Basting Your Quilt

Next in the Finishing Your Quilt Series we look at the Quilt Sandwich.

Now we connect all the quilt layers; temporarily securing them before the quilting proper begins.

This technique is known as ‘Basting’.

There are several terms used which can be confusing when they are thrown about by quilters. In this tutorial we will encouter, sandwiches, batting, wadding, backing and basting. Both the first and last of which remind me of turkeys at Christmas….

However a quick glossary will help, as this really is a very simple process – it just normally requires a LOT of room and healthy knees and strong backs, you will see why later…

Odd Word Meanings…

Quilt Top – The patched or pieced fabric to be used as the top of your quilted project

Batting – the fat filler which makes the completed quilt so cuddly and cosy

Wadding – another name for batting (nothing like keeping things easy eh?)

Backing – the fabric to be used as the liner or back of the quilted project. Normally a plainer style of fabric, however if making something reversible it could be a second Quilt Top!

Quilt Sandwich – the layering of backing, batting and quilt top together t o create a sandwich around the batting. The phot should help if you are still a bit muddled at this point 😉

Basting – the method of temporarily securing the various layers within the sandwich. A variety of methods can be used, pins, sprays, tacking etc…

Why we Baste?

When working with multiple layers it is very easy and natural for the fabrics to slip or slide on top of each other.

This will result in:

  • Sloppy quilting
  • Rucks and tucks
  • Skewing and distortion of your carefully constructed blocks
  • Gaps in the wadding at the edges of the finished quilt

We don’t want any of that nonsense… not after all the time and effort you have put into creating your stunning masterpiece of a quilt top. That is why we baste, to avoid all the mess and frustration.

QUICK TIP If you have neither space nor healthy joints I offer Quilt Basting as a service.Create the Quilt Sandwich (yummy…)

  • Cut your backing and batting to slightly larger than your finished quilt top. About 3-4 inches extra should be a healthy amount. I repeat this is to allow for movement during the quilting process – no one want to run out of batting when they are quilting.
  • You will need to lay out your quilt sandwich on a large flat surface, either a table or for larger projects the floor. Hence my earlier comment regarding strong back and healthy knees.
  • Lay the backing fabric face down, flatten to ensure no rucks or folds
  • Lay the batting on top of the backing fabric, again ensure there are no lumps or bumps in the batting and that the backing fabric is still flat
  • Lay the quilt top right side up on top of the batting. Once you guessed it…. double check there are no bumpy clumps of fabric. Everything should be smooth and even and feeling rather soft and a little bit like a quilt now.

Select your Method of Basting

There are three main methods for basting, which are useful depending upon the size of the project.

  • Basting Spray – available from all good haberdasery shops, best for smaller sized projects up to baby quilts. Could possibly work with larger but I have yet to attempt this. Once I have tried with a larger quilt I will post a review.
  • Curved Nappy/Safety Pins – I’m not sure of the official name for these, however they are slightly curved to assist with using the pins on stretched fabric layers. DO NOT attempt to use regular sewing pins, they will drop off every time you move the quilt sandwich. They are not secure even for a temporary basting; no one wants to be walking around on missing pins for a week. Although my mega wand would be of great benefit if you were foolish enough to try this.
  • Tacking Stitches – You won’t get hurt with this method and its check and fast. Not everyone can find the curved pins and thread is much cheaper and very readily available to all.

Whichever method of basting you choose, pins or stitches should be made roughly a hands distance apart at regular intervals. I prefer to use tacking stitches and offer Quilt Basting as a service to those who cannot crawl around on the floor tacking their giant quilts, or simply do not have enough room to do so.

Getting on with the Actual Basting

For this example I will be basting in both a Line form and a grid form. Quite literally you will be creating either lines though the sandwhich or a grid using long tacking stitches as you go.

Line Basting

  • Pin around the edge of the fabric, using regular sewing pins, to hold in place whilst you baste. This may only be needed for the first line, or if the shape is more complex until the entire piece has been bordered, however do no let the position of the pin dictate where the basting should go.
  • If the sandwich begins to crease unpin to release tension and ensure that the whole quilt still remains a three layered sandwich with no empty edges forming.
  • Secure your thread without a knot by sewing three small stitches in the same place. I suggest starting at an edge as you will be creating simple lines.
  • Weave your needle through all three layers of fabric, moving the fabric as little as possible creating long lines of stitches, about 2-3 inches in length with gaps of again about 2-5 inches.
  • The lines need not be perfectly straight or at right angles to edges of the quilt. They are intended to last only long enough to quilt the project and will be removed immediately after quilting has been completed.
  • Once the quilt sandwich is covered with evenly spaced lines, about 5 inches apart, the line basting is finished.

Grid Basting

  • Complete all the steps as for line basting
  • Rotate orientation (normally by walking or crawling around the quilt sandwich) and repeat at 90 degrees. Thus creating a grid with crosses spaced about a hands width apart throughout the quilt sandwich.
  • This takes twice as long as a line basting, but is twice as secure for your quilting.

Do not forget that once the quilting process has finished the Basting should be removed.

A completed quilting with basting looks like this… Simply cut carefully through the basting stitches, with an embroidery scissor, and pull the basting stitches out of the quilted project. So long as you are gentle there will be no sign they were ever there to begin with.



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Babs Rudlin

I play with colour in both fabric and fiber. Creating patterns, challenges and tutorials for beginners and those who wish to learn new skills. My youtube channel is I provide reviews, tutorials, how to and more as services for other creators and service providers. Get in touch to discuss how I can help you today!

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