Saturday, December 1, 2007

Basting 101

A well-basted quilt makes the quilting process a joy. A poorly basted quilt will make you never want to quilt again. Been there! I've never seen a tutorial for the way I baste my quilts. Read any beginner's quilting manual and it will instruct you to use safety pins or basting stitches. I've tried both methods and been incredibly frustrated by them. Not only do they not work for me, but I also have the added pain of removing thread or pins, accompanied by the quilting and requilting of wrinkles in the backing.

This is the way my Grandma taught me to baste a quilt, and it's never done me wrong. Warning: as with any method, it's a real pain and a guaranteed backache, but it's the only pathway I know to a nonstressful session of quilting from start to finish. So pick a day when you're feeling unusually chipper, and go at it!

What you'll need:

1. A pair of sewing scissors
2. A roll of packing tape. Not duct, masking, or any other type. $1 packing tape only!
3. A can of quilter's basting spray. This runs about $8 at sewing stores. You can get it at Wal-Mart, too. One can usually takes me through two twin quilts or 1 1/2 queen sized.

4. Your quilt top, batting, and backing.
You will also need floor space bigger than your quilt. Hardwood or laminate flooring is best. You CAN do this on carpet, but it takes a bit longer and tends to be a bit peskier. Step 1. Make sure your backing is fairly unwrinkled. If you've pieced your backing, make sure the seam is ironed flat. Lay out your backing wrong side up. Using 5-10" long sections of tape, tape down one edge of the backing. Your tape should run along the edge of the backing and be halfway onto the floor. Leave about 5 inches between tape sections.
Step 2. Tape down the opposite side, stretching the batting as tightly as possible.

Step 3. Tape down the remaining two sides. You may have to fiddle with the sections you already taped down. This is normal. Keep fiddling until your backing is as tight as a drum. Try to avoid walking on the batting, although if you can't avoid a few steps, it should be fine.
Step 4: Spray the backing following the instructions on the can. When you're done, the backing should feel sticky and tacky. If not, spray again.

Step 5: Lay out your batting. Be extra careful if you're using cotton not to pull on it too tightly, step on it (especially after it's been'll have cotton feet!), or it will come apart. Once you have it positioned, smooth all the wrinkles out. It may
look wrinkly, but when you smooth your hands over it, it shouldn't feel wrinkly. Make sense?

Step 6: Spray the batting.
Step 7: Lay out your quilt, making sure there's at least 3-5 inches of backing and batting left on each edge. Again smooth it out. At this point don't be afraid to get on top of the quilt. Smooth, smooth, smooth!

Step 8: Cut any access backing and batting (leaving those extra inches) and carefully remove the tape. Take a look at the back of the quilt. What's most important is how it FEELS. Can you smooth it over with your hands without feeling wrinkles? If so, you're good to go hit the machine.

Step 9: Pretend as if you're puzzled when someone mentions that the floor is sticky. After all, you worked hard, and they can't expect you to baste and mop in the same day!

Notes: I am always feeling the back of the quilt. I check the back after ever 5 minutes of quilting to check what I've done and make sure there's no problem areas. After every 30 minute session, I take the entire quilt from the machine, smooth out the top, and most importantly, smooth out the back. Before you begin a new session, check where you're going to be sewing and smooth out that area, too. If you hands feel a wrinkle, your sewing machine will, too. As you sew, the backing can shift. What's best about this method is that the tacky spray allows you to smooth the backing out to shift with the quilt. If you pin or thread baste, you don't have this flexibility. So sew, check, resmooth, and you'll be able to have a perfect back. It's all in the basting.

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