Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A frequently asked question is "How do I baste my quilt to prepare it for machine quilting?" I use a spray basting technique, which I have used for years, whenever I am hand quilting or machine quilting at home (as opposed to using a professional long arm machine). Here's how I do it:

For this basting technique, we recommend cotton batting. I usually use Quilter's Dream Cotton (Request weight), but I have also used Warm and Natural and Tuscany Bleached Cotton. I would *not* recommend using polyester batting or high loft batting using this method, because it has too much stretch. Once you have selected your batting, prepare your backing. Your backing and batting should extend 3" beyond the edge of your finished quilt top on all four sides. (So if your quilt is 40" x 50", your backing should measure 46" x 56").
If your quilt is large enough that you need to piece your backing using 2 or more pieces, press the seams open, and preferably use spray starch (I recommend Mary Ellen's Best Press) during the pressing process, which will help to stabilize the bias grain in the backing.

Next press your quilt top, pressing seams flat and be sure to snip off any loose threads. Press your quilt top both on the wrong and right sides, as this will help to assure a nice flat quilt top with no bumps or ridges. I also use Mary Ellen's Best Press on my quilt top. I find it helps to the precision of my piecing, and it helps my seams lie flat.

Gather enough large binder clips (which can be purchased at an office supply store) to clamp around the edges of your table every 12-18", 505 spray adhesive, a scissor, and clips or safety pins (size 0 or size 1) for pinning the edges of the quilt after the sandwiching process is complete.

My dining room table with leaves in it is a great basting table. Many craft cutting tables with extensions can also be used for this purpose, as well as banquet tables. If you don't have a table in your home, you can often use tables at a recreation center, school, library, church, or any community center that uses standard banquet tables. Two tables side by side make a great surface for basting.
Whatever size table you have, make sure it is clean and the area around it is clean, as your quilt will likely fall to the floor at some point during this process.

Place the center of the quilt backing on the center of the table and smooth it out, WRONG SIDE UP. On my table, which is 42" wide, the seams in my backing run right down the edge of the table, which is very helpful in keeping it straight.
Once the backing is positioned, clamp it to the table, smoothing it as you clamp and keeping it relatively taught between clips. You can see this on the above photo.

Once your backing is clamped on one side of the table, repeat the process on the other side of the table. Gently smooth out the backing and clamp it, smoothing any excess fabric toward the edges of the table. You can also clamp the backing down on the ends of the table also, if you wish. The most important thing is that you should not be able to pinch the backing up off the table when it is clamped. You are not stretching the backing, you are just smoothing it taught.

Unfold your batting, and place it centered on your clamped backing. Usually the batting is folded lengthwise down the middle, and that fold should run lengthwise right down the center of your table and backing. Smooth out any lumps, bumps or wrinkles. Once that is done, carefully fold back one half of the batting as shown in the photo (the white side on the left is my folded batting and the darker side on the right is the wrong side of the backing facing up).

Take your 505 spray can and shake it several times. I usually hold my can about 8-10" from the backing, and start to spray at the edge of the table right in front of me, and then I spray toward the middle of the quilt. I move quickly along the edge of the table and mist the backing with the 505 as I move. When one side of the backing is misted, carefully unfold the batting and cover the sticky half of the backing with batting. Smooth it carefully. You can reposition if necessary, but it should not take much effort to get the batting smooth.

Now you can peel up the other side of the batting and fold it back so you can spray the other half of the backing. Use the same technique. Stand at the edge of your table, spray from the edge toward the middle and move along the table rather quickly to put a fine mist of the 505 over the entire backing. Then unfold your batting and smooth it out.

Fold your quilt top down the center, with right sides together. Take the center of the quilt and place it on the center of the batting, centering the quilt on the table as you go. Spray half of the batting with the spray, again misting from the edge toward the quilt in the center of the table. Once one side of the batting is sprayed, unfold your quilt and smooth half of the top onto the sticky batting. Lift up the other side of the quilt top fold it down the middle and spray the other side of your batting. Once it is fully sprayed, then smooth out the entire quilt top onto the batting.

If you have a small quilt, you may be finished, and you can release the clamps and trim away excess batting and backing, as described in STEP 7. If you have a large quilt, you will need to continue to STEP 5.

In the following images, you'll see I've lifted both the quilt top and the batting that were hanging over the edge of the table, and I have folded them back, which exposed the black binder clips that clamped the backing to the table.

Once I release the clips, you can see I have a good deal of backing fabric hanging toward the floor. Because I now have only the center part of my quilt basted, I need to baste it all the way out to the edges on both sides. So I'm going to slide my quilt totally to the other side of the table until the edge of the left side of my backing comes to the edge of the left side table. My "basted" section of the quilt (where the quilt top is adhered to the batting and backing) is now draped over the other (right) side of the table and onto the floor.

In the photo above you can see that the seam in my backing, which was once at the left edge of the table, is now in the center of my table. The left edge of my backing is now at the left edge of my table and I am clamping it down. You can see I have clamped all the way around on the ends as well for a little extra security. On the other side of the table, the weight of the basted quilt will be enough to keep the backing taught. I cannot pinch the backing off the table. That assures me that I will not have to worry about puckers on my backing when I have the quilt in my machine for quilting.

Once the backing is clamped again, I spray the wrong side of the backing, which you see on my table, with the 505 spray. Then I carefully smooth my batting on top of the sticky backing, smoothing out any lumps or wrinkles. I will then spray the batting, and then smooth the quilt top on the sticky batting. I repeat that entire process on the other side of the table. To do so, I will release these clips on the side that is now all basted, and slide the entire quilt toward me until the edge of the backing on the opposite side comes to the edge of the table. I take my black clips over there, clamp the backing all around, spray it, smooth the batting down on it, and spray the batting. The final step is to smooth the quilt top on the sticky batting and I am done basting my quilt.

