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Beginner Quilting Series Part Three: Batting, Backing & Basting

Welcome back! If you're joining me from last week, you should already have a quilt top put together in preparation for today. This week, we will be working together to get it ready to quilt! We will also be talking about the different types of batting available and....don't panic...a little math! I'll show you how to create the backing for this quilt or calculate how much backing fabric you'll need for your own.

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A quilt, by definition, is composed of three parts; a quilt top, middle (batting), and backing. The batting in between our quilt top and backing is in charge of giving our quilt some weight and warmth. Several different kinds of batting are available and each has different characteristics and fibers. It may be a little overwhelming to decide which to choose! Hopefully, this part of the Quilting Series helps with the decision. For this series, I can recommend this brand and size for batting. However, make your own decision and go with what you like best! I've added an honest disclaimer at the bottom of this section. There is also some information about what size batting you need for our quilt here.

Before we dive into the different fibers available, let's first discuss some different terms that you may come across in your search for batting.

Loft: Loft refers to the thickness of your quilt batting. A low loft has less thickness and a high loft has a greater thickness.

Needle-Punched: This type of batting is exactly what the name suggests: the batting is mechanically felted together with hundreds of tiny needles. This is great for machine quilting, but be sure to have your sewing machine match the direction in which the needles have already been punched.

Scrim: Scrim is a thin stabilizer added to batting to keep it from stretching, allowing the machine quilting to be further apart.

Fusible: This type of batting can be fused to your quilt top to save some trouble during the sandwiching part (more on this below). This is done by ironing the batting to the quilt top and batting, then they'll stick together!

Different Batting Fiber Types

*Please Note* The products below are given as examples of reputable companies that I use and would recommend...not necessarily the correct size to purchase to complete your quilt top.

Cotton: Cotton batting is soft, warm and has that typical 'quilt' look, much like an antique quilt you would see! After machine washing and drying, the batting shrinks a little, giving your quilt a slightly wrinkled and warm look. This is the definition of cozy to me! You have the option to prewash cotton batting to avoid some of the shrinkage and wrinkly effects. Quilter's Dream is a great brand made with 100% cotton. Cotton batting also comes in white which is something I use regularly. If you plan to use white in your quilts tops, I recommend using white batting! Warm and Natural is also a great brand. Keep in mind that some of these battings are needle-punched with scrim. Since scrim is made of polyester, batting that contains this wouldn't be 100% cotton.

Polyester: This is a great option if you really want to show off your quilting. It's fluffy with a higher loft than other types of batting. It also doesn't shrink, eliminating the risk of the quilt wrinkling as cotton batting does. It's lightweight and breathable, so it's not quite as warm as other options. Fairfield is a great brand! Polyester batting is also a little more budget-friendly than the other options.

Cotton/Poly Blend: This may be a favorite among long-armers! The majority of cotton/poly blended batting is made up of 80% cotton and 20% polyester. Hobbs Batting Heirloom is a great option. This type of batting has the breathability of cotton and wrinkles less due to the polyester fibers.

Wool: Wool batting is a natural insulator; it keeps you warm in the winter months and cool during the summer! It's a sustainable and eco-friendly choice. It also has a higher loft than cotton, so it's a good option if you'd like a high-loft natural fiber. Quilter's Dream Wool Batting is an excellent choice if you think wool is right for you.

An Honest Disclaimer:

I'll pull back the curtain a little bit here...when I started quilting I had no idea about batting and I didn't even do any research! I did a quick Amazon search for 'quilt batting' and picked one that looked good. I settled on the Warm and Natural brand and loved the quilt that I made. I continued to either pick the same brand or whatever was convenient. I didn't read into how to use it, the best quilting density that worked with it, or anything! And guess what...everything turned out fine. So don't stress about batting, honestly! Your quilt will be beautiful no matter what you choose.

