love this quilt kit and am dying to find it! I know it was from a while ago but if you know of anyone who would like to sell this quilt kit I would love to buy it. I only started quilting five years ago and this kit was prior to my time.”  The quilt she is talking about is the Civil War Tribute quilt.  I machine quilted two of them this year and I am always getting requests from people who want to make it, wish they had the kit, or want some lead on trying to track it down.  As far as I know, it is out of print.  If you know of anyone who has the pattern or kit and wants to sell it.  This is Patti’s contact info.

This comment came from June:  “I LOVE the colors of this quilt! And wherever did you get that “ruler” under your sewing machine foot (next-to-last picture) with the lines on it? That would be such a help!

This is the picture that June was referencing…

I use the Seams so Easy Guide by Lori Holt.  You can find it HERE on Amazon.  I love mine.  I use it all the time.

I actually did a video that shows you how I use it.  I embedded the video in the post but if you’d like to watch it on the “big screen” you can find the video with THIS LINK.

If I were to pick a favorite sewing notion, this would be in my top five for sure.

A comment also came in asking what kind of muslin I used for the quilt.  I believe this came from Joann’s.  When I am out of muslin I go and buy a bolt at a time of the best I can find and use my coupon.  This was soft and thick.  I stay away from the stiff or thin muslins.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you a name as I used the rest of the bolt for this.  Using muslin like this really cuts down on the cost of quilt vs using a solid fabric from one of the big companies.  Muslin was perfect for this project.

This comment had me chuckle from Lenna saying, “I enjoy just taking a break from studying and visiting your blog. I just wish you posted more regularly.”

WHAT??  Seriously??  I put up more blog posts than most anyone.  I have one every morning and every night.  The only person who I know that posts more than me is Judy at Patchwork Times.

Then I looked at the email address that came with the comment and realized it was spam.  Oh my.

Theresa sent me an email along with this picture.

Theresa wrote:  “This is what I’m doing with my 8” polka dot Shoo Fly blocks.  I’m afraid the sashings are taking the spotlight but I don’t want to rip them out and start over with another idea.  So I’m continuing.  I like your 9-Patch centers.”

Theresa was writing to give me a suggestion for my nine-patch Shoo Fly blocks that I had written about.  This totally sparked an idea for me.

Thanks a bunch for the suggestion.  My next step is to see if I can find some more of the same gray fabric…then I need to find some time.  My plate is pretty full with quilts and projects right now but slowly I’m checking them off and this will be at the top of the list…so I want to order the fabric and have it here.

The next comment comes from Danielle…
After seeing the wonderful front, and knowing how much work goes into, and that you put into, making the quilt, I was shocked at seeing the back. It looks like an afterthought, like you ran out of material and so slapped together the top part and threw it on – ah, now the back is covered. Would it have been that much more work to have cut the large piece in half and put the cream and block in the middle so it would be symmetrical, so it would have looked planned? I’m sure the recipient will love the quilt! I know that if I were given this quilt, I would love it, and I would also not ever display the back. Now, I’m not an experienced quilter. You could call me a novice and wet behind the ears, so maybe there’s something I’m missing here?

This comment came after I shared the pictures of the quilt I recently finished- this one.

I pieced the backing together to look like this…

Some people like symmetrical designs…others don’t.  Miranda Lambert sings a song that is called All Kinds of Kinds.

The main refrain of the song says:
Ever since the beginning
To keep the world spinning
It takes all kinds of kinds

I guess my trying to branch out and try something asymmetrical isn’t Danielle’s thing.  I’m happy to say many others of you really liked it.

Ann wrote:
Beautiful! And my favorite part is the extra block on the back. Like a secret treat at the end. I usually piece my backs, but have never gone to so much effort – love it!

Joy wrote:
Very striking! Can’t wait for the pattern to come out! You are amazing to make that in such a short time! I love the extra block in the back! That’s perfect and you can use it as a label!

I was content with the backing and thought it looked just fine.  With the block at the top, I thought it would be easy to fold so that the block could be at the tops and center almost like a decoration when the quilt was folded.  In fact, that is exactly how I folded it when I wrapped into a bundle and tied it with jute.  It was so cute and I wish I had shown a picture of it before it was gifted.