If necessary, you can also do this on the top and bottom sides of the quilt. It will all depend upon the size of your quilt and how it relates to the size of your table.

When the entire quilt is basted, you may release all your binder clips and trim away excess batting and backing. I usually leave about an inch all the way around. Then I turn the backing up and over the quilt top and clip it in place with the Martelli clipper. Here's an image of my clipper:

The little metal clips go inside the clear clipper. If you put the end of the clipper on the edges of your quilt with the backing folded up and over the edge, when you slide the little blue button toward your quilt, the clip pops onto the quilt and holds everything in place. I pop these around the perimeter of my quilt and they remain there until the quilting is done and I am ready to apply my binding.

If you don't have a clipper you can use small safety pins (size 0 or size 1) to secure the edges of your quilt until your machine quilting is done. There are also little metal binding clips which can be used for this purpose. They look like barrettes and it is actually less expensive to purchase them in the drug store. I don't recommend using straight pins, as you are apt to stick yourself with them during the quilting process. Safety pins and these small clips work very well.

This is not how I will BIND my quilt, but it is a way to keep the edges of my quilt top protected, and it will keep my backing from ever catching on anything as I slide it into my machine during the quilting process.

On these last 2 photos you can see my clear clipper and some loose clips on the border of my quilt, and then on the bottom photo you can see my clipped quilt as I prepare to take it up to my sewing machine for quilting.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them to the blog and I will be happy to answer you.


free indeed said...

THanks for your tips on basting. I've started experimenting with spray basting myself and generally did it on the kitchen floor...but I find that quite painful for the rest of my day...that bending over stuff....One other tip I use is to use an old sheet around the perimiter of the quilt (or in your case under the table) to catch any sticky spray mist...than just pop it in the washer...saved having to wash the floor :( I will have to try those binder clips..I've been using tape, but the clips would work better I think...thanks again.

Lisa said...

I really have little or no problems with stickiness on the floor, and I believe it has to do with (1) keeping the spray can relatively close to the quilt/table when I spray, and (2) always spray from the outer edge in toward the middle. If you try to reach one side of the quilt from the opposite side of the table, you will surely have overspray. But if you stand at the edge of the table and spray in front of you toward the middle of the table/quilt and walk quickly all the way around the table, you should not have any problems with overspray that needs to be cleaned.
Hope this helps. please let me know if you give this method a try or if you need any further help understanding my method.

carol said...

What about hand basting the outer edge of the quilt all around instead of the clips? Do you think that would work.

Lisa said...

Hi Carol!
You may do whatever you wish to secure your edges. It would work to hand baste (or machine baste) the edge, however, since the entire spray basting process is supposed to save you time, clipping is the fastest way to go. You may also use small safety pins (size 0 or size 1) to hold the edges. Placing them every 4-6 inches around the perimeter of the quilt should do it.
Hope this helps. There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to proceed, just the way which works best and most easily for you! :-)

Rose, Washington State, USA said...

This looks like the pretty prints on your front page in the Take 5 Kit! Maybe the name is for being five blocks wide. (?)

The spray baste is a very big help getting layers together before quilting and they stay in place.

A 13 oz. can cost over $13.00, yet I found it goes a LONG way & works great on small projects too.

Our Grandmother's didn't have these nice aids and cottons were not permapress back then.

Laying out a quilt at the Senior Center or church recreation room would be easier, as now I'm in a smaller house with a round table.

The clip aid looks like another new notion?, but the large binder clips must work even without it. Of course some already have safety pins ...another choice.

Some of the quilters meet at a high school once a month & help each other on projects, however it's great to have answers online from other quilters. Our thanks!

Lisa said...

Hi Rose!
Yes, the quilt I am basting is a Take 5! You are very observant! Take 5 gets the name because you need 5/8 yard of only 5 fabrics to make the quilt. The company "Teacher's Pet" wrote the pattern and they do wonderful patterns with this concept, but with a few variations (Take 5 Gets the Point, Take 5 X Marks The Spot, etc). We carry most of the Teacher's Pet Patterns because we love making them, and we can run the fabrics through the die cutter in about 10 minutes so we sell kits "pre-cut" which is a DREAM~! My daughter took the one on the basting table! It's really pretty.

I've heard from other quilters that the round dining table is a problem when it comes to basting. I have to say mine is the perfect size (note to self - no round tables). There are craft/cutting tables, with drop leaves, which open up beautifully for basting. When not in use, you can put the leaves down and it takes up very little space. Office supply stores will carry folding tables that can also be used, and then of course, if you have access to recreation centers, schools and churches, their tables are usually great and putting a couple of tables together is a dream come true when you have a large quilt.
I have heard quilters complaining about the cost of 505, but to me, that is money well spent. I don't have a lot of time to spend on basting my quilts, and more importantly, I hate to have to check my backing for puckers. When I use 505, I am very confident that my backing will look perfect when I am done, and when I use this clipping method on my table, I never have problems.
You are completely right, a little goes a long way. I believe most folks using the basting spray are too heavy handed with it, and if you follow the instructions on the blog, you should have no problems at all with "overspray".
You really do have to stand at the edge of the table, spray in front of you and move very quickly around the table, while you are moving your arm quickly to mist the quilt with the spray.
Whenever I look at vintage quilts, I am amazed at the accuracy and complexity of the piecing and quilting and I try to imagine accomplishing that with the tools that were available at that time. AMAZING! I've tried quilting and doing applique by candle light after hurricanes, when we had no power, and it is really tough!
Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!