Craftsy Class Review and a Free Class – Creative Quilt Backs

I’m so excited to partner with Craftsy and kick off my fall roundup of online classes to share with you. For starters, why don’t we start with a free class? As of this writing, I counted 35 free “mini” classes offered by Craftsy and my favorite has to be Creative Quilt Backs by Elizabeth Hartman.

Creative Quilt BacksThis class was the first one I watched when I first discovered all that Craftsy has to offer and I became a huge Craftsy fan right away!

In Creative Quilt Backs, Elizabeth walks you through the basics of how to calculate the size needed for various types of pieced backings. She includes very detailed step by step directions that help you get comfortable with the dreaded “quilt math!”

She also gives great tips on how to use large scale prints, and how to use up those leftovers by making a secondary composition on the back. I love making scrappy back art, and here are just a few of the fun quilt backs I’ve made since watching this class:

modern _logs_backingThe Back of Modern Logs

Strips of Color

The back of Colorful Chevrons

Pieced BackingThe back of String of Pearls

Craftsy’s free mini classes are very similar to the regular paid classes with well produced step-by-step videos from some of your favorite teachers. They are just a tad shorter and don’t include the back and forth teacher communication, but they are a great way to check out the Craftsy Platform.

Be sure to check out Creative Quilt Backs with Elizabeth Hartman and jazz up your finishes!






Bar Graphs Pieced Backing Tutorial

Bar Graphs is the name I gave to the design of the pieced back I made for Colorful Chevrons. I like my backs to be just as fun and colorful as the original quilt, and many times they end up being even more modern than the fronts!

Bar Graphs

Strips of Color Backing by Christa Watson

I really like the chunky “bars and graphs” look to this design, so I thought I would share a tutorial with you on how I pieced this backing. After all, it could stand on it’s own as an independent quilt design.

Strips of Color

Bar Graphs 72″ x 88″

I started off with some basic measurements. Since my finished quilt size is approximately 64″ x 80″, I needed my backing to measure at least 4 inches larger on each side so that there would be “wiggle room” around the entire perimeter.

I also wanted to make sure that whatever design I chose would look okay once the top, bottom and sides were trimmed up. I designed the backing to be 72″ x 88″ with plenty of blank space on the top and bottom strips for trimming.

I started by sketching long colorful strips in a stair step design, filling in with dark blue solid for the negative space.

I used leftover Michael Miller Cotton Couture solids from the front of the quilt along with more of the dark navy.

The backing is basically a horizontal strippy quilt sewn together in rows. A list of yardage requirement and cutting dimensions are shown below:

Cutting StripsDark Blue Fabric – Approximately 4.5 yards. Cut (18) 8.5″ x 42″ strips. Piece them together to create the lengths shown in the above diagram

Colored Scraps – Approximately 1/4 yard of 9 different fabrics. Trim each piece to the lengths shown above. In some cases you can use a fat quarter where the pieces measure less than 22″ in length.

Colored Strips

Bar Graphs Pieced Together – Ready to Baste!

Join together the rectangles with 1/4″ seams to create each strip. Then join the strips to create the backing (or new quilt top). I prefer to press my seams open and I starch the whole piece when sewn together. This is especially helpful if you are making a pieced backing. It will help the quilt glide more smoothly under the machine.

When I basted my quilt, I was careful to line up the strips as straight as I could. I knew that a lot of the blue would be trimmed up from the top and bottom strips and I’m pleased with how it turned out. I used the same dark navy for the binding as well.

Here are pictures of the finished quilt, both front and back:

Colorful ChevronsBar Graphs

Click here for detailed shots of the quilting and more about the front.

Whether you use it for the back or front of your quilt, please share pictures of your progress on my flickr group: Christa’s Quilt Along. Remember, you can make it yourself and make it your own. 🙂

EQI hope you enjoy making Bar Graphs. Click here for the EQ7 download and play around with different colorings, layouts and sizes.

Shades of Grey – Pieced Backing Tutorial

I love to make pieced backings and by popular request I’m sharing with you a tutorial on how to put one together. This goes with my String of Pearls Quilt Along.

Shades of Grey Backing

Shades of Grey Pieced Quilt Back, 72″ x 72″

Before we start, there are a few things to consider. First of all, how big is your quilt top? You want to sketch out a backing design that leaves plenty of wiggle room around the sides. A good rule of thumb is to make your backing at least 6 inches larger than your quilt top.

String of Pearls

String of Pearls Quilt Top 66″ x 66″

For example, my String of Pearls quilt finishes approximately 66″ x 66″. Therefore, I need to have a backing that measures about 72″ x 72″. That’s a nice measurement because 72 inches is the same as 2 yards, so you can visualize a backing roughly 2 yards wide by 2 yards long.

