I'm excited to get back to the Machine Quilting 101 series. It's been a few weeks! If you missed the previous posts, you can find them here:
Today we will talk about everyone's favorite step in the quilt making process....basting! (Don't all groan at once!)
The purpose of basting is simple: to temporarily hold the layers of the quilt sandwich (backing, batting and top) together until you get them quilted. It's not a particularly fun process-in most cases it involves crawling around on the floor-but it has to be done. I tell myself that it's a good way to stay young. :)
These are the simple tools that I use:
A thread catcher
, curved safety pins (and a lot of them!), thread snips, fabric scissors and duct tape.
I baste my quilts in my front entryway, so before I get started I remove all rugs and (kinda sorta) clean my floor.
Lay the quilt back on the floor, wrong side up. Place a piece of duct tape at the center of the top, at the center of the bottom, and at the center of each side of the quilt back. You want the back to be flat and taut, but not stretched. It looks pretty messy in this photo, but it gets better. Continue to tape the backing down to the floor, working from the center of each side toward the corners. The 4 corners should be the last parts to be taped down to the floor.
This particular quilt back is pieced quite a bit. I generally use a piece of duct tape at each seam and every 6"-8" apart. That may seem a bit excessive, but it's helpful to keep the backing nice and flat. Duct tape is cheap...no need to skimp!
Here it is, completely taped to the floor. It looks surprisingly good compared to the first photo, doesn't it? (Honestly, I was quite relieved!) Make sure there are no extra threads or lint on the backing.
Next, layer the batting onto the backing. I like to line up the top edge of the batting to the top edge of the quilt. (Sorry, this photo is upside down and at a weird angle....but the two edges are aligned, that's what is important.)
Now it's time to place the quilt top onto the batting.
I get asked all the time
how I get the front and the backing to line up. It's actually quite easy! I just hope I can explain it in this tutorial. The photos should help!
If you look on the left side of the photo, notice the bright pink strip peeking out....that strip runs all the way across the width of the quilt back. That is my point of reference. I imagine those lines running across the top of the quilt (as shown by the lines in the photo). I aligned the quilt top so the pink backing strip was centered within that white horizontal row of sashing.
This is the same row of sashing, the same backing strip, only this is the right side of the quilt. Do you see how the bright pink strip on the back of the quilt is centered in the sashing on this side, too? This is how I know that my quilt top is squarely placed on the quilt back. (I certainly hope that makes sense. It's so hard to put it into words!)
Once my quilt top is aligned properly, I smooth all the layers with my hands, working from the center out to each side and from the center to the top and bottom as well.
Now is a good time to check your backing. This is the bottom of the quilt and I only have about an inch of backing to spare. Since I am quilting it on my domestic machine at home, that should be enough backing, but barely! I try to leave at least an inch on all sides....anything less makes me nervous.
Now it's time to pin. I place the pins every 4" or so, which is about a hand width apart. (A little known fact about me...I can pin baste with one hand. A tidbit that you really didn't need to know, but I couldn't help it...I had to share.) :)
When I baste string quilts, I place pins even closer together, every 3" or so, because there are SO many seams that could shift around. It's better to be safe than sorry.
After an hour or so (depending on your quilt and the speed at which you pin) the quilt should look something like this. Nice and flat and all pinned together.
This quilt had several extra inches of batting at the end, so I cut it off before I even removed my quilt from the floor. Less bulk to wrestle with later.
Remove the tape from the floor (I usually enlist my kids to do that) and carefully fold up the quilt until you are ready to actually quilt it.
So, that's how I baste a quilt. This is merely one way to do it, but it is my preferred method.
If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments!