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How to Make a Quilt Sandwich

Getting Ready to Finish the Quilt


Now that you have completed the quilt top, marked it for quilting and prepared the batting and backing fabric, it's time to make the quilt sandwich before basting the layers together to hold them securely while you quilt.

Your personal preferences are important when preparing a quilt sandwich for machine quilting, so experiment to learn which methods you like best.

  • Some quilters baste on the floor, some on the kitchen table and some on their worktables.
  • Hand quilters baste with a needle and thread using large stitches that can be removed once the quilting is finished.
  • Most machine quilters use basting pins, which are the same or similar to safety pins.
  • Other quilters baste with a basting spray adhesive.

Make the Quilt Sandwich before You Baste

Basting is easy when you use the right tools and position your layers on a flat surface. How much surface you need depends on the size of your quilt and how comfortable you will be as you baste.

Press the Backing Fabric
Lay the backing fabric right side down on the surface you have chosen. The backing fabric should be three to four inches larger (on all sides) than your quilt top, because as you machine quilt, the backing and batting will pull inward or "shrink." If the edges of your three layers are all even, and you quilt heavily, then by the time you finish, your quilt back and batting could actually be smaller than your top, causing you to trim off part of your finished top to make it even for binding.

Secure the Backing Fabric
If you are basting on the carpet, you can pin your backing fabric to the floor at intervals. If you are basting on a kitchen table, either clamp the backing fabric to the table or use a wide painters tape to tape it in place.

The backing fabric should be tight, to help avoid ending up with puckers and folds in your quilt back (and then quilting them in place permanently). If you are using tape, painters tape is best because it does not leave a residue like masking tape.

The Batting Layer is Next
Lay the batting onto the wrong side of your backing fabric. Your batting should also be three to four inches larger than the quilt top on all sides.

The Final Layer is Your Quilt Top
Center your quilt top right side up onto the batting and smooth it out. Remember to leave an even margin of backing fabric (3" - 4") all around the outside edges of your quilt top.

Add the Quilting Lines
If you have not already considered where the quilting lines will go, it's time to decide. Take a photo of the quilt. Photos can help plan a quilting design because they allow us to see the entire quilt and visualize various ways to add quilting.

Test Your Quilting Ideas:

  • Use a transparency to draw or trace the lines, then tape or pin the transparency to a section of the quilt.
  • Trace or draw your idea(s) onto tissue paper and pin the tissue to sections of your quilt.
  • Use one of the many marking tools on the market to draw your design onto the quilt top. Be sure to test any marking tools to make sure they will wash out or brush off.

Now you're ready to baste.

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