How To Baste a Quilt: 3 Step-by-Step Options


There are several ways to baste a quilt, each with its own merits. We’re going to delve into three popular methods: Safety Pin Basting, Thread Basting, and Spray Basting. Safety pin basting, as the name suggests, entails the use of safety pins to hold your quilt sandwich together. This method is easy and offers a good level of precision. Thread basting, on the other hand, uses long running stitches to keep the layers together. This traditional method is often preferred by hand quilters. Lastly, spray basting involves using a temporary adhesive spray to stick your layers together, offering a fast and efficient approach. Choosing the right method largely depends on your quilting style, the materials used, and personal preference.

First Things First: The Quilt Sandwich, Yummy!

quilt sandwich

Before diving into the basting methods, let’s understand “The Quilt Sandwich”. It’s not as tasty as it sounds, but it’s equally satisfying for quilters. A quilt sandwich comprises three layers- the quilt top, the batting (or wadding), and the quilt backing. The quilt top is the design you have pieced together, the batting is the middle layer that provides warmth and texture, and the quilt backing is the bottom layer, usually a solid piece of fabric. These three layers are what you’ll be basting together, irrespective of the method you choose. Here are the basic steps on how to create your sandwich:

  • Choose your quilt top, the design you’ve pieced together. It could be a myriad of colors, patterns, and fabrics, depending on your vision.
  • Select the batting or wadding – the middle layer. This is what gives the quilt its warmth and texture. The batting could be of different materials like cotton, polyester, wool, or a blend, each with unique characteristics.
  • Pick the quilt backing, the bottom layer. This is typically a solid piece of fabric that can complement or contrast with your quilt top.
  • Once you’ve picked your three elements, lay them down in the correct order. Start with the quilt backing, wrong side up.
  • Place the batting on top of the quilt backing.
  • Finally, lay your quilt top, right side up, on top of the batting.
  • Make sure that all three layers are smooth and free of wrinkles before proceeding to the basting step.

Pin Basting a Quilt

safety pins

Pin basting is a common method used by quilters to hold the quilt sandwich together before the quilting process begins.

To pin baste your quilt, start by spreading out your quilt sandwich on a flat, clean surface. Make sure all layers are smooth. You’ll need quilting safety pins – these are curved, making them easier to handle through the thickness of the quilt.

Starting from the center of the quilt and working your way towards the edges, begin to insert the safety pins. Push the pin through all three layers of the sandwich, then bring it back up. The pins should be approximately 4 inches apart, or closer for a heavily quilted design. Make sure to close the safety pin to avoid injury or shifting of the pins.

Continue this process until the entire quilt is covered. The end result should be a securely held together quilt, ready for quilting. Remember to remove each pin as you quilt over the area it was securing to avoid hitting it with your needle.

Pin Basting Tips

  • Make sure your surface is large enough to accommodate your entire quilt. If not, you may need to baste in sections.
  • Use enough safety pins. The more pins you use, the less shifting will occur when you start quilting.
  • Pin at regular intervals. Consistent spacing between pins will help ensure an even quilt.
  • Consider using a Kwik Klip tool. This tool helps close safety pins faster and saves your fingers from undue stress.
  • Always start from the center and work your way out. This helps to smooth out any wrinkles or puckers.
  • Remember to remove the pins as you sew. Sewing over pins can break your needle and potentially damage your sewing machine.

Spray Basting a Quilt

odif basting spray

Another method of basting a quilt is by using a spray baste. Spray basting is fast, efficient, and eliminates the need for pins. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lay your quilt layers on a flat surface, just like you did when pin basting. Make sure the surface is clean and large enough to accommodate the quilt.
  2. Starting with the back of the quilt, spray a light yet even layer of the quilting adhesive. Be careful not to oversaturate the fabric.
  3. Carefully lay the batting on top of the sprayed quilt back, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go.
  4. Repeat the same process, spraying the batting and then placing the quilt top over it, ensuring it is smooth and even.
  5. Apply gentle pressure on the quilt top to firm up the bond between the layers.
  6. Allow the quilt to dry for a few minutes before proceeding with quilting.

Remember, each adhesive spray has its own specific instructions, so always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions before use. Also, work in a well-ventilated area when using adhesive sprays.

