My attention to detail drives me crazy sometimes. It's just a backing, for goodness sake, but I'm spending far too much time trying to find the perfect fabrics to coordinate with the top. It actually took no time eliminating that muslin from my options. I would have been happy with either one of these two prints on their own had their been enough yardage, but there is not. So what is it about combining them in alternating panels that does not work for me? I've tried to talk myself into it over several days, but I sense it would bug me every time I use the quilt. Because with a "utilitarian" quilt, you really do see the back quite often. But who am I kidding? I go through this same angst choosing a backing for quilts for the wall.
I decided it was the big contrast in value that was bothering me. The off-white needed to be darker and richer in tone, but no - nothing like that in the stash. What I really wanted was a blue, felt I had just the right thing in the stash but couldn't put my finger on it. Dug into the bottom of a big bin that these two came out of and where this elusive blue should have been. Was about to make do with the uncomfortable pairing when I finally found it - yes, an alternate colorway to the off-white. (I also bought yards of it in a muted pink which ended up on the back of the half-square triangle quilt - Mary, stop laughing!). It really is the prefect blue and I'd love it with the leaf print but I've used it too many other places. There's not enough to avoid having to add a third fabric. Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a configuration of these three that did not bug me.
So I went back to the stash, looking through my browns, finding long strips of a reproduction fabric used as backing and borders in this quilt, the pink and brown perhaps working in if only narrow strips were used. That sparked a hazy memory, that maybe there was something tucked away in the drawers holding my ridiculously large stash of reproduction fat quarters. The memory wasn't right but instead, those drawers held something I'd totally forgotten about and which I think is the answer. These are Dutch reproduction border strips - for some reason cut from the original yardage and sold separately. One of the first "shop in your pajamas" internet quilt shops also had a warehouse retail shop within a few hours of where I lived, so I had to check it out. No one else was carrying these Dutch repros and I fell in love with them. I bought fat quarter packs and some separate fat quarters (some of which went into this quilt), yardage that went into a signature quilt similar to this mini-one, and these border strips. I remember thinking at the time how crazy this was buying only one 90" strip of the one color and 3 of the other but that was what they had left. This was probably in 1999. All these years later, I have a use for one/some of them! Suddenly, the off-white print has become the backing of choice and the leaf print set aside.
Yes, there's more dithering to do. Do I use the three red ones as is, spaced between panels of the off-white? That would not give me quite enough width so the blue print could be used at the outside, but it would be such a narrow bit. Or, I could trim the narrow bands off the blue border strip, placing the wide part in the center, the narrow ones on either side of the off-white panels (as I am auditioning with the red in the picture above) and use a wider segment of the blue along the outside. Then again, maybe I should leave the blue border strip intact and run it down the center. All of these are enticing and even exciting, but I feel myself leaning towards using the blue border split up. Then again, the red picks up on the red in some of the prints in the top. Whatever I decide, I can feel I'll be a whole lot happier than if I'd settled with my original two fabrics. Definitely worth the time my stubborn nature is spending.