Need to make a quilt sandwich in a hurry? Spray basting to the rescue (how-to)

Bon-Appetit-Table-RunnerAs the holidays draw near, do visions of quilty gifts dance in your head?

Do you wonder how many gifts you can start and finish before Christmas?

Do you assume you’ll be burning the midnight oil—along with Santa and his reindeer—come Christmas Eve?

Often it’s not block-making or row-sewing that halts our gift-making progress: it’s the finishing.

All finishing starts with step one, before the quilting stage: the “sandwich” stage. Layering the quilt top, batting, and backing in preparation for quilting can be time-consuming. But the following tutorial on spray basting will speed up this important step. In an excerpt from Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners, author Molly Hanson explains how she gets it done in a snap.


Speedy quilt sandwich: spray basting

From Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners—and those who think they can’t by Molly Hanson

Free-Motion Quilting for BeginnersBasting spray is a time-saver in a can—literally! While it may take me two to three hours to pin baste a queen-size quilt, I can spray baste the same quilt in about 45 minutes. Interested in learning more? I bet you are!

I especially like to spray baste small projects. I spray baste by hanging my quilt on a wall. First, I hang up some newspaper roughly around the area where my backing will be, which makes cleanup a breeze. I then tack the quilt backing to the wall, with the right side facing the wall, using thumbtacks every few inches across the top edge of the fabric and making sure the backing is smooth and flat. Then, after laying more newspaper on the floor beneath the backing, I spray baste following the manufacturer’s instructions.
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How to spray baste a quilt
Spray basting a quilt, from
Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners

I tumble my batting in the dryer for about 15 minutes to reduce wrinkles and static. Once the backing is lightly coated with basting spray (and still pinned in place on the wall), I remove the batting from the dryer and, starting along the top edge, I pat the batting in place. Take your time to carefully position and stick the batting to the backing, making sure the batting is smooth. Once the batting is in place, spray the batting (as you did the backing before) and adhere the quilt top to the batting in the same way. And that’s it! It’s a very fast and easy process—and quite addictive if I do say so myself.


Get all of Molly’s tips from Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners right now—in print book or eBook form—and get confident about your Christmas list! Plus, you can turn practice pieces into 15 functional projects that are perfect for gifts.
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From Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners
Projects from Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners, all made from practice pieces.

How do you usually baste your quilts: pins, thread, or spray? Tell us in the comments—and share your tips for quick finishing if you’ve got ’em!

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30 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I spray with 505 and LOVE this process!

    —Janice on November 9, 2016
  • Pin. I didn’t like the overspray clean up with 505 or the smell. I got wrinkles on my backing when I spray basted. Plus, with pinning, I don’t have to wash the quilt after it is finished!

    Terry K on November 9, 2016
  • I pin and baste my quilts, but, if I am rushed, I machine the binding. Attach the binding to the WRONG side of the quilt, bring the binding to the right side, and top stitch. Be careful when you are spraying anything, such as spray glue. Inhaling the glue is not a good idea.

    Gail G on November 9, 2016
  • I usually pin my quilts, but I like the idea of spray basting a lot and will give that a try.

    Carolyn on November 9, 2016
  • I always use basting spray & on large quilts I also pin at key intersection. I have learned that spray needs to be used sparingly.

    —sonja on November 9, 2016
  • Very bad knees and a smaller home with a lot less open floor space dictate I spray baste everything up through twin-size quilts. I have learned a LOT about wall basting! First and foremost, ample ventilation. Don’t breath in the mist. Spray very lightly, it goes a long ways. Press both sides of the quilt, it seems to activate the adhesive making a light spray go a lot further.

    Find a spray that won’t gum up your needle. This is essential. There are a lot of temporary spray adhesives on the market and they are definitely NOT all alike.

    I still prefer to thread baste for hand quilting, but as it is hard to get that done, I find I machine quilt more and more and spray basting using the wall is the best basting method I’ve found.

    Thanks for all your extra tips, Marlene! –Jenny

    —Marlene Clausen on November 9, 2016
  • I think the "batting used" is important with spray basting. I spray basted on a tile floor, it left "um" all around the backing. Took forever to clean my floors. So tip 1 is to be careful around where you spray. I haven’t wanted to spray on a wall for this reason.

    I have tried pinning and not happy with that process.

    I have also basted and that is slow. Spray basting sounds like the answer and finishing is the goal.

    —carol on November 9, 2016
  • I usually use safety pins, but have tried a spray on a small project.

    —Helen on November 9, 2016
  • Too funny! I’m reading your blog, and I just finished a leaf table runner top and had PINNED it together to quilt this weekend! I had used the spray on two baby quilts I did basic stitch in the ditch with my walking foot, and then we moved, and I completely forgot! (it was admittedly a new technique to me, and my larger quilts I’ve been quilting with plastic, ala Eleanor!) I’m using very light polyester batting on it, it doesn’t need the warmer, heavier. And you better believe I’m going to find or purchase new spray and re do that thing! The spray doesn’t have to be removed in the middle of your stitching like a pin does! The stuff is indeed sticky, I don’t remember which brand I have, bought at JoAnn’s, but it is re-positionable. Thanks for the poke! I plead brain burp, as my daughter calls it.

    Ha ha, glad we could be of service, Sharon – we all have those brain burps 🙂 –Jenny

    —Sharon Schipper on November 9, 2016
  • I always pin. My sewing machine doesn’t like spray. I hate the smell & the mess. As for getting quilts done, if I want them to get done & I actually have to work on them! That’s the key at my house. 🙂

    —Sara on November 9, 2016
  • I have pinned and sprayed throws, sprayed table runners etc. Larger bed quilts, if I’m going to hand quilt, I have them basted by a long armer. Worth the cost.

