Wandaful Quilts

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Hand basting with needle and thread............

I had been hand basting, and had taught it to hundreds of students for almost 20 years when I read in a new book about machine quilting that you must never, ever hand baste for machine quilting.  Huh!!  What is more natural than using a needle and thread.  The thought of opening and closing 500 safety pins is just not appealing.  The first thing I do is tape my backing to my banquet tables.  I am lucky to have the older, really sturdy tables that don't dip in the middle like the new white lightweight ones do.  Note: I did the basting on my hands and knees on a cement floor for many, many years before getting the tables.
Next I smooth the batting out on the backing.







Now the top is smoothed out and checked many times with rulers to be sure corners are not distorted and edges are straight.  Note that the backing and batting are always larger than the quilt top by at least 1".  That is insurance in case the top grows a little in basting or quilting.

Most people who don't like hand basting have simply used too short of a needle.  These needles are 2.25" long.  The size 7 is sturdy but not too fat.  I tried size 9 but snapped them in half all the time.  I also use a lightweight thread, 60 weight, 2 ply so it will break when pulling it out (and it won't break a quilting stitch). Your basting thread should always be weaker than your quilting thread.  Some people use a grapefruit spoon with the little teeth to slide the needle onto as it comes out of the fabric (and to raise it up).  With these long needles there is plenty of needle to get hold of to pull the stitch through the layers.
You will have to click on this photo to enlarge it see the stitching.  I use a padding stitch instead of a running stitch.  The running stitch allows the fabric to move back and forth on the stitch whereas the padding stitch holds it very securely.  Each stitch is taken parallel to the last creating a diagonal thread on the surface.  If you take your stitch diagonally the surface thread will be straight.

I have some people asking if my stitching doesn't puncture the basting thread and my answer is that I would rather stitch through a thread than a safety pin. 

I have to admit that a free motion quilting foot gets caught on the threads, but wait.....you stop and take out your safety pins in the area you will free motion, so do the same thing with the thread.
You can see the basting lines better in this photo from last year.

My basting rows are approximately 6-7" apart, about the length from my thumb to little finger, so that is my measuring stick. If the pattern is 6" blocks, then it is along the edge of every block, so sometimes I am able to just use the quilt pattern to gauge the distance. I never baste over the top of a seam where 2 blocks join, always to one side of it when I do a row of basting.
You always baste from the center out so find the center of the quilt and do one row to the top, one to the bottom, and one to each side. These are your center lines which all other basting will start from. When I am finished I have rows going both directions all over the quilt, in other words it looks like squares, or a plaid. Your basting rows are your guide when quilting to see whether the top is moving. If, as you approach a basting row, the top starts humping up, you know you have to ease it in before you reach the basting row. 

This post probably didn't interest about 75% of you, those who send out all of your quilts to be quilted by others, and those who use a longarm, since you don't have to baste for that.  I do a lot of ditch quilting, which I love to do, and I do it on my regular machines.  See this post for all of my machines that I quilt with.

33 comments:

Sewing Junkie said...

I prefer to baste this way, but I run into space issues with not having enough space to lay them out to get a taught backing. This way you can fold it and not have all the weight of the pins. Chris

Mary said...

Thanks, Wanda. Based on this post I will try hand basting again. I always worry about hitting a safety pin with my needle and messing my my machine's timing. I'm having trouble finding the size long darners you recommend.

Linda Swanekamp said...

The way you explained it, I may actually try hand basting. I never heard of the padding stitch. I will have to look that up. I use safety pins, but hate them. I will have to try to find those needles. Thank you for the explanation and photos.

Gunilla said...

Thank you for your lesson in basting, I appreciated that. I never heard of padding stitch. I will use that from now on.
The needle I sometimes use is a doll needle but, it is quite thick, maybe I should try to get the needles you recommend.
Regards,
Gunilla

Cathy said...

Great post, so timely! Thanks a bunch! I learned a lot.

Linda said...

Thanks! great information.

Debbie said...

I will have to look for those darner needles. I just used the longest sharp I could find. I just basted a queen size quilt and used that padding stitch method and that stitch is great. I also used banquet tables and had to use my husbands shop to find enough room to lay it out. The quilt was big however so I used Sharon Schamber's method of rolling the back and top onto boards and it worked surprisingly well.

Sharon W. said...

A million thanks! I make mostly small wall hangings or table runners, and this is perfect.

Debbie said...

