Basting a quilt is when you sandwich the quilt in three layers: the quilt top, batting and the backing. You need to baste these three layers together before doing the actual quilting. Here’s how to do it, 4 steps below!
Update (added 5/02/11) – I also added a basting alternative at the end of this tutorial, which explains how to baste without using pins. The method is spray basting. I’ve tried it before and would recommend it, especially for bigger quilts.
Step 1 – On a flat surface, lay your backing fabric flat on the floor with the right side facing down (the wrong side of the fabric will be facing you). Flatten out any bumps as best as you can (tip: it helps to use a yardstick or your 6″x23″ rotary ruler to help smooth out bumps). Tape the corners and sides as needed so that the fabric doesn’t shift around on the floor; I recommend using painter’s tape. The backing fabric should always be at least 2-3″ bigger around the perimeter than the quilt top.
Step 2 -Next, lay your batting on top of the backing fabric. Flatten out any bumps as best as you can. (Tip: I suggest using Warm & White cotton batting or Soft & Bright polyester batting. Both are made by “The Warm Company” and have almost a fleece-like feel to them, making them much easier to work with (i.e. you don’t have to deal with uneven batting that bunches while you’re machine quilting). However, if you are working with a fluffier batting, throw it in the dryer for ~10 minutes to help un-wrinkle it).
Step 3 – Next, lay your quilt-top on top of the batting. The right side of the quilt top should be facing you (the wrong side should be facing the batting). Make sure the quilt top is centered on the batting. Flatten out any bumps as best as you can.
At this point, your quilt should be layered as shown below with the batting sandwiched in between the quilt top and backing fabric. This is called a quilt sandwich.
Step 4 – Now, you need to pin all three layers together to keep them in place so that they don’t shift around later while you’re quilting. I recommend using curved safety pins, as shown below. The curve in the pin helps immensely when trying to pin through all three layers on a flat surface. Pin every 5-8 inches.
Start pinning on one end of the quilt. Remove the tape on one end, and start pinning every 5-8 inches. As shown below, roll the pinned quilt upward as you go for easier pinning access.
That’s pretty much it. Let me know if you have any questions!
Basting Alternative – Spray Basting (no pins needed!)
I typically use pins (as explained above) to baste my smaller quilts; however, for the larger ones I would recommend spray basting them. Below are two video tutorials I found on YouTube that explain pretty well how to spray baste. In these videos, the gal spray bastes them by pinning the quilt layers to a wall so that all layers three layers drape evenly over one another.
However, you can also spray baste on the floor (which is what I’ve done in the past). You just have to get down on all fours to make sure the layers are smoothed out evenly; it still helps to tape the backing fabric to the floor as described in step 1 above. Similar to the video tutorials, be sure to line your floors with newspaper around the quilt so you don’t get sticky floors.
I recommend you watch this video first. Fast forward it to minute 6:15.
For more details on spray basting on a wall, you can watch this supplemental video:
You can likely find spray basting glue at your local quilt shop or crafting chain store. Below is the brand (Tailor) that I’ve used. I’ve also heard the brand 505 is very good.
Hope this tid bit helps. It’s always nice having some options. 🙂
Don't forget to protect the surface from pin marks
Haha, good call Regena! My floors have been trashed by my doggies, so they were the last thing on my mind 😉
Hello from Olympia! I am a beginning (wannabe) quilter who just stumbled upon your fantastic blog. I'm so glad I did! Your tutorials are so clear and your quilts are just gorgeous! I will definitely be back! Thanks a bunch!
Did you bend the safety pins yourself or did you buy them that way?? thanks!!
Hi everyone – thanks for stopping by!
>>You can buy the curved safety pins at most crafting stores.
I use a yard stick to smooth out bumps in the middle. I just run the edge from the center of the fabric outward.
Jera, I am LOVING your blog – I found it while searching the internet for quilting tutorials. I am sewing up one of your makeup bags this afternoon – I'll send you a picture!
Ok. What fabric did you use because I'm in love and now need to make this for my daughter's bed 🙂
Ahh so helpful. For my first quilted project I used your tutorial for the little quilted makeup bag. It turned out great in the end but like 2 inches smalled b/c the fabrics moved around and the edges looked horrible so I had to cut them smaller. Ha. This post is very helpful!!
Thank you all for your comments!
To Christen: The line of fabric I used is called 'Midwest Modern' by Amy Butler.
I usually baste the same way you do – pins for smaller, spray for larger. I can only WISH I had a wall with enough space to baste that way – it's either the floor or 2 tables side by side for me. I use an old sheet to catch overspray. Wanted to provide a word of caution tho – the last quilt I spray-basted the sprayer broke the second I started and I couldn't get it to stop – it was a new can and would've done at least 3 quilts. That stuff is tough to get off things you don't want it on! I finally just put it in the bottom of a trash can – wish I had thought to put it in a bag first – the trash can had to be tossed. It washed out of the quilt just fine, tho (once done). Always does!
Thanks so much for the spray basting tutorial. I normally struggle to get a satisfactory result by putting it together on the floor. Definitely getting DH to put some canite or cork tiles on the wall this weekend so I can get rid of the wrinkles and frustration.
Best article I've found. Thank a you!
Hey-I love your blog name!! 🙂
I'm working on my very first quilt-a small one I'm making with my daughter and this is so helpful!
How do you pin without scratching the floor?
Try using curved safety pins- it really helps!
I absolutely love this method. The first quilt I made I pin basted on the floor. It took me over 6 hour to pin baste and 6 hours to recuperate argh and ouch …I was about to give up on quilting. Then I saw the wall spray basting method. I used this on my second quilt. It took about an hour and quilting up beautifully. Thank-you so much for sharing
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I am delighted to read your hints on Spray Basting of quilts. It sounds really the best
way to go. I am sick of pins and kneeling on
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Thank you so much for this helpful post! I will have to find some curved pins ASAP! I just finished my first quilt top and have been nervous to start the quilting process! Thanks for your tips!
I am trying this tonight – as a new quilter this looks like a real lifesaver for me! When ever I pin the 3 layers today I always get puckers on the backing.
Wow – the basting wall is a fabulous idea. What is it made from and how is it attached to the wall? Couldn't figure it out even after watching the video twice. I just finished a top with curved pins and crawling around on the floor. Ouch.
The quilt is beautiful. The tutorial is excelent. This how to baste quilt is now on my "I have to Make One" list. Thanks for sharing. dress fabrics
I just bought both of your books on amazon which drove me to google you. I can’t wait to dive in. I made a few quilts and by a few I mean 2. I’m so excited, your work is beautiful 🙂
I was going through the comments for this. Tutorial and there seems to be an unrelated kind of weird comment. Maybe you should rove it if you are able.