In this post, I thought it’ll be fun to chat about background fabrics.

What is background fabric for quilting?

Most of the quilt pattern calls for a background fabric. The background fabric is usually the one that is not the star of the quilt and allows the pattern of the quilt block to pop and shine out.

Without the difference between a background and the pattern that we want to create, the quilt will just blend all over. This is an option too if you want to create such a quilt. You can see what I mean in the example below. 

The scrappy trip is made with all printed fabrics, and no specific colour or specific fabric as the background. The pattern does have a design that brings our eyes to see the diagonal patterns but it does not really pop out as much.

If I were to make the same pattern with a background fabric, I can select one background fabric and incorporate that fabric in each of the blocks as the centre and that will give the quilt a more structured look. 

In this swoon quilt (blogged here), I have chosen a white background to make the carpenter’s star shine and take the lead of the quilt. Of course, with this kind of pattern, there is no way to go about it except to have background fabrics. Otherwise, you’ll simply lose the design altogether. 

In the wall hanging there (blogged and tutorial here), I use two different solid as the background, but both a lighter colour to make the pattern of the blocks stand out. 


While both types of quilts is beautiful, fully scrappy or structured, I am drawn to making quilt blocks with background fabrics as I find it fun to create the blocks and to have some clean area to just rest my eyes on.  

Even in scrappy quilts, it is always a good idea to have a background to anchor in all the scrappiness. Allowing the eyes to rest a little within the scrappy busy fabrics. Now, this does not mean that the background fabric has to be one single fabric. They can still be scrappy too but has to be in contrast to all the other scrappiness in the quilt. 

And if you play with scraps, you can use colour values to make the block design stand out. My kid just made a star block out of my scraps and I must say it turned out pretty well! I think a whole quilt with this block, with some sashing (in background colour) in between the blocks, would look stunning!


White-on-white or tone-on-tone background fabric

This is my favourite background fabric. There are some patterns on them, but they are still the same colour as the fabric itself. I love this as it gives the quilt a different view when you look at it from an angle. It is like a surprise element of the quilt when you look at it close or at a certain angle. 

I have recently bought a fat quarter bundle of this kind of fabrics HERE>

I thought it would be great to list them all here so that I can also grab them easily when I need a background fabric for my upcoming projects. Each of the ones listed below is linked to the yardage.

Tone on Tone Background Fabrics

Swiss Dot: Small Dots tone on tone (Riley Blake)


Blossom : Small little flowers, white on white. I love this so much. I just got some more – they are on sale this month! 20% off. They also come in all different colours. Check them all out here. 


Houndstooth:  Small very dense houndstooth. 

Stitched flower: ring of flowers, various flowers design allover

Large Dots: These are pretty large dots and obvious. Fun.

Large Dots: These are pretty large dots and obvious. Fun.

Connected stars: The pattern doesn’t look like stars to me, but geometric. Quite dense as well.





Orange Peel.


White scrolls: Thin lines of swirl and scrolls. The design is pretty large. 

Tonal white Sweet Dots: very sweet indeed. This one is suitable for a lot of patterns, I can see that! Very cute dots allover. 


Snowflakes: For all the winter and seasonal quilts. The snowflakes are quite large – each one ~1″ in size

Tiny Scattered Dots: The tiniest, cutest barely there but perfect for a lot of patterns too. Similar to Tonal white sweet dots above, but a little more cream-ish in colour. 


Pin Drops – pins scattered all over. White on white. I also love this one. Pins are a perfect match for a sewist’ quilt.

Cherries! This one is a fun one, summer feeling.

White Stars tone on tone – handrawn stars scattered.

Chicken Scratch – scratches all over

Scrappy low volume background fabric

Here is another common choice for a background. This also suits my style of fabrics as I can just use the fat quarters I have in my stash to make it work. 

Low volume means that the fabric has very few colours on it. Or with very small motifs on them. 

Here is an example where I use low volume fabric as the background fabrics and I use a different fabric for different blocks. When I put all these blocks together, they will still look cohesive as they have the same tone backgrounds but yet they are actually scrappy. 

if you don’t have much of this low volume fabric but like to try this look, you can check out bundles of a mix of low volume fabrics HERE, ready to use in a quilt. 

Dark background or light background fabric for a quilt?

I usually tend to choose a light background, but I sometimes try to add in a dark coloured background fabric as a part of the ‘called for background’, for example in sashings or the borders. 

For example, if the quilt pattern calls for all of the same fabric for the background and sashings, I may try to add in a different sashing than the fabric I used for the background. 

This started because I don’t usually have more than 2 yards of fabric in my stash, but I am starting to like the idea of doing so. 

I have this quilt top that I chose a dark sashing

and this quilt that I used a low volume for the large setting blocks. 

So, basically, sometimes we have to be creative in using our stash. It doesn’t mean that if the quilt pattern calls for. We can make do with what we already have in stash.


Bold background fabric

Opting for a dark background is considered quite bold for me, but I am yet to try bright yellow or red as a background. I think this would look wonderful for a scrappy quilt. 

For example, my scrap vomit quilt is shown below with bright pink and dark grey fabric chosen as the centre. I guess this is not considered as a background, but I have a feeling that scrappy quilts are great to be in combined with those bold, bright fabrics. 

Here are some of my inspirations for my new challenge to use bold fabric for my next scrappy quilt. 

Red background fabric is something I haven’t tried before. 

Here is a scrappy string quilt as an inspiration (The image is originally from here)

or yellow background. I love yellow but I have also never made a yellow background quilt before. Maybe that is about to change. 

Image below is from Pinterest here.

This one is an interesting one with mix orange and pink bright background. Vintage quilts always amazes me with the choice of colours. Image is taken from Pinterest here.


What do you think?

Textured background fabric

Another great option for a background is using textured background fabric. This can be a different type of fabric than the quilting cotton such as linen, textured linen, chambrays, cross-weave fabrics or even denim. 

When using other types of fabric, we do need to pay more attention to the quilting, the stitch length as they may fray a lttle more, and may stretch differently too. 

2 Comments on Quilt Background Fabric

  1. OMG! “scrap vomit quilt”. That is SO funny! And the quilt is beautiful. The pink/grey/yellow combination really pops.
    I don’t know why but I tend to use use lighter backgrounds too. Interestingly, I’m currently working on a quilt for my brand new grand-nephew, and it has white/blue/blue-green blocks and a darker blue-green sashing. I’m surprised how much I like it. The red strippy quilt is gorgeous too. Not so long ago I made a baby quilt in a strippy quilt pattern and it turned out lovely.
    Your little boy is very cute; his block is WAY better than the first one I ever made. It’s wonderful to see that he can sew.

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