How to choose sizing for quilt batting: This is an excellent question! We have our finished quilt top and we want the batting to extend past that length on each side. I would plan for at least 2" of overage on each side (more for a long-armer, but ask their preferences). So for our quilt, measuring 45" x 54", we need a piece of batting at least 49" x 58". I mentioned that a 60" x 60" batting would be great! Or roughly two yards if you're measuring that way.

If you're quilting at home, don't stress about the exact measurements of batting. As long as it extends out past your quilt top on each side, you're fine!

Batting is sold in a pre-measured size bag or by the yard. I LOVE the premeasured bags of batting. There is little guesswork- I can grab and go. There is also not as much waste. Purchase a bag that is a little bigger than your quilt top and cut to size if necessary.


First, let's make our backing! Then, I'll explain a little about the quilt math that goes along with backing fabric.

Pro Tip:  You do not need to iron your backing and binding fabric first! We will save all the ironing for the end.

To Create the Beginner Quilting Series Backing:

You need 3 yards of fabric for this quilt backing. I am using 'Old Green' by Kona Solids. For most quilts, you need about 3" of overage on each side. If you are sending your quilt to a long-armer, make sure to ask their preferences as it may be more than this. Since our quilt measures 45" x 54", we want our quilt backing to be around 51" x 60".

Before you begin:

-Did you add together the binding and backing fabric requirements for your quilt when you purchased fabric for one continuous cut? If so, proceed to step one.

-If you have two cuts of fabric; one for binding and one for backing, proceed to step two.

Step One: Let's cut our binding strips from our fabric first. Before ironing your fabric, and while it's still folded from the fabric store, lay it out on your cutting mat using the methods described in Part One of this series. Square the left edge of your fabric and cut (5) 2.25" strips from your fabric. These will be for the binding. Set this aside for later on in the series.

Step Two: With your 3 yards of fabric still folded in half, selvage to selvage from the bolt, fold the entire length in half (hotdog style). Make sure you match the bottom folds and the top selvages up.

Step Three: With your fabric scissors, cut along the halfway fold you just created. You now have two sets of folded fabric on top of each other (four pieces of fabric). Basically, we took our 3 yards of fabric, folded and in half to two 1.5 yard pieces. Don't move or separate anything just yet!

Step Four: Take your sewing clips and clip along the inner two pieces of fabric. You will see that the two pieces of fabric that you're pinning together are right sides together.

Step Five: It's safe to let your fabric unfold now as you take this to your sewing machine. Sew along the line you just clipped using a 1" seam allowance. Stick a ruler under your machine if you aren't sure where 1" on your machine is.

Step Six: Trim your seam allowance using a ruler and rotary blade down to 1/2". You will be cutting off the selvages here.

Step Seven: Iron your seam allowance open. Next, you can easily iron your entire quilt backing. Notice how we skipped ironing our fabric fresh from the store. By skipping this, cutting and sewing first, we are saving a LOT of time.

How to Calculate Your Own Quilt Backing:

To calculate how much backing you'll need for your own quilt, we're going to have to do a little math! Please note: if you are using a quilt pattern, the backing requirements should always be listed. If you plan to use a long-armer, verify their backing measurement requirements.

Unless you purchase 108" wide quilt backing material OR you're doing a small baby quilt, you will have to sew your quilt backing together with one or two seams.

-To calculate how much fabric you may need for your backing, take the width of your quilt and add about 6" (3" for each side). Divide this number by 36". This equals the number of yards of fabric for one width.

Width of Quilt + 6" / 36"

Quilt Size: 45" x 54"

45" + 6"=51"

51"/36"=1.5 yards

-Next, measure the legnth of your quilt and add 6". Divide this by the width of the backing material you choose and round up to the nearest 1/2 number. This equals how many widths of fabric you need.

Legnth of quilt + 6" / width of backing material

Quilt Size: 45" x 54"

Backing Matieral: 44"

54" + 6"=60"

60"/44"=1.5 widths

Multiply these two numbers together to get the total yardage that you will need for your quilt.

