Basting with Elmer’s Glue: take two

A few months ago, I learned about basting with the washable, white Elmer’s glue that we all became intimately familiar with during elementary school. This cheap, readily available item seemed like a basting miracle, and I knew I needed to try it. I bought a gallon of the stuff and set to it which you can read all about here.


The short of it was: the result wasn’t all I had hoped for. Luckily, I was able to salvage my quilt and learn a ton about the process to try again. Remember–I had a gallon of this stuff to use up. I’ve finally gotten around to basting and quilting my Camels in the Desert quilt top. This is the process and results of take two of basting with Elmer’s glue.


The original problems

The original basting process comprised of mostly of squirting glue on batting and laying the quilt top on it. Again, you can read more about the details here. But I had two big problems: wrinkles formed in the quilt top when I basted the backing and glue drying in hard chucks that were nay impossible to quilt through and wash out.


This time around I wanted to:


1. Water down the glue to a 1:1 glue to water ratio which would hopefully make the glue less likely to dry up in those hard chunks that made quilting difficult.


2. Spread out the streaks of glue with a foam bush which should also make sure there are no chunks of glue anywhere. (I used a regular paint brush.)


3. Pin/tape my batting down taunt to prevent the dreaded wrinkles. Maybe. I’m still a little bit of a rebel. (I was a rebel…)


4. Not iron the glue dry anymore, leaving the glue a bit more wet could help with adjustments should there be another wrinkle mishap.


The new basting process

This all starts with the glue. I mixed the Elmer’s glue 1 to 1 with water. I roughly eyeballed this by filling the small glue container half full of glue from my gallon bottle and then pouring water in. I then inverted the bottle several times. This made a very thin glue.


Basting with Elmer's glue: adding water to the glue


Next, I laid out the batting and quilt top, making sure everything was flat and taunt.


basting with Elmer's glue: preparing the quilt top


I pulled back half of the quilt top.


basting with Elmer's glue: preparing the quilt top


Then I squirted a ~10 inch wave of glue down the length of the quilt.


basting with elmer's glue: the gluing


And then I used a brush to spread the glue so there were no thick patches.


basting with Elmer's glue: spreading the glue


I pulled the ~10 inches of quilt top back over and pressed it into taunt with my hand. Then I folded the quilt top back to the edge of the glue I just applied (keeping the glued bits down) and applied more glue. I repeated this until the whole quilt top was glued into place.


Basting with Elmer's glue: basting the quilt top


I let mine dry for the night (well, actually 10 nights because I got terribly sick with bronchitis which somehow wasn’t COVID-related). Then I flipped it over and did the same to the backing.


basting with Elmer's glue: the backing


When I finished gluing half of the backing (and before the glue really started to dry), I double checked to make sure the front wasn’t all lumpy


basting with elmer's glue: checking the quilt top


It looked perfect! Smooth and taunt, I left it to dry on my living room floor overnight.


Elmer’s glue basting results 2.0

Was basting with Elmer’s glue take two any better than take 1? In some ways, yes. But the general quilting experience was a big fail for me. Let’s brake it down.


Watering down the glue, or at least spreading it out, fixed the horrible problem of having glue chunkies to sew through. But, it caused another, maybe even worse, problem: large sections of fabric didn’t stick to the batting. I ended up with fabric bunching up through the quilting.


quilting with elmer's glue: fabric fabric bunching


I had to tear it out my quilting (hence the last blog post), pin large sections, and try again. Wasn’t the whole point of this to avoid pinning in the first place?!


quilting with Elmer's glue: the pinning


The whole point of glue basting was to actually get a solidly taunt quilt top that looked sleek and professional, but I didn’t end up with that. The quilt I managed to salvage nice, though a bit “hand made” with some delicate crinkle. It’s perfect for the couch, but not exactly the show piece I was aiming for.


Camel in the Desert Quilt


On a brighter side, I only had to wash the quilt once in white vinegar and all the glue was gone.


Thoughts for Elmer’s glue basting take three

Because there had to be a take three – I have a gallon of glue left! And I’m still holding out hope for this method. Here’s what I’m going to try next time:


1. GLUE — Use 3:1 or 4:1 glue to water (I want the mixture to be about 3/4 glue). I still think the glue needs to be watered down to not harden into clumpies, but the glue had been too watery to stick well. I’m also going to make it a point to shake the bottle often to prevent any glue from settling. I will also continue to use the brush; that worked well.


2. TAPING/PINNING – I’m going to tape/pin down the top/bottom layers taunt and glue the batting to that (rather then gluing the fabric to the top of the batting). I’m not sure how much it will help, but I’ll report back. And I’m actually going to do it this time. The rebel has seen the light.

Sew on!

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