(Day 3 of a 31 Day Series)
Did you hear that? I think I heard a collective *sigh* from quilters around the world! Basting is one of those necessary evils of quilting. I don’t think I personally know a quilter who loves this step of the quilting process. I have a theory that the vast majority of UFO’s are created once this step becomes necessary. Are you one of those quilter’s that collects quilt tops? It’s time to get over the fear of basting so that you can finish up those quilt tops.
What is basting?
Some of the beginners out there immediately conjure up an image of bulbous syringe and a turkey. Relax, we’re not cooking Thanksgiving dinner over here, at least not for another month. Sometimes basting is approached with as much trepidation as a holiday meal. Basically basting means that you temporarily adhere/attach your three quilt layers together(top, batting, backing) so that you can take it to your machine where thread and a quilting design will hold your layers together permanently.
There are three basic methods that I know of for basting a quilt: needle and thread, pinning, and spray basting. Each method has it’s own set of challenges and requirements. I’ll try to briefly out line each method.
Needle and Thread:
Originally quilts were basted with a needle and thread. With this method you are basically taking long stitches all over the quilt sandwich to keep things together. I have personally NEVER tried this method. The thought of anything remotely like hand sewing is enough to keep me away. I did find this amazing tutorial that uses Sharon Schamber’s method that makes it all seem very manageable and easy enough for me to try it out sometime (maybe.)
Pros: No pins are in the way while quilting, you don’t have to crawl on the floor, you don’t need a large surface to baste
Cons: If you don’t use thick enough thread your basting stiches could snap while you are wrestling the quilt sandwich, you have to go back and trim and pull out all your basting stitches after you are done quilting (might be a pain if you do a lot of micro stippling)
Did you know that most long arm quilters (myself included) will gladly thread baste a quilt for you for a nominal fee?
You can use the same method as outlined above for pin basting as well. For this method you should used curved safety pins specifically for quilting. They make it easier for the sharp end to come back up into your quilt sandwich while it’s taped down. You may also want to use a stylus, chopstick or other tool to slip under the pin and help you close it. I use an acrylic cuticle stick from the drug store. It really helps save your fingers on a large quilt.
Here is the Sharon Schamber you tube video that shows you how it’s done.
and part 2:
Of course you can always do it the hard way and spread out on the floor on your hands and knees.
Pros: pins are sturdier than thread, pins are relatively cheap, you remove the pins as you sew so you don’t have anything to remove once you are done.
Cons: You’ll get poked - it’s inevitable. It’s really annoying to pin on top of carpet, you’ll ended up pinning the carpet in a couple of spots. You’ll want to plan ahead so that you don’t put pins in the way of your quilting line (i.e. if you are stitching in the ditch you won’t want to put pins along the edges of the block.) It can be a pain to have to reposition pins because they are in your way. You have to stop and undo the pins as you stitch.
That being said there is a cool product out on the market called Pinmoor. They are colorful “caps” that slide over regular quilting pins to cover the sharp ends. They are easier to reposition since you don’t have to fight with the clasp of a safety pin. They are rather pricey at $15 for 50 pieces. That’s barely enough for a baby quilt.
You know I’m all about being thrifty and saving money for more important things, like fabric and chocolate. A super cheap alternative is to take a thick piece of craft foam and cut it into little squares to use for your own pin caps. You’ll need relatively thick piece of foam. Look around the craft store in the kids department for foam door knob hangers or look in your garage or thrift store for one of these foam can cozies. ($0.99 at Hobby Lobby)
I’m always surprised to find that people have not heard of this wonderful tool. Basting spray is a low tack adhesive/glue that comes in a can. It usually sells for $10-$15 depending on where you find it and the brand. One can should be able to do 2-3 queen size quilts or several small quilts. Make sure you buy one for fabric (preferably quilting) rather than one for crafting. The ones made for quilting are especially formulated to be repositionable and won’t gum up your needle. I’ve used June Tailor’s basting spray with no problems. I have even had quilts basted together for over a year before I get to them! If your spray baste is coming out in clumps or in strands like silly string you need to get a new bottle! This stuff should come out like hair spray.
Speaking of hair spray, my friend Gene has had success using Aqua Net hair spray as a basting spray! At around $3 a can it sure is a cheap alternative so you can get even more chocolate.
I wrote a post a couple of years ago about how I spray basted my quilts (here.) I really think that the board method used by Sharon Schamber could also be adapted to spray basting. I’m going to try it out the next time I have to baste a quilt.
Pros: super quick and easy, no pins to mess with, repositionable, saves lots of time
Cons: can be smelly, cover work surfaces or they will get sticky, expensive
So now that we covered the different methods of basting let’s talk about why we need to baste. I thought the point of the walking foot was to move all the layers through together? The walking foot does NOT replace the need to baste the quilt sandwich. The walking foot minimizes the shifting of the layers but it doesn’t keep the layers together on it’s own. Basting every few inches stabilizes the quilt and insures that your layers will stay together until your quilting holds the sandwich together. Don’t skip the basting step or you will end up with huge puckers and you will be disappointed with the results.
Let me know if you have any questions about basting.
Now go make yourself a quilt sandwich, grab your walking foot and meet me tomorrow as we start with the designs!