Basting Blues

Dear Deb,

I’ve just finished piecing my second quilt and am ready to start basting. I have it all sandwiched together ready but I’m nervous about starting. On my last quilt I made an awful mess when I got to the basting stage, and I don’t want to ruin all my hard work. Fortunately, it was my “practice” and I need to do a better job on this one.

 Basting Blues


Dear Basting,

Well, you won’t be the first and you won’t be the last to have this happen. You’re so proud of your creation and then, almost before you know it, it’s all wrinkled and bumpy looking! All I can do is share my own method with you and hope that helps. I’m sure that others will write in as well, so you’ll end up with several methods for this stage of the game.

I pin my layers together with quilters’ safety pins. These are different to regular pins, they have a curve in them, which makes it easier to get the point through the sandwich and back up to the top again. Most quilters recommend laying your quilt out on the floor so that it keeps smooth, but I have a secret tip here:

Get your dining chairs and spread them out around the room, with the backs forming a square, then get your cutting boards or some hardboard and lay these across the back of the chairs – in effect you are making a big table. Lay your quilt sandwich on this ‘table’ and pin. You’ll find it much easier pinning at waist height than sprawling around on the floor! Ooh, I almost forgot – it’s important that you start pinning at the center of the quilt and work your way outwards, that way any potential wrinkles are pushed to the edges!

There is also a technique that is referred to as "board basting". Our friends over at Right Sides Together posted an incredible article outlining the method. You can find it as well as a video tutorial here

There are several good books that can help you as well.  One of my favorites is The Complete Guide to Machine Quilting. This book will show you how you can get the most out of your sewing machine while quilting, from working easily with different weights of batting and fabric, to great time-saving tricks, and how to add a cornucopia of decorative stitching effects. You will find it here.

Just remember that all of this is a learning experience and the more practice you have the better you get at it! And be sure and take advice from your quilting buddies. Does anyone else have a basting tip or trick they want to share? Please leave it in comments below!

Until we meet again, may your days be pieceful!




I start by taping my backing fabric to the floor. Then I smooth out the batting and then the quilt top. When all is smooth I begin pinning from the center. Keep smoothing as you pin. You can also cushion your knees with a few layers of batting or a garden knee pad.

Emma WAggoner

I have 2 craft tables with fold-down sides. I extend these and place them side by side for a counter top level work surface. Each table is covered with a padded (like an ironing board) removeable top. I then spread out the quilt backing wrong side up and gently tape the sides to the table. I add a layer of Hobbs 80/20 fuseable batting and smooth it carefully over the backing. I add the quilt top and smooth it with hands from center out. I then press with medium heat from center out by setting down iron, leaving a few seconds, raising the iron and setting it down again until surface is covered. I then pin with a few curved basting pins, flip the quilt over, and press again in the same manner. If there are puckers in the backing, it may be necessary to reposition some of the pins as you are pressing the back. For a quilt that is larger than my table, I line up a corner and two sides at the beginning, tape the two sides as described and use metal clamps to hold the other two sides. After pressing top and doing preliminary pinning, the quilt anchors can be removed and the quilt moved over to smooth and prepare the rest of it. Be sure to smooth from the previously pressed and pinned area outward to continue with a pucker-free quilt top.
This fuseable batting is lightly fused. It can be pulled apart and repositioned if needed. I always pin after fusing because the batting can loosen somewhat as the quilt is twisted and turned during quilting on my home sewing machine. It can be refused by touching the area with your iron. The fusing eliminates the puckering than can occur during quilting even though it has been pinned.

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