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Basting a Quilt for Machine Quilting posted: 1/17/2003
by Dori Hawks Printable Page
Category: General Method: Machine
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  • Table (I use one of those 6" x 30" brown office or church tables)
  • 1" non-rusting safety pins (about 12 per each square foot of quilt top)
  • 12 Bull Clips from the office supply store
  • Masking tape (3/4" wide or larger) to use on one edge if your quilt is shorter than your table

Preparing your fabric, batting, and quilt top:

  • Measure your finished quilt top
  • Cut batting and backing 6"-8" larger than the quilt top (both lengthwise and crosswise)
  • You will have to piece your backing if it does not measure larger than the width of your quilt top (make your seam[s] go lengthwise)
  • Iron both the quilt top and the backing fabric
  • Fold the batting, backing, & quilt top in quarters (separately)

Layering The Quilt:

  • Lay the quilt backing on top of the table with the right side down matching the center of the backing on the center of the table and the length of the backing going the length of the table.
  • Unfold the backing and smooth it out on top of the table keeping the side and end centers of the backing matching the side and end centers of the table.
  • Use the bull clips to hold the backing to the table. I clip the two sides in the middle. Then the two ends in the middle. Then add more on each side and more on the ends. Smooth the backing out toward the end of the table and toward the sides before adding each clip. Flip the clips ends in toward the table.
  • Batting: Lay the center of the batting on the center of the table with the length of the batting going the length of the table.
  • Unfold the batting and smooth it out on top of the backing fabric with the excess hanging over the sides and ends of the table.
  • Do not move the clips! Only the backing gets clipped to the table, not the other two layers.
  • Quilt Top: Lay the center of the quilt top on top of the table and the other two layers with the length going the length of the table. The right side of the top should be facing up so you can see it. (Very Important!) Unfold it a nd let the edges hang over the table. Smooth it out so there are no lumps, bumps, or wrinkles.

Basting the Quilt:

  • Your "quilt sandwich" is ready for the pins to be added to hold everything in place when you are doing the actual quilting.
  • Sit down (I use a wheeled secretary's chair) at the center of one side of the table where I am going to place my first pin.
  • When putting the pins into the quilt, make sure you are going through all three layers. It is not hard to do that. The table may get a couple little nicks in it, so don't use your dining room table to do this.
  • Slide the pin into the quilt layers. Then hold down the pointed side of the pin onto the table and then with the fleshy part of your index finger of the other hand push the big end of the pin past the point and pushing back and down, close the pin. It is a little tricky in the beginning, but keep trying and you will get the hang of it.
  • I place the pins 3"-4" apart (or about a fist width) all over the quilt. Yes, that is a lot of pins, but the secret to good quilting is good basting.
  • Remember to start in the center and work to each end and then roll your chair to the middle of the other side and finish the other side.

Finishing the Pin Basting:

  • After basting the part of the quilt that is on the top of the table, reach under the layers and remove the bull clips holding the backing down. Just flip out the under clip end and placing your thumb on the bull clip, pull it out. Do this with all of the bull clips.
  • Slide the quilt to one side to get a section up onto the table that has not been pin basted.
  • Use the bull clips on three sides to anchor the quilt backing only down. The fourth side already has pins in it and will be hanging down onto the floor. The weight of the quilt will hold enough tension on the quilt that you don't have to clip.
  • Smooth the batting out and then smooth the quilt top out. Run your hand over the top to feel if there are any folds that you can feel through the layers. If you canfeel any lumps, lift up the quilt top and smooth out the batting one more time.
  • Now add pins to that area on top of the table starting in the center again and working to each end. Begin pinning at the place where you ended off.
  • Move the quilt as before, adding pins until the top it is all pinned.

Trimming Before Quilting:

  • Lay the pin basted quilt sandwich on the table and trim (be careful!) the batting and backing to 2" BEYOND the edge of the quilt. Read that sentence again, please. The batting and backing need to be sticking out beyond the edges of the quilt top during the quilting, Don't leave too much hanging beyond or it will get flipped back and caught within the quilting. Then you'd have to do some ripping..oops - reverse sewing.
  • Now you are ready to take the sandwich and either machine quilt or hand quilt.

A Couple Little Extra Tips:

  • The table I use for basting is the type of table that you find at churches, community centers, and quilt shops. You can make arrangements to use the table for an hour or so to baste your quilt at any of these places. I have purchased one and it folds up to fit underneath a bed or slide behind a couch. Then it comes out for basting your quilt or for the next party your going to give.
  • You may ask why I don't use a kitchen counter top or an old door to baste on. The clips that I like to use don't open wide enough to fit over the edge of the counter or old door. These office tables have a thinner top.
  • I like sitting down to baste rather than stand and bend over. It is better for your back and especially if you have some foot, ankle or hip problems. Sitting is a lot easier on your body.
  • If you would like to stand you can raise the table higher by purchasing a piece of PVC pipe that is a little larger in diameter than your table legs. Cut the pipe into 4 pieces about 6" or so long and place them onto the table legs. The legs bend so the PVC will stop at the bend and raise the table up. The length that you cut the PVC is determined by the height that you want your table to be.

Good Luck on your quilting!
Copyright 2002 Dori Hawks

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