1.5 x 1.5 = 3 yards


We're making a quilt sandwich! If you read my blog post The Supplies You Need to Actually Quilt Your First Quilt, you may already be familiar with the products that I recomend to quilt at home! To quilt, we have to baste our quilt backing, batting, and quilt top together. This is known as our quilt sandwich. How well your layers are basted together will directly affects how your quilt will turn out.

There are two basic methods to baste our quilt sandwich: pin basting and spray basting. I tend to do a combination of both. I will walk you through the steps for each below.

Spray Basting

Spray basting is quick and easy. The downsides to spray basting are that sometimes your fabric can still shift beneath you and it's a little costly, especially if you plan to quilt often. If your quilt backing isn't perfectly smooth as you quilt, you will see puckering or folds on the back of your quilt, which isn't ideal! I typicaly will use pins as well as spray baste just to be safe.


Painter's Tape

Step One: Make sure that your backing fabric is smooth and free of wrinkles. It's also a good time to make sure your floor is clean since we will be utilizing it to lay out our quilt.

Step Two: Lay your quilt backing out on the floor, right side down. It should be as smooth as possible. Next, take your painters tape, and tape down the perimeter of the backing to the floor.

Step Three: Make sure your batting is trimmed to the correct size that you need. For info on that, click here. Starting on the bottom, fold it up and place it at the top of the quilt backing that's taped to the floor.

Step Four: Begin spraying the underside of the batting at the top. Hold the spray can about 8" from the batting and use a generous coating. Place it down against the quilt backing and smooth. Working from the center out is the most effective.

Step Five: Now, spray the top of the folded area in the same way as step four. Unfold this section down so it lays down on the quilt backing. Smooth it down.

Step Six: Repeat step five until the entire batting has been spray basted to the quilt backing.

Step Seven: Next, fold your quilt top up as you did with the batting and place it down at the top of your quilt backing/batting on the floor.

Step Eight: Begin spraying the batting in sections and smoothing your quilt top down to it. I like spray a 8" section or so, then unfold my quilt top down, smooth, then continue. Repeat this step until your quilt top is completely spray basted. Really take your time with basting. You need everything to be as smooth and flat as possible.

Step Nine (Optional): For extra security, take your basting pins and pin throughout the quilt, starting in the middle. I will pin every 10" or so in every direction, particulary in the corners. This is the method that I prefer, as I believe the pins give the quilt some extra security and ensure that there will be no shifting during quilting!


Using pins is the most traditional form of quilt basting. It's economical and better for the environment (and your lungs) than spray basting is. It's also very effective. The downside is that it's a little time consuming to pin your entire quilt.


Painters or Duck Tape

Step One: Make sure that your backing fabric is smooth and free of wrinkles. It's also a good time to make sure your floor is clean since we will be utilizing it to lay out our quilt.

Step Two: Lay your quilt backing out on the floor, right side down. It should be as smooth as possible. Next, take your painter's tape, and tape down the perimeter of the backing to the floor.

Step Three: If you haven't already, trim your batting down to the correct size. It should be at least 2" bigger on each side than your quilt top. Lay your batting down on top of your quilt backing. Make sure it's nice and smooth.

Step Four: Repeat step three with your quilt top next. It should be laid on top, right side facing up.

Step Five: Starting from the middle, begin pinning through all three layers of materials. Smooth outwards as you place each pin. Use your hand as a guide for space between pins.

Congratulations! You've officially made the best sandwich that you're not allowed to eat. Join me back next week for Part Four! We will be discussing the different ways you can machine quilt your quilt; using a walking foot or free-motion foot. I'll share the supplies that you need. From there, it's kind of a choose-your-own adventure. Part Five will be all about using your walking foot and Part Six will be a Beginner's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting. How you finish your quilt is up to you!

Until next week...


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