Christa’s Quilt Along 6.4 – String of Pearls Basting Tutorial

Today I will share with you how to baste your String of Pearls Quilt. This is probably my least favorite part of the quiltmaking process, but good basting is one of the keys to good machine quilting. The steps below apply to basting any large quilt.

Step 1 – Preparing the Backing (1-3 Hours)

Pieced BackingPlease refer to my pieced backing tutorial here or here for detailed instructions on how to prepare your backing for basting.

You can either choose a solid colored back or make one from pieced leftovers and scraps.

Be sure your quilt backing is at least 6″ bigger than your quilt top (3″ on all sides). Give your backing and quilt top a good final pressing before you begin basting with safety pins.

Hint: Starching your backing fabric helps prevent stretching and distortion while pin basting. I starch both sides.

Step 2 – Cutting Your Batting (10 minutes)

My favorite type of batting to use is Legacy Wool Batting. I like the extra fullness it gives to the quilt which really makes my machine quilting stand out.

Cutting the BattingUnfortunately batting is too bulky for me to carry in my quilt shop and ship, but you can get it reasonably priced from Amazon here. I have a large table that I can roll out and then cut the batting to size. Your kitchen table or floor may work well for this, too.

Hint: if your batting comes doubled and rolled, fold your top in half while measuring and cutting. That’s less bulk to deal with at one time. Just be sure you don’t cut the folded end off!

Step 3 – Laying out the Quilt for Basting (20 minutes)

Using a large surface area like a set of banquet tables or the floor, lay your backing out face down, wrong side up. Be sure to determine which end will be the top or bottom, especially if you are using directional fabrics or are utilizing a pieced backing design.

Binder Clip the EdgesUse large binder clips to secure the edges. Painter’s tape works well, too. Make sure the backing is smooth and remove any stray threads that you don’t want in your quilt! You want the backing to be secure, but not taut.


My son helped me layout an earlier quilt with 2 layers of batting!

Next, lay down your batting. If you can get someone to help you lay down the batting without having to move it around too much, that will help. Notice you do not need to secure the batting.

Quarter the BattingIf you are doing this solo, quarter your batting first, then slowly unfold it half at a time and smooth it out as you go. Click the pictures below to see larger details.

Half the BattingFull Batting

Hint: be sure to put the scrim side facing down if your batting has one.

Finally lay out your quilt top and smooth it all out nicely. Again, fold your quilt top into quarters and lay it down wrong side up on one corner of the backing and batting. (And be sure to ignore my messing sewing space as you look at these pictures, LOL!)

Quarter TopHalf Top

Unfold the quilt top so that half of it is showing, then unfold it again and smooth it out. Be sure there is extra batting and backing around all four edges. You will trim this later.

String of Pearls BastingStep 4 – Pinning (1.5 Hours)

Even though I’m short (only 5′!) I can reach about half-way across my tables. If my quilt is bigger than this, I will baste in sections if needed. Starting on one side of the quilt, I like to sprinkle a few safety pins across the surface. (They are left open from the last time I quilted so I only need to close them once).

Safety Pin BastingI pin one quadrant at a time, about 2″ to 3″ apart. The more pins I add, the more stable my quilt is. I try not to pin through any seams. You can use a Kwik Klip basting tool or a grapefruit spoon to help close the pins and save your fingers!

Safety Pin BatingWhen I am finished pinning I will turn over the quilt to make sure I haven’t pinned in any puckers. Now it’s time to quilt!

Recommendation: Be sure to check out Cindy Needham’s online Machine Quilting Craftsy class called Design It, Quilt It. In addition to wonderful quilting instruction, she includes an excellent tutorial demonstrating basting using just one table, pinning one section at a time. It’s excellent!

Please continue to share pictures of your progress on my flickr group: Christa’s Quilt Along. I’ve been enjoying seeing everyone’s beautiful work – I’m sure you’ll be inspired, too!

Quilt Along Schedule – links will be active at the completion of each step:

String of Pearls Quilt Along

Grab my Quilt Along button!

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13 thoughts on “Christa’s Quilt Along 6.4 – String of Pearls Basting Tutorial

  1. Barbara says:

    Thank you Christa, for that great tutorial. It really helps when the details are spelled out so well. It is nice not to get lost when trying to follow the process.

  2. Becca says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Basting is a part of the process that is often summarize but rarely covered in both tutorials and in books. It always amazes me when the end of the instructions for a quilt say something like “layer backing, batting and top. Baste and quilt as desired.” That isn’t very helpful to someone just starting out. Thank goodness we now have the internet!

  3. Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation says:

    basting is without a doubt my least favorite part of quilting as well. blech! however, your tutorial and pictures are really detailed and helpful!
    Thank you so much for sharing at Needle and Thread Thursday!

    🙂 Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

  4. Georgia says:

    I will have to baste mine on the floor. Any tips?? I worry about pins catching the carpet. Should I slide a piece of cardboard or my cutting mat under the area where I’m pinning?? help! Lol

    • Christa says:

      Sure – I think a piece of cardboard on the carpet would work well. Maybe cut up a few boxes to cover the area you need. Then if you accidentally pin through the cardboard, you can gently yank out the safety pins as you pull up the quilt.

  5. mindingmomma says:

    the folding into quarters and then smoothing it over the top is such a good tip, thanks for sharing that method

  6. Sue Moore says:

    I’m still doing your Charming Chevrons but have fabric ready & waiting for this one. Thanks for the tutorial , I always learn heaps!

    • Christa says:

      Some battings have a thin piece of material that the batting is attached to – called the scrim. It’s a little rougher and should be placed down for better quilting stitches.

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