WIP Wednesday — Quilt Back a la Seminole

Ah, quilt backs… by the time you get to the stage of making the backing, you’re almost done, right? Well, maybe…

I’ve showed you how to make a fast back from a single BIG piece of fabric. Problem is, my stash has few big pieces. I never made a habit of buying large yardages, on the off chance I could later use them as backs.

That gives me choices: 1) buy a large piece for a particular quilt when needed; 2) use three or four largish pieces from stash and sew them together; 3) piece more heavily from stash. (See this link — the blogger regularly pieces her backs from all kinds of bits and pieces!)

Though I’m getting more comfortable with pieced backs (#2 or #3), I usually opt for using one fabric. Generally I don’t enjoy cobbling together a back from other chunks. When I needed backing fabric for my latest top, I figured I needed at least 4.5 yards; with 5 yards I could make a fast back. I went to JoAnn’s and bought a toffee colored, mottled print, all that was left on the bolt. It was about 4.5 yards.

And then I decided to take a different route.

Still enjoying the colors and fabrics of the top, I chose to heavily piece strips for the back. My inspiration is Seminole style piecing. A few weeks ago, when choosing whether to keep the quilt square or make it rectangular, I had two borders left over. The first strip to include was the borders that I didn’t use in the top. I joined those two pieces with patches that were left over, and added chunks to the ends to lengthen it for the long-arm frame.

I made another strip In purples and greens, rusts and golds, to mimic the half-square triangles border on the top. Yet another is similar to the flying geese, including the bright green batik featured on the top.


I think they are all in order now and ready to be assembled. When finished, the stripped piecing will cover the majority of the back. In fact, I’ll have used very little of the toffee-colored piece I purchased.

For me, this is one more experiment. While I’ve always loved the looks of strips quilts, most of those I’ve made have been very traditional, symmetrical, and block-based. This asymmetric approach is slightly unsettling, partly because I “don’t know how” to do it and also because I’m not very good at it. But how can I learn if I don’t try it? Can’t. So try I will.

This is far from a fast back, but so far I’ve enjoyed the process. The look of it will suit the top well.

Do you make multi-fabric quilt backs? What approach do you take — big chunks or bits and pieces, big squares or another quilt?




12 thoughts on “WIP Wednesday — Quilt Back a la Seminole

  1. Thread crazy

    Well, here it is 2015 and I’m just responding! For the most part I’ve used large piece for back; however, I too have added (when needed a block or two) to stretch the backing. Never have I been as creative as you have; this is definitely a must try for the new year. Love what you did on that back!

  2. KerryCan

    Hmmmm . . . that’s looks great! I am just too lazy to do a pieced back–once I get a top finished, I want to move on. Also, since I’ve always hand-quilted, I think having seams on the top and bottom to push through would be a big ol’ drag.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yep, this would be hard for hand-quilting, I think! And yes, I’ve usually just want to be DONE by that point, too. But for this one I knew I’d need to piece the one fabric creatively, or add an insert of another fabric, or … and I guess I went into overdrive!

      Hope you’re well. Thanks for taking a look.

  3. TextileRanger

    It is beautiful! I would love to do more backs like that. I will be interested to see how the quilting interacts with the piecing on both sides. I don’t have a long arm, I just quilt on a regular sewing machine, so I am wondering if I would have problems with bulky spots in unexpected places if both sides were pieced.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I am not talented with quilting. 🙂 So I’ll do some all-over design, flames or something. I think design-wise it will work fine. And the machine is powerful enough (and I’ll use a NEW needle) that I think it will work out okay. Also I press many of my seams open, which helps reduce bulk.

  4. Susan the farm quilter

    If I need a fast back, it is from one chunk of fabric – I do have bolts to choose from (rolls eyes) but I really like having an interesting back of the quilt too, so I have been putting more pieced blocks and rows in the backing. One thing I have to watch for is the direction of the seams – with a longarm, I want the seams to run parallel to my rollers so I don’t end up with tight backing where the seams are and baggy/saggy backing on the sides (that makes it much easier to get tucks in the backing. I have never tried total rows like this one, but I love the looks of it and I will be giving it a try!!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks very much. I use a long arm, too, and the long seams are along the roller. But of course there is A LOT of piecing, so they will run all over the place!

      Thanks again.

  5. snarkyquilter

    I think a quilt that’s just as interesting on both sides is great for lap and bed quilts. The user can enjoy that extra surprise or just flip the quilt as needed. I often start out just like you, Melanie, with a big hunk of fabric. I may use that to back one quilt, but then the leftovers find their way into other backs that are pieced. And it’s a great place to try new ideas, the way you are.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      One of my intentions for 2015 is to do more small works that are specifically to try things out. I really LOVE big quilts, bed quilts, buddy quilts, big lap quilts… But they aren’t always a good place for experiments — a lot invested if it isn’t going in a pleasing direction. Anyway, yes, I think this will work well and be fun for *whoever* receives this quilt. No one picked for that, yet. 🙂

  6. andimc13

    I have started piecing more backs as well, in an attempt to stick to my budget and use up my stash! I just finished a back composed of 16″ squares. I will be blogging about that process when I get the binding done. Usually I try to use as few pieces as possible. I rarely use blocks or units on the back, but I do like that added surprise.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You sound like me. I certainly have pieced backs before, sometimes just in large squares like yours, and sometimes with big chunks of fabrics. A couple of times I’ve tried to be a little more… aesthetically pleasing with my efforts. 🙂 But this is the first one for which I’m being very purposeful, in effect creating a two-sided quilt.


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