Once you have finished a quilt top, you need to make a quilt sandwich using the finished top, batting (for the middle) and backing fabric. Then you need to baste these layers together before you can start quilting.
My absolute favorite way to baste a quilt together is by using temporary spray adhesive. Here’s what I like about it:
- Super fast!
- No pins to avoid while quilting
- Doesn’t add additional weight to the quilt
- It’s temporary! Will wash out when you’re finished
- Did I mention how fast it is?
I’ll be honest. There are a few cons too:
- It can gum up your needle while quilting (clean w/ an alcohol swab or lick your finger and swipe clean!)
- It has a fume to it (open a window, wear a mask)
- The over-spray can get surrounding area sticky (don’t be lazy, clean with a rag)
You will need a few items in order to get started. Temporary spray adhesive (I highly recommend 505 Spray and Fix), painters tape or other masking tape, safety pins and something to clean up the over-spray with (I use De-Solv-it).
1. To get started, you will need to lay your backing right side down on a smooth surface. I use my kitchen table for smaller quilts and my hardwood floor for larger quilts. You want to smooth your backing out and tape the middle of one side and then the opposite side. Do the same thing to the remaining two sides. Now secure the corners with tape. Depending on the size of your backing, you will need to add tape in between (about 12″ apart) the corners and sides. Always smooth from the center out to the edges. You want the backing to be smooth and flat, but not tight.See the before and after pictures below.
3. Peel back half of the batting and spray the batting with temporary spray adhesive. Hold the can about 12 inches away and spray an even layer. Optimally you want to use as little adhesive as possible to do the job. I gauge this by the type of batting I use.
- For 100% cotton batting, use spray sparingly.
- For cotton blends and wool, use a little more.
- For other types of batting, you’ll need to test for adhesion. Try a little, then add more if needed.
- For 100% polyester, you have to use A LOT, and I would choose a different method. The spray does not like to adhere to polyester.
4. Lift the batting that just got sprayed and smooth it down over the backing as it touches the backing fabric. Since it’s temporary and re-positionable, you can readjust if any wrinkles form while doing this. This is easier to do with two people – one holding each corner of the batting. However, I usually do this on my own, so I work with one corner/side at a time (as you can see from the following picture).
Actually, I’m holding the camera with the one hand that is supposed to be holding the corner of the batting. So this isn’t exactly how it’s supposed to look.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the other half of the batting.
6. Lay the quilt top over the batting/backing layer and smooth it out. I try to smooth it out on the fabric grain so that nothing stretches or distorts.
7. Peel back half of the quilt top and spray the exposed batting side using the same method as before. You will always be spraying the batting rather than the fabric. This gives you a more even spray and better adhesion since you don’t have seam allowances and thread getting in the way.
8. Carefully lay the quilt top over the sprayed batting. Make sure you don’t pull the corners or edges as you’re smoothing it down. This can distort the quilt top. Use one hand to hold the corner up and the other hand to smooth the quilt top from the center out to the sides. If you’re working alone, repeat with the other corner/side.
9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for the other half of the quilt.
10. You’re almost done! Now, I like to baste the edges of the quilt top with safety pins or using my machine (walking foot attached). This gives added stability to the outside edges which tend to get manipulated a bunch during the quilting process.
The first method involves pinning along the edges about 3 – 4 inches apart and 1/4″ in from the edge.
The other way to secure the edges is to use your sewing machine. You will have to un-tape your quilt backing from the table or floor before you do this. Make sure you have a walking foot attached to your machine and set your stitch length to a long stitch (5.0 on computerized machines and about 6 stitches per inch on “vintage” models). Stitch within 1/4″ from the outside edge, through all layers.
You can also tell how efficient your walking foot is at this point. Believe me, not all walking feet are created equal! When you return to your starting point (usually a corner), you should not have any puckers or tucks at the end. Everything should be smooth and even.
It looks like there is a little hill there, but it didn’t develop into a tuck. Everything matched up at the corner. If you do end up with a tuck, you can try adjusting the presser foot pressure dial (if your machine has one). Try lowering it or increasing it and see what happens. You might also see if your walking foot is the correct one for your machine and not a generic brand.
When I first had my Viking sewing machine I unknowingly purchased a generic walking foot and kept getting puckers and tucks in my quilts. After about six months of this, I took it back to the store and told them what had been happening. They noticed that my walking foot did not half the Viking Husqvarna insignia on it and that I needed to purchase the “real deal”. So I did (of course it was $50 more than my original!) but I no longer had issues with quilting, so it was worth it to me.
So that’s spray basting in a nut shell! I use this method on every quilt I make and it never fails me. I do it on larger quilts too, as you can see in this picture:
I’m working on my kitchen hardwood floor and I’m bare-footed. On large quilts, I often have to step on the quilt to get to the other side, so it’s clean feet or socks for me!
I hope you try this method for yourself. If you want to see other interpretations of spray basting, try this You Tube video by Patsy Thompson and for those of you with carpeting and no hardwood floors try this tutorial by Film in The Fridge. Also, if you have a pieced backing that needs to match up with the quilt top, try this tutorial here.
And as I mentioned in a previous post, “Basted But Not Quilted”, I’ve had quilts basted for years using this method and it’s still sticking!