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Is This Information About Using Fleece for Quilt Backing Correct?   General Discussion

Started Jan-13 by judyinohio; 425 views.

From: judyinohio


I've never used polyester fleece as the backing for a quilt but that's what I am going to do with the "Cats in the Attic" quilt I am making for DH.  I found a perfect kitty poly fleece online and I think it is too good not to use if you know what I mean.  So I went searching for advice on which way to load the fleece on my Lily Aurora and this is what I found on the APQS website:


Tips for using fleece, flannel or nappy knits for backing fabric

May 24, 2016

Many quilters love to make cuddly quilts using fabric like polar fleece, flannel, or nappy knits like Minky or Shannon fabrics. These sure make a quilt snuggly but can present challenges for longarm quilters because of their loft, stretchiness, nap or grainline. And both the flannel and Minky knit fabrics will leave your sewing room in a cloud of lint and dust. Have your vacuum at the ready and wear a light-colored shirt when you work with these linty fabrics. Otherwise you’ll be pulling tiny specks of lint and dust bunnies off your clothing for weeks!

Each of these fabrics introduces unique properties that may require adjustments to the way you may normally quilt. However, the single common characteristic they all share is some degree of stretchiness.

Minky fabric stretches as much as three inches when pulled across the grain line but is mostly stable alone the lengthwise grain line. However, fleece stretches in both directions. It can stretch over three inches along the lengthwise grain, and as much as five inches or more along the cross grain. That’s why it is a popular fabric for active wear and outer wear. Flannel stretches more across the grain than most woven fabric due to its lower thread count and brushed texture, but it remains stable along the lengthwise grain.

Longarm machine quilters have a dilemma about which way to load this stretchy fabric. Personally I have had the most success by loading these fabrics so that the selvage is perpendicular to the rollers.

loading stretchy fabrics

This means that I’m pinning the cut edge of the stretchy fabric to my pick up and backing rollers, and the selvedge edges are actually parallel to the side legs on my quilting frame. Remember that the lengthwise grain on fabrics stretches the least. Loading these stretchy fabrics this way means that they will NOT stretch much from roller to roller. That is key to keeping the quilt as flat as possible and to reduce the risk of bubbles and puckers.


So, do all of my friends on this quilting forum agree with the author of this advice??  I think it's kind of a dumb photo;  she's using batting and she's got straight pins in side tension bands and this dumb photo makes me doubt her expertise. wink

  • Edited January 13, 2020 12:04 pm  by  judyinohio
In reply toRe: msg 1

From: judyinohio


I guess I should take a poll of sorts.

If you use poly fleece on your longarm for quilt backing do you load the poly fleece with the selvedges pinned to the leaders or do you load the fleece with the selvedges NOT pinned to the leaders?

Suze (casuzenn)

From: Suze (casuzenn)


I can't answer for long arm use but I have done MANY with my domestic using fleece...

But my two cents...It does make sense to have the selvages on the pinned sides -  least amount of stretch going on there... to tell the truth, I never did figure out which way was more stretchy when I did side is the fleece , being stretchy and all, does not show puckers much..

I wonder if you could spray the backing and adhere it to the top and load the sandwich as a unit if you are concerned about puckers?

Cathy (cacnurse1)

From: Cathy (cacnurse1)


I ahve never used fleece as a backing so can't help you.  I know Dee has used it a lot.  Maybe she will see this post.

Pirate (PIRATE_SR)

From: Pirate (PIRATE_SR)


My 2¢ for using Minkee a/o fleece on a long arm ... I also like to put the selvages parallel to the sides of the machine.  To help control the stretch along the cut edges, I sew a long strip of waste fabric, typically muslin because I have long strips of that, onto the cut edges.  Before I got my Red Snappers, I would have pinned the waste fabric to my leaders.  Nowadays, I attach with my Red Snappers.

And I'm careful NOT to pull the quilt layers too taut.  The problem with that is when you are done quilting and release the quilt, the fabric is going to want to return to its natural state.  If you've pulled it really, really taut, it's going to "shrink" back .. you'll have horrible wrinkling.   But you don't want to have the Minkee/fleece too loose or you'll develop tucks on the back.   So, I tighten my rails so the fabric is "firm" but not drum tight.

I've had lovely success, so it can be done.

I use fleece exclusively on my I spy quilts.  There are definitely "tricks".  I always run the selvage perpendicular to the rollers.  The length of the fabric doesn't stretch much.  On some fleece it doesn't stretch at all (like regular cotton) but the width of the fabric stretches crazy.  When rolling the backing on to the bars, be careful to smooth it gently, try not to stretch it side to side, but do keep it smooth & even.  I usually roll it all to the top bar, then back again to the bottom going slow and careful, smoothing gently with my hands to keep the edges even.  As you advance it, don't pull the tension tight, on either the backing or top, enough for it to be smooth and not drooping, but NOT tight like an embroidery hoop.

Regarding the sides, I ditched the clamps years ago because they are heavy and stretch the fleece.  Instead I have a piece of fabric sewn with a dowel & velcro straps that I pin to the fleece, then very carefully straight - do not pull taught or when released you'll have serious puckers.  Baste each side.  THEN with the top basted you can pull the sides a little tighter if you really must.  The whole idea is to keep smooth but not tight.

I have had problems with my tops "shrinking" in the middle then at the bottom it's extra & wavy.  I discovered what was happening when I got a tape measure and started measuring on each pass to make sure it was the same dimension.  Now I stretch the top each time just a bit to make sure it's the same - if it started 45" on the top edge, then it's 45" at each pass.  and not 44.5. (example).  Stretch it before basting to the backing.  I don't know if this is a function of using fleece or if it would happen with any backing.  But it's more noticeable with fleece because you aren't every stretching anything with fleece, smooth and even are what you need.  Not tight on anything.  I hardly ever use regular backing any more because I'm lazy and cheap, fleece doesn't cost much and I don't use batting.  If you want to give me a call to discuss.


From: judyinohio


Thank you very much for the tips, Dee.

How did you know that I was going to load my fleece backing today?  I am waiting for the embroidered label to arrive and this fleece loading job is a time-killer while I wait because I plan to incorporate the label as one of the blocks on the front of the kitty quilt.

Now I'll work on the side fabric-dowels ("Dee sticks") idea as well ...

Cathy (cacnurse1)

From: Cathy (cacnurse1)


Dee in TX (DBRADFOR3) said:

I use fleece exclusively on my I spy quilts

I knew you would have some good tips for Judy!  Good to see you here.  We miss you.

Miss you guys.  Long hours. I hit 40 hours for the week last night, with two more days to go. Sigh, lots harder than when I was younger

I have pictures somewhere on my blog. Actually I think I had a post about fleece somewhere there. I will look