How to Pin-baste a Quilt for Machine Quilting

Christmas will be here in 81 days, and I try to have a new Christmas quilt each year. "Try" is the operative word here....most years it doesn't happen :-) But this year it will, since I pulled a top out of the to-be-quilted pile and got to work.
First thing I needed to do was to lay out and layer the quilt sandwich: backing, batting and quilt top.
This quilt is almost queen-sized, so I needed to piece the backing fabric. I don't worry about the seam down the middle, and whether or not it is strong enough. The quilt will be held together with enough machine quilting, and I've yet to have a seam pop, even on those "couch quilts" that get used a lot.  Since my basement floor has a commercial-grade, low-pile carpet, I just pin the backing to the carpet with straight pins, making sure it is stretched taut.

My batting of choice is 100% cotton. Though I usually use Warm and Natural, this Mountain Mist cotton batting was on sale so I thought I'd give it a try. Not much different from the W & N, in my opinion.

When laying out the batting over the backing fabric, I take my time to smooth out all the wrinkles. It's wonderful how the cotton batting "sticks" to the cotton fabric.

Since I had that center seam running vertically on my backing fabric, I used that as a guide for laying out the quilt top by folding the top in half vertically and laying it along that seam. Though I can't see the seam through the batting, I can feel it with my fingers. As you can see, there is plenty of extra backing and batting extending past the quilt top. There will be a little bit of shrinkage with the quilting, and I don't want to be short. This particular project has a little too much and when done pinning I will trim off the extra, leaving about 4 inches extra all the way around.

Now it's time to get out the large square ruler to be sure the corners are square. I make sure and check each of the four corners, both at the pieced border and the outside border edge.

Now the fun begins, pin-basting the 3 layers together. I used approximately 350 small safety pins for this project. The Kwik Klip shown below can make it easier on your fingers, but to be honest I rarely use it.

The pins are placed about 4-6 inches apart over the entire quilt. A good measurement is a fist-length apart. I don't do very much marking on my quilt top for quilting design, but this is the point
when I start to think about how I will machine quilt. Since this is a sampler of quilt blocks from a guild exchange, I know I will quilt in the ditch around the squares to start. Therefore, I don't place any pins in the ditch areas.

Time for the glamour shots! Really, this is what it looks like for a couple of hours while I place those hundreds of pins. I really don't enjoy this too much, but for a quilt this size this is what works for me. Sometimes I'll use a quilt basting spray, but only for small projects. I don't like the aerosol, I don't like the cost, and it only seems to stick for a short time.

Whew! The basting is finished, off to the machine to quilt! I'm so happy that this project will be finished for the holidays this year!


  1. I've pinned enough quilts to know that is no easy job. Good for you, getting that done.

  2. Good tutorial, Patty. That's a big job. Many years ago I made a quilt...all by hand. And it's the last quilt I ever made!

  3. Welcome to the skirt sewalong Patty. You are all set on the new blog. Can't wait to see your pattern choices!


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