Tips For Pinning A Quilt And Thread Basting A Quilt

Once you have layered your quilt, you are ready to baste it. Basting keeps all of the layers of your quilt evenly placed as you quilt – either using machine quilting or hand quilting.

Using pins for basting is one option. 

Machine quilters like using large safety pins because they are easy to remove as the quilting is completed in each area, and there is no worry about basting threads getting stitched over and becoming difficult to remove.  In addition, sometimes the presser foot catches on the basting threads, causing the quilt to bunch up as it is quilted – until you cut the thread.

Quilters have discovered different methods of closing safety pins to make it easier:

  • Using a grapefruit spoon – with some practice you can place the serrated edge of the spoon under the pointed end of the pin and snap it shut
  • How about a butter knife – place the pin in the quilt, then slide the butter knife under the pin (at the pointy end) and angle the knife up to snap the pin shut

A couple of additional tips about using safety pins:

  • Use nickel-plated pins – or other ones that do not rust.  It is quite disappointing to have rust spots in your quilt created by safety pins.
  • Even using non-rusting pins, don’t leave the pins in for a long time.  If you know it will take months to finish quilting, take the extra time and thread baste the quilt.

Another option is thread basting:

Notice the large stitches in a thread-basted quilt.

Many quilters find that using long needles makes basting easier – try a #7 cotton darning needle or a milliner’s needle.

Other quilters use a slightly curved needle (somewhat like a tapestry needle) and place a soup spoon under the quilt to direct the needle back up through the quilt.
Use your basting stitches to keep your seam allowances pointing in the desired direction.

Use an ‘ugly’ color of thread for your basting – it’s a great way to use the thread you won’t use for some other project.  Just be careful to stick with a color that will not rub off your quilt.  Sometimes red thread will leave a mark that you really don’t want. To make sure that your thread is long enough, thread the needle with the thread still on the spool.  Place the spool in the center of the quilt (or wherever you will begin your basting stitches). 

Take your stitches and pull the thread through the quilt after each stitch or two, while allowing the thread to unwind from the spool.  When you get to the end of the quilt, tie a knot in the end where the needle was.  Cut the thread from the spool, leaving a tail long enough to tie a knot, and then tie the knot.  Begin again.  Ultimately, this also saves thread, since you never end up with long extra pieces.

 Thread basting in the center of your quilt should form an X.

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