Figuring Backing Yardage

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My daughter Kelli and I do most every quilting project together now days.  Typically I design…she gives input as in suggest color changes or setting styles but I do most of the designing.  Kelli figures out the yardage for the quilts.  I can…but she does as she much faster and more accurate.  We both piece.  If a quilt is harder to piece or more advanced to piece, Kelli does it.  I piece together the majority of the backing, do the machine quilting and binding.

The system works really good for us and for the most part quilts are divided up into workable pieces where each of us can do what we prefer to do.

As we were completing the patterns for the book we were checking and double checking yardages.  As good as Kelli is with all of that, figuring the amount needed for the back is something Kelli struggles with.  I think a lot of people do as numerous times when I’ve been in a quilt shop, customers are asking the workers at the store….I’ve also seen those workers struggle with figuring out the measurement as well.  While book writing Kelli told me that I am not allowed to die or she won’t know how much backing fabric to buy so her quilts will never get finished.

In light of all of that, I thought I would put together a few graphics to show you how I figure backing yardage.

First off, there are 3 charts.   They show yard requirements for lap size to king sized quilts.  Ask yourself how wide is your quilt top.  If it’s less than 68″ wide you can likely use graphic #1.  It will need to be 84 or less inches long though.  This shows that the seam in the fabric will run horizontally.


You can see that you would need to purchase 4 yards for a quilt smaller than 68″ by 84″…unless of course it’s really small.

If your quilt is bigger than 68″ wide but less than 85″ you can likely use graphic #2.  Here the seam is running vertically.  If your quilt is smaller than 85″ you can get by with 5 yards of fabric.  If your quilt is more than 85″ but less than 105″ you’ll need 6 yards.


Now if my quilt is over 85″ wide but under 100″ wide-most all of mine are, you’ll need to use graphic #3.  Remember I’m pretty frugal and hate to spend extra on backing…so… I add in a strip of fabric-sometimes pieced, sometimes a plain piece to bring the backing to the size I need.

If you want to do it this way you would need 6 yards of backing plus whatever you are adding to the middle.  I often times have left over pieces from the top that work well here.

If you have a quilt top that is 94″ x 94″ or smaller we also have a backing idea sent in by our blog reader Ila that uses 6 yards of fabric plus a 14″ square of fabric.  You can find that here.

Rarely do I ever end up with a quilt that is over 100″ x 100″.   If I do, I just brake the bank and buy 9 yard of fabric and cut 3 – 3 yard pieces and sew them together.

Well now Kelli (and all of you) have this as a quick reference to calculate the amount of backing fabric you need…I will put a link to this on the right hand column so you can have this as a future reference.

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10 thoughts on “Figuring Backing Yardage”

  1. Jo,
    I don’t usually have problems figuring my yardage for quilt backs but you have totally simplified the process for me. Thank you!

  2. My problem lies in the fact that I often see a fabric that I think will make a wonderful backing for some quilt in the future. Thus, I buy too much to keep from running short. I tend to make big quilts too. I’m going to try and reverse this trend of mine and only buy backings for tops that have been made. Your diagrams simplify the process of figuring yardage for backings – thanks.

  3. I always wait until after a quilt is finished before I start thinking about a backing as I like to find the fabric at a good deal for the amount I’ll need. Love the graphic showing how to piece the backing, however I’m curious about the 43″ as the width of usable fabric you have on the diagram. I always was told that you should use 40-42″ as the width and then you would lose an inch with a 1/2″ seam.

  4. Thanks for the great info! The diagrams were very helpful. I have my first two quilt tops here waiting for backing, now I’ll get to it. You and Kelli work very hard. Congrats on your book!

  5. Thanks, Jo. I needed this. Have several quilt tops sewn and waiting for me to sew the backing together. On my way to the sewing room now. Thanks again. Dot in Ohio

  6. Do you teach how to embroidery on the diamond machine?? I AM new to the area.Also do have a foot1/4 inch with a wide hole in the middle so you can move your needle??

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