Recently I’ve found myself doing a fair amount of basting, from big quilts to little quilts and a few other wee quilted things in between.  As I pulled out all my basting tools for the umpteenth time I thought we’d take a look at different types of quilt basting for domestic quilting and what to use when.

So, there are 3 types of basting, thread basting, pin basting and spray basting:

Preparing Your Quilt For Basting:

Regardless of your basting choice, the fundamentals of laying out the constituent parts of the quilt sandwich are the same:

  1. Press your backing fabric to get rid of all creases.
  2. Lay your backing fabric out on a flat surface, right sides down, and smooth out any wrinkles – with bed quilts I prefer to use masking tape on my wooden loft flooring to hold the backing fabric in place so it doesn’t shift around during the basting process, and when I’m trying to line up the batting and quilt top, but if you’re using carpet, I’ve seen recommendations to pin to the carpet.
  3. Place your batting on top, right sides up – in case you didn’t know, there is actually a ‘right side’ to batting, the right side is the one where when you punch a needle or pin through it, it has less resistance than the other side.
  4. Press your quilt top to get rid of all the creases.
  5. Place your quilt top on top of the batting, right sides up and smooth out any wrinkles.

Note that there are methods that involve basting on tables, ironing boards and even walls, but I’ve never managed to get a well basted quilt with the first 2 methods, and I don’t have a wall big enough to try the latter, YMMV.

Thread Basting:

I know you’re looking at that photo above and thinking ‘Orange?  Is she on something?’ but no, I’m not, honestly!  If I’m going to have to find that thread once it’s done its job so that I can remove it again, I want it to be bright and obvious (I may or may not have learned previously that if you use a colour that blends in, you will be finding basting thread for days/months/years afterwards)  I will say that thread basting is not something I’ve ever done on quilts, although I have done it plenty of times on bags and clothing – I wouldn’t do a quilt because I get horrible RSI, so I don’t even hand sew my bindings down, but there’s a great article here on how to do it if you’re interested.

Pin Basting:

Pin basting is done using safety pins – the best ones are those that have a bend in the middle to help you go in through the layers and back up and out again, sure, you pay a bit more for the bend, but what price your time and sanity?  When you come to basting, place your pins at regular intervals, around 3″ – 4″ apart, starting from the centre and working out.  Try and avoid pinning in the seams as it will cause you more work if you decide you need to do any ‘stitch in the ditch’ quilting!

Note, basting pins are inexplicably sold in relatively small numbers as I discovered when doing my first quilt, so if you’re into quilts that you can actually sleep under, you might want to grab a couple of packets of them when you’re starting out, you’re going to need a few hundred.  If you do find yourself doing a massive quilt, you might also find yourself wearing a rather odd groove in your fingernail as you try and close so many pins, so there are things like the Kwik Klip basting tool to help you out here.  I’d show you a photo, but I’m an idiot that rarely pin bastes and never remembers to buy one until around about an hour into pin basting the next quilt…

Spray Basting:

Spray basting uses a temporary adhesive, 505 spray by Odif  With spray basting you will actually fold up a lot of what you laid out in the prep stage as follows:

  1. With the batting and quilt top together, starting at the top edge, fold over by about 1 ft, and keep folding over and over on itself until you get to the centre.
  2. Spray liberally on the batting fold from one side to the other, about 10″ – 12″ away from the surface.
  3. Flip the batting fold over onto the backing (you’re now rolling back out what you rolled up in step 1)
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until you are back to the edge of your quilt
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 with the other end of the quilt.
  6. To baste the top of the quilt, you will roll the quilt top up in the same way as step 1, then follow the same instructions as for the back, however you will spray the batting rather than the quilt top in step 2.

Note, if you have chemical intolerances/asthma, you will find it helpful to pop down to your local DIY shop and pick up a pack of face masks that will cover your nose and mouth.

One you’ve finished the quilting, remove your thread or pins, and to get rid of spray baste, pop the quilt in the wash.

What To Use When:

My choice of what basting technique very much depends on the fabric being used, although spray basting is hands down my favourite, partly because it’s kinder to my nails, partly because it saves time when quilting so I don’t have to constantly stop and remove pins, and partly because most of the time the spray holds the layers together better than anything else for me.

  • Quilting cotton and/or flannel quilt – my Cotton + Steel Christmas quilt above is quilting cotton on the front and flannel on the back, and I used spray baste entirely on it.  You could also happily use either thread or pin basting, whichever you prefer.

  • Cotton voile/lawn quilt – the quilt above is Anna Maria Horner voile front, back and binding.  This was both spray and pin basted because voile is super slippery – spray baste doesn’t hold it 100%, but then the pins on their own were a total disaster (which led to this quilt being banished for 2 years after a very sweary unpicking session)  I’m sure thread basting would also be a possibility for this type of fabric, but it might have to be quite dense to hold everything together during quilting.

  • Double gauze – I used spray baste on this Cotton + Steel double gauze quilt above, and in retrospect pins might have been better (or thread basting perhaps).  Double gauze has a habit of stretching itself out of shape at the drop of a hat – you’ll notice above that the sides of the stripey bits aren’t straight, and trust me, it’s nothing to do with wind or other environmental factors, however I wasn’t too fussed as it was more about the feel of the fabric to sleep under than the perfectly straight lines.
  • Minky/cuddle fleece – I’m afraid I couldn’t find the photo from my quilt that’s entirely made out of cuddle fleece, but this is another one where pins were the way to go due to the behaviour of the back of the fabric (it’s quite similar to voile in terms of slipperiness).  Whilst one could theoretically thread baste, it would sink into the pile so much that fishing it out at the end would be a bit of a nightmare.

I think that covers all the options I can think of, but if you think I’ve missed anything, let me know in the comments below!