OPQA: Quilt Basting Tutorial

I’m calling this post part of the Orange Peel Quilt-along, but really it’s just a general quilting tutorial / post about how I baste quilts. I’m sure other people do this differently, and I’m sure this isn’t necessarily the best way ever – it’s just how I do it in my particular basting environment.

(Note: this post contains the worst photos evar. I’m not even worrying about it. It’s been dark and gray for weeks now, and this room never gets good light even on a good day – and anyway, basting is not a pretty process, it’s just something we live through.)

Ok, so let’s get this out of the way: I. Hate. Basting. It’s the worst process in the universe. It’s boring. And tedious. And kind of painful. And it takes hours. We’re all grown-ups here, I’m not going to pretend this is fun.

But we gotta do it. We just buckle down and power through it – put on some great music or a funny movie, or sucker a friend into helping, and try to get it done as quickly as possible. Together we can get through this. Ready?

**WAIT! Before you do anything, make sure your backing, batting and quilt top are pressed nice and flat. Good. Now go.**

First, clear a big space – bigger than your quilt by as much as possible all the way around:

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As you can see, in my house, this means shoving all the furniture as far back as possible.

Then lay your backing, right side down, nice and flat on the floor:

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I like to use my long and skinny quilting ruler to help smooth things out:

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Now take a roll of tape – I’m using blue painter’s tape – and working around your quilt, tape it to the floor:

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I work by taping opposites all around – first the middle of one side, then the opposite middle. Then the left of that side, followed by the right of the opposite side – make sense? It’s awesome if you have a buddy for this part, you can stand on opposite sides of your backing and toss the tape back and forth – much quicker than going back and forth by yourself.

You want your backing to be smooth and taut, but not stretched. This is tricksy to learn, and it took me several quilts to get used to the feel I was going for. I tend to stick a length of tape (anywhere from 6″ – 12″) to the fabric, then gently pull it just slightly towards me before sticking it to the floor:

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This is what you should end up with (the blank spots here are clear tape I put down before I realized you couldn’t see them in a photo :) ):

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My quilt back is uneven, but I’ll trim that after everything’s pinned.

Then lay your batting down and smooth it over your backing. Batting is like a freaky velcro – at least cotton and cotton blends, I can’t speak for other types – and won’t need to be taped. It’ll just stay put, which is very helpful of it, doncha think? Smooth it nice and flat – not stretched! Again, I like to use my ruler:

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Then lay your quilt top down over the batting, with at least a few inches to spare around each side. If you have a pieced backing, you may want to be careful about positioning – check that your top is straight against any seams your backing has. My backing and batting were much larger than my top, so I positioned my top the way I wanted and will trim the excess after everything’s pinned. Smooth the top same as your other layers. The batting, again, will keep everything nice and flat once you get it that way.

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We’re almost ready to pin, but first, your cat will come and make sure everything’s nice and smooth:

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Ah, thanks, Oscar.

Now we pin! You’ll need a buttload of those curved basting pins, though of course there are other methods – hand basting, basting guns, basting spray, etc. This is just how I roll.

If you know how you’ll quilt, you can position your pins accordingly. I’m not sure yet, so I’ll just place one in the middle of each peel, and one at each block intersection. That’ll keep things nice and secure – they’re about 3″-4″ apart:

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When it’s all pinned, I cut away the excess fabric and batting, a few inches around my top, and then lift it all off the floor. Your back is probably aching and you may want to poke some of those damn curved pins into your eyes, but it’s done now. You made it. I’m proud of you.

And woohoo! Now you’re ready to quilt!

2 Comments on OPQA: Quilt Basting Tutorial

  1. sam
    February 16, 2015 at 16:00 (2 years ago)

    Yeah, I have a quilt that needs basting, and completely know where you are coming from. But aside from that, your quilt top looks AMAZING!

    Reply
  2. Karen
    February 17, 2015 at 11:29 (2 years ago)

    I can’t get over how crazy-beautiful your quilt is!!!!! And well done Oscar, good job. I may need to borrow him to check on my basting… xxx

    Reply

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