This tutorial will show you 3 different ways to baste a quilt, but first let’s begin with a quick attitude check for those who need it. Growing up I lived across the street from a retired military man and he would say, "AC, Suzy." He was never one to elaborate, but I knew what he meant. I was mouthing off about something and needed to be reminded to attitude check myself. Not what a 13 year old girl wants to hear, but I deviate...basting!
Let's talk about basting! Now I'm a 31 year old girl and I'm trying to learn my lesson about having a good attitude. Basting is great! It’s fun and not boring! Basting isn’t tedious at all and your fingers and back will feel great the whole time! Quilt sandwiches are just as amazing and delicious as real sandwiches! You can even practice your Quilt Yoga™ (trademark pending) while doing it. For those who watch my IG stories, you've already seen some of my special poses.
But let's be real here for a second. Basting is not my favorite part of quilting. But it has to be done, and it has to be done well. The good news is, when it comes to basting, you have some options. Though I have a strong preference for a certain method (cough pin basting cough), we’ll talk about basting three different ways, as well as some tips and tricks. The other good news is, we’re all in this together! Join my Basting Support Group, and read on.
How to Baste a Quilt: Becoming a [Quilt] Sandwich Artist
No matter how you baste a quilt, you have to create your quilt sandwich first. The “quilt sandwich” is the winning combo of backing fabric, batting, and your pieced quilt that make up your finished product. Layering them and getting them ready to be bound forever in quilt matrimony is a reeeallly important step. Different quilters have different ways of doing it, but here’s MY way (AKA the coolest way). You can read more about my basting and quilting process in this article: How to Machine Quilt.
- Lay the backing fabric on the floor with the BACK of the fabric facing UP (that means the printed or right side of the fabric is facing the floor. If you are using a solid fabric, each side is reversible, so you’re good!)
- Starting with one side, use thick painter’s tape to stick one side of the backing to the floor. Jump to the opposite side of the fabric and tape the other side to the floor. I emphasize thick tape because below you can see what a disaster using thin tape can me. I ended up using waaay too much, wasting tons of tape to still do a mediocre job basting.
- Tape all sides of the backing to the floor, making sure to smooth out all of the wrinkles.
- Place the batting on top of the backing fabric and trim it to fit. They should be roughly the same size. (They both just need to be a few inches larger on all sides than the quilt top.)
- Use scissors to trim long stray threads.
- Smooth out the pieced quilt on top of the other two layers.
Below is the tape disaster I mentioned earlier that can happen if your tape is too thin. Try to use tape that is at least 2-inches thick. If you can fit your quilt sandwich on a table, clamps are also a good, eco-friendly way to keep the backing in place.
Tips for Quilt Sandwich Making
- If you have a pet, it’s not a bad idea to lint roll the back of your quilt top.
- When making your sandwich, the key ingredient is to pull your fabric so that it is taut, but not stretched. Let me say that again: TAUT BUT NOT STRETCHED.
- If you’re finding that painter’s tape just isn’t strong enough on the surface you’re working on, switch to masking tape. Same properties, just a little stronger.
Now, You’re Ready to Baste:
It’s Your Party, You Can Baste How You Want To
How to Pin Baste a Quilt
If I’m basting a quilt, I’m pin basting. Basically, if you choose to baste with pins, you’re signing up for some good quality time with your safety pin crew. To make sure you hold that sandwich in place, you are going to want to place a pin at least every four inches in rows throughout the quilt.
Want to test your placement? Randomly lay the palm of your hand on your quilt. No matter where you’re giving your quilt a high-five, your hand should be touching two pins. Yeah, I know it’s a lot of pins (I’ve basted a quilt a few times in my day…) but there are a few things you can do to make this pin party a little easier:
Pin Basting Tricks and Tips
- Store all your pins in a box, and LEAVE THEM ALL OPEN. You have to open them up to remove them from your quilt, right? And you need to open them up to use them on the next quilt, right? SO DON’T CLOSE HUNDREDS OF TINY PINS FOR NO REASON. (End Rant.)
- Do you have a tile floor somewhere? You can use the lines on a tile floor to keep your layers straight and centered.
- There’s this magical wand called Kwik Klip if you want to save your fingers a little wear and tear while closing all those safety pins: Is it basically a screw on the end of a wooden stick? Yes. Does it work? You bet.
How to Spray Baste a Quilt
Spray basters use a product like this to temporarily stick the layers of their sandwich together long enough to quilt them up. I personally do not like spray basting for a few reasons:
- It's messy: No matter how careful I am, I get spray speckles everywhere – the floor, the walls, my furniture, my clothes, Scrappy – everywhere. And because the spray is sticky it's really hard to clean up.
- It shifts: Even quilting with a walking foot, my quilt sandwich shifts and puckers if spray basting is the only way I baste. You can probably get away with it if you're only quilting simple straight lines, but if you are rotating or sewing an intricate pattern, that much movement can cause the quilt layers to twist and move.
- It's expensive*: A single can of basting spray can cost almost $20 – and that adds up! *The exception to this is if you make your own basting spray. There are various recipes online if you do a quick search. This homemade basting spray recipe comes from String & Story along with her tips for using it.
One major advantage to spray basting? You can do it on a design wall (which is a great way to not spend time on your hands and knees on the floor.)
One reminder with spray basting – you have to spray baste both the backing and the top to the batting. If you forget and only spray baste the top to the batting, guess what? Major bunching and shifting at the machine.
How to Baste a Quilt with Boards
This method is impressive, and tricky, and also gets you off the floor and into your favorite comfy chair (as long as it fits next to a nicely sized table). This video shows you how to use two boards to keep your sandwich layers set for quilting. Some people use this method with safety pins (instead of thread basting, which is featured in this video) mostly because the aftermath is less messy and it's probably a bit faster.
Skip to 4 minutes into the video if you're a little ADD like me.
The more you baste, the faster you get, so if you’re still working on your personal attitude adjustment, don’t worry! It gets better! (Little secret between you and me...I kinda like basting. Shhhhh.)
Do you have a favorite method of basting a quilt? Let us know about it in the comments!