One Fabric Backing

Backing, One Fabric, 72″ x 72″

The second thing to consider is, do you want to make your backing from all one fabric (most efficient), or would you like to make it a little more artistic (my favorite)?

The solid backing above requires 4 yards of fabric (two – 2 yard lengths). Join them with a seam down the middle making a rectangle of approximately 72″ x 80″. Trim off about 8″, making a 72 inch square and throw the excess into your scrap bucket.

Finally, you need to decide ahead of time if you will be quilting the quilt yourself, or hiring a longarmer to do it for you. When quilting yourself, you can get away with less extra around the sides.

When sending a quilt out for professional quilting, however, you may need more fabric around the edges for the longarmer to work with. She also may request that your seams need to run either horizontal or vertical depending on how she loads the quilt on the machine. Be sure to check ahead of time (or just quilt it yourself like I love to do!)

One Fabric Backing

Leftover Pearls

When deciding on a pieced back, I like to incorporate leftover fabrics or blocks from the top to give it a little interest.

Pieced BackingFirst, I lay the quilt top on the floor or a large table, then start randomly placing leftover pieces of fabric on top until it’s covered. I rearrange all my pieces as needed until I’m happy with the layout.

Pieced BackingNext, I will trim up my pieces and start joining them together in sections until my backing is big enough to overlap the top on all sides by at least 3 inches. Remember, it will shrink up some with seam allowances, so be sure to add more if needed.

Pieced Backing Diagram

Pieced Backing Diagram

For your convenience, I have included cutting diagrams for my pieced back. The measurements include seam allowances. Note, the pieced Pearl Bracelets section is made from 12 (3.5″ x 4.5″) rectangles to create a 3.5″ x 36.5″ unit.

Voila! Time for basting!

For more inspiration on making a pieced backing, check out Elizabeth Hartman’s FREE online Craftsy class, “Creative Quilt Backs.”

You can also see how I made these pieced backs by clicking the links below the pictures:

Hugs N Kisses BackSea of Squares Pieced Back

Charming Chevrons Pieced Back

Hugs ‘N Kisses Pieced Backing Tutorial
Sea of Squares Pieced Backing Tutorial
Charming Chevrons Pieced Backing Tutorial

Artistic Pieced Quilt Backing Tutorial

As promised, here is a mini-tutorial on how I made my pieced backing for my Charming Chevrons quilt-along. I like to call it “Back Art.”

First, I started with a rough sketch of what I want the backing to look like. I designed it  EQ7, but paper and colored pencils work well, too. Next, I measured my finished quilt top and added three  inches around the perimeter (six inches total to the length & width)  to calculate how large the backing needed to be.  I came up with a backing measurement of 54″ x 60.”

Pieced Quilt Back Diagram

Measure Quilt Top

The thing I like about pieced quilt backs is that it’s almost like making another quilt top. I know how the pieces will fit together and it’s much easier to assemble from large scraps and chunks I have leftover in my stash.

For my backing above, I cut out three chunks of dark grey and one chunk of light grey, plus some assorted colored strips, all Kona Solids.

Light Grey Piece

Going from left to right and top to bottom, we could label these sections 1-4. In this order, the cut measurements are:

  1.  19.5″ x 31.5″ (light grey)
  2. 33.5″ x 33.5″ (dark grey)
  3. 21.5″ x 27.5″ (dark grey)
  4. 31.5″ x 25.5″ (dark grey)

I then cut out several 2 1/2″ strips of color to add a touch of whimsy to the back.

I sewed them to the two opposite corners, log cabin style on either side of a light and dark grey piece.

I was working with some leftover fat quarters so I just pieced enough partial strips to get the length I needed.

Once the light grey chunk was pieced, I added a solid dark grey chunk (#2) to the right side.

Top Half of the BackingI repeated the process for the bottom half of the quilt top also. I sewed 2 1/2″ strips of Kona colors to the left side of a dark grey chunk (#4) and then added the solid piece of grey (#3) to form  bottom half. Then I joined the two halves to complete the backing.

Pieced Quilt Back

While sewing, I made sure to press every seam open and use pins so that my pieces would line up correctly. Because I had a stripe roughly in the center of my quilt, this helped me line everything up straight when it came time to baste the quilt.

I like this technique so much I will probably sew a pieced back for every quilt I do in the future. One more idea I may try on my next quilt backing is to sew a colorful square somewhere on the back near the corner of the quit (but away from the edges). This could serve as a label ready to write on as soon as the quilt is finished!

If you were inspired to create some “back art” of your own, I’d love to see it! You can email your pictures to

Yes I’m old school when it comes to technology. I don’t really use Facebook or Twitter very often and I haven’t gotten on the Flikr or Instagram bandwagon yet – sorry!!