Spray Basting Tips

Here are some helpful tips to make your spray basting experience more efficient and successful:

  1. Always test the spray on a small patch of fabric before applying it to your quilt. This will help you gauge the adhesive strength and ensure it doesn’t discolor your fabric.
  2. Spray the adhesive in short bursts to ensure that it is applied evenly.
  3. Keep your arm moving when spraying, so you don’t oversaturate any particular area with the adhesive.
  4. Always wear a face mask when using adhesive sprays. The chemicals used in these products can be harmful if inhaled.
  5. Let the quilt dry thoroughly before quilting. This will prevent the adhesive from seeping through the quilt layers and staining your fabric.
  6. Store any unused adhesive sprays in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  7. Use an old sheet to protect your work surface when spray basting with adhesive sprays, as these products can permanently stain surfaces if not cleaned up correctly.
  8. When in doubt, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and safety guidelines.

Basting a quilt with adhesive sprays can be an efficient way to secure your layers together before you start quilting. With a few simple tips and some practice, you’ll be able to produce beautiful, long-lasting quilts.

Thread Basting a Quilt

thread basting a quilt

Thread basting is another popular method of securing your quilt layers together before the quilting process begins. This technique involves the use of long, loose stitches to hold the quilt sandwich (the quilt top, batting, and backing) in place. It’s a method that’s been around for ages due to its effectiveness and simplicity. Unlike spray basting, thread basting doesn’t involve chemicals, making it more environmentally friendly and safer for individuals with sensitivities to aerosols. It is also an excellent option for larger quilts as it ensures the layers stay perfectly aligned during the quilting process. Click here to see a list of threads we recommend for hand quilting.

Steps for Thread Basting a Quilt

  1. Lay out your quilt backing on a clean, flat surface, ensuring the right side is facing down.
  2. Position your batting on top of the backing, followed by your quilt top, face up.
  3. Use safety pins to secure the layers at the corners and around the edges.
  4. Thread a long needle with a piece of thread that is at least as long as your quilt. Knot one end of the thread.
  5. Starting at one edge of the quilt, make long, loose stitches through all layers of the quilt sandwich. These stitches should be about four inches apart.
  6. Continue this process across the entire quilt, making sure to leave long threads at the end of each line of stitches for easy removal after quilting.
  7. Once the entire quilt has been thread basted, remove the safety pins.
  8. Before starting the quilting process, ensure the layers are smooth and flat, and the basting stitches are secure.

Remember, the objective of thread basting is to temporarily secure the quilt layers, so don’t worry about making perfect stitches. After quilting, the basting stitches will be removed.


Quilt basting, particularly thread basting, is a timeless technique that forms an essential part of the quilting process. It offers an eco-friendly alternative to chemical methods and affords precision even in the construction of larger quilts. The art of thread basting might appear daunting at first, but with patience and practice, its simplicity and effectiveness quickly become apparent. Remember, the goal is not to create perfect stitches, but to secure the layers of the quilt temporarily. So, as you embark on your quilting journey, embrace thread basting for its reliability and the integral role it plays in the creation of beautiful, well-constructed quilts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What materials do I need for thread basting a quilt?

For thread basting, you will need a needle, thread, some safety pins, and your quilt sandwich (the quilt top, batting, and backing).

How long should the thread be for basting a quilt?

The thread should be at least as long as your quilt. It’s better to have a longer thread than to run out mid-way through a line of basting.

How far apart should my basting stitches be?

Basting stitches should be about four inches apart. The goal is not to create perfect stitches, but to secure the layers of the quilt temporarily.

Do I need to remove the safety pins before quilting?

Yes, once the entire quilt has been thread basted, you should remove the safety pins.

What do I do if my basting stitches are not secure?

If your stitches are not secure, you may need to redo them. Make sure the thread is knotted at one end and that your stitches go through all layers of the quilt sandwich.

What happens to the basting stitches after quilting?

After quilting, the basting stitches are removed. They are only there to keep the layers of the quilt secure during the quilting process.

Is thread basting suitable for all types of quilts?

Thread basting is particularly advantageous for larger quilts, though it can be used for any quilt size. It allows for precision and ensures the layers don’t shift during the quilting process.

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