To mix things up a bit, I have been having friends select fabrics. This adds some personality to the quilt. I've included scraps a friend brought home from Ghana, some pieces from my mother's sewing basket, treasured fabrics I bought in Japan, and used many from shirts I take apart.
(I do see the irony in taking clothing, deconstructing it, and making an image of clothing.)
Stripes are great for backgrounds--look like wallpaper.
And, little prints bring whimsy. I also use the back of some fabrics for a muted look.
If you wish to have a directional background consistent in a block, here is a time saver--
when laying out the little background squares to sew onto the head fabric, make sure the stripe is in the same direction for each little square.
When you sew and flip it, it will all be in a consistent direction. I don't always do this--with some I let things go every which way.