Cut. Quilt. Love.

Making a Diagonal Pieced Quilt Back – Just Wing It!

Posted at May 31st, 2011
Posted by Ebony
Categories: Studio Projects

I have been steadily working for the last 6 months to finish up a project that’s going to be published in a book. Ordinarily a quilt wouldn’t take me so long to finish, except that it happens to be one of the most intricate quilts I’ve ever made, and I generally get bored if I work on the same quilt for too long. However, the deadline is approaching quickly, and I couldn’t keep procrastinating and filling in other projects and expect to get it finished.

I finished the quilt top last week, and then I began working on the quilt back.  I normally will piece quilt backs anyway, but for this quilt I was determined to use every square inch of leftover fabric from the piecing. I didn’t quite make it, because as you can imagine, I got bored working with so many tiny pieces for so long:
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This piecing did however give me a chance to try out a product that’s been sitting in my cabinet for a while, and that is gridded interfacing.  This fusible interfacing has squares printed on it in 1″ increments, and is supposed to be used for postage stamp quilts or watercolor quilts. I actually bought it because at the time I needed a lightweight interfacing and they only had the grid print, so I bought it.  This time I put it to use in its proper way.

Since I am insane but not certifiable, I decided to use 1-1/2″ and 2-1/2″ squares for these blocks. The concept is the same, and the lines were just straight edges to line up to. The concept is pretty simple: you align all your blocks on the grid with the fusible facing up, and fuse the pieces to the grid.
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Once that is done, you fold the rows with right sides together, and stitch with a normal 1/4″ seam. Do that across all the rows.
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After that, you clip the seams between squares, and then repeat the process in the other direction.  Clipping the seams allows you to alternate the direction of the seams as you stitch so you get better alignment and reduce bulk.
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Overall, this was much faster I think than piecing them individually, but perhaps not as fast as strip piecing them would have been.  The advantage to this method was really that I only had small scraps to work with and I was able to get a lot better randomization. The disadvantage is that working with a larger piece is really hard to keep square, and I found that my squares were pretty wonky at the end (and really difficult to straighten because of the lack of give in the interfacing.) The other thing that happened is the fusible left a residue on my acrylic table and bobbin case cover, that I’m still working with Goo Gone to get rid of.   About the middle of my piecing I discovered this issue, and I taped a sheet of paper over the table so it wouldn’t track anymore glue onto the table.  I was stitching with a metal foot so that wasn’t an issue, but I imagine if you had a plastic foot you’d eventually need to clean it.

All of these blocks eventually got stitched together, along with other leftovers, into a long strip.

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Anyway – this is supposed to be about a diagonal backing!

I know that there is a very popular method by John Flynn for diagonal backings, but his instructions don’t really address what to do when you want to inset blocks along the diagonal. So after understanding the concept, I ended up just winging it.

First, I determined that I needed a quilt back to end up being about 70″ x 86″.  So I cut a piece of fabric 70″ long x WOF. I then folded this rectangle along the diagonal.
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I put pins along this diagonal to keep it in place, and pressed it with steam.  Once it was pressed, I removed the pins, and then used my rotary cutter & ruler to carefully cut along this diagonal.  This is where you have to be very careful not to let the fabric fall off the table or drag it along, because if you stretch this bias edge you are pretty much done using that fabric for a backing.  :)
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I knew that I would need to handle this fabric multiple times, so I decided to stabilize this edge to keep it from stretching, so I used an iron on, tear away stabilizer (cut into 1″ strips) along the bias edge.
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With that done, I pulled apart the triangles to see what I was working with:

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And then laid in my long strip.  This strip was about 110″ long:
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I then measured this to see how far off I was.  In width, I had about 50″, and in length, about 85″.  So I knew I would need some filler strips. I cut some indigo fabric about 12″ wide, and made two strips and stitched them to either side of my center strip.

Once that was done, I measured it again across the width, and it looked pretty close, about 73″. Time to sew!

First, I marked the center of the strip and the center of the diagonal side, and pinned those together. Then I pinned along the rest of the length. I wasn’t worried about stretch at all because the navy blue was cut on the straight grain and the red fabric has a stabilizer on it.
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I stitched them together with a 1/4″ seam, and then removed the stabilizer.
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I repeated this process on the other side:

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Once that was done, I had two “wings” in opposite corners. I had to make sure the center strip was much longer than the triangles so that it could be squared up.  And here’s what I ended up with:

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I think it’s really neat and will make a nice complement to the quilt top. This is my first diagonal backing and I think I’ll try this technique again sometime. It’s pretty neat.


3 Responses to “Making a Diagonal Pieced Quilt Back – Just Wing It!”

  • I like the stabilizing that you added to the bias cut. I have used this method in the past, but never thought of stabilizing that edge to sew. Great instructions.

  • VickiT

    That is awesome looking. I have never seen a backing like that before. I LOVE it.

  • Irene Porte

    Wow That is so neat. You done such a wonderful job. I have used that interfacing before and really quite enjoyed it. Accuquilt had or maybe still has a few patterns for sale asking for the
    use of this interfacing. Again it is really nice.

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