Would you like to make your next quilt irresistibly soft and cuddly? Try a microfiber blanket as quilt backing and you may never go back to regular quilting cotton! The snuggle factor is off the charts making them perfect for any child-related project, couch throws, quilts that will be gifted, and any other quilt you intend to truly use a lot.
Hello! My name is Lilo and I am the creator of Trace Creek Quilting. I have quilted hundreds of quilts for others during my career as a longarm quilter and have worked with backings of every imaginable type. But when it comes to my own quilt creations I almost always choose a microfiber blanket as quilt backing.
Why? Let me tell you about what makes them great! In this post I'll explain what to look for when buying a microfiber blanket for quilt backing, a few pros and cons to using it, and then my best tips during the sewing process.
The quilt featured in photos above is the Adventureland pattern. Get it here!
The quilt featured in photos above is the Holiday Party pattern. Get it here!
What to Look for in a Microfiber Blanket as Quilt Backing
The descriptors for these blankets get thrown around haphazardly. Microfleece, flannel fleece, velvet, minky, plush…. It’s important to look at a photo of the product if you can’t see it in person to know for sure it’s what you want. I have links below for places to buy, but first let’s talk about the qualities that set us up for success!
- Polyester microfiber. As a quilter you're probably used to sewing with cotton, maybe even exclusively. Polyester is very different than cotton, but different doesn't mean bad.
- Low pile. Just as warm and soft as thicker items, but much less likely to have fibers pull through from the back. (We will get to that.)
- Single layer that is double sided. We want one fabric that has a back just as soft as the front.
- Solid colors, plain weave. It’s easy for patterns and images to stretch and distort during the quilting process, especially on a longarm.
Once you know what you are looking for you can find these microfiber blankets in several places. After much trial and error, Walensee and Kingole are my favorite brands. This Leisure Town comes in at a close second. It has an edging on it which, as a longarmer, keeps it from stretching uncontrollably when on the machine, but it’s a tad bit thicker and I tend to get more fibers coming through.
Pros and Cons for Using a Microfiber Blanket as Quilt Backing
Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of this particular type of blanket to help you decide if it seems like a good fit for your next project, especially in comparison to its better known cousin, minky:
- Pros: A microfiber blanket is lighter, breathes better, inexpensive and since you purchase it by size (throw, queen, king…), you are not limited by WOF, and do not have to piece it. Also, its double sided texture makes it a tad bit clingy to your batting or quilt top which can be a helpful counterbalance to its tendency to stretch during the basting/quilting process.
- Cons: There is less sewing stability as it stretches in every possible direction. It is also a less well known product and potentially less likely to be taken by your local longarmer. The most challenging issue of working with these throws is that the fibers tend to pull through from the backing to the quilt top. This is not uncommon with minky as well, but seems more prevalent in these throws.
Know that a microfiber blanket as quilt backing is not necessarily the best match for every quilt top and that’s okay! There is no need to force it, it will come together for just the right quilt.
Microfiber Blankets and the Environment
There's one big downside to using microfiber blankets as a backing, which is that they are not environmentally friendly. Microfiber is a type of polyester and like all other synthetic polyester fabrics — including cuddle fabrics, fleece, or athleticwear garments for example — it sheds hazardous microplastics into water systems when washed. If you choose to use microfiber or any other synthetic material in your quilts, there are steps you can take to help prevent microplastics from making their way to our oceans.
- Spot clean: Instead of washing your microfiber quilt in the washing machine every time it gets a little dirty, just give it a little spot clean on the dirty area to avoid more microplastic shedding than is absolutely necessary.
- Use a laundry bag: Bags like the Guppyfriend are specifically designed to reduce microplastic pollution. These are meant for garments primarily and are a little small for washing an entire quilt, depending on the quilt size. So while this is an excellent option for all of your polyester garments, it might be more of a challenge for full finished quilts.
- Use a laundry ball: Because bags may not work for larger quilts, a laundry ball like the Cora Ball may be your best bet! Designed to filter water the same way coral does, this ball was invented to help prevent the microplastic shedding that happens with every wash cycle.
- Add a filter to your washing machine: Because it's likely that every load of laundry you do results in microplastics moving into the water system, you may find it easiest to install a microplastics filter on your washing machine. However, starting with a bag or ball above is a great first step since adding a new filter can be expensive.
These solutions do not eliminate microplastic shedding entirely, but they're a great start if you choose to use synthetic fabrics! You can find even more great tips on preventing microplastic pollution here.
The quilt featured in photos above is the Garland pattern. Get it here!
3 Tips for Quilting with a Microfiber Blanket
Let me walk you through the steps I take and the decisions I make to get the best, most consistent results when using microfiber blankets as quilt backings.
Tip #1: Match the thread color to the microfiber blanket.
To reduce the appearance of those fibers that may pull through to the top I match my quilting thread color with the backing. Any fibers that do make it through will simply blend in with the thread. Keep this in mind when choosing fabrics and colors for your quilt top.
The quilt featured in photos above is the Perennial pattern. Get it here!
Tip #2: Decide whether or not you want batting.
Batting or no batting? This is a personal preference and there is no right or wrong answer. However, my personal preference when using a microfiber blanket as quilt backing is to use no batting.
- No batting: The quilt is warm enough and breathes better without it and I don’t care for the bulk. I instead use a layer of solid color quilting cotton to serve as a color buffer so my backing color doesn’t show through or distort the color of the fabrics on top. This layer also helps tamp down the fibers coming through.
- Yes batting: Many of my clients prefer batting. It provides a better barrier from the backing fibers and the extra bulk and weight act like a weighted blanket. That soothing and calming feel under the extra thickness is really wonderful!
Tip #3: If you're not up for the challenge, use a longarm quilter.
- Longarm quilter: First, check that your longarmer of choice will accept a microfiber blanket as quilt backing. Next, be sure the blanket you purchase is significantly bigger than the quilt top itself, even more than the typical 3-4” they likely require. I almost always purchase the queen size even for couch throws as it gives me lots of room to account for how much it stretches when loaded onto a longarm machine. Serious stretch here, but totally manageable with the extra room to work!
- Quilt it yourself: No need to supersize if you are quilting it yourself as it does not stretch during your quilting process in the same way it does when attached to a longarm. It is still unstable and will still stretch. Suzy’s post on how to work with minky is an excellent resource that applies to these fuzzy beasts as well. Press, Baste, Go SLOW, and Vacuum.
I hope you give this cozy backing option a chance! If you do we would love to hear how it turns out. If you found this helpful or have follow up questions let us know in the comments.