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 Quilting Techniques : Basting Quilts

Basting may be one of the least enjoyed steps in quilt construction, but unless you own a no-basting frame, it is necessary. It keeps the grain of the quilt top and the backing aligned. This is important to avoid puckering the fabric to keep quilting free of difficulties.

Basting is most commonly done using pins or stitching, although some sprays are on the market. There is some debate over the pros and cons of each method. Some quilters feel pin basting is the best choice for projects to be machine quilted, as basting threads can become entangled in the presser foot. Others warn that safety pins leave too much play between the layers, and can discolor fabric. Personal preference, size of a project and the type of quilting you plan to use determine whether it makes sense to use pins or stitches.

Getting Ready to Baste

No matter what method of basting you choose, for best results, it is important to properly prepare the layers of your quilt first. The layers must be positioned correctly and lay flat upon each other.

Find a level work surface large enough to accommodate your entire quilt. Depending upon your project, you may need an amply sized table or a spacious floor. Layer the back, right side down, first. Larger projects may benefit from securing the back with clamps or some adhesive for better control. Center your batting over the back next, smoothing the entire surface. Finally, layer the quilt top, right side up. Again, smooth out any wrinkles. It is normal for edges of the batting and back to extend beyond the top at this point. The goal at this point is to align the layers properly without bunching or gathering.

Pin Basting

Before starting, make certain you have an adequate supply of pins on hand. Pin basting requires approximately 75 pins for a crib-sized quilt and at least 350 for a queen-sized project.

Begin at the center of the quilt, and place a pin at least every four inches, making sure to secure all three layers. Use the width of your palm as guide for this measurement. Safety pins in size one or two work well, but fine needles or long silk pins may also be used for projects to be machine quilted. Work outwards horizontally and vertically, placing pins in a grid-like pattern. If safety pins are used, wait until the entire quilt is pinned before closing them to allow for any adjustments. Once you are satisfied with your pin placement they may be secured.

Hand and Machine Basting

Whether basting by hand or machine, always start in the center and work outwards. The first rows should be vertical, horizontal and diagonal across the quilt. From this point, work in a grid pattern to evenly secure your quilt.

There is a technique for basting by hand. A thin upholstery needle should be used. It will penetrate layers of the quilt without making noticeable holes in the fabric. Keep your stitches generously-sized and spaced three to four inches apart. For best results, use a long strand of white or light-colored basting or even silk thread. Both are easily removed.

Although a thread color which contrasts with your fabric is easily visible, darker threads may transfer dye to the fabric and should be avoided. Also, make certain your strand of thread is knotted at the end to keep stitches in place.

The technique for machine basting follows a similar pattern. Work from the center outwards using a long basting stitch and a walking foot. Basting should be done in sections, with the final result being a grid of stitching that covers the entire surface of your quilt.

Taking the time to follow proper basting techniques ensures better results during the final steps of your quilt?s construction.

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