Basting the three layers of a quilt together is no one’s favorite task. For me, the only upside is the knowledge that soon I will actually be quilting! Basting a large quilt can be a challenge, but I have found that working at it in sections makes the job very manageable. Here’s how.
I have two basic Ikea-style tables in my sewing room, each measuring approximately 32″ x 48″. If you don’t have this kind of work space, many quilt shops will allow you to use their work tables.
Divide each layer of your quilt into four equal quadrants. I do this by folding the backing fabric, the batting, and the quilt top in half and marking each midway point with a safety pin.
Lay the top left quadrant of the backing fabric, face down, on the tables. Use masking tape to secure the two raw edges and binder clips to secure the edges with excess fabric. Make sure the backing fabric is smooth and taut, gently stretching it as it is fastened to the table.
Did you notice the legs of my tables? Coffee cans raise the height just enough so I can baste without bending over. This sure helps prevents back pain!
Add the batting, lining up the safety pins that mark the centers. Smooth out any bumps or wrinkles.
Add the quilt top, again matching centers, and baste the first quadrant. For machine quilting, I baste with safety pins. There are pins specifically designed for this task, with a bend to help go through all the layers, but I like to use these small brass pins.
Remove the masking tape and binder clips, and move the quilt over to the top right quadrant. Use the binder clips to secure all three layers along the left (already basted) edge.
Peel back the quilt top and batting along the left edge, and secure the backing fabric to the table as before – using masking tape for the two raw edges and binder clips for the remaining edge.
Return the batting into place and smooth over the backing fabric. Add the quilt top and baste the second quadrant.
Remove the masking tape and binder clips, and move the quilt over to the bottom right quadrant. Use the binder clips to secure all three layers along the top edge.
Peel back the quilt top and batting along the top edge, and secure the backing fabric using masking tape and binder clips.
Return the batting and quilt top into place as before, and baste the third quadrant.
Remove the masking tape and binder clips once again, and move the quilt over to the bottom left quadrant. Since three quarters of the quilt have now been basted, use binder clips to secure all three layers along both the top and right edges.
Peel back the quilt top and batting on an angle, from one midpoint to the other. Use masking tape to secure the remaining raw edges of backing fabric.
Return the batting and quilt top into place and baste the final quadrant. Remove the masking tape and binder clips and start quilting! (Before you do, you may have to trim or file a couple finger nails. Those safety pins can be rough!) Have fun.
Jean Pucyk says
My husband gave me some clamps that are plastic bought at Dollarama..really strong …off to work on the basting..thank you Kathy.
This is amazing. I had been crawling around on the floor (usually with several cats helping) trying to smooth out the layers and baste the quilt, only to look at the finished product and be disappointed with the results. The quadrant method was so easy, and took so little time to complete. My table is a 48″ round, so I had to adjust the process a little, but the results are wonderful. Thanks so much for posting!
Instead of binder clips, I found these great heavy duty plastic clamps at HarborFreight they are really inexpensive and come in 3 sizes in a container (I think there are 12-18 total); I believe they also have the big binder clips.
Judy Welch says
Half of a wooden clothes pin works great for closing and opening the safety pins.
Betty Back says
Thank you, Kathy, I will be trying this. I now use the floor and am always stiff and sore afterwards. My tip to you is for pinning the pins, I use to get sore fingers. One day I tried a nutpick to close pins, it worked well except the pic end would jab me . I put a bit of masking tape over the pick end, used the ball end to close pins….worked great….now to get off of floor.
Pretty sure I got them at Staples. They’re just called 2″ Wide Binder Clips and mine are made by Rotex. Good luck finding them!
All the best,
Emilie D LaFave says
April 24, 2017 Can I ask where do you get the large clips that open wide enough to
secure the quilt edges to the table, or to quilting boards? I’ve seen photos of long
silver metal clips for this too, but can’t find them online anywhere. Do you know
what they are called and where to get them? Thanks, Emilie LaFave in NC
Can’t wait to see it! For marking light-colored fabrics, I use The Fine Line by Collins; for darker fabrics, I use either the Clover White Marker or the Bohin mechanical chalk pencil. All my favorite marking pens are available at https://kathykwylie.com/product-category/fabric-markers/.
All the best,
Hi Kathy, I am making your beautiful Flourish on the Vine quilt. I have finished the centre panel and am working on the swags, such fun! I would like to quilt it myself. What do you use for marking the quilting lines?
You’re welcome! I know how it feels to have to take apart a quilt that wasn’t basted properly – hopefully we only ever have to go through it once!
All the best,
D. Eileen Pielin says
Thank you thank you! Just last week I was on my knees trying to baste with spray a queen size quilt. It turned out so bad that I’ll have to take it all apart! The top is nice, but the secured backing came undone and now is a wrinkled mess! This item of yours will help me so much! Thank you again!
Gail Greenisen says
What a great tutorial. In past I’ve limited the size of my quilts because of space to baste. Your tutorial has given me new insight to enlarge the quilt top I am now working on. Thanks again.
Peggy lockwood says
Thank you for the very clear instructions! I will give this a try. Basting a large quilt is always a challenge for me. I love the spray basting but we have stopping using it because of the health risks.
marolyne ducaine says
Great explanation , it will help me to pin my big quilts , I was starting in Centre , thank you
m sorochan says
I love bed risers….to raise both my basting table but more importantly my cutting table…inexpensive and stable
Laur Macdonald says
I use PVC pipe pieces as well. Great tutorial, Kathy. Thank you – very well explained.
Kathy Bishop says
I baste my quilts exactly the same way except I use 505 spray instead of pins……my back just cannot take pinning for hours. And because I can do it quickly (relatively) I don’t need to add height to the table legs.
My binder clips are 2″ wide and work just fine. I guess it would depend on the thickness of your table, but try the 2″ and see if they fit.
What size of binder clips? I have found 2″ wide available but was under the impression I needed 3″ wide, but haven’t found them.
That’s a great idea, Dawn. Thanks for sharing it. Where do you get the PVC pipe? Does it come in different widths for different size table legs?
Dawn Odya says
I use pvc pipe to put on the legs of my table and it works fine.Just measur the heigth you want and cut them and slip your legs into each leg.You can put end caps on them to move the table around when needed.