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Quilt Backing Problems

by Gloria
(Prague, OK)

How do you keep your quilt backing fabric taut during the quilting process?

Even though I pin and/or thread baste, and try to gently "stretch" the sandwich in the area I'm quilting, my backing seems to crinkle/wrinkle/pucker underneath. Any tricks I'm missing?

By the way, I'm not a quilter for the most part but have tried to do a couple of baby quilts recently with machine quilting in the ditch.


You can't see what's happening to the backing when you layer a quilt sandwich. Somehow, you need to stabilize the backing fabric so that it doesn't shift while you are basting.

The easiest way to secure and stabilize the quilt back during this task is to use masking tape.

It's simple to do.

But, because it's so simple, I think it's often slapped on quickly without much thought, because, hey, it's just the back.

When you tape your backing down to secure it, it's important to remember:

  • Use enough tape.

    A piece or two on each side won't hold the backing stable while you're pinning through all three layers with safety pins. On larger quilts, you may be crawling over the quilt sandwich to get to the center to pin.

  • Tape holds the backing TAUT, not STRETCHED.

    This is one of those little quilting nuances that you will learn with the doing. If you actually stretch your backing fabric as you tape it down and baste, once you release the tape, the backing fabric will try to shrink back to it's original size. This causes puckering.

  • How do you know if the fabric is taut?

    After the backing is taped down, run your open palm over the surface of the fabric. Not hard. Almost like a caress.

    As you move your hand, do ripples or bubbles in the fabric appear? That's excess fabric. Adjust some of your tape pieces and repeat. Continue checking until there is virtually no rippling as you move your hand across the quilt back.

  • How do you know if the fabric is stretched?

    Think about a tight pair of jeans and those ripples that form where they're too tight. If your backing fabric is taped down and you can see rippling or pulling, you've taped too tight.

For more information, check out this answer in the 'Comments' section of "Quilt Backing Fabric has Puckers", especially possibility #2. You may also find Layering and Basting a Quilt helpful.

Gloria, thank you for your question. Do let us know how your quilts turn out, or better yet, post a quilt picture in our 'Share Your Quilt' area.


Julie Baird

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