Friday, December 21, 2012

how to Finish a Quilt (and Spray Basting)

For a new quilter, the part that comes after the quilt top is finished is the hardest part.  Granted there are lots of good and valid ways to finish a quilt, but maybe that's part of the problem.  Your first time around, options can be more daunting than delightful.  I helped a good friend finish her first large quilt last week.  Watching her uncertainty reminded me how overwhelming it all can be.  So, if you're new to quilting, here is some basic advice for getting it finished.

The quilt back.  So, the quilt back can be anything.  But to simplify, a large piece of fabric would be quick and easy.  Buy yardage for your quilt back that's wide enough so that you don't have to cut and piece a big backing.  If your quilt is large, check out the 90" and 108" wide solid flannel backings available online at stores like Fabric.com.  I particularly like these for bed quilts where the back is unlikely to be seen anyways.

Add good batting.  I sent my innocent friend to the local big box sewing store, and she came home with some low-loft cotton batting that practically disintegrated under our hands.  As we tried to spread it out during the basting process, the thin batting stretched and pulled apart.  Bad, bad, bad!

Warm & Natural Batting Giveaway!

She decided to return that batting and use my Warm & Natural batting instead.  I highly recommend this affordable batting made by The Warm Company.  Warm & Natural and Warm & White (which is bleached white) are low-loft cotton battings with a sturdy construction that only requires quilting every 10".  That means you don't have to do as much quilting work if you don't want to.  Yay.  Warm & Natural is thicker than the stuff my friend found locally, but it is light enough for all-year-long use.  You may be able to find it locally; otherwise, try good ol' Amazon (affiliate links above and round about).

Basting.  Now you need to get all of those layers (quilt top, batting, backing) sandwiched together so that you can quilt that puppy.  Basting is the process of securing those layers together temporarily.  Ideally, you baste "well" so that nothing shifts during quilting, causing frustrating puckers and such.  There are lots of basting options, but I think basting spray is easiest by far.  Basting spray is a temporary adhesive spray designed for fabrics.  A high-quality spray will be easy for your machine to sew through without any gunky build-up.   You quilt or tie your quilt and then wash the basting out when you wash your quilt.

Basting how to's


Amongst spray-basting quilters there seems to be an overwhelming majority who love 505 temporary adhesive spray.  Me too!  It works really well, which is key, but I also love that it is odorless and made in France, carrying no warning labels about using it outside or in a ventilated area.  Most sprays have a strong odor, which is a telltale sign of toxicity.  I'm not saying you should merrily inhale the stuff, but I feel good about using it in the house.  The only bummer is that spray (unlike basting pins) is not reusable.  We are a family who's banished disposable plastics and papers from our kitchen.  Heck, I even used cloth diapers, so it's not like I won't work for the sake of the environment.  But basting spray is my exception.  It just works so well and makes the process sooooooo fast.  Take a look:

the back

Tape your backing to the floor wrong side up with masking tape. Make it smooth, but not stretched.

fold & spray

Lay out the batting smoothly.  Then fold back half of the batting and spray the exposed backing with basting spray.  Spray in a side to side sweeping motion, evenly covering, with the can at 12" from the backing.  I've found that if I let the can drift farther from the fabric (say 18") the spray does not hold as well.

Replace the batting down on the backing, smoothing it out from the center to the edges.  Repeat on opposite side to finish sticking the batting to the backing.

the top

Now lay out the quilt top on the batting with right side up.  Make it smooth and centered and straight as per the backing.  I peak under the batting to see reference the backing at this point.  Then fold back half of the quilt top and spray the exposed batting with basting spray.  Remember to keep the can 12" from the batting as you sweep side to side, covering well with spray. 

Replace the quilt top down on the batting, smoothing it out from the center to the edges.  Repeat on opposite side to finish sticking the quilt top to the batting.

fold & spray

Easy!  I can do this in about 15 minutes.  If you've ever pin-basted, you know that's a quilting miracle.  Then, remove the masking tape and !voila! all done.

The best deal I've ever seen for 505 basting spray is at Sew for Less.  They have the HUGE 17 oz can for just $13.50!  That's almost 3 times as much product for just $4 more than what I was paying locally for the Dritz brand with coupons.  I bought myself 2 large cans of 505 for $35 including shipping.   And, I couldn't be happier!

