Category Archives: fabric

How to Make a Super Easy Quilt Back

The only part of making a quilt that I do not enjoy is sewing the quilt back.  I just hate calculating the dimensions, cutting the pieces and then sewing them together.  There are many, many ways to make a quilt back.  You can even use 108″ wideback fabric, and not have to cut anything – but the fabric choices for those are limited. So, unless it’s a baby quilt, you almost always have to piece a quilt back. I can give you a method to make it a little easier. Instead of cutting two separate pieces of fabric and sewing them together, you cut one long piece, fold it together and then sew right down one side.  You then cut off the little fold line and open the fabric up and you’ve got a quilt back.  It’s very easy.

I get a lot of quilting questions from beginner quilters, so I am going to diagram this method out in a really basic way (I hope).  If you’re more of an advanced quilter, you won’t need such detailed instructions.

Keep in mind when you calculate dimensions for your quilt back, you have to take into account that although fabric width (WOF) is about 42 – 43″, you have to subtract the selvedges and you need to figure in ½” seams in your allowances.  Also, if you want an overage on your quilt back, making it a bit larger than your quilt top, adjust accordingly – I always allow a couple inches all the way around the quilt for an overage. So remember to allow for those in your calculations.  The example below doesn’t include overages – it’s just a example.

Also, I’ve recommended this phone app before and I use it all the time – it calculates how much yardage you will need for your backing.  It’s QuiltingCalc by Robert Kaufman.  Very handy.

This method actually works well for certain directional fabrics, because folding the fabric over on itself lines up the pattern in the same direction.  Also, this method only works on quilt tops which are under 80″ in length.




Now just trim the length to the size you want.


● Cut the selvedges off before you press the seam open – they are tighter and have less give than the fabric itself and can cause a pucker sometimes.  Make a big enough seam so that you can do this.  So make your sewing line ½” away from the selvedge.  Press the seam open so it lays flat.

● Use a walking foot if you can to sew the seam – it will move the fabric along better, so that it is even.

I hope these instructions make sense and that they are helpful.  Do you have a favorite method of piecing a quilt back?










Essex Linen Hourglass Quilt

Essex Linen Hourglass Quilt

I hope you all had a great holiday – I’m finally getting everything back to normal around here and can’t wait to get back to my sewing machine. I finished this quilt before Christmas but didn’t want to post it because it was a Christmas gift. This design is an hourglass quilt, which uses my favorite half square triangle blocks. I alternated a solid block with an hourglass block, because this entire quilt is done in linen and I thought an hourglass block all the way through the quilt might be too heavy with that many seams.

I really love items sewn with linen and I almost exclusively use Robert Kaufman Essex in Flax, a cotton/linen blend that is really nice to quilt with and is machine washable.  It’s a nice neutral color that blends well with a lot of quilting cottons.  For the colored hourglass blocks, I wanted to try to match the fabrics in the room where this quilt was going to end up.  Robert Kaufman’s Essex Yarn Dyed linens were just about a perfect match and they are the same blend of cotton/linen, but with a cross thread of white to provide a beautiful tweedy look that is just gorgeous.  These fabrics just appeal to me so much.  You’ll see more of them in my quilts in the future.

essex linen hourglass stacked

I do have some tips on sewing with Essex Linen, though.  I know a lot of people do not prewash their fabrics before sewing (I prewash everything) but I strongly recommend that you prewash linen.  Unlike regular quilting cottons which may or may not shrink or change after a wash, the linen will shrink. And it may be just enough to ruin your project.  So I put mine through a very delicate cycle on cold water and then tumble dry it until it is thoroughly dried.  If the fabric is going to change in any way – bleed color, shrink, fray, etc. – I want it to do it now, before it’s sewn into a quilt.  I know people have had trouble in the past with linen and you don’t want any surprises.  So dry it well, iron the heck out of it and it should be fine. I even sewed double seams in this quilt – for every single block, just to ease the tension on the seams and prevent fraying. I don’t recommend trying to zig zag or overcast the seams – this actually makes the fabric fray and splits it.  I think sewing a double seam on a small stitch length, like 1.8, does the trick. This is so worth the extra time to not have to worry about quilting with this gorgeous fabric.

sewn double seams on every block to ease tension:


essex quilt hanging

The drape and softness of this fabric is really nice.  The linen has a weight and heft to it that makes a really snuggly quilt.

