Tips & Tricks

Quilt Blocks Tips for Finishing: Basting

Basting is holding the backing, batting and quilt top together so it can be quilted.

The first step is to find a large, flat area to spread out the backing right side down, next layer the batting on top, and finally the quilt top, right side up. Tip:  to keep your knees off the floor, find a library, church, firehouse or social center that will let you push two large tables together for a work surface. If your quilt is larger than your work table, the process will take a little more time. You’ll need to rearrange the ‘quilt sandwich’ to smooth each layer to be sure it stays centered.

Next, use masking tape to secure the backing, holding it taught. Layer the batting on top, smoothing it out to the edges. Since this is the only time you’ll get to keep it wrinkle-free, take extra time to smooth it out.

Last, center your quilt top right side up, smoothing from the center. Check the sides often to be sure the batting and backing stay centered. Keep smoothing out the top, rearranging if it skews crooked.

Consider the size of the quilt and how you will be quilting, then pick one of these methods.

Basting for Hand Quilting – Use a large, sharp needle with a big eye needle and thread to baste the three layers together. Tip: Use up the little bits on spools or find an inexpensive spool so you won’t feel guilty about using lots of it.

Start in the center and work toward the edges. Your stitch will be a long running stitch, and you’ll sew a 4” grid from side to side, top to bottom, to hold the layers together.

Basting for Machine Quilting – Safety pins – large 1 ½” for any size quilt. Baste with safety pins about a ‘fist’ apart, or every 6”. Try the quilter’s curved ones, and a latching tool as an assistant.Tip: Straight pins with a foam block on the end will work for smaller quilts.


Small quilts –  Spray baste small and medium size quilts when you’re short on time or the project is so small that removing the pins will slow you down. Follow the directions on the can, work outdoors for good ventilation, and protect your table, floors and clothes from overspray. Best used with cotton batting.

Fusible batting – good for any size, but you’ll need a large ironing board for large quilts.

You can mix the basting methods. If you run out of safety pins, thread baste! Tired of thread basting? Spray baste the rest.

My last tip is an option that is just becoming available, and that is to have a long-arm quilter baste the quilt. Charges will vary, but for many of us that want to quilt ourselves but have obstacles to get this basting step done, it may be the best choice.  Baste well and you can start quilting!

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