Quilting or Tying.  Options, options.  For a small quilt, using your sewing machine to machine quilt is a good idea, even for your first quilt. Straight lines are generally the easiest way to start, but you'll need a walking foot attachment to do a really nice job.  For a large throw, twin or queen-sized quilt, maybe you want to ease into it by hand-tying.  I like to hand tie with size 8 pearl cotton thread and a large-eyed needle (like Chenille 24 needles).   Maybe I'll work on a tutorial, but for now you can just do an internet search. Tying is pretty fool-proof!

Binding.  Remember my uncertain friend?  She machine bound her first quilt last week using my Zigzag binding tutorial.  After making the binding, she was able to attach and finish a super large throw in a few hours.  Hurray!  And, the zigzag stitch finish is so forgiving that her binding was attached securely front and back with no need to redo any sections.  Total success! 

I hope this helps you navigate any uncertain waters towards a lovely finished quilt!  If you have any questions about this or any other topics, please feel free to ask away.  I'd love to be a resource for you!

33 comments:

  1. Wonderful tutorial, but one quick quibble.

    The backing should be laid out with the right side down, right? That's what the photos show, but not what the instructions say.

    Thanks so much for such easy instructions!

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  2. Do you find the overspray gets on your floors? I have all carpet so I use an old king size sheet to protect it but it means that I'm not able to masking tape down the top and just do the best I can with easing it flat. Thanks for the tips.

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    1. I do get some overspray, but not enough that I've decided it's worth worrying about on my wood floors. If I'm wearing socks, my socks will start picking up all the stray threads on my floor after basting. If I'm barefoot... well, I'll probably need to wash my feet in a half hour cause they'll be covered with thread! So, I guess the point is there is overspray and I live with it =) I don't find that it's long lasting. Sticky floors (like from juice) would drive me crazy. It's subtle and goes away in a few hours, whether from traffic or just whatever.

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  3. Thanks for sharing the basting spray and link - i ordered some today. I don't really have anywhere to baste my quilts other than my bed - which doesnt work so well :-/ But maybe I can find some place and get it done faster with this spray!

    Same question as above tho - does it gum up floors/carpet?

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  4. Thanks for all the information. A couple of weeks ago, I got down on the floor and hand basted a baby quilt. By the time I got up, my knees hurt, my back was not happy, and I ached all over. So now I'm back to the gym. Next time I make a quilt, I'm spray basting it. Then I can go to the gym for fun.

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  5. I would love to switch to spay basting but don't you get overspray? I don't want to have to mop after every time I baste. Maybe with 505 it's no problem (I've only used other brands which are horribly gummy)?

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  6. I will have to try the basting spray. I only have carpet inside so I am going to have to do it outside.

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    Replies
    1. Here's a tutorial I wrote earlier when I used to use the Dritz brand and spray baste outside: http://www.stitchedincolor.com/2010/10/colorbrick-how-to-spray-baste-your.html

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  7. I buy cheep dollar store table cloths to use for overspray. I use 505 all the time, but there are several warnings and precautions about using in a well ventilated area on the one I use.

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    1. Is your can the big red can? I wonder if there is a difference in the formulations. Is yours made in France too?

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    2. No mine is not the big red one, but it was on the same site you mentioned. I'll have to try ordering the big red can because I use basting spray all the time.

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  8. I have only tried the spray once and I endEd up doing the spraying outside because I was afraid of the over-spray on the floor. Is the 505 is easy to get up from floors?

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  9. I tend to put the batting on the floor, then lay the backing on top and spray in the same way as described - this means you have that little extra round the edges where not so much spray is needed, to avoid excess going on the floor as those above are worried about. Once I have done one side, I flip and do the other.

    I would never ever use pins again!

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  10. I'm a spray baster too! Like others, I'm curious about overspray on your floors. I do my spray basting on my not-heirloom kitchen table, using clamps on the sides and adjusting as needed for length and width. But my floors are definitely sticky afterwards. But I'm not using 505 either...may need to check that out!

