You've finally finished piecing your quilt top together, so what's next? Before you can quilt your project, you need to baste your “quilt sandwich.”
Basting is a crucial step in the quilt-making process, and you need to do it accurately and thoroughly to ensure you get the best result with your quilting.
But don't worry! It's not difficult, and it shouldn't take too much time. I can usually baste a twin-sized quilt in less than two hours.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to baste a quilt and give you some tips and tricks that I've learned over the years.
Frequently Ask Questions about Quilt Basting
Basting quilts can seem like a chore, but I hope you'll feel more comfortable tackling your next project after this tutorial.
Before we jump into the tutorial, I would like to answer some questions and facts about quilt basting.
What does it mean to baste a quilt?
Basting a quilt is simply taking your quilt layers (aka quilt sandwich with a quilt top, batting, and backing fabric) and attaching them.
This process ensures that all the layers won't shift when you quilt your quilt sandwich while you work your project through your machine.
What is the best way to baste a quilt?
There are several different ways to baste a quilt, and there is no “best way” across the board. You'll figure out what works best for you.
The most popular techniques are pin basting, glue basting, thread basting, or using fusible batting (yes, that's a thing).
You'll see later in the tutorial that I use two of these techniques for hand-basting a quilt.
Can you baste a quilt with straight pins?
I suppose you technically could use straight pins for basting quilt layers together, but I would not recommend it. You will stab yourself constantly, and no one wants blood all over their quilt top.
As far as pins go, I would always recommend using safety pins (for safety) or actual basting pins that look just like safety pins, except they have more of a curve.
That will make it a bit easier to work the pin through your three layers of your quilt sandwich.
What to do after basting a quilt?
Once you've basted your quilt, then you're ready to quilt. If you haven't decided what type of quilting you want to do, I suggest going online to Pinterest or Instagram to get some inspiration for your designs.
Supplies Needed for Quilt Basting
- Finished quilt top
- Backing fabric
- Safety pins or basting pins
- Elmer's glue
- Iron and ironing board
- A large table or ample space on your floor to baste your quilt
Basting a Quilt: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide
Step 1: Iron your quilt top and backing fabric.
Ironing is a crucial step because you want your fabric to lay as flat as possible when you pin or glue it down. I know ironing isn't the most fun step, but it's necessary to get the best finished product.
Step 2: Layout your batting.
You'll want to lay your batting out flat and make sure it doesn't have any creases in it. I usually lay mine out about an hour before I'm going to baste my project.
If the creases don't work themselves out, then I'll press them out with my iron-no steam. If you are using fusible batting, do NOT iron out creases. You'll make a gooey, icky mess of your iron.
I'm using my dining room table for basting my quilt. With the batting's edges hanging off all four sides of the table, gravity helps me by “pulling” any slight creases from my batting.
Step 3: Layout backing fabric.
Now we're going to lay out the backing fabric, right side up, onto the batting. I like to lay it out completely before gluing it down to make sure it is straight, and the backing and batting are (roughly) the same size.
Step 4: Glue the backing fabric to the batting.
Gluing is basting a quilt the easy way, and it's my preferred method. I take my backing fabric and batting, which are the same size, and glue them together so then they become “one-piece.”
To glue the backing and batting together, I like to use good ole Elmer's glue. I've used various basting sprays, and they smell so much like a chemical plant, it just didn't feel safe using them, especially since I make a lot of baby quilts.
Even after using the spray and letting it sit for a couple of hours, I would have to smell that chemically smell the entire time I was quilting. Not good for the brain cells!
I've also tried making an Elmer's glue and water mixture and put it in a spray bottle. That definitely works, but it is a pretty weak glue. So then I tried using just Elmer's, and that works great for me.
I also experimented with brushing the glue on with a paintbrush or sponge, but I found that using the bottle the glue comes in works best.
Another great advantage of using Elmer's glue is it's non-toxic and washes out thoroughly in the washing machine.
You can play around with it and figure out what you like best. I suggest making some practice blocks of mini quilt sandwiches and figure out what you want to use.
To glue the backing fabric down, I like to roll the fabric back halfway.
Next, take your glue bottle, slowly “drizzle” the glue across the batting, and try to do it as thinly as possible. You don't want big glops of glue. I like to drizzle the glue back and forth across the batting.
Carefully start to unroll the backing fabric over the batting. Gently smooth the fabric over the batting, starting in the center, and work your way out to the edges.
You may see the glue shine through the fabric a bit, and that's fine. It dries super-fast, usually in about 30 minutes. Continue smoothing your fabric over the glue and the batting, then do the other half the same way.
Wait until the glue dries. The great thing about using Elmer's glue is if you notice there's a lump or crease in your fabric, you can easily pull it up and fix it.
Even if you notice is after it dries, all you have to do is get the glue wet with water, and you'll be able to smooth the fabric out with no problem.
Once the glue is dry, you can move on to the next step.
Step 5: Pin the quilt top to the batting and backing fabric.
Flip your backing and batting over, so now the other side of the batting is exposed. Place your quilt top onto your “sandwich” and situate it, centered and straight on the batting.
I usually take a good 10-15 minutes smoothing the quilt top with my hands over the batting, ensuring all my seams lay flat and my quilt top is straight.
Take your safety (or basting) pins and begin pinning in the center of the quilt. I usually space my pins out about every 6-8 inches.
You'll figure out how much space you like to leave in between. I've seen some quilters pin every 2-3 inches, or some every 12 inches or more. It's really up to you and how you like to do it.
You want enough pins in your quilt to ensure it doesn't shift while you are quilting. When pinning, you also want the pin to go through all three layers of the quilt sandwich.
When I pin my quilts, I start in the center and pin a straight line out to the edges.
Then I focus on one half of the quilt at a time, smoothing out the quilt top after every row of pins to ensure everything is lying completely flat.
You don't want to pull too much on your quilt top while pinning it down because that could cause it to become distorted. Just focus on keeping it flat.
Once I have one half of the quilt pinned, I go over to the other half and do the same process until the entire quilt sandwich is pinned and ready to quilt.
Ready to Start Basting Your Next Quilt?
Well, there we have it! That wasn't too complicated. Just keep in mind while you are basting to smooth the fabric continually, and you can always start over if things get wonky.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to baste a quilt. Figure out what techniques work best for you, and you'll do a great job.
I hope this tutorial was helpful, and basting won't seem like quite a chore next time you go to baste your quilty projects.
About the author: Miriam Ronne is a lover of all things quilting and sewing. She is a self-taught quilter and is constantly learning and broadening her skill set to create one-of-a-kind quilts! When she's not behind her sewing machine you can find her playing with her fur babies or trying her hand at other crafty things.