Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Brooding About Backings...


It's always women's day here at Pennsylvania Piecemaker but I wish you a safe and happy day.  Celebrate the strength that women share!


In January, I did a few posts about quilt backings.  As I was preparing some quilts to take to my favorite machine quilter Terri Trotter, I wondered about one more thing.

When did double wide backings become available?  There was a time I did pieced backs myself--when I hand quilted or even machine quilted.  These days, most machine quilters prefer a single piece of double wide backing to adhere to the machines.  I get it.  The fabrics and batting are pulled tight and no one wants to discover loose stitches or a gap in the back.

Above:  A family quilt circa 1910.  The back is one fabric that is pieced together to meet the required width.  You can see above where the plaid doesn't match quite perfectly and where the fabric was pieced.


Advertisements that marketed "quilt backings" don't appear in many newspapers before the 1930s.  It may have been because most women understood how to piece their backs.  But in the 1930s as quilting became widely popular, I found more ads.

At first I found a variety of ads in the 30+ inch category:

36 wide inch back, 1935

39 inch back ad from 1937

I found only one ad that publicized a wider backing--and it was 81 inches!  

This makes sense.  The size is appropriate for a full-sized bed. 

Queen and king sized beds didn't become popular until the 1950s and as The Bedtimes Magazine put it "supersized" the boudoir.  "In 1900, only 4% of adult men were 6 feet or taller.  By 1959, the number was 20% and women were growing at a similar rate."  You can read the full article from Bedtimes Mag here.

The above ad from 1935,  didn't use the term "backing" but sold sheeting at 81 inches.  This might be significant.  A number of ads sold sheeting that could be used as quilt backing and other purposes (see the 1945 ad below).  Also note that the fabric is only 72 inches wide.

By the 1960s, it seems that wider fabric had really arrived.  An early ad from 1963 indicates they have fabric perfect for a cross-stitch quilt.  

And there were more ads for 81 inch backing like this 1965 ad:

But I didn't really find a lot of queen and king sized backings until the 1970s.  That doesn't mean they weren't available,  this isn't publishable research--I'm only going by newspaper ads of the time.  Here's one from 1974:

Maybe you are like me and wondering about the colors of quilt backing.   Apparently different solid colors became available in the 1980s:

This trend appears to have continued through the 1990s, much of the backing advertised was poly/cotton blends and solid colors.

Now that gets me to my big question.  Do you remember when printed calicos were manufactured in double wide sizes?  Just because I can't find ads for them doesn't mean they didn't exist.  It actually could mean that they were so coveted by quilters that they never went on sale.  This is all speculation.  I'm just wondering if you remember the first time backings were printed.  Please let us know your recollections!

Have a safe and happy day!

No comments:

Post a Comment