Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #52

thread-talk1Hello Friends, every now and then, I receive questions on how close I pin baste my quilt sandwiches.  I thought I would share with you an in-action photo from a quilt I completed a couple of weeks ago.


My general approach to pin-basting is “pin it to death”.  My pins are about 1 1/2″ to 2″ apart, closer if the quilt is to be a special heirloom or show quilt.  I probably don’t need to have my pins so close, but I like to be safe than sorry.

Now, if you look at the photo again – you will see I take out enough pins to make an area (~4-6″ radius) around the needle for quilting.  I often stop while quilting to take out pins.  If in doubt whether a pin is going to be in my way, I’d go ahead and take the pin out.  I always regret it later if I don’t…. ask me how I know, ha!

If you have any basting tips (not necessarily pin-basting), please feel free to share.  I am always ready to learn something new, and there is plenty to be learned for sure in the vast world of quilting.

Thanks for stopping by.  I’d better get back to work.  Till later!


Click here to read my other Thread Talk posts.


15 thoughts on “Thread Talk from My Sewing Machine #52

  1. Basting is my LEAST favorite part of the whole quiltmaking process. No matter how hard I try to do it perfectly, no matter which method I try, I always, ALWAYS get puckers and pleats on the back when I machine quilt, particularly at seam intersections where I’ve stitched in the ditch with my walking foot. I wish there were elves who would come in the night and baste my quilts for me while I was sleeping…

    • Hmmm, Rebecca…. have you tried taping down your backing fabric taut on a floor surface before you add your batting and quilt top? That’s what I do, and that tends to cut down the annoying puckers and pleats. Just a thought…


  2. Okay I’m a bit lazy and have fallen deeply in love with spray basting. I find pins very dangerous for me….LOL! I always end up poking myself and bleeding on my quilt. I have tried using a stiletto to close and open them but still I sword myself everytime!!!! ouch!!!
    Spray baste for me, is a miracle product. Just one major draw back….you really have to do it outside. Don’t want to breathe in that stuff!

    • You are absolutely right about doing it outside, Alana. I have a little one at home, so, I am not brave enough to use the spray. Someone had written me a while back that apparently certain basting sprays have caused certain health problems. Whether that’s proven, I am not sure…

      Thanks for stopping by, WS

  3. Your thread talks are always informative.
    I too pin baste, maybe not quite as close as you, but some of my students have come to classes with quilts pinned up with hardly any pins! I got taught a lovely tip from a women at a retreat I went to, where you use a serrated bread & butter knife to close the pins, it sure saves your fingers! I also use plastic clamps I found at my local hard wear store in the tool section for securing my backing fabric to the table, so it is nice & firm, no puckers or tucks! As I have found sometimes the masking tapes doesn’t always stick.

  4. Wendy,
    I just discovered your website, and I just love it.

    I am like you. I pin, pin, pin. I would love to try basting spray. I think it would save so much time. Is there one that lasts a couple of weeks after you spray it?

  5. I use Sharon Schmber’s method of basting with thread. This method has absolutely saved my sanity and my back. I was quite skeptical when I watched her video of the process on You Tube that it would actually work, but I have now used the method to baste at least a half dozen quilts of varying sizes, and I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am with this method. No weight from hundreds of pins, no crawling around on the floor, no pins to get in the way.. The method is at least as quick as pin basting, maybe quicker, and you can do it sitting in a chair! Go to you Tube and watch her video, and try this method, you will love it. She demonstrates on a small sample, I have done it on up to a large wall quilt, and had no problems.


  6. I feel compelled to add my 2 cents worth. Twenty years ago I invested in a robust cutting/basting table on wheels. It opens to 42″x72″. It has served me well. I also took a class taught by Harriet Hargrave, who at the time was the “queen of machine quilting”. To this day I use her method of pin basting with a few alterations. I secure the quilt backing securely to the table with clips (I have had these for 20 years too.) they are similar to what you would secure a table cloth to a picnic table. If the backing is smaller than the table then I use masking tape to secure to table. Harriet taught, make sure the back is perfectly straight and tight enough that there are no fabric ripples when you run your hand across the fabric. I always tape a tooth pick to the centers of the table and mark with a safety pin, the centers of all 4 sides of the backing, batting and top. when you lay the backing down to secure to the surface you can feel the centers (tooth picks) easily. Line the safety pins up with the tooth picks. Batting and top do not need to be anchored as long as the backing is tight and straight. then pin your heart out!!! I have deviated a bit. Now I lay back the batting and top in quarters and spray and smooth, layer at a time with 505, first the batting all around and then the top to the batting. Instead of safety pins I now use thin straight pins. I came up with my own version of “Pin Mores”. I use synthetic corks. Each cork will yield 8-10 pin mores. I have been doing it this way for a long, long time. My backs have been 95% straight and even and so far no puckers or pleats. Emily

  7. I may have mentioned before, I, also, use Sharon Schamber’s method but I pin baste rather than thread baste. The boards I use are 8′ long and the quilts are perfectly on-grain every time. I usually ‘sandwich’ 2, or more, quilts at one time (now that I am busy with commissioned quilting…yay!). I have never had pleats or puckers in the backing with this method!!! Great post and photos always clarify the point!! Hugs, SSAB

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