4 Tips to Save Money on Backing Fabric

What's my least favorite fabric to spend money on? It's probably a tie between plain background fabric and backing fabric. Don't get me wrong,  I love a beautiful backing fabric. It's just hard to drop around $50 for fabric that goes on the back of my quilt. What I really want to do with that $50 is spend it on fabric for my next project... think all the fat quarters and the new lines in the stores.

In fact, I would say I am a bit "lazy" about buying backing fabric. By this I mean I know when I will need some, but I won't buy it. I just wait until I absolutely need it to deal with the problem. Several times I have found myself scrambling to find enough fabric for a backing before sending it off to the quilter, or quilting it myself.  Since then I have developed a bit of strategy and plan. Here are a couple tips for keeping a little more cash in your pocket when buying backing fabric.

Here are some of my clearance backing purchases.

Buy fabric on clearance

This is perhaps the most obvious way to save money on backing fabric. If I am placing an order for some fabric at an online store I usually go into the clearance section and see if there is any fabric I like on clearance. This is a great way to stock up and (if you spend enough) get free shipping on the order.
Holiday sales are also great times to buy those large backing pieces, think Black Friday, end of the year sales, anniversary sales. Make sure to subscribe to your favorite online and brick and mortar store newsletters so you can keep up to date on all their sales.

Go solid

Every quilter knows that solid fabrics are by far cheaper than those beautiful designer fabrics. I prefer to use a floral/patterned fabric on the back of my quilts, but sometimes the budget just isn't there to buy all the fabric my heart desires. That's where solids come in. Not only are solids high quality fabrics, but you don't have to worry about matching up those patterns when piecing the backing. Confession: I don't worry about matching them anyway.

Just to compare, I looked up on the Fat Quarter Shop the difference in price between Moda fabrics and their solid line, Bella Solids. This is an average price comparison:

  • Moda Fabric price per yard $10.98 (which is a good price)
  • Bella Solid price per yard $7.48 (also great price)

This turns out to be a difference of $3.50/yard. If you buy 4 yards of backing fabric that is a savings of $14! Some manufacturers sell solids in the $6.50 to $7 price point which means big savings for you!

This quilt has solid backing. The front was so busy that I thought the back could be toned down a bit. Plus, I hadn't planned ahead for the backing so went to the local shop and bought an affordable solid.

Get scrappy

I know, after piecing a quilt top not many of us want to turn around and piece a quilt back. But sometimes a girl has to save money. I have many quilts with pieced backings so let's go through them and why each is backed this way.

The backing above was made using left over pieces of backing from previous quilts. It was easy to piece as I just cut them all in long strips and fit them together as I went along. So this backing cost me $0 and I think it adds some extra character to the quilt. Below you can see the front of the quilt. This is my pattern The Rebekah. It actually goes quite well with the front.


The next quilt I had backing fabric but had enough for a throw and was making a twin size. I didn't want to buy a whole new batch of fabric for a twin size quilt. So I measured the backing fabric I had and figured out how many inches I needed to make up. Then, I dug through my scraps and found enough scraps to make up the difference.

 Above you can see I had some fabric already cut different sizes. So I tried to just improvise and I love how it turned out. It actually turned out as one large panel. I then cut it into two panels and offset them.

Below is another example of using part of a large piece of fabric and then piecing the rest of the inches. I don't mind the broken up look of this quilt back, although some people may not like it. I could have spread out the piecing more, but chose to do it like this.

My last example of piecing a backing was more of a mistake. LOL! When I was working on my Mismatched Stars and Stripes pattern for the first time I made way too many stars. And because I had spent all that time making all those stars there was no way I was going to waste them. So I decided to use the stars and scraps of fabric from the quilt top as part of the backing. Below you can get an idea of the back. It really is a fun, and beautiful backing. Instead of being practical like the other backings this one is almost like another quilt top.

Sheets or duvet covers

I personally have never backed a quilt this way, but have definitely wanted to try. I have seen many other quilters buy high quality cotton sheets or duvet covers on sale and use them to back their quilts. If you buy a package of sheets you get two backings, one from the flat sheet and another by cutting the corners off of the fitted sheet. Another reason to use this method ... no piecing!  Holiday sales or end of season sales is also a good time to look for sheets on the cheap.

No matter the backing, just make sure you love your quilt and don't break the bank. Let me know if you have any more ideas for saving money on backing.


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I get my sheets from my local thrift shops. I’ve found some amazing backings this way. I look for 100% cotton white ones so I can custom dye them whatever color I want. I also found some high end fashion house label sheets once – they are beautiful 100% cotton – which I paid less than $10 for two queen size flat sheets.

I usually will try and find sheets that have been made in India or use Egyptian cotton as they tend to be of higher quality plus hold the dye well. Higher thread counts are also important so anything between 600-1000 threads per square inch. They wear better over time by getting softer. I’ve not had any issues with the tighter weave from them when quilting.



I have had several people ask how I line up the pieced backings to make sure they are straight. If you want to make a pieced backing but not hassle with keeping it lined up during the basting process I would send it out to a quilter. My quilter (Kaitlyn from Knot and Thread) has done several for me with pieced backings and all have come back perfect.

If you are basting it at home I would suggest basting on the floor so the whole thing can be laid out flat (instead of say a table). Tape the backing down very well so it doesn’t shift. Start by lining up the quilt top with the pieced backing. I usually feel with my fingers for the seams or pull back the batting and quilt top to line up the seams.

I have also used tape as markers before. I put tape on the floor as a guide of where I want a quilt top to lay specifically down based on where I had previously taped the backing.


Thank you Shelby! Your ideas here are fabulous. I’m in that predicament right now. I rarely buy yardages for backing. Scouting clearance sales is a great idea.
Premium muslin is one I’ve used a few times. Although it usually only comes in natural or white. So I use strips or make Flying Geese to piece in between, horizontal usual. Gives it a kick of color.

Diane B

What I still struggle with is how to ensure that the front and back are lined up properly. For instance, how did you line up the backing you showed as “Get Scrappy” to ensure they were both straight?

Ruth Weir

This is somewhat along the lines of “Get Scrappy” but I have found that because I gravitate toward “fat quarter friendly” quilt projects, I buy the entire bundle of a particular line, and then have enough scraps (with, as it usually turns out, 2 yards or so of background) to make another quilt. So I have found that a quilt top can also be a backing, and then the quilt becomes reversible. It also jump-starts my creativity to figure out how I can best use all of my remaining fabric in a pleasing way—it’s like trying to solve a fun fabric puzzle.


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