Curious minds…do you piece your quilt backs?  If you do, do you take a lot of time with the piecing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

59 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Quilts and Backings”

  1. I just can’t get used to people leaving such critical comments on someone’s personal work on their personal blog! That back is AWESOME! Does not look “slapped together” at all. Looks like you carefully planned it. I love it! Good for you Jo for letting it roll off your back.

  2. I’m afraid that Danielle would not like most of my backings. They are almost always pieced and sometimes extra blocks from the front are used there. LOL. Difference strokes for different folks so is true. I love reading your blog posts. You are “real” people!

  3. Love your featured pieced backing! I like pieced backings but have always used the usual block in the middle. Your pieced backing has inspired me & I hope to try your idea on one of my quilts!

  4. If you piece a very symmetric back, it seems it would make it harder to long-arm quilt. Better to allow a little leeway for the quilter by making it not so critical to get the back precisely centered.

  5. I LOVED the back of your quilt from the moment I saw it. I actually saved a picture of it for future reference. There always seems to be a test block, wonky block, or just extras and I would rather place that on the back than to try to figure out what else to do with it. I gifted you the hst’s using the gray fabric but I’m not sure what fabric I used. Start with Moda Bella Solid 9900-83 as at one time I had a bolt of it. I’m just not sure though! When I read the comment about wishing you posted more I said out loud “Are you kidding me?” My husband wanted to know what I was talking about. I’m glad it was spam because you are the most consistent blogger I follow. As always, you continue to amaze me with your accomplishments in a day. I’ve been trying to ask WWJD (Jo). I’ve gotten much more accomplished so thank you for getting my butt moving.

  6. I’m not a great quilter like you, Jo, or most of your readers, I only make small quilts like baby crib size or a bit larger. I love to piece the back of them. It’s like a surprise when the quilt is turned over and you can make it anyway you like. The back of your black and white quilt is especially awesome! Oh, the front is as well!!

  7. I piece backs all the time and often they are definitely not as color coordinated nor pretty as this one is.

    A little more info, please – I watched the video about the Seams so Easy Guide by Lori Holt. You said “adhered it” more then once but never mentioned WHAT you used. I would like to know and is what you used removable?

  8. First of all, thank you for the video of Lori Holts thingy. I bought it but it came with no instructions on how to use. So tomorrow I will watch your video. Second, about pieced backs, I personally don’t care for them. I’m a uniform kind of person and I’m really picky about my backs. If it were my quilt I would have centered it with equal fabrics on each side. I’m not too much into modern quilts but some people say I make them since I prefer so much white. I think the way you do backs is everyone’s personal way, not right or wrong.

  9. I love love loved your back. It was a modern fresh take on a pieced back.
    I plan my pieced back too much. They are boring compared to your idea.

  10. Jackie Trembley

    Hi Jo! I loved your pieced backing. If I do have to piece different fabrics together for the back of a quilt, I like it to be “interesting” – your back fits the bill perfectly. I have a question about the seam guide. Since it’s adhered to the bed of the sewing machine, would it work for a top-loading bobbin machine? Thanks!

  11. Allison C Bayer

    Pieced backings all the way. Many times, depending on how many left over pieces I have, it nearly takes as much or more time to construct the backing. I loved your backing for the wedding quilt. The presentation of it folded with the large block on the back showing tied with jute sounds charming.

  12. I love your back and often add extra blocks to the back of my quilts. I also do a Dot suggests and deliberately have them off center so the machine quilter doesn’t have to worry about having things lopsided.

  13. Jo, thanks for the free pattern!

    What a rude comment from Danielle. I love the backing! I piece backs all the time. I think they give the quilt something extra special.

    Thanks for everything you share.

  14. I love the back because it would be easy to ascertain the top of the quilt from the bottom (feet end). Maybe I am an “all kinds of kinds” that way.

  15. The back of your quilt was lovely and I thought you had done something special. The longer I quilt the more I learn that I like almost everything but it may need to grow on me. Pieced backs, modern fabric, Kaffe fabrics, scrappy backgrounds, low volume quilts are all things I adore now, but not right away.

    1. I’m with you Roxanne. I remember not like Batiks, pieced backs or low volume too!! I resisted batiks for a long-long time.

  16. I am just learning how to step outta the box on my backings and be creative like you Jo. I think it is awesome to use the leftover fabric used on the front to create a pleasing back. Fabric is so expensive that using up every inch is not only smart, but cost effective… and now, you’ve shown us how creative we can be too! That’s a win no matter how you look at it.
    (And being a novice is no excuse for bad manners.)

