Thursday, March 1, 2018

Eking Out a Backing

I recently completed a quilt top with curved piecing in a variety of blue, purple, and teal batiks and displayed it near the end of my previous post. Now I needed to search within my stash for the binding and backing fabric. I had a yard of a periwinkle swirl that would do nicely for the binding. Print and color-wise I also found the perfect backing fabric for the top. It was purple and magenta and had tiny dragonflies flitting around on it. I had just under 3 yards, but would that be enough?

When I pick a backing fabric I have some self-imposed constraints. 1) I want to use fabric from my stash and avoid buying more for the backing. 2) I want the backing to be all out of one fabric. 3) When I piece it, I want the seams to match. These three criteria often cannot co-exist. My latest pieced top is 48" X 60". Of course all you quilters realize the frustration that most quilt tops are wider than one width of fabric. Depending on how you orient your backing fabric, this means you need twice the length of your quilt or twice the width of your quilt in backing yardage, maybe even more if you want to match the seams. But perhaps not. Read on.

I measured my dragonfly print. I had 95 inches which falls far short of twice 60" and a bit short of twice 48" especially when you need some margin all around for quilting. Aargh! I calculated the area of the dragonfly print. The 95" by 42" WOF dimensions multiply to an area of 3990 square inches. The 48" x 60" quilt top calculated to an area of 2880 square inches. In theory, I had sufficient backing fabric. Now, how to make it work? I was giving myself permission to not match the seams on the backing fabric. It was a small enough print that I thought unmatched seams would be camouflaged. I was also, at this point, willing to allow myself to have the fabric run both ways, with the grain and cross grain.

Believe it or not, I puzzled about this on and off throughout the day for about a day and half. Seeing me scratching my head in frustration, my husband asked if he could help. In less than 15minutes he came up with a suggestion which I jumped right on. Cut a big chunk and then cut the remainder in thirds. Two of those thirds I kept as is and the third third I cut in half and added to one end of each of the first two thirds. I now had two strips of sufficient length to add on either end of my initial big chunk. And the grain on all pieces ran the same way. Oh, yeah! The flavor of success is so sweet!

I ran the grain of the dragonfly background the direction of the smaller 48" dimension of the top. I cut a to-scale paper model to test that the configuration would work before I cut into the dragonfly fabric. Also the paper diagram when taped together reminded me how assemble length of fabric. I was able to keep a consistent grain direction and the same up/down orientation.

Unmatched seams were quite acceptable for this small and mottled print. They were visible if I hunted for them up close but not so obvious that they jumped out at me with a casual glance.

I cut my batting and made my binding while I was at it so I have all the components ready to make my quilt sandwich. Next up is tackling the challenge of figuring out how to quilt it.

By the way I did use my special Handiquilter batting scissors that I bought at Road2CA in January. They are offset to clear the height of the batting and one tip is blunted so they do not snag as they slide along. I drew a line on the batting with a Sharpie marker and cut along it. They worked much better than trying to penetrate four thickness with my rotary cutter.

I have one 12" square quilt block left over and these two rectangles of the backing fabric. I suppose I could make a pillow. My husband laments, "How many pillows do you really need? I just wind up tossing them all on the floor when I go to watch TV." Maybe I will just stitch the extra block to the back of the quilt instead. I suppose I could also ask the question, "How many quilts does one really need?" but let's not go there.

Most likely the extra block will wind up in my "blocks to make into whatever" plastic container. Each addition to this box brings a memory with it.

The extra block from this batik blue quilt may join these recent block additions. These blocks are leftovers from a quilt I worked on as my son began stabilizing and improved from some serious health issues. You can read about that quilt in my post for June 20, 2012.

These were eight HSTs from a border I made around some pumpkin blocks I won at a guild meeting. You can read about that pumpkin wall hanging and my border in my post for October 25, 2017.

This shoe box was also a great resource for the doll blankets I made for my grandkids for Christmas in December 2016. Each orphan block comes from a memory or goes into making one!

Then there are those backing scraps to contend with. I am still pondering on a good scrap organization system. Surely I cannot just toss out those two generously-sized, dragonfly print, rectangular leftovers. Scraps, hmmm... to be continued... and continued... and continued. Linking up now with Let's Bee Social #218.