Basting the quilt sandwich will hold all the layers together while hand or machine quilting. We’re talking about pin-basting in this post, but you can baste your quilt sandwich with needle and thread or with adhesive spray. Pin-basting can be accomplished with small (1″ to 1-1/2″) nickel-plated, rust-proof safety pins, or with curved safety pins designed especially for basting quilts.
Our tips for how to baste a quilt were compiled from First-Time Quiltmaking, Machine Quilting The basics & beyond, and Quilting The basics & beyond.
To center the quilt top on the batting, fold the top into fourths, right sides together. Position the corner of the folded edges in the center of the batting.
Layering the Quilt Sandwich
Place the backing wrong side up on a flat basting surface. If you work on a floor, you will need to use masking tape. If you use a table with a lip around the edge, binder clips are very handy to keep the edges in place. It is extremely important that the backing be taut, but not stretched. If the backing is stretched before you baste the layers together, it will go back to its original size afterward, and your quilt will have built-in puckers! Use masking tape or binder clips every 6″ to 8” around the edges of the backing.
Center the batting on top of the backing, and smooth it out. If you used binder clips to hold the backing in place, and you find that there are lumps in the batting that do not smooth out easily, gently flatten and smooth out the batting right up to the clip. Then, while holding the batting and backing in place with one hand, remove the clip and replace it again, catching both the backing and the batting together. If you used masking tape to secure the backing, you can just add a few more pieces of tape to hold the batting in place on the backing, as necessary. Most of the time, it will not be necessary to attach the batting to the basting surface at all.
Center and smooth the quilt top over the batting, making sure that there is ample batting and backing showing around each corner and edge of the quilt top. Smooth from the center outward, taking your time to ensure that every square inch is flat and smooth.
Baste the Quilt
Open 1″ to 1 1⁄2″ safety pins and scatter them across the quilt top. Begin the basting process as close to the center of the quilt as you can reach.
Pick up a pin with your dominant hand and insert it into the quilt top, through all layers of the quilt sandwich. Close the safety pin with both hands, or use a grapefruit spoon or a Kwik Klip™.
Continue adding safety pins approximately 3″ to 4″ apart in a random pattern across the top of the quilt sandwich, smoothing the top after each pin is placed.
Tip: It will help to know what quilting design you plan to use on your quilt. You can avoid placing pins in those areas. For example, if you will be quilting in the ditch, don’t place any safety pins in or near the seams to be quilted.
Passing the “Fist Test”
An easy test to know whether you have basted with enough safety pins is to place your fist anywhere on the quilt top. The pins should be no more than a “closed fist away” from each other. This means that if you can place your closed fist in any area without feeling a pin, you need to add one or two more safety pins.
What tips do you have to share for layering and basting your quilts? Let us know in the comments below!