Tuesday, September 17, 2019

How to Pattern Match your Quilt Backing Fabrics

For me – never, ever has the back of the quilt been “just the back”!  So much effort, time, fabric, money and love goes into the front that I certainly like to put plenty of thought into the backing, to make the perfect finishing touch to a quilt.  The backing can be just as much a part of the design of the quilt and make your quilt even more versatile.

When you are joining 42” Quilting Cotton and you have used a substantially printed fabric, pattern matching this joining seam will result in a better looking back.  

If the pattern is a busy small floral or a polka dot, then I usually don’t pattern match these types of prints.  However, if you are using for example a large 1” dot print, floral, novelty or check print then it is worth joining these by pattern matching to give a professional finish to your quilt backing.

When you are purchasing 42in wide fabric you will first need to decide if the print is directional.  Ascertain which way the direction of the fabric runs and how you will want this to run, according to your quilt top.  You will then need to purchase fabric according to the length or width of your fabric depending on the direction of the print.

Pattern matching usually requires the purchase of additional yardage.  This is to allow for matching up where the pattern runs so that you can line up the pattern with the pattern repeat in the print of the fabric. I will usually buy between 1/3yd – ½yd extra depending on the size of the pattern repeat, to allow for pattern matching of my backing fabric.

How to Pattern Match 42in Fabric 
Check Fabric Example

1. Measure the Quilt top so you know its dimensions.  Cut your first length of 42in backing fabric at least 8in longer than your quilt top. Do not cut your second piece of 42in quilting fabric as this is the piece you will use to line up the pattern.

2. Cut the selvedges off the first backing fabric piece.

3. Measure and fold over ½in of the raw long edge of your first cut length of backing fabric. If you are using a check print– fold back a full check. Press this fold.

4. Take your second backing piece (the longer piece) and then using your first piece line up the fold on the pattern repeat.  This may take a little time to find the repeat and your extra fabric will mean you can move it forward of your first piece till you have it in the correct position. Therefore, it is important to have extra fabric.

5. Once you have your pattern lined up – open out the folded edge of your first piece and then pin the seam in place along the folded line.  Pin generously.

6. Sew along the pressed fold line of your backing fabric, removing the pins before you come to them. Take time to ensure your seam is nice and straight. 

7. Trim back both the seams to ½in and press the seam open. 

While it takes longer and requires more fabric the result is always worth the extra effort and time.

Here are some other examples of Pattern matching I have done for backing fabrics - which admittedly I actually do quite often to get the perfect finish to a quilt.  

When pattern Matching other designs like below you may not need nearly as many pins as I used with the check fabric.  Pin at points in the design that you really need to match up.  With the check fabric example there are more places you want to have it match exactly than a more patterned print.  

In this example with the Love Hearts - I was able match directly through the background white fabric as this was a directional print.

This Christmas fabric was the inspiration for the Quilt top colours and was a perfect fabric for the Quilt Back. It was a busy print that worked well.

I pattern matched this fabric because it was too short a piece, I was able to use the extra length of this fabric to cut out a second piece to pattern match to make the required size.

So don't be afraid to give it a go - it is most certainly worth the little extra time and effort to  pattern match your backing Fabric when using 42in wide fabrics.

Happy Quilting
Jemima x x


  1. It is worth it when I have done it. Thanks for sharing your way. I will try it next time because I think your way would be a little easier than mine.

    1. Hi Cynthia, I am so glad you have found it helpful. I'd love to hear how you go. Thanks Jemima

  2. A great explanation of this technique Jemima. I did my first for level edge and I do love how you explained this. Will pin this for sure.

    1. Great to hear that you found this useful and helpful Tammy

  3. Love this tutorial on matching patterns! Learned a lot!


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