  17. Jo, I love both the front and back of your Wedding quilt. I prefer to piece my quilt backings. To me, it provides an additional surprise for the quilt owner. And I don’t aim for symmetry either.

  18. Judith Fairchild

    I really like the black and white quilt. I usually try to have enough fabrice to just stay all the same. But I rarely use solid colors on the backs especially for children’s quilts. My granddaughters’quilts have pictured fabrics they use the quilts backside up as much as the front. Thanks for the idea of using extra pieces on the back of the quilt it would be a fun surprise.
    Danielle did say her opinion was personal and not meant to be offensive. Just inquiring.

  19. I don’t put much effort into a backing. It is not where my art goes. I’ll sew chunks together if I have to but honestly, wide back or one seam if possible. I just don’t really care. And no, backs do not have to match fronts. I don’t expect anyone to “display” the backing. My $ is not renewing itself. I spend $ on the top without question. Backing gets the backseat!

    I think that backing is FABULOUS! NO quilt police here :-)

  20. Susan from Michigan

    I love your quilt, Jo, front and back. It is striking. And the straight line quilting is great for the modern look. I piece backs sometimes, but they are not time consuming. I also like Theresa’s shoo fly quilt; very interesting pattern. The free pattern you linked reminds me of tumbleweeds, after living in West Texas.

  21. I try to make my backs interesting using up the fabric from the front… sometimes, I like my back quilt better than the front.
    Great to be able to see the grid used. I bought it a while ago but had not yet figured out how to start using it. Thanks

  22. I love the back on the wedding quilt!
    I just pieced a back with leftovers and it was very time consuming and didn’t look even half as good as your but I got most of the leftovers of those fabrics used up! – which was my goal.

  23. I do piece my backs and usually just slap a bunch of pieces together–nothing as fancy as your wedding quilt back! I have a top made with 30’s fabs (which I no longer care for) and I’m trying to use up larger pieces of the same style on the back.

  24. Betty from Canada

    I love your use of the extra block on the back. It gives a whole different look if you pit it on the bed this side up. It must have taken a lot of figuring to get it centered so perfect.

  25. Charlotte Smith

    I take so long to finish the quilt that I AM DONE. So I don’t piece my backs. I like the pieced backs and the reversible quilts with a different flimsy on each side intrigue me. Maybe someday.

  26. Both the front and back of your posted quilt is lovely. I’m really enjoying your blog because it is inspiring me to return to my sewing projects. It is just fun to try different ideas for both the front and back of a quilt.
    Last night after reading your blog I pulled out an embroidery project that I had set aside and got a nice portion of my project done. Once again thank you for the inspiration I have needed.

  27. I thought Danielle’s comment on the quilt back was quite harsh! I think the back is very pleasing; it’s well balanced – not necessary to be symmetrical. I do like my quilt backs to coordinate well with the tops, so that sometimes means piecing them. I try to keep the piecing on the back minimal though, because I mostly hand quilt and extra seams on the back make that more difficult.

  28. Your backing looks great! I sometimes piece mine. In fact, one time when I used all the leftover fabric from making the quilt the recipient thought the back was the front! If I’m in the mood, I’ll take some time and “organize” the backing fabrics but most of the time I piece it to fit the front and don’t pay attention to the layout. I think the newbie quilter just hasn’t had enough top finishes and “just want the thing done” finishes to realize that your backing is lovely.

  29. Susan the Farm Quilter

    I totally love that backing!!! I frequently use extra pieces and blocks from the front of a quilt on the back. Plain backings are boring! On the third quilt I pieced – charm square stars in a rainbow of colors – I got help with the math and enlarged the star to take up most of the back of the quilt. I haven’t gifted it yet (wedding quilt and she decided to get married when I was caring for my dad and I haven’t been home yet…and she’s having baby #2 in February!) so whenever I get home I’ll try to remember to send you a picture of the front and back! I love asymmetrical backing (and fronts) on quilts…they are unexpected and delightful!

  30. As for pieced backs, to each their own. The majority of my quilting stash is either gifted or thrifted, so chances are my backs are going to be pieced.

