The Bernina Babes Have Got Your Back!

This is one in a series of posts answering basic quilting questions. Great info for new quilters, and a refresher for experienced ones!

We’re here for you, especially when it comes to those tricky quilt questions! Another “How much?” question that can plague quilters has to do with backing for your quilt, if you have made a different size quilt than allowed for on your pattern, or just created your own pattern/design. There are a few things to take into consideration when making this decision- don’t worry, though! We’ll walk you through it.

The basic factors to consider are:

1.) The size of your quilt. You need to know the width x length measurement of your completely finished top, borders included.

2.) What kind of fabric will you use for the back? Will it be a standard 40”-44” width, or will you use
a special fabric called a “wideback” or a
“fatback,” which can be up to 120” wide,
although 108” is most common. These fabrics are created just for the purpose of backing quilts.

3.) Who is going to quilt your quilt? Will you be doing it yourself, on a regular sewing machine? Or
will you have a long-arm quilter quilt it
for you? Long-arm quilters like to have an extra 4-6” of
backing fabric all the way around. This allows room for pins or clamps to hold the

quilt at the proper tension. And if the quilt is not perfectly square (and this can happen to all of us!) it allows the quilter to compensate for that when quilting. Once you know the answers to these questions, you can figure out how much fabric you’ll need.

Our sample quilt is a twin size, measuring out at 68” x 90”. We’ll figure out amounts for this quilt based on each situation. (Note: where final measurements are 1-2” away from a common amount, we round up the number. For example: 8” is rounded up to 9”, which equals ¼ yard.)


Vertical Seams

The first figure is for doing a back with 40-44” fabrics, with a vertical seam in the middle. The nice thing about this is that the grain of the fabric runs the length of your quilt, and that is why you’ll see this layout recommended most often, even though it can result in some leftover fabric.

For home quilting on a sewing machine:

68” + 4”= 72” for the width.

90” + 4”= 94” for the length.

You’ll need 2 widths of fabric, 44” wide.

44” x 2= 88”, more than enough for the width.

The length is 94”, which equals out to 2 ½ yd.

2 ½ X 2= 5 yds, which is the total amount of backing fabric you’ll need for this quilt layout.

If you’re bringing it to a long-arm quilter, just tweak the numbers.

68” + 8”=76” width. 2 widths of 44” still works for this.

90” + 8”=98” length.

98” x 2=196”

196”=5 ½ yds.

This seems like a small difference compared to the yardage above, but you don’t want to get a call from your quilter that leaves you scrambling to add fabric to your back.

Horizontal Seams

Another possible layout uses horizontal seams. Sometimes horizontal seams will require less yardage than vertical ones, but this is not always true. You should always figure out the fabric amounts required for both layouts, to determine which one is most economical.

Horizontal Seams

If we use 44” wide fabrics to back the quilt with the seams running horizontally, here’s how you figure it:

68” + 4”= 72” for the width.

90” + 4”= 94” for the length.

If we work with 44” fabrics, then we will need three widths to cover the back. Basically, you need 2 WOF pieces, and then part of another one.

72” x 3= 216”

216” = 6 yards.

In this case, this is more yardage than you need for a vertical seam, and you will need to do a bit more work for it, in planning and sewing. You need to give extra thought to where you’ll place the seams, whether you want them equally spaced or not, etc.

For the long-arm, again, you simply tweak the numbers!

68” + 8”= 76” for the width.

90” + 8”= 98” for the length.

76” x 3= 228”

228”=6 1/3 yards.


A wideback fabric for this particular quilt makes things pretty easy!

If our wideback fabric is 108”, that easily covers the length of our 94” or 98” back requirement. All you have to do is figure yardage, based on the width.

72”(sewing machine)= 2 yds.

76”(long-arm)= 2 1/8 yds.


What about pieced back using a variety of fabrics? Quilters, that’s a topic for another day!

We hope this gives you a better understanding of what is needed to keep your quilt from going backless!

Happy Stitching!

Marsha and the Babes