Great post! I recently quilted a quilt for someone that had been basted incorrectly and it was a complete pain to deal with long loose stitches. I have also used the padding stitch to baste layers, and they do not shift this way. I just snipped the thread when quilting if it was going to get caught in my fmq foot. I stop for pins, so you can stop for thread too.

Julierose said...

What a great post on basting. I do hand baste actually for tying...I will try that padding stitch next time. thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us...hugs, Julierose

diane said...

Had to smile when reading the words "one must never".........duh that is like saying here is something one should really do.
So many ways of doing the same thing just whatever works for ones self is how you will end up doing it. Just as there is so many ways of getting the quilting done. Your way makes sense to me!

Donna~~ said...

Just told my husband (yesterday) that I needed a couple of those tables or something to work on--the floor is getting harder to use! Thanks for the tutorial on how you baste!

Quiltdivajulie said...

What an excellent post! I send my larger quilts out but do some small ones using my Bernina. I despise safety pins but didn't like the running stitch -- MUST try the padding stitch. Maybe I will do a little more FMQ ... Thanks, Wanda!

Sylvia Anderson said...

Wanda, you are a real gem and I'm so happy to have found your blog, where, you share with us all the knowledge you have acquired through years of teaching, trial and error and your own experiences. Thank you so much.
lv2bquilting2@comcast.net

Sewing Up A Storm said...

Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. I have hand basted before but did glean a few new things........like basting for machine quilting. Even though I have a longarm there are times when I want to quilt something on my domestic and have always used pins. Next time I will try your method.

Needled Mom said...

I have always hated the hand basting, but I may have to give it a try with the larger needles. Thanks for a great tutorial.

Lucy Goodwin said...

Its great to learn more about quilting and the different methods people use, I make patchwork blankets and am still learning lots

Deb said...

I loved the blog today it was very helpful.. You are always so informative.
Thanks for all the help & info!
I look forward to your blogs everyday.

The Reader said...

Like others, glad to have read this! I hand basted one quilt, and it was so very tedious that I switched to safety pins, but I see from your photos I was not taking nearly large enough stitches, for starters...will try your method next time!

Elaine said...

What was the reason for the "one must never"? I hate the pins so I am going to try your method. I rent a long arm with a computer attached and do all my big quilts on it-but I am in a Tiny Treasures class where we make, you guessed it, small quilts and I have been basting with spray adhesive which gums my needle. Thank, Wanda!

Mari said...

Thanks for this, Wanda. I always hand baste for machine quilting and have always used a running stitch. I'll have to try your method. I hate the pins too. I can't imagine using 500 of them! Thanks again and have a great day!

Jean said...

Interesting post. I haven't heard of the padding stitch before but it sounds like it works well.

margaret ann Miller said...

Wanda, thank you so much for this. I have been wondering about it for quite a while as I dislike the pin method and the waste and expense of using spray glue. I have since heard of one other long time quilter who always hand bastes.
Marg Miller

Nancy J said...

Wanda, this is the best news for me for ages, I have some tops that I need to quilt, but they have been waiting for a long time, as I am sure they will pucker and crinkle. I'll try this way, how long are your top stitches? and lovely photos that show it all so well, many thanks. Cheers,.Jean

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lesson. I always wondered how you basted your quilts.
Good instructions!

Thanks again.

Kay in Kansas

Sue said...

That was very detailed and informative. Thank you for taking the time to share with us your excellent technique. You are awesome!

Susan said...

Seriously? Never baste with needle and thread??? That's the only way I baste a quilt and I don't expect that I'll ever change my ways whether it's written in a book or not!

O'Quilts said...

you hand baste and still get so much done...you are a miracle worker. Stray basting smaller quilts so much less work.

Charlotta said...

You're right, it's not of immediate use to me, since I send my quilts out. But, it's interesting nonetheless. And, it's your blog! You should write whatever strikes your fancy! It's not as if we pay you - though, probably we should!

Mary Johnson said...

I'm playing around with quilting on my DSM for fun but it won't ever replace my longarm ... I hate basting! I do use pins and don't mind closing them.

Ruth said...

Do you ever tie your quilts? I've now tied 2 quilts and like doing it. I'm not a great machine quilter, but don't want to send out my quilts to a longarm persob,

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

great post Wanda, I have not had much internet service this trip and trying to catch up on some blogs tonight - looks like you have been busy!

MontyBear said...

thank you for a very informative blog. I have always done a running stitch, but I must try your method. I hand quilt and baste all my big projects. I have just begun trying to quilt in the ditch on my 1966 Singer with a walking foot. Like anything, I am sure practice will improve my technique.
Have you ever used the spray? Do you have feelings one way or the other about using the spray?