A Complete Guide to Glue Basting Seams

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

We have Rachel Thomeczek, of Wren Collective, here to share with us a wonderful tutorial on glue basting seams. Rachel has been quilting for a couple years, and during that time she has mastered the art of perfectly nested seams. Want to know how? Keep reading!

Have you ever been in the “quilting zone” piecing your little heart out only to realize that your points aren’t matching up very well, despite using pins? If you’re raising your hand right now, I’ve BEEN THERE. Many times. And it’s frustrating! But after a lot of trial and error, I’ve discovered that glue basting seams is my holy grail when I want things to line up just so. In this photo tutorial, I will walk you through step-by-step how glue basting seams will allow you the most accurate results when quilting. 

When to Glue Baste

Glue basting seams is useful on many quilty occasions. Most notably, I find myself reaching for the glue when I’m piecing triangle quilts and quilts that have clean lines (such as the Reflections pattern I will be using in this demonstration. The Reflections pattern will be available on June 27, 2019.)

Additionally, I have a nasty habit of sewing over my pins (I know I’m not the only person with this problem. Insert exaggerated wink) and glue basting seams allows me to ditch the pins and sew with reckless abandon like the speed demon I am!

Tools of the Glue Basting Trade

When it comes to glue basting, things are pretty straightforward, and not a lot of tools are needed. The main thing you need is (ready for it?)...glue. Not all glues are created equal, though, so you want to make sure you have the correct one for glue basting seams.

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A glue that is washable is the most important thing. Not a lot of glue is used when glue basting seams, but you want to make sure the small amount you do use will be able to be washed out once your quilted project is complete. 

I’ve used two types of glue that have worked well. On the left in the photo below is Roxanne Glue Baste It which does work very well. It comes in a bottle with an awesome precision tip and really does a great job of holding fabric in place. However, what I use most often is plain ole’ Elmer’s Washable School Glue (make sure it’s the washable variety.)

It’s inexpensive, it’s readily available at a variety of stores (or in your child’s crafting kit), and it works. Honestly, I don’t notice much difference between Roxanne Glue Baste It and Elmer’s Washable School Glue.

If using Elmer’s glue, a precision tip is key. Only a teeny, tiny, minuscule amount of glue is needed when glue basting seams and the tip included on Elmer’s glue bottles yields way too much glue. These bottles with precision tips work amazingly well. For this photo tutorial, I’m going to use Elmer’s Washable School Glue inside a bottle with a precision tip

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

#1: Transfer Your Glue

(If using Roxanne Glue Baste It, you can obviously skip this step.) If using Elmer’s Washable School Glue, carefully transfer the Elmer’s glue into the precision tip bottle. After tightening the precision tip cap, you’re ready to go!

#2: Gather Your Pieces to be Basted

I am testing out Suzy’s upcoming Reflections pattern for this demonstration. (As a side note, you guys are going to LOVE this pattern. Seriously. Trust me on this.)  As you can see from the photo below, I want to make sure the points match up as perfectly as possible.

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

#3: Start Glue Basting Seams

I know I’m starting to sound like a bit of a broken record at this point, but….here goes. When glue basting seams, only a very tiny amount of glue should be used.

First off, you want to make sure the amount of glue stays inside your ¼" seam allowance so that your needle doesn’t sew over the glue (ain’t nobody got time for gummed up sewing machine needles!)

Secondly, if you have too much glue, you risk any excess getting onto your iron when you heat set the glue (I’ll get to that part in a bit.) Ok--now let’s get our glue on.

In the photo above, I’ve identified two of the spots I’m going to put a bit of glue. Because my other fingers couldn’t reach the additional spots, I added a circle to show every spot I will glue. I’m placing glue where I want the strips to meet at crisp 90 degree angles.

Place the precision tip right at the spot you want to glue baste and place a tiny drop of glue.

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

#4: Add a Little Heat

Line up the points you want to match (where the drops of glue are) and gently press them together with your fingers. (This is the only step where I’ve noticed a bit of a difference between Roxanne Glue Baste It and Elmer’s Washable School Glue. I’ve found that Roxanne “sticks” better after finger pressing. However, you’re going to heat set the glue anyway, so it really doesn’t make that much difference in the end.)

Take your fabric to be glue basted to your ironing board or wool pressing mat. Press your glued spots with a hot iron (no steam). The heat will dry the glue and bond the two pieces of fabric together. This prevents any shifting when sewing the two pieces together. It’s truly magical.

After pressing the glued spots, you can either glue baste the rest of the fabric to be sewn or use a few pins in between the glued spots. If gluing, use a very thin strip of glue right along the edge so that the glue stays inside your seam allowance. Heat set the glued strips and then sew your pieces together.

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

In the case of this Reflections pillow I’m making, I’m choosing to pin between the glued spots only because I will be pressing the sewn seam open and that is easier for me than prying the glued fabric apart after sewing. 

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

#5: Admire Your Well-Aligned Points

After sewing and pressing your seam, you’re all done! This glue basting seams method is seriously fool proof. I used to have to pin, sew, seam rip because my points were off, and repeat. And sometimes repeat some more. This is a huge time saver for me. I hope you give it a try and that it works as well for you as it does for me!

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

I’m choosing to add some hand quilting details to my Reflections pillow and I’m loving how it’s turning out! For a full hand quilting tutorial, check out How to Hand Quilt (with Video Tutorial!)

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

One Last (Precision) Tip on Glue Basting Seams

One last tip before I leave you: I take the precision tip lid off of the bottle and rinse it with warm water after each use. After re-attaching the lid, I place a sewing pin in the top to keep the tip clear from glue that might dry and clog it up.

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

Are you a glue baster? Let us know your tried and true tips in the comments!

A complete tutorial on how glue basting seams will create accurate quilting and quilt pieces. Step by step instructions with photos showing you how easy glue basting can be.

18 thoughts on “A Complete Guide to Glue Basting Seams

  1. lgatzkgirl says:

    This looks like such a great method! Thanks for sharing! One question though. Will this gunk up needles when quilting your piece later on a domestic or longarm?

  2. Lynne says:

    Thanks for this post, I’m going to try it! Also, I always appreciate the shopping links so I don’t have to search. Thanks for that too! You’re the best!

  3. Shelley says:

    I’ve recently starting doing this after seeing Mr. Domestic use this method on curved piecing. I definitely will try it for other tricky piecing projects. Do you ever mark the 1/4″ seam to help also?

  4. Diane says:

    Hi! I’m a new machine and hand sewer and quilter and this idea for glue basting is great. Thank you and I look forward to your newsletters!

  5. Lorraine M says:

    With tricky seams that have to be matched, I press the seam allowance on one piece only, glue baste the bottom unpressed fabric and which has the right side upwards. Slide the top one over for a perfect match aligning the seam crease with the bottom fabric. Then heat set.

  6. Joy says:

    I love to foundation paper piece but I struggle with stitching the sections together. I think this is the answer for me too. Thanks. I will try it on my faux, flange bindings too.

  7. Erin says:

    Great tutorial! I gave it a try. It Doesn’t take anymore time than pinning! Is it strange that I am now flying instead of pinning? I find it easier and faster to be honest!

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