Covering the NotQuilt Back

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This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

I started the process of sewing the NotQuilt backing onto Dragon Princess by thinking about how much fabric I had. I didn’t have enough to cover the entire back. If I had, I wouldn’t have had enough to use on the front with grid I had designed.

So I was faced with the problem of having enough Dragon Princess to cover most of the back and coming up with something to fill in the blank spaces.

As I mentioned last week, the edges of the blue blanket are wavy and rippled, meaning I will have to be very careful with my measurements. As it turns out, that was only the first of many challenges I faced.

I made the arbitrary decision to make Dragon Princess wider than it is long so I’m using the blue blanket as a rectangle 98 inches across vice a rectangle 94 inches across. I prefer to make a wider NotQuilt to better cover the bodies sleeping underneath it.

notquilt backing

A chalkline was snapped in the middle of the fabric.

My first step was to find the centerline. I folded the blue blanket in half on the floor to better line up those wavy edges. Once it was as accurate as possible, I marked the halfway point, top and bottom, with pins. Then the blue blanket was unfolded and Dear Daughter and I snapped a chalk line showing the centerline.

Now that it’s winter, the houseplants have come inside for their annual visit and that means that I don’t have my acres of living room rug on which to work. This will make it harder to lay out Dragon Princess and future NotQuilts until spring comes.

The houseplants were pushed aside as much as possible, I laid out the blanket and pinned on the first piece of Dragon Princess. It was sewn down and I then pinned on the second piece of fabric.

notquilt backing

Pinning down the fabric.

That’s when I saw … the mistake. One I should have seen earlier.

When I pinned on the second piece of backing fabric, I saw I could have matched the motifs across the back of the NotQuilt, leaving a single, smooth sheet of fabric. Dragon Princess has a very large motif and a very obvious up and down. It also has plenty of open space and the pattern isn’t busy enough to hide any fabric mismatches. I would have had to measure much more carefully, I would have wasted a foot or more of fabric in the up and down direction and I would have wasted some more yardage in the side-to-side measurement.

It was too late to do anything about it of course, unless I felt up to a lot of swearing and ripping.

However, I could have done it and I would have ended up with that single, smooth sheet of beautifully matched fabric. This would have shown that I was careful, mindful, thoughtful, and that I planned ahead.

The mismatch can be seen on the right side of the photo.

I did none of those things — and I do know better! — and so on the back of the NotQuilt, the maidens are cut in half right up the middle where the seam is and you can see how much better it would have looked if I had railroaded the damn fabric.

Argh. I have some Dragon Princess cloth left over, less than a yard plus a few bits. That isn’t enough to do anything about matching the fabric better. Since I do not have a spare couple of yards of Dragon Princess, I cannot fix the problem. I will just have to live with it.

I also don’t feel like ripping off what I have already sewn down and I really want to use up what I have on hand.

From now until the end of time, the Dragon Princess NotQuilt will have a big, fat flaw right up the middle. It is on the back where it won’t normally be seen, and it doesn’t affect the structural integrity. We will press on, get the back finished, and pretend we meant to do this because we did not have enough cloth to do otherwise.

My other choice is to do what seamstresses traditionally do with a mistake. Like carpenters, we cover up errors with trim. A strip of pink border fabric right down the middle will conceal the mismatch. It will look odd, but intentional. We’ll see.

The other reason to press on is that I don’t want another unfinished project. Closets full of quilt tops left unfinished because the maker got bored, changed their mind about the design, or made a mistake are a symbol of luxury and wealth. People who need warm bedding don’t have the luxury of refusing to finish a quilt because they don’t like it anymore. They put on their big girl panties, get over themselves, and get back to work. Think of this as good training for when the zombies come. Is it warm? Then it looks okay.


This is something to remember. When choosing a fabric for the back of a quilt, a large, obvious motif should be matched and that means planning ahead and buying plenty of extra fabric or being very careful with what you found in the stash.

So Dragon Princess was placed in the center and sewn down. How much of a border remained to be covered up?

Not that much. Also, despite my careful measuring, the panels ended up off-center. The open border on the top and on one side is about 2 inches wider than on the other side and the bottom.

It isn’t a huge amount and with alongside the glaring flaw of cut-in-half Dragon Princesses running up the middle, I doubt anybody but me will ever notice it.

Dragon Princess is a strong pattern, the butterfly binding is another strong pattern, and I wasn’t sure what to put between the two. The stash provided a solid deep pink cloth, enough to go all the way around the panels.

I measured and tore strips – the solid pink fabric was in several pieces, not one of them over a half-yard square – and started sewing them around the edges, covering up the blue blanket.

Top: Piecing the strips. Bottom: The finished border on the back.

I chose to sew the strips separately, as I came to them, rather than trying to piece a single, long strip for each side of the NotQuilt.

The blue blanket has, as mentioned before, wavy edges. I hope that sewing on smaller strips will give me some control when I get to the wavy sides. The inner edges of my dark pink strips will be laying on top of Dragon Princess and that will provide a stable, not stretched surface. The outer edges of the dark pink strips will be laying on top of and following the stretched-out edges of the rippled blanket.

The plan is to pin each strip in place and force the blanket edge to conform to the torn edge of the dark pink strip; an edge that I know is razor straight and stable. I’ll need plenty of pins to push that fullness into submission. Sewing each strip individually will give me better control, rather than trying to pin and sew down an edge 94 inches long. So far, this is working, but I am also starting with the sides of the blanket that were stabilized by the acetate binding.

My dark pink strips have one long side ironed under, enclosing the raw edge; this goes over Dragon Princess. The other raw edge, running along the edge of the blanket is left as-is. It will be covered by binding fabric. Where two strips meet, the short raw edge is turned under and ironed into place as well.

As always, you want no raw edges in the finished product. Raw edges invite unraveling in the wash.

Once the back of the blue blanket is covered, Dear Daughter and I will move the living room houseplants again, lay out Dragon Princess and start snapping chalk lines. I have to get this right, as my accuracy here will determine how well the Dragon Princess grid looks. It will be a lot tougher to hide mistakes here, on the fashion face of the NotQuilt.

The finished backing. Click to embiggen.