  31. I had to laugh at the question of piecing my backings…does a jelly roll count? I didn’t have enough fabric for a backing but plenty of 2 1/2 strips so I did a jelly roll backing. The person I gave it to loved it – 2 quilts in one! :-)
    Love and prayers

  32. My personal quilting style is that the back needs to match the front. Sometimes that means pieced and sometimes it means coordinating fabric. Usually not heavily pieced, because as someone said, by that point I just want to be done. But to each their own and the differences are what makes engaging with other quilters interesting, even if you don’t personally like their design choices.

  33. Sorry, but that was a pretty rude comment from Daneille. I scrappy piece most of my backs, and some almost take longer that the tops. It’s fun and it uses up lots of fabric. I’ve gotten tons of compliments on how my giftees love the backs!

  34. I sometimes piece backings…great way to use up random large yardage. I try and use the front as inspiration for theme or color for the backing. Interestingly I just pieced a backing with the added blocks off center like yours. My thinking was when the quilt is used and turned down on a bed the user can make the back blocks as a fun surprise…or put near the foot of the bed if they aren’t into that look. It is almost like making a quilt when you piece that backing….not fast but oh so fun!

  35. I love all the ideas about backs. I usually to use one of my “can’t cut it up” fabrics that make me happy on the back. That is because they are usually a big print, and then I tell people it is making a statement :) and no, the fabric on the back may have no relation to the fabric on the front. LOL the only time I try to get something matchy front to back is a child’s quilt.

  36. I am always stunned that people feel free to be hyper-critical of the decisions you make and the photos you decide to share. Your blog is a little slice of your life and what you do, and I admire that you are positive enough to not let some people get to you. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  37. I have only been quilting a couple years, but I quickly went to pieced backs. I love them. I am working on one now that “echoes” the front by using the same size blocks but a simpler pattern with less piecing. I finished a scrappy Hunter’s Star (mostly free fabric scraps) with a simple green and cream checkerboard backing and green border. My class sampler quilt got Southwest colors, a beaded lizard in the center, and a wild lizard backing… with embroidered symbols on the back border, bear, tortoise, plants, healer’s hands. The front had pieced insets in the border in the same spots so I doubled the batting there. I am hand basting now instead of safety pins. I enjoy the piecing, and making a reversible quilt seems more fun to me. The front may be more complex and the back simpler and modern. I am working an after quilt back for a curved log cabin with a hawk and Ravens from free fabric, but the back is wonderful and I made it a new front. I am testing hand quilting on the hawk over Ravens quilt. My imagination outpaces my skill level. I loved your back!

  38. To Darlene: I am sorry so many jumped on you for your comments. Are they doing to you what they said you did to Jo? Hope you are able to let this roll off your back and keep on quilting. And the most important thing to learn is: There is no such thing as QUILT POLICE!

  39. Shannon M in Texas

    I love the pieced back. I try to put leftover fabric from the pieced front on to the back. I have tried in the past to make the back symmetrical, and when it goes on the longarm, it can shift. So, I purposefully line it up a little off center. I put all my symmetrical work on the front. This wedding quilt is lovely and I am excited for the pattern to come out. Great work, Jo.

  40. I loved this pieced backing the moment I saw it! I must admit to being lazy. I watch for good prices on 108” backing fabric and almost always go that route but only because it’s faster and easier.

  41. The good Joann muslin is called [Legacy Studios] Premium Muslin.

    I think your extra block backing is SWEET! If on a bed and you turn it down for night, the block will show, neat trick! Gonna try that sometime.

  42. Thank you Jo for the quilt, we love it! Everybody sure has different styles and preferences but you captured our taste perfectly! I know it certainly wasn’t “slapped together!” How honored I am to have 2 Jo Kramer quilts!

  43. I use the extra block(s) to make pillow shams. They are not necessarily an exact block(s) match to the quilt if I don’t have enough fabric. I add an additional fabric, some applique and embroidery.

  44. I used to think backings “had” to be plain muslin, as that’s all I ever saw. It was quite the eye opener when I saw backs using regular fabrics (still all the same fabric though). And when I first saw backings mixing fabrics and OMG using blocks as well, I’ll confess I thought a knee-jerk “WTH?!” But they’ve grown on me, especially when they go so well with the quilt top like this one. There are some mixed up backings I see that still make me ponder the wisdom, but – not my quilt. Besides, a finished quilt is way better than a top waiting for the perfect backing that few will ever see.

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