Basting is NOT my favorite part of quilting - in fact, it may be my least favorite part, but it is necessary, and if you're going to do it, then why not do it right?! Right?!!
I will first make a disclaimer - this is how I do my basting, it's what works for me, and after having tried every way imaginable, (pinned to a frame, clamped to a frame, clamped to a table, taped to a table, taped to the floor, safety pins...etc etc etc)I keep coming back to this easy basic method.
You will need:
A needle, (the longer the better), thread, and scissors.
Is that basic or what?!
Of course you will need the layers of your quilt - the backing, batting, and top. And a flat surface, in this case, my kitchen table.
I LOVE basting on my kitchen table. It's easier on your back and knees than the floor, and you can easily move the quilt as you progress. You'll see what I mean later.
OK, let's get started!
1) Place your backing fabric on the table with the right side facing down.
Smooth it out so there are no puckers. At this point you can choose to tape the edges to the table if you want. Just get some painter's tape and tape one side, then the other. You can see that with this quilt I didn't use tape, but if you feel better do so, then go for it!
2) Place your batting on top of the backing.
Smooth it out.
3) Place your quilt top on top of the batting, face up.
Once again, smooth it out. You will find that the batting acts like a glue and the backing and batting will stick to it pretty well and not slide around. You can see in the photo below that my backing and batting is larger than my top.
Now trim it down so it's workable.
When you trim it, make sure you leave the backing and batting larger around than the top.
4) Cut a long length of thread. In this case I cut it the length of the quilt plus about 15 inches. Once thing I always do, and a great tip, is to choose a color of thread that does NOT blend into the quilt. The final thing you will do after quilting and binding is pull out the basting thread, and trust me, it's a lot easier if you can see it! In this case I chose black. The only color I avoid using is red as sometimes red will bleed onto lighter fabrics.
5) Don't knot your thread. No need to - we don't need the basting thread to stay secure forever. It will also make it easier when it's time to remove the basting. Starting in one corner, make a row of big stitches (about an inch long) in a row. Something I learned from my mother-in-law years ago is to always baste the very edges of the quilt, so my first row is always close the edge.
6) When you get to the end of the row, just cut the thread, leaving a tail a few inches long.
7) Start the next row. This time, start at the same spot you started the previous row, and go up along the vertical edge, basting right along the edge before turning to do the row.
I do this at the beginning of every row, and by the time you have finished basting the quilt, the vertical edges will be all basted. Pretty tricky, huh?!
8) Now comes the question of how far apart to space the rows. I find that a hand width apart works really well.
9) Baste to the end of the row. Now this time, instead of cutting the thread, make a 90 degree turn downwards, and baste along the vertical edge, stopping when you reach the previous row.
10) Repeat steps 7-9 until the entire quilt is basted, ending with a final row along the far horizontal edge. The beauty of doing it on a table is that as you fill up the quilt with basting, you can move it towards you so you are always working on a row near the edge of the table.
I'm all about making this easy on myself! Another tip - every now and then just give the backing a little tug from each side to make sure it's wrinkle free.
You should also keep smoothing out the top.
11) Your quilt is now basted! Turn it over and check that the back is pucker free.
Mine usually is, but if I see a pucker, it's easy to pull out a couple of rows, do some tugging and smoothing and re-baste that bit.
You know what can actually make basting fun though? Grab a friend and do it together - you get it done twice as fast, and have twice the fun! Just make sure you are basting from the same side, or you'll end up having a big wrinkly mess when you meet in the middle!
Now as I finish, a quick word about safety pins. I know a lot of quilters use them and love them - good for you! I can't stand using them, and here's why - I machine quilt everything, and my machine is semi-industrial and moves fast. When I baste with thread, I don't need to stop in the middle of my quilting groove and pull out a safety pin. I think that the upfront amount of time put into thread basting is longer than basting with safety pins, but it is more than made up for when it's time to quilt. Sometimes, the old fashioned basic way of doing things is best!
Like I said at the beginning, this is just what works for me. If you bow to the power of the safety pin, and it works for you, then I think that's great!
Now go baste all those tops you've got folded away. Invite some friends over, put them to work helping you and make a day of it. Feed them a yummy lunch and I bet they'd be more than happy to help!
Once you have your quilts basted the next steps are quilting, then binding. You're almost done!