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  11. I'm a bit concerned about the " no odor = non-toxic". Garlic has a strong odor but is not toxic while carbon monoxide is odorless and kills . I too am a spray blaster but I do it with windows open , even in winter, and am careful to use as little as required to reduce risks. I wonder if France simply has different regulations re: labeling of products?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, that is a rule of thumb, but not always right. I would suggest that it's more likely to be correct when applied to man-made products. In general the United Nations have much stronger regulations for product safety and labeling than we do here in the U.S. Still, it never hurts to be cautious!

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  12. great tutorial and advice...thanks!

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  13. Will you please recommend some quilting thread for machine quilting? I always ask for recommendations from my local quilt shops but I have trouble with the tread breaking.
    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. I use Gutermann thread for most of my sewing and quilting. A lot of quilters also recommend Aurifil thread.

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  14. Thiis is awesome, thanks so much. I have been pinning my quilts, but think I will try this spray, it looks soooo much easier.

    Is there any way you could do a quick tutorial on piecing together a quilt back? I am making a T-shirt quilt for my sister that is now way bigger than I thought it was going to be, and I am going to have to piece together the back and have no idea what to do! Thanks so much, love your blog. Merry Christmas.

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    1. I'm not sure if this will be helpful, but I posted on quilt backs earlier this year: http://www.stitchedincolor.com/2012/05/quilt-backings.html. It's a pretty ad hoc process for me.

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  15. I ordered some 505 based on your earlier recommendation and I do love how much easier it is than pin basting (especially not having to stop quilting to remove pins!) but I've got a question for ya. How do you keep the nozzle from getting gummed up? I can hear and feel that I still have 'glue' in the can, but I can't get it out.... It's not a ton, but still maybe a 1/6 of a can, and the stuff isn't cheap so I'd like to use every drop. I can't easily get the sprayer off - so I haven't tried terribly hard for fear I may break it, but I sprayed it with a mixture of dawn and vinegar, (which usually removes all manner of gunk for me) I've soaked it in hot water, and rubbed essential orange oil on it, but still can't get any spray out. Is there a trick I should know? thanks!!

    Also wondering - is it fine to buy a year's worth or so at a time to save on shipping, ya think?

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    1. You know, I had one can (I've gone through about 5 of them now) gum up like that in the spray nozzle. It had a tiny bit in it (definitely less than in yours) and I wasn't able to get it out. But, the other three cans didn't have that problem. Wish I had a suggestion for you!

      As for stocking up, I bought 3 at a time and have used them throughout 2012. I would do it again!

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    2. Good to know it's not an every can issue then. thanks!

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    3. Im adding my two pennyworth onto an old thread, but I always take my can outside, turn it upside down and spray until only the gas comes out. (It sound distinctly different). This seems to clear the pipework and stops it from gumming up.

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  16. Thank you for this post Rachel. I haven't tried spray basting due to the chemicals but 505 sound wonderful - I just need to source it in Australia.

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    1. It sounds like the red can (which is made in France) is healthier/safer than the other can (which is not made in France). See if you can find the red. Good luck!

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  17. I will spray baste baby quilts but have found that with large pieces I of fabric I get areas of wrinkling and with the stickiness it seems ver hard to get them.

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  18. I also use 505, but baste on a carpeted floor. A lot of overspray can make carpets slightly sticky, but I find that the tackiness only lasts for a short time. While this usually isn't an issue for me, I wouldn't recommend basting on a carpet that you really care about keeping clean (such as new white carpet). The spray is water-soluble, so a mister full of water and a clean rag or a small spot carpet cleaner (I have a Bissell Little Green) helps to remove most residue afterward. I really prefer basting this way and wouldn't want to go back to trying to pin on carpet.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for adding your experience, Jenelle!

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  19. I like the way binding looks, but I find it really frustrating, even with easier methods (like your zig zag best of the ones I've tried over the years).

    I admit, sheepishly, that I just don't bind most of my quilts, especially the bed sized quilts. I do a very old method where you sew the edges of the quilt inside out, flip it rightway out again, and then baste. It's great for those quilts where you don't want any border at all. I mention it only because I've run across several people who'd never known it was possible to do that way. (Some people, er, don't approve of it, but I've always loved it.) I can explain how to do it, if you're interested.

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  20. I like that you mention the 10 inch comment- my quilter friend who taught me a lot of what I know likes the rule that you shouldn't be able to put your hand down on the quilt and NOT be touching some part of quilting - and that rule can sometimes be hard to follow!!

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