The colors I used in this quilt were Essex yarn dyed Taupe, Rust, Red, Olive, Leather, Charcoal,  and Espresso.  The background color was Flax.

essex linens
see that beautiful tweedy look the white cross thread gives the linen?

essex hourglass stacked closeup

I made sixty 5.5″ hourglass blocks and sixty 5.5″ squares out of the plain linen. The quilt is 10 blocks wide by 12 blocks long. The finished quilt measures about 50″ x 60″.

essex hourglass before quilting

before quilting and after

essex hourglass overhead

I didn’t want to stitch in the ditch at all for this quilt – again, not wanting to add any stress to the seams – and so I stitched lots of diagonal lines around the blocks.  This was the first quilt that I tried using Auriful 40 weight thread instead of my usual 50 weight.  I really liked the heavier look and did not have to adjust the tension of my machine at all.

essex hourglass back and front

For the backing, I used Zen Chic’s Modern Background Paper Handwriting, an awesome fabric that I thought went well with the linen. It’s a larger text fabric than the one that I used in my Shire quilt. Both super fabrics.

essex hourglass

I used something new for this quilt. I’ve always used Warm and Natural cotton batting for my quilts, but I was in a quilt shop recently that didn’t carry it – they firmly believed that Hobb’s made a superior batting.  It’s a blend of 80% cotton and 20% polyester, which gives it a little more loft and softness.  So I tried it in this quilt.  I could definitely tell a difference. The quilt was softer and had more drape, better for a quilt that you want to snuggle up with.  The Warm and Natural is a firmer batting for sure and probably a better choice for a wall hanging quilt.

essex linen quilt front

essex quilt full back

I even made a little pillow to go with the quilt!

essex quilt and pillowessex hourglass pillow

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and thanks for dropping in!


Linking up to Fabric Frenzy Friday, Sew Fresh QuiltsLinky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River and Blossom Heart Quilt’s Sew Cute Tuesday

Fabric Trays to Sew

fabric trays

Sometimes  you just have to sew something cute and sweet.

I love linen and patterned fabric together.  So when I decided to make these little trays, I knew linen would have to be involved.

And since I’m a little bit obsessed with Alisse Courter’s Magnolia collection, I had to include a little bit of this sweet fabric:

Magnolia Fabric for Tray

Have you sewn with this fabric? It is so soft and luxurious.  That whole collection is definitely going to be showing up in a  quilt one day that I’m going to make. And it may have to involve a bit of linen, also.

fabric tray before corners

These little trays are a snap to make.  I used A Spoonful of Sugar’s great little tutorial for making these.  You can whip one up in about 15 minutes.  She uses charm fabrics, which are 5″ square.  I did one in that size and did the next one at 6″ square.

fabric tray aubade

aubade cloud 9 fabric

I couldn’t resist cutting into this Cloud 9 Aubade fabric for one of the trays.  The linen I used was Robert Kaufman Essex Wide in Flax, a great linen blend that’s easy to cut and sew.  You can use any fabric for the outer lining, though.  The corners are just sewn up with embroidery floss or pearl cotton (which I used).

I’m using one to hold my beloved Wonder Clips.  They would obviously be great for jewelry, too.  What great little gifts they would make.

fabric tray wonder clipsFabric Trays two

Tall “Pin” Basket


Although I call this my “Pin” basket, I don’t use it for pins!   But I love text and novelty fabrics and so I sort of call this fabric my “Pin” fabric.  I found this fabric when we out in the Seattle area, in a fabric store on Whidbey Island.  I think I bought all they had – they were just some fat quarters.  There was no selvage identification or anything, so I don’t know what it is! But the fabric is great for fussy cutting.

PIn Fabric


I used some linen that I had and cut out motifs from the Pin fabric with pinking shears. I used very firm stabilizer and boxed the corners so it would stand up.  I made a custom button for the front and  I added a grommet just for fun so I have it hanging from a hook in my sewing area.   I also added a little detail tab from tape measure ribbon that I had:


This is actually one of my favorite things I’ve ever sewn and I was just sort of fooling around when I made it – a pleasant surprise!

Stash Builder – Milk, Sugar, and Flower


How adorable is this fabric from Penny Rose called Milk, Sugar and Flower Friends?  I can’t wait to cut into these.  This collection has several designs that are so darn cute. Here are a couple of more from that line and also a few fabrics that I thought would go well with these  – a pink stripe from Dear Stella and pink flowers from Storybook Vacation, another awesome line of vintage 30’s fabrics that I need to stash.


This  fabric will be perfect for fussy cutting: