Beginners Guide to How to Finish up a Quilt - Part 1: Basting

As I'm starting to release quilting patterns now, I thought it would be good to provide some guidance for those new to patchwork and quilting on how to finish up their quilts, as this is not included in the patterns. 

So if you've managed to piece together your first quilt top and are feeling pretty pleased with yourself, well done!  But are you now wondering how to to make that lovely quilt top into a quilt?  If so, then this tutorial is for you!

The next step is to baste the quilt [note this is nothing to do with basting a turkey!].  Basting the quilt means temporarily fixing the three layers of the quilt together, so it stay together whilst you are quilting it and the layers don't shift apart.  It's a really important step: do it right, and you'll get a lovely quilt with no puckers or folds; get it wrong, and you won't be pleased with the finished product!  So it's worth taking your time with this step.

There are two main ways to baste a quilt: with basting pins (curved safety pins); or to spray baste (temporary spray adhesive).  I've tried both but I guess I must be a traditionalist as I still prefer pinning.

Step 1: Find a surface to work on, ideally this would be kitchen counter height to save you from backache, but that can be tricky.  I'm lucky I have a games table that has a cover on that I use.  If you have to use the floor, then invest in something cushioned for your knees! And if you have to use the dining table, make sure you protect it from the pins!

Step 2: The batting should be about 2 inches bigger on all sides than your quilt top and the quilt backing should be about 3-4 inches bigger on sides than the quilt top.  This allows for any shifting about during the quilting process so you don't end up having to trim your precious quilt top.

Step 3: Lay out the ironed quilt backing, wrong side up and smooth out wrinkles.  Carefully lay your batting on top, centrally placed.  Again smooth out any wrinkles. And finally place the quilt top centrally on top of the batting right side face up.  Smooth out all the wrinkles (wouldn't it just be fab if we could inject it with botox to cut this step out ;-) !).

Step 4: Insert the safety pins through all three layers starting in the centre and working outward, smoothing the fabric outwards as you go.  Don't bother doing the pins up at this stage.  Do this over the whole quilt, spacing your pins at about 6 inch intervals.

Step 5: Flip the quilt over so the back is face up.  Start smoothing out the fabric from the centre outwards towards the edges.  No doubt you will find extra fabric on the back.  Starting from the centre carefully remove a pin, as necessary, smooth the backing fabric and replace pin from back through to front.  Do this across the whole of the back where required until the back is nice and smooth.

Step 6:  Flip the quilt back over to the front.  Check for wrinkles, adjust pins if necessary.  Once happy you are wrinkle free, you can replace all the pins so they are pinned from the front.  And then remove all the pins going in from the back.  Now do the pins up.  If you are exhausted after all that and not ready to quilt just yet, you can roll the quilt up to store it.

Next week I'll cover How to Quilt (straight line) and the week after, How to Bind a Quilt.

Part 2 will deal with How to Quilt.

Part 3 will deal with How to Bind the quilt.

If a tutorial isn't cutting it for you and you need more guidance, I run a 4 week introduction to patchwork & quilting course that covers all aspects that might suit your needs better.  You can find full details about it here.