June 30, 2019

Fleece Backing

Last month I shared the floral quilts I made and gifted to my three sisters-in-law. Instead of regular quilting cotton for the backing, I used a fleece for all three quilts. Today I'd like to share a few tips on using fleece.

I chose LUXE fleece from JoAnns which is their heaviest weight fleece and is supposed to be pill resistant. Since these are new quilts that haven't gone through much wear and tear or washing, I can't speak to the level of pill resistance. Hopefully they will wear well.

LUXE fleece feels heavier and more luxurious than the other types of fleece that JoAnns carries. I found this comparison of the various types of fleece on their website. It is more expensive than the other fleece but when purchased on sale and/or with a coupon it is still quite reasonable.

The main drawback is that the color choices are much more limited. There were several prints available but few solids. Fortunately I was able to find colors that worked well enough for all three quilts.

Another advantage to the fleece was the wider width. They are 59" wide which was just right for my quilts that finished at 42" x 54"  No piecing was necessary.

Because of the weight, I did not use any batting. I thought without batting they would feel lighter but in the end they feel about the same weight as a normal quilt . . . just softer. Lots softer.

The drawback to no batting was some shadowing of the seams. All of the quilts included some light fabrics and all the fleece was relatively dark in comparison. You can see the show-through in the following two photos. I felt like it was more noticeable in the first quilt that had larger blocks.

In the second example, the pieces were smaller and this made the show-through feel less noticeable overall. I think the small piecing and the quilting texture help to minimize the show-through.

If your quilt is full of prints, I wouldn't worry about the show-through of the seams as it will be hidden by the prints. Another option to avoid the show-through would be to use a lightweight lining fabric or batting to eliminate the problem.

Cara at Sew Colorado Quilting quilted them for me on her longarm. She was more than willing to give fleece a try which I really appreciated. Here are her tips for using fleece backing:

Do not cut off the selvage because it helps to stabilize the fleece which is stretchy. She said it was a little tricky at first to figure out how tight to roll the fleece without stretching it too much. Don't over stretch.

Choose a quilting motif that doesn't back track on itself. If the motif does back track, try to use thread that matches the backing. Cara used a lighter thread for all my quilts to blend into the quilt top. For the most part this worked beautifully because the thread tends to bury itself into the fleece pile.

In the photo below you can see how the thread color shows up as little spots of lighter color here and there on the back of one of the quilts where the design tracks over itself. This backing was also the darkest of the three and the design motif was different than the other two. I don't think it's terrible but definitely something to be aware of.

The best part about using fleece for the backing is the appearance. In the photo below you might think the thread is a darker blue but it's not. It's actually a light gray that blended well with the quilt top. The thread tends to get buried into the pile of the fleece giving the impression of being embossed. I love how it looks!

For some reason I found one of the quilts a little more of a challenge to bind than the others. I did all machine binding and the edges had a tendency to roll a little. Pressing well with a press cloth (because the fabric is polyester) seemed to help. I think it would have been hard to bind these by hand because of the pile. Not impossible but definitely harder to get down to the actual fabric base with the stitches.

All in all, I couldn't have been more pleased with the results. The quilts are really really soft and cuddly and I absolutely love how the quilting shows up on the back.

I have since done one more quilt with a fleece backing but haven't finished the binding yet. When it's done I'll share it here.

Have you ever used fleece or any other types of backing materials? I'd love to know about your experience.