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Quilt Backing Fabric Is Too Short and How I Fixed It

What do you do when the quilt backing is cut too short?

This has happened to many of us. Especially if we machine quilt for customers. The backing and batting is simply too short.

The one thing you can do, to make sure the backing fabric is not too short, is measure the quilt top and add 8" to each dimension. That means add 8" to the width and 8" to the length and cut your backing and batting fabric to those dimensions. That way you are guaranteed to have enough backing and batting for your machine quilting project.

Here is what I found that would help keep the quilt squared up and the backing long enough.

  1. Cut the selvages off if you have left them on. They do not shrink the same as the body of the fabric without selvages. That is for both fabrics, the original backing and the fabric you are adding.

  2. When the backing fabric is washed and dried then the piece(s) you are adding should be washed and dried also so they shrink the same when washed and dried.

  3. If you feel you cannot cut the fabric you are adding straight, rip it WOF (Width Of Fabric).

  4. When the bottom edge of the original loaded fabric is not straight, then rip it WOF as well.

  5. You may have enough fabric to use several pieces for the additional backing piece, be sure to square it up as your are piecing everything together.

  6. Measure the width of the backing fabric that is too short.

  7. Measure and cut the additional backing fabric you are adding at the same exact width.

  8. Pin the two outside corners and then pin the centers together and pin in between as needed.


In the video Oops... What I Did About Quilt Backing Fabric That Is Too Short this is what happen to me and here is how I fixed it. There are several great tips included about cutting and piecing the backing to the correct size so be sure to watch to the end of the video.

You all know the rule. The backing should be 8" larger in each direction for longarm machine quilting. That means if your quilt top is 60" x 70" then the backing is 68" x 78". That gives you plenty of area at the bottom for the backing fabric to roll around the take-up roller. Use the same measurements for your batting.

Fold both the quilt top and quilt back in quarters. Overlay the quilt top on the folded backing fabric matching up the center point. If you have 4" of backing fabric extending beyond the side and bottom of the quilt top then you have a total of 8" additional fabric for the length and the width of the backing fabric.

Now you have plenty of room at the top, bottom and sides for machine quilting without the worry of the backing being too short and hitting the pins that are connecting your backing fabric to the roller. 😊

The second picture is Not Okay as the right side of the back is shorter than the dimension of the top.


You will love this...

I thought I could machine quilt to the bottom of the quilt backing even though it was only a few inches larger than the top...OR I may have loaded the backing the wrong direction. I am sure several of us have done that before.

So I had to bring out my little home sewing machine, place it on my Dad's old rolling typewriter stand ( squeaky wheels and chipped ivory paint ) and sew on the additional backing fabric. I did this by stitching as I rolled the cart about 6 inches at a time down the length of the rollers...LOL 😊

Plus there was very little fabric to hold on to since I was nearly at the bottom. If you ever have to do this be sure to mark the right and left sides of the backing where it is located on the leader. Then, when you re-position it back on the leader, it remains squared up on the roller.


Now it is time to sew the two pieces together.

  • It is important that the two pieces are pinned together to prevent puckers and tucks.

  • I recommend if you have zippers, unzip the quilt and sew the pinned backing pieces together.

  • If you pin to your leaders and do not want to unpin them from the leaders then take itty-bitty stitches by hand from one end to the other.

  • Or I have even rolled everything back put right sides together with pins, put on my channel locks and used my longarm to stitch. Fingers crossed, deep worked. There are also special wide backing fabrics that most quilt shops carry. I try to find backing fabric that is in the same color family and style of the quilt top.

l How To Hide Knots On The Backing Fabric... And if you want to hide the knots on the back, use backing fabric that blends with the bobbin thread. Or visa versa. use bobbin thread that blends with the backing fabric.


Then there is the matter of how to piece batting together when it is cut too short?

If your backing is too short, your batting may be too short as well if cut the same size.

  1. I have always favored overlapping about 4 to 5 inches of the new batting you are adding on top of the bottom 5 inches of old batting.

  2. Next cut both layers at the same time in a shallow serpentine wave, discarding the outer edges.

ways to baste batting together
First seam is overlapped toghter and zigzagged, second is larger zigzag with edges butted together, third is tailor tacking by hand with pulled schredded edges to reduce bulk

Notice how the serpentine seams would be less noticeable under a the quilt top fabric.


Here is the thing that happens to batting when you load it. When loaded properly there should be 4" of batting extending on either side of the quilt top. There should be 1" of batting extending beyond the top of the quilt top and 7" extending at the bottom as the quilt is loaded on the machine quilting frame for longarm machine quilting.

As the quilt is rolled around the take up roller during the machine quilting process, it rolls the backing to the outside making is a larger dimension that the inside dimension of the top fabric.

You can prove this to yourself by rolling up a magazine with the cover to the inside.

To illustrate how the backing and batting fabric need to be longer than the quilt top by about 7 inches is shown here as I rolled a magazine up and you can clearly see that the back cover page is much shorter than the front cover page.

3 Things will effect how much batting and backing is taken up as it rolls around the take-up roller.

  1. How long is the quilt because each wrap creates more thickness as it rolls the backing to the outside.

  2. How much piecing is in the body of the quilt which adds additional thickness from the seam margins.

  3. How thick is the batting.

Different thickness of machine quilting batting.
Thicker batting will create a greater dimension as it rolls around the take up roller.

I truly hope this illustrates how important that 1" at the top and 7" of batting and backing at the bottom is to the overall successful outcome of turning a quilt top into a wonderful warm cuddly quilt without having the backing cut too short so you must splice the batting and or backing together.

Remember the 8" of width would be centered with 4" showing on each side. This is a great place to practice designs, test out thread tension and thread colors.

Thank you so very very much for taking the time to learn about batting and backing dimensions so this does not happen to you.

I enjoyed writing this article. What other topics would you be interested in? Please leave your suggestions in the comments You can also share this article with a quilty friend :)

Quilt Happy, Sally Terry

Here is the link to our video, be sure to share :)

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