Pin Basting Methods

The three layers of a quilt sandwich are temporarily held together, basted, to keep them in place during the process of quilting. I think it’s safe to say most quilters find basting a tedious necessity.

I choose to pin baste, with varying degrees of success, and have tried several different ways of smoothing and fastening the layers. Earlier this week I discovered my latest session of pin basting had been spectacularly unsuccessful. I’d used a walking foot to quilt three wavy lines of stitches down the length of a quilt sandwich. The quilt top was definitely rippling as I stitched but I tried to quieten the alarm bells ringing in my head with the thought that if I continued quilting lines in the same direction the layers would ‘settle’ and all would be well. What?!? I finally checked the back of the quilt sandwich and the chill grip of reality closed around me…. I would have to unpick 180 inches of stitching, about 2,500 stitches, remove the basting pins and start again…

Unpicking is a slow process allowing plenty of time for thinking. I thought of the quote often attributed to Albert Einstein:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I resolved to do a bit of research into pin basting methods before re-basting my quilt sandwich, intending to apply what I’d learn and do things differently so as not to be proved insane.

Here is a summary of my research into pin basting. I read many more blog tutorials and watched, in part at least, many more YouTube videos than there are links listed below but I hope those selected will provide you with a good lead into solving the mystery of successful pin basting  🙂

I’ve divided my pin basting research results into three categories: on the floor; on a table; and board basting..

Pin Basting On the Floor:

How to Pin Baste a Quilt by We All Sew – carpet or hard surface. This method involves initially pinning the outside edges of a quilt backing to a carpet or taping it to a hard floor. Then smoothing on the batting before smoothing the quilt top down onto the batting and pinning the edges to to the carpet. Once the edges of the layers are secured pin basting begins.

  • Handy tip: Use the long edge of a quilting ruler to sweep across the quilt top in all directions to smooth out wrinkles before pinning it.

Successfully layering and basting a quilt by Generations Quilt Patterns. This method details taping backing to a hard floor before smoothing on batting and then smoothing and taping the quilt top.

  • Handy tip: After taping down test there is no excess fabric in the backing by running a hand over it. If the fabric bubbles or wrinkles re-tape the backing being careful to stretch out the fabric without pulling so hard it becomes distorted.

How to Pin Baste a Quilt by Tangible Culture. In this method masking tape is used to first tape the backing to a hard surface; then the wadding is taped to the backing; finally the quilt top is taped to the wadding.

Pin Basting On a Table:

Using Straight Silk Pins by National Quilters Circle. In this short video tutorial long, thin pins are used to baste a small quilt sandwich. The demonstrator says the the method can be used successfully for quilts up to throw size.

Quilting for Beginners: How to Baste Quilt Layers Together by Wisecrafthandmade. This table top method uses clamps to secure the layers to a table. Flowerhead pins, with homemade ‘Pinmoors’ made of craft foam, secure the layers. The tutorial explains how to baste a quilt larger than the the table surface.

Pin Basting Combined with Board Basting:

‘Board Basting’ is a technique for table top basting developed by Sharon Schamber. There are several videos of her demonstrating the method, unfortunately they are not great quality. On the Right Sides Together site there is an explanation of Board Basting that does include an in-focus video of Sharon demonstrating the board basting method. Although Sharon favours hand thread basting others have successfully used pin or spray basting when using the Board Basting technique.

The technique has been further developed to utilise swim noodles. Here’s a video of the swim noodle, pin baste technique. This is slightly different from the original Sharon S method as the wadding is also rolled.

* * * * *

So there you have it, a brief trip through a variety of pin basting processes. The variation in techniques explained in these tutorials is a good indication that there is no one way of creating a perfect pin basted quilt sandwich. But, we would hope, applying at least some of the tips and advice should lead to the process having a satisfactory outcome far more often than not.

What am I taking away from all this? I think first I made some basic errors in the basting of the quilt sandwich that sparked this blog post. I need to be more careful when I’m securing the backing – making sure it really is taut. I didn’t make allowances for one of the backing fabrics being quite a silky cotton, combining that with polyester wadding was more likely to lead to the sandwich layers shifting so I should have pinned more densely than I did…

So I am going to do things differently. I’ve cleared a space on my sewing room floor ready to pin baste the quilt sandwich.

It’s a l-o-n-g time since I basted on the floor and this is quite a confined space. My 58 year old knees and rather too large backside may well work against me ever doing this again but I’m interested to see if, for this quilt at least, pinning to the carpet will produce a successful quilt sandwich. I will let you know the result in my Saturday Quilting Bring & Share blog post or you may just hear my howls of despair or shouts of joy echoing around the World 😀

Incidentally I was taught how to ‘board baste’ when I first learned to patchwork quilt (thank you Flip!) and have kept the long boards tucked behind the spare bed but haven’t used the method for a long time. Having done this research I’m fascinated by the lack of stretching applied to the layers as they are unrolled from the boards or swim noodles. Maybe I’ll get those boards out from behind the bed and have a go at board basting my next quilt sandwich just to see if they do the job well enough on their own without the need to clamp or tape the layers to the table?

Please do add your experiences of pin basting and any tips you’d recommend to the comments box below. Thank you!

Linking with Kelly for Needle and Thread Thursday. Kelly is bravely finding the silver linings in having a broken ankle!

Allison

PS. For an up-to-date and comprehensive guide to pin basting and other methods of securing a quilt sandwich take a scroll through this article, ‘Quilt basting tutorial – learn different ways to baste a quilt‘.

 

6 thoughts on “Pin Basting Methods

    • Thanks for the link to your tutorial. I generally use a very similar method. I think this time I had a bad combination of a silky cotton and poly wadding which didn’t help.

      Reply
    • Thanks for the link Jo. That’s a novel way of pin basting – good to be checking the back as you pin rather than turning the sandwich over at the end and finding loads of baggy fabric.

      Reply
  1. I used to tape my quilts to the floor and thread baste, then finally went to pins. Eventually, I started using two 6′ banquet folding tables and clamps and it was so much better on my knees and back. Thankfully, I never had any issues with puckering with any of these methods though–perhaps because all surfaces were hard? I got a long-arm several years ago thankfully!! but I’ll never forget all the hours and all the work it takes to baste! That’s a lot of ripping–hang in there! My husband uses that Einstein quote all the time!

    Reply
    • Thanks Cheree. I don’t think I’ll be pin basting on the floor too often. I have a folding table that usually works well as a basting surface. Perhaps I could use a longarm frame as a ‘basting machine’? 🙂

      Reply

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