What is the best quilt backing fabric? There isn’t one single answer. Choose the classic quilting cotton or go thrifty with sheets. Everything is possible in the quilty world of backing.
Quilt backing is an essential part of your quilt. Although you spend most of your time and effort planning and making the precious quilt top, the backing can make or break the end results.
So what is the best fabric for quilt backing? There really isn’t one single answer. There are different options depending on your budget, your sewing skills, and your preferences. We’ll look into the pros and cons of different options in a minute. But let’s start at the beginning.
In this article, we talk about the types of fabric you can use for quilt backing.
If you’re looking for how to calculate quilt backing for your quilt or want to get our handy Quilt Backing Chart, read this article: How To Piece A Quilt Backing + Quilt Backing Chart.
And if you just want to quickly calculate your quilt backing, go straight to our Quilt Backing Calculator.
For some inspiration on creative quilt backing, check out our 20+ Modern Pieced Quilt Backing Ideas!
What Is Quilt Backing?
Every quilt generally consists of three layers that make up the so-called quilt sandwich: the quilt top, quilt batting, and backing. Quilt backing is the bottom layer. It is essentially the fabric that you see on the back side of a finished quilt.
DTQ TIP: To learn more about how to make a quilt sandwich to finish your quilt once you’ve chosen and planned the backing, read our guide on How to Baste A Quilt.
Best Quilt Backing Fabric
And now the big question: what is the best fabric for quilt backing? Let’s look at the different options.
Quilting Cotton for Quilt Backing
As a general rule, it is best to use the same type of fabric for the backing as you did for the quilt top. This will ensure the same fabric properties for both layers, which is important for quilting, washing, and general use of the finished quilt.
Most often, your backing fabric will therefore be quilting cotton. There are of course many other fabric options, but if you’re new to quilting, I recommend sticking with quilting cotton for your first few projects.
Other fabrics may have different properties, they can shrink, stretch, etc., so only use them if you’re confident you know how the fabrics will behave.
Other Backing Fabric Options
Of course, we are not the quilting police here, and we are not saying you should not use anything other than quilting cotton for your backing. You might want to save a buck or maybe you have some fabric at hand that you want to use and that’s all fine. Here are some most common other backing fabric options.
Minky for Quilt Backing
If you’re looking for a super cuddly backing for your quilt, minky is definitely a top contender. It might be made of 100% synthetic polyester, but it has an incredibly soft and cuddly texture. Because of its softness it is particularly popular for baby quilts. (Although I wouldn’t mind snuggling under a minky quilt myself.)
There are some downsides to sewing with minky, so I would advise against it for your first sewing projects. However, if you’ve got some sewing experience under your belt, give it a go. Just look at the minky-backed Deep Diving quilt by Lisa Marie @lisamariequilts! Emily from Homemade Emily Jane has some great tips for sewing with minky.
Can I use a sheet for quilt backing?
I’ve met both quilters that are categorically against using sheets for backing as well as others who think sheets for backing are the best-kept quilting secret.
A big selling point for sheets is they can be much cheaper than quilting cotton, so it’s an easy way to save some cash. Besides being the cost-effective option, sheets are usually big enough for the quilt top you’re making. This means you won’t have to piece the back together, which also saves some time.
With all this in mind, I would say yes, you can definitely use a cotton sheet for quilt backing. Make sure you get a cotton sheet with a lower thread count (200 threads per inch or less). This will ensure you’ll be able to stitch through the fabric when quilting (for comparison, quilting cotton has a thread count of around 70).
flannel as quilt backing
Can flannel be used as quilt backing? Yes, you can also use flannel or flannel sheets for your backing. In fact, you might really like how soft and cuddly it’ll make your quilt blanket.
Make sure you use 100% cotton flannel and also, prewash it. Flannel shrinks a lot more than quilting cotton, so do yourself a favor and wash it before using it in your quilt sandwich to prevent any disastrous shrinking afterward.
Can you use muslin for quilt backing?
If you like the look of muslin, then yes, you can use it as quilt backing. It is very easy to quilt through and of course, it’s very cost-effective. You can even get it on bolts to save some extra cash. Just make sure you get high-quality muslin for the best results.
Other Backing FAQs
Do I need to prewash backing fabric?
Prewashing is a hot topic in the quilting world. Some people never pre-wash their fabrics, while others (me being one of them) always do.
Whatever your preference is, I recommend you treat your backing fabric the same way you treated your quilt top fabric. If you prewashed and preshrunk the fabrics for the top, do the same with your backing fabric. This will ensure you don’t get any crazy shrinking problems after the first wash.
Can I quilt without backing?
In some cases you might want to quilt through your quilt top and batting, but not the quilt backing. This is generally just a visual preference if for some reason you don’t want your quilting stitches visible on the backing.
Quilting without backing will be a pain and I definitely don’t recommend it. The batting can get caught in the presser foot or feed dogs as there is nothing ‘protecting it’ (like backing fabric normally does).
There is a workaround, which I find quite interesting. I haven’t tried it myself (so if you do, please report back and tell us how it went!), but this is what you can do. Make your quilt sandwich using a false back – a muslin (or other low-cost fabric) instead of the actual backing fabric. Quilt as usual and then attach the actual backing later.
As I said, I haven’t tried it myself, so be careful if you decide to go for it. I imagine this technique works better with smaller-sized quilts, as the backing fabric (when not quilted with the sandwich) can get too loose on bigger quilts.
Here you go! These are the most common types of fabrics used for quilt backing. What do you use and love? Is there anything we didn’t include here? We’d love to hear your input!
Finish a Quilt in 5 steps
If you’re new to quilting and you’re overwhelmed with how to finish a quilt, here are the 5 basic steps with useful links: