4 Quilt Basting Techniques

Basting–It’s the least creative part of the quilting process, but, dare I say, one the most important? Choosing the right basting method and basting well will keep your finished quilt smooth and free of the dreaded wrinkles. But how do you choose the right basting method for you and your quilt? There are several to choose from. None of them are perfect or should be used with every quilt you make. Here are 4 popular quilt basting techniques and their pros and cons.


The pin basting technique

Pin basting is the process of basting your quilt together with safety pins. From my side of the internet, pin basting seems to be the most popular quilt basting technique among domestic sewing machine users. It was the first method I ever tried and the most popular amongst beginners.


Quilt Basting Techniques: Pin Basting


Pin basting is great for beginners because safety pins are fairly cheap and, once you have them, you can reuse them for every quilt. This basting technique doesn’t add any chemicals to the quilt which means there are no weird smells, and the quilt doesn’t need to be washed after. This is especially great if you are just looking to make a wall hanging or a show quilt.


Sounds perfect, right? But there are 3 major downsides. First, it’s pretty laborious. You have to spread out your quilt and add a pin every few inches across the entire quilt. This means that for any quilt of moderate size (i.e. larger than a baby quilt), you’ll likely be on the floor, crawling around on your hands and knees for a few hours.


Second, it’s impossible to correct a small mistake in your basting with out redoing a ton of other pins.


And third, pins aren’t steadfast. They have some give to their hold. This means that when you go to sew, you can get movement in your fabric. No matter how many pins you put in, this could lead to those dreaded wrinkles.


My tips for pin basting are: tape your bottom fabric taunt to the ground and make sure to really work your batting and top fabric wrinkle-free before you start basting. This will help you baste your quilt together correctly the first time. Then, you should pin from the middle of the quilt out. Lastly, I recommend only using pin basting on smaller quilts. I’ve used them on small and big kahunas (such as my Out of this World quilt). You can make it work with any quilt, but there are better options.


The sew basting technique

Sew basting is the process of making large hand stitches through out the quilt. This isn’t a very popular method, but it seems to be making a comeback on the internet. Even I’ve tried it out on several quilts such as my Whale Shark Love and Space Travel quilts.


Quilt Basting Techiques: Sew Basting


As you could probably guess that because you’re sewing hundreds of extra stitches in your quilt that eventually get ripped out again, this is a very laborious and time consuming process. So why in the world would anyone use this quilt basting technique?


I chose it when I worked with a minky backing. It was impossible to pin through that stuff, and the sew basting had a better hold than the larger pins. Sew basting actually went faster than pin basting and I didn’t have to worry about quilting over a pin and breaking my needle.


But, again, it’s not perfect. You’ll still be kneeling over your project on the floor taking forever to sew hundreds of large stitches through out your project. You’ll also need to buy thread, though I just used up the junky cheap stuff I bought before I knew better.


My tips for sew basting are nearly the same as for pin basting. First take your bottom fabric taunt to the ground and really make sure to work your batting and top fabric wrinkle-free before you start basting. Second, work from the middle of the quilt out–I’ve also worked top down, but make sure you’re constantly adjusting your quilt sandwich to be taunt and wrinkle-free. Third, use a thimble. You fingers will thank you. And while I’ve used this method with quilts of all sizes, but it does get harder with larger quilts. Make sure you have an large area you can lay out your quilt and stay cognizant of the tautness.


Quilt Basting Techniques: sew basting back
The back of a baby-sized quilt that was sew basted

The spray basting technique

Spray basting is using a special can of spray glue to temporarily hold your quilt together. While I have never used this method, it is exceedingly popular among quilters.


Spray basting is a great option for many quilters. It allows you to quickly stick your quilt top and backing fabric to the batting. But it also gives you the chance to adjust your fabric and work out wrinkles before it dries. It creates a secure hold that you don’t need to worry about shifting when you go to quilt. Its also super helpful for quilters with back or knee problems who can’t use pin or sew basting.


But it’s not all perfect. I’ve wanted to try it for a long time, but there are several reasons why I haven’t yet. First, is its toxic or at least super smelly. You’re ideally supposed to spray it outside, and I don’t have a backyard. Second, I’ve read that spray bastes can gunk up or make your sewing machine needle sticky. Third, after you’re done quilting, you need to wash your quilt to get the spray baste out, but I’ve read that it doesn’t all come out. Fourth is the cost. A can of the stuff costs about $15, and it takes ~1 can per quilt. Yikes! And lastly, while there are homemade spray baste formulas, they use flour, which I wouldn’t want sitting in my quilts for long.


Quilt basting is great for quilters who don’t mind spending a couple extra bucks to save time or their backs. Like all quilting methods, really make sure you work out any lumps and keep your project taunt. Make sure you give it proper time to dry and then check to make sure it had developed a good hold around your quilt before you start quilting. Lastly, I’m not sure how good the hold is on heavier fabrics like minky. If you choose to use it with minky, I’d recommend you through in a few pins to help keep the project together.


The glue basting technique

Glue basting in the process of using the washable white Elmer’s glue to baste your quilt. I’ve been working on improving the method, but you can read about my initial attempt with it here.


Quilt Basting Techniques: Glue Basting


While (in my opinion) not perfect yet, glue basting is starting to bubble up on the internet. It’s supposed to be a fast, cheap, and easy method to baste your quilts. And it has been, but there are still some kinks I’m working out. These include glue dots that are hard to sew through and stubborn washable glue that doesn’t wash out. With some tweaking and testing though, I think I can make this the best method yet.


If you’re going to try glue basting, make sure to read my article linked above and watch for more perfecting attempts to come. I’ve got a gallon of Elmer’s glue I need to use before I give up on this method. If you decide to go again, keep the layer of glue thin and wash your quilt with white vinegar.


Which of quilt basting techniques is right for you?

Deciding which of the quilt basting techniques is right for you isn’t going to happen in an article you read online. But I do hope you’ve learned about different methods you can choose from and have found at least one that is accessible to you. Give it a go and then try another. Quilting is about learning and experimenting with patterns, colors, and techniques. Let me know what quilt basting technique you like to use down below.

Sew on!

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