1 Thing Your Batting Determines About Quilt Top Backing and Batting Size For Frame Machine Quilting

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

Are you getting ready to load your quilt backing, batting and top on your longarm, shortarm, midarm? Did you know that the thickness of your batting determines how much larger than your quilt top, the length of your batting should be cut? Especially if you are loading it lengthwise.


This is a fact that you may have never crossed your mind.


Just follow the 6" bigger or 8" bigger rule. Add 6-8" to the length and 6-8" to the width. This should give you lots of room so you do not have to piece your batting or backing when you machine quilt down to the bottom.




This does not normally apply to home machine quilting.


But, if you are a home machine quilter, then you should leave enough batting and backing extending from the quilt top edge to give you room to grab and move the fabric when you are quilting at the most outer edge. Be sure to give yourself something to hold on to. I recommend and additional 4" added to the width and 4" added to the length.



It is interesting to note that, as your batting rolls around the take-up roller, its thickness determines how much circumference or distance out from the roller it becomes with each advance.


In other words, each time you roll forward a new area to machine quilt working your way to the bottom edge of the quilt top, it is adding girth around the take-up roller as the stitched top is "advanced".



Here is a great comparison of batting lofts and their thickness

Now you can see how, as the thicker batting rolls around the take up roller, it would be taking up more backing fabric than a thinner batting, as it rolls to the outside and the top fabric rolls to the inside.



It is always wonderful to see the batting come off the floor. YAY! I usually take a picture and post it on Facebook as I celebrate. 🎈🎇🎈




So, how much extra batting and backing do you add to your quilt top project? In a previous post I talk about the backing, here's the link you can click on to catch up >> https://www.sallyterry.com/post/oops-backing-fabric-is-too-short . I show you how normally an additional 8" of backing fabric in both directions is sufficient.




Special Considerations for Embellished Appliques Quilts



Yet, right now I have a Christmas Quilt on that has a lot of embellishments which adds additional thickness as I advance the quilt top. Buttons, rick-rack, cording, beads, and more. There is also applique, with adds a even more thickness.



Applique and Embellished Christmas Quilt


With special quilts like the Christmas Quilt it will most likely be displayed, which means even more puffiness will be needed if it is hung on a wall. All that luscious machine quilting needs to have shadow and light definition to bring out the machine quilting for viewers to enjoy and delight in.


Remember how gorgeously yummy your quilt looks on your bed with the 4 PM sun shining through your bedroom window? It is a great time of day to also photograph your quilt as the sunlight is almost horizontal to the quilting giving lots of quilty definition to your machine quilting patterns.


Here is the best way I know how to explain how much larger the batting and backing needs to be. I am going to show you with this simple photo.




Try this for yourself. Grab a magazine the roll it starting at the front cover spine


  1. The front cover of your magazine is the quilt top.

  2. All the pages in the magazine would be your batting.

  3. Lastly, the back cover is your backing. See how much shorter the back cover and batting becomes as you roll it around?




That is what happens to your batting and backing and how it effects the dimension of your backing and batting during machine quilting.


And if your have larger rollers I imagine it may take a bit more...just conjecture on my part since I have a Millie with large rollers.


Be sure to comment and let me know what you think!




I hope this helps you a lot, so you don't "Cut Yourself Short" ;) as you are determining your backing and batting sizes.


Plus there is a great app from Robert Kaufman called the Quilt Calc which when you type in the dimensions it automatically gives you the correct yardage. You can find it in the app store.


The last backing I helped my customer purchase, she could not decide on a wide back or piecing normal 44" fabric. The savings was substantial when she chose the wide back....but oh that 44" fabric looked so good.


And surprisingly enough the quilt shop gal just picked up her phone and used the Robert Kaufman Quilt Calc app . Be sure to get it. And maybe add a half yard to the calculation as long as you are there...who knows when you may need it for another project :)


I normally put the pieced seam horizontal to the rollers so there are not layers and layers of seam margins rolling up on each other. This will reduce pleats, tucks and sloppy fabric on the back.



If you do need to take up a bit of extra puffy backing after it is machine quilted then use a bit of Spray Starch in the dark green can. It does help draw up the fabric a bit.



I hoped that help give you a clearer picture of what happens to the batting and backing. You really don't want to piece your batting! But if you have to here is a link that may help >>

https://www.sallyterry.com/post/oops-backing-fabric-is-too-short




Quilt Happy, Sally





Be sure to let me know in the comments what you do when you run out of batting.



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Have been happily sewing since the age of 3, as soon as my grandmother could put a needle in my hand. Sally Terry Designs began in 1999, instructing machine quilting, quilting for others, authoring books, and helping all piecers and quilters with creative patterns, techniques and classes they love.

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