Basting Tips

Basting–the single word that can strike fear in the heart of any quilter, no matter the context. Even if someone is talking about basting the Thanksgiving turkey, a quilter will have a quick jolt of horror before realizing that they don’t have to baste a quilt, and will weep quiet, happy tears once they realize their mistake. It is an unpleasant task, both boring and stressful, and has nothing to do with your creativity as a quilter, so it’s not like you can go on Instagram and wow everyone will your incredible basting. It’s a necessity if you do your own quilting, and while it’s not fun, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the past year that might come in handy for you.

There have been numerous basting tutorials shared in the quilting community, so I’m not going to rehash basting in detail, but rather a few pieces of general quilty advice I’ve discovered through trial and (lots of!) error. If you want an in-depth tutorial, head on over to Suzy Quilts for lots of quality basting advice. Then pop back over here for my random and hopefully helpful tips.

Thus far I have only spray basted, but these tips should be helpful no matter how you baste. This post will focus on three tips:

  • Trim Threads…But Only a Little
  • Iron, and Then Iron Some More
  • Set Up A Basting Supply Station

Trim Threads…But Only a Little 

The back of a quilt is always full of those fun little loose threads that us quilters just hate. The good news is that some of them get to stay! The first time I quilted I drove myself crazy trying to trim them all off…a huge waste of time, and an essentially impossible task. There will ALWAYS be loose threads on the back of a quilt, and that’s totally fine. The ones you want to look out for are the giant ones, or ones of a dark color laying on top of light colored fabric. I tend to sew with a white background a lot (why do I do these things to myself?) so I definitely make sure there’s no threads of any color on the white fabric, because they will definitely show through. And really, seeing a stray thread once you have finished a quilt is such a bummer! But the even bigger bummer is seeing one while you’re quilting, and trying to decide if it’s worth it to rip out your quilting, rip apart the basting, and remove the offending thread. Faced with that terrible decision, I did rip everything out, and I hated every minute of it.

So spend a little quality time with the back of your quilt and get it spruced up a little bit. This picture is an example of a quilt back after I trimmed it. You can see I left a bunch of threads, so you really don’t need to drive yourself crazy trimming. Nothing in this picture will show through to the front–I promise!

Iron, and Then Iron Some More

Ironing (or pressing, as the pros call it) is an essential part of quilting, particularly basting. Your fabric needs to be wrinkle and crease free when you prep for basting, so once you’ve cleaned the back of any large threads, it’s time to get thee to your ironing board and spend some quality time with your iron. I highly recommend setting up by the TV to make this process more pleasant. You want the seams on the back to be pressed correctly (I’m a seams open quilter, and nothing will change that!). You don’t want any seams pressed the wrong way or worse, partially closed. This will make things wonky during basting and quilting. I usually do the back first and move to the front once all seams are pressed correctly. Really get that quilt top as crisp as you can! Then put the quilt top somewhere safe and flat…a bed ideally, but over the back of a couch works in a pinch. Now you get to iron the quilt backing. Aren’t you lucky?!? I do it in this order so that if I need to abandon my project, the quilt backing (which you need first in the basting process) is on the top of the pile.

As I mentioned in my post about Straight Line Quilting, I also iron my quilt AFTER I’ve basted. Yep, I love ironing that much!! Ok, not really, but I read this tip on the Suzy Quilts tutorial I shared (thanks, helpful commenter!) and decided to give it a shot. What a huge difference it has made for me! A quilt might seem well-basted when it’s laying on the ground, but ironing it will reveal any bunching in the fabric. It also helps the adhesive really adhere so that your basting doesn’t come apart at any point (a frequent complaint regarding spray basting). I iron the back of the quilt first, pulling the fabric and batting apart if necessary, and repositioning it. Repeat this process on the front and you’ll be left with a gorgeous quilt, ready to baste! You can see in this picture I’ve ironed the right side of this basted quilt, but not the left. I realize it’s not an earth shattering difference, but you’ll be able to tell the difference when you’re quilting. The fabric being nicely ironed is a beautiful foundation for your quilting, so it’s worth it to set yourself up for success with all this thrilling ironing. Oh, and if you pin baste, please don’t iron after basting. For (hopefully) obvious reasons.

Set Up A Basting Supply Station

Getting a basting station set up sounds intuitive, but it didn’t occur to me until I had basted a few times, and nearly killed my back getting up and down from the ground to run and grab things, so learn from me and get yourself completely set up ahead of time!

Before I start basting, I always gather:

  • Old Sheet-To protect the floor from basting over spray.
  • Masking Tape–For taping down the sheet, and the quilt backing.
  • Fabric Scissors–For trimming the batting down to size, or cutting off extra fabric from the backing once basting is done.
  • Thread Scissors–Tiny scissors for trimming any errant threads that pop up during basting. I love my stork scissors which I’ve had for years.
  • Basting Spray–Good old 505 basting spray. I stalk Amazon regularly since it goes down in price every so often.
  • Lint Roller–To get random hair/fuzz/mystery items off the fabric at a moment’s notice.
  • Wet Rag–Some of us always manage to get basting spray on our hands, and it’s a good idea to get it off ASAP, since it’s super sticky.
  • Phone–Do you really want to get up to answer a text, turn on music, or take a 10th Instagram break? I didn’t think so.
  • Candy–For energy and moral support…but not chocolate (sorry). Don’t make a mess on your precious quilt!  
  • Oh, and you’re probably going to need a quilt and some batting. I use Warm and White batting–it’s a must for light colored fabric. 

I hope these tips help you feel a little more confident about basting. Everyone finds a method that works for them, so pick and choose from my tips to help create a perfect basting experience for yourself. And if you have any tips for me, I’d love to hear them! Share them here, or on Instagram.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please be aware that I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. 

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