Sunday, 27 September 2015

Fixing a Quilt - the Backing

What do you do when the long arm quilter phones you to say that 3/4 the way through quilting your quilt, she found the backing was too short?  That is what happened to me this week.

Back a week or so ago, I told you about this quilt here.

Because I was going to be in Melbourne last Thursday, Jan took it down to Stitching Hearts, and our friend Robin said she would quilt it for me on her long arm machine.  All good so far.  However, I had pieced the backing too short.  What to do?
Thankfully, a week or so back I had read a post by Carole who blogs at From My Carolina Home.  She has a great blog and I always love her posts, many of which are tutorials.  She showed a method of fixing a quilt when the entire quilt is completed including the quilting and the binding in a post here.  I am deeply indebted to Carole for her wonderful tutorial because I knew exactly what I was going to do to fix the problem. 
Firstly I had to cut a strip of backing fabric 6" wide.  Fortunately I had enough fabric to do this, but immediately, I made a boo boo.  Its a directional fabric, and I made the first cut with the pattern going the wrong way.  I could have left it, but I can't.  I am just too much of a perfectionist.
The next problem was that the fabric was printed badly, with the pattern not straight.  You can see the issue in the photo below.
Printed pattern is not aligned on the grain
That was just a 6" wide piece.  Across the length of the quilt this equated to nearly 3" off.

Pattern matched on the top edge

Pattern match at the bottom edge
I didn't get it completely right, but overall the pattern match wasn't bad on the seam joining the new piece to the backing. 

Can you see the join?
The next step after joining the new strip to the quilt backing was to prepare for quilting.  Robin had used a computer assisted pantograph on her long arm and I wanted to replicate that on the unquilted portion of the quilt on my domestic sewing machine. 

I suppose I could have just done a meander or tried to simply copy the pattern, but again, I'm not like that.  I wanted it to be right and be an exact match.
To achieve that I used some waxed lunch paper which I laid down along the full length of the quilt over one of the pattern repeats on the quilted portion of the quilt. I then used a 4B pencil to trace the existing quilting onto the lunch wrap.

Preparing to trace the quilting

Tracing the quilting
The next step is to lay the whole length of lunch wrap with the traced design on it, in place where you are going to quilt.  Pin it in place, being quite careful as the lunch wrap is a bit fragile.

Now you are ready to quilt.

Pin the traced design in place
Robin had given me a bobbin full of the thread she used, so I wound some of that onto my own bobbin and used her bobbin in the spool carrier on my machine as my top thread.  I then free motion quilted with dropped feed dogs over the traced lines.

Torn paper
The paper tore in a few places, but that was OK as that was what I needed to do next anyway - take all the paper off once I had finished the quilting.

Remove tracing paper
It came off very easily, but in some cases you may wish to use a pair of tweezers to remove tiny bits left behind.

All done
The next step is to bind it.  I have machine sewn that on, and will complete the hand sewing over the next couple of nights.
Thank you Carole for your very timely post.  If I had not read that, I am sure I would have been panic stricken.


I used waxed lunch paper as that is what I had.  It is cheap as chips, comes wound in one long length on a roll, is very see through and comes away easily after stitching.  You could use tracing paper if you have that.

You must use a very soft pencil to trace.  The paper tears easily so a harder pencil will just make tears in the paper, and will not be visible.

Don't use ball point pens or permanent markers to trace as this could come through the paper and mark your quilt.

I found that my top thread shredded.  I was using Rasant thread, which is a good quality thread, but not my favourite on my machine, and a metallic needle which I use for FMQ.  I wondered if the shredding was caused by the friction of the needle and thread passing through the paper, and not a fault of the thread.

Take care with the paper as it tears while quilting.  I found that my quilting foot caught on the torn bits, so that was an added complication.

I hope this has been helpful to someone, and will put this post into a pdf file and onto my tutorials page in due course.

Til next time.....Keep on stitching.


  1. Yes! You made it! Congrats!! So much work but now it is done to your liking and I can understand that (I'm the same) :^D
    It is very helpful information but to be honest, I hope I never have to use it. Please don't take this personally. It just that I don't wish this to happen to anyone. But you can out the winner in this situation. Good for you! You did an EXCELLENT job! Pat on the back, girl! ;^)

  2. I hope I never find myself in the same situation, but now I know not to panic - there are great solutions. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a nightmare situation! Good job you didn't panic and had the solution to hand. The result is perfect, and as for the join in the backing, I always have to join the backing as my local shop only doesn't sell the double width, and yours is much neater than mine. This project was certainly a learning experience with hurdles!

  4. Oh my, Dasha, it makes my head hurt just to watch what you had to do to fix it! That pattern is off quite a bit as you say. I hated finding fabric like that -- drove me CRAZY. You did a wonderful job on the quilt. You are a perfectionist! But that is why your quilting always looks so very, very good -- it shows :)


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