So, Karen, now that you’ve got a stack of quilt tops complete, let’s see if we can complete the task of turning you into a quilter, rather than a ‘topper.’ (A topper is someone who just likes making the quilt tops.)
The next step is to make a quilt sandwich. There are several ways to baste a quilt sandwich. Thread basting can be time consuming, but it’s really nice for hand quilted projects. Or spray basting. I’m not particularly keen on spray basting–you need a well ventilated area, the over-spray can be a problem, and you are adding a chemical to your quilt that stays in it until the quilt is washed. Or pin basting, my preferred method, and what we’ll discuss below.
I like pin-basting because you can re-use the pins. There are no added chemicals involved. And the pins become a kind of road map – as you quilt, you’ll remove pins. So you can quickly see where you still need to quilt–if there are pins, you’re not done yet.
We’ll need backing material, batting, and the quilt top to make the sandwich. And a couple of additional supplies.
- Curved safety pins. I like the 1-1/2″ length. The 1″ pins are just too small to handle. You can’t have too many of these in my opinion. The first time I made a really big quilt, I had to stop and run down to the store three times before I could finish pin-basting that quilt!
- Kwik Klip by Paula Jean Creations. Or you can use an old spoon. Personally, I prefer the Kwik Klip. Either way, your finger tips will thank you!
- Low-residue painters tape–from the hardware store. The 2″ wide version is good.
Find a nice big space that can accommodate the entire quilt backing. A hard-wood or tiled floor or a large hard-surfaced table (not a fancy table that might scratch!). Lay your backing material perfectly flat on your work surface right side down. (If the backing material has to be pieced, press the seams open to reduce bulk.)
Using the painters tape, secure one side of the backing to the work surface. Don’t leave lots of big gaps between the tape pieces.
. . . and then the opposite side. Again, a little tug as you secure each piece of tape. Taught but not stretched. Once all sides are secure, go back and adjust any of the pieces of tape to make sure all the lumps and bumps are removed.
Next, measure a piece of batting against your quilt top. A little too big is better than a little too small. Place the batting on top of the taped backing. And smooth it in place. Once again, no lumps or bumps.
I’m using an 80/20 blend. 80% cotton, 20% man made materials. This is really good for a high-use quilt, like a baby quilt. There are lots of different types of batting. So many things to experiment with as you quilt more and more projects! For now, an all-cotton or cotton blend is a good choice.
Notice that my backing is a bit larger than the batting. That’s okay. We’ll deal with that later. Consequently, I’ve placed the batting on one end of the backing, so I can trim one big chunk of backing, rather than have two smaller chunks of backing fabric, if I placed the batting smack in the middle.
Then the quilt top, Centered over the batting and backing. Smooth, smooth, smooth. Take the palm of your hand and smooth out any extra bulk working from the center out. Don’t worry about the extra batting and fabric for now. Just make sure that you have batting and backing underneath the entire area of the quilt top.
See how smooth?
Place a curved pin through all layers. If all the layers have been meticulously smoothed, you don’t have to work from the center out. I like to pin the blocks and sashing first, then the border at the end. But it really doesn’t matter.
This step can get boring. Stick with it, and find a way to make it fun. I like to start thinking about how I’d like to quilt the project while I’m pin-basting. Put some music on or listen to a book. . . . or let your thoughts be your company. “Boring” can be a good thing, sometimes.
You’ll want to place a pin every two or three inches or so. Think about dropping cookies on a cookie sheet. Not too far apart, and not too close.
Including the borders.
Now, trim the extra batting–about 1″ away from the quilt top edge on all sides.
This is a step I learned early on. It helps to keep the backing material from folding back underneath itself while you are quilting. And it also keeps the edge of the quilt from fraying too much while the quilt is being quilted. Remove the tape on one side, and fold the backing fabric once so the raw edge of the backing (trim the backing before folding, if needed) abuts with the edge of the trimmed batting . . .
It looks a little weird when you do this, but it’s only temporary. Some quilts that will be quilted edge to edge right away, may not benefit much from this step.
If you aren’t sure about selecting the backing material, take your quilt top to the quilt shop, and place the quilt top on the bolt of backing fabric your are considering. Fold a corner of the backing over the quilt. You’ll get a preview of what will peek out from behind the quilt later on. If you don’t like what you see, audition some more before you buy. Also, the busier the backing fabric print, the harder it will be to see your quilting. If you aren’t confident with your quilting just yet, that’s okay. . . opt for a really busy-printy backing and you won’t be so self-conscious.
Here’s what the pin-basted quilt looks like.