    —Pat Hoxter on November 9, 2016
  • I have tried thread basting, safety pins, and pins with eraser-like stopper things, spray basting when it first came out-ICK! must be better now, most often I use the tack-gun tool. Depends on what and where I’m basting as to which I use. The on-the-wall method seems like such a *duh why did I not think of that before* idea, I must buy some spray and get some quilts ready-it’s going to be a long Winter. For the overspray issue I’m thinking a canvas painter’s dropcloth would cover the wall and floor.

    —nina on November 9, 2016
  • For anything up to 60″ x 60″ I lay an old king size sheet on the floor, (carpet) then the backing and spray about 24″ down. I then smooth the batting down onto this section – I sort of unroll it as I go, once I’m certain I haven’t added any wrinkles I spray the next 24″ and repeat this until it’s all done. I then spray the batting in the same way to roll down the quilt top onto it. I use spray for doll quilts and table toppers etc, or anything which I will machine quilt. My choice of batting is usually Hobbs Heirloom.
    I take care to have everything very flat to start with and so far it’s been successful, the old sheet can be lifted and washed ready for next time, and the floor stays clean.
    I do have a Grace hand quilting frame and its really great for layering and just basting anything from lap size to around 90″ wide, I just attach all 3 layers and start tacking or pinning, then I can remove it to hand quilt later on my smaller frame, this frees up the bigger frame for basting another quilt. I could of course just start hand quilting on the big frame, no basting required then.
    I can’t crawl around the floor and leaning over a table to pin or stitch is a killer, this is why I bought the frame, not just to quilt on. Both the above work for me so I’ll stick (no pun intended!) to them.

    Thanks for your tips, Elaine, what a great way to spray baste bigger quilts! –Jenny

    —Elaine on November 9, 2016
  • I love the spray-basting but can’t always justify the extra expense. So I settle for pins most of the time. Never thread! Seems like too much extra work! It’s too hard getting down & up from the floor, so I push extra tables together at our guild meeting room. Lots of newspaper to place around the edges & floor.

    —JanG on November 10, 2016
  • I have been spray basting quilts for approximately 15 years and have had no problems. Do not spray in the house. I lay my top and back over the fence or on the driveway wrong side up and spray outside. You can pick this up and bring it into the area you are laying your quilt out on. Lay your back out and pin down so it is held in place, smooth the batting on top of backing, and then lay the quilt top centered onto the backing/batting piece. The trick is to now take this to the ironing board and press from the center out on the backing side first. Push the wrinkles to the edge and reposition the backing as needed. Repeat on the top. I have always used Sullivan’s Spray Baste in the pink can. SPray bashes are repositionable and if a wrinkle forms several,days after you have basted or started the quilting process you simply re iron and reposition the backing/quilt top.

    Another great tip for spray basting – thanks for sharing it, Jane! –Jenny

    —Jane on November 11, 2016
  • Few years ago I hurt my knee and couldn’t crawl on the floor to sandwich my quilts. Hubby helped me cover a wall with t-bar drop ceiling panels (2x4ft). I spray baste all my quilts with 505. The first few times I used lots of spray, ‘got to hold it in place’, now I just use a light spray and it works marvellously. It has never bothered my machine and I only prewar the baby quilts before gifting them. Ventilation is important and I would sandwich ant other way.

    —Debi on November 11, 2016
  • I tape the backing down (small things only) with blue painters tape onto my large cutting mat. Then lay the batting down, then the top. Smooth it all over and either pin or baste.
    Large things….You are going to be amazed here…..I use a big thick slab of Tyvek foam and lay it on my dining table. I pin the backing to the tyvek, then proceed with the rest of the sandwich layering and again, pin or baste. Everything is up off the floor and my knees and back thank me. If the sandwich hangs over the sides, just remove the pins in the backing and slide it over. I never make king or queen sizes, though. If I did I would probably take it to my local quilt store that lets customers use their class tables pushed together.
    Storing the tyvek slab is a problem, but I have a basement. They don’t bend, you now.

    —Sue Smith on November 11, 2016
  • We spray baste with 505 all the time. We do anything from table toppers to king size. We push tables together in classroom. Lay backing down and clamp it table edges with large binder clips.Then comes the batting and then the top. We then fold the two top layers (together) back a couple feet and spray the backing. carfully fold the batting onto the backing–do not stretch and besure there are no wrinkles or bubbles. Keep doing sections and layers. works great!

    —Dawn Cross on November 11, 2016
  • A touch of glue.

    —Stevie Divino on November 11, 2016
  • I sew on bindings while watching tv.

    —Jan on November 11, 2016
  • I have been using Pinmoors and pins for basting. (The largest I have done is lap size though.) A friend helped me spray baste a lap size quilt and that was simply wonderful! Even though I had to drive to her place and back, I’m sure it took less time than my pinning here. I’ve got a can of 505 and one of the Home Depot brand that she uses and several lap quilts just waiting for me to get up enough nerve to prepare. I hadn’t thought of doing on a wall though – that’s genius! I have several king size sheets that I can pin up and use that to collect any over spray. Thanks for the tips.

    —June on November 11, 2016
  • I have used 505 spray for small items, but usually pin larger items. I use plastic clamps from the hardware store to keep the layers tight to the dining room table. My cutting mat protects the table from pin scratches. This works whether I hand or machine quilt!

    —Linda Towers on November 12, 2016
  • Lots to think about in these comments!

    —Pearl on November 13, 2016
  • I would be a newbie at an exchange. Living in a very rural area with few quilters around, but I don’t know them as of yet. Who knows maybe I will start one.

    —Karen DH on November 16, 2016
  • to have enough material to match what i am trying to make; not have to substitute a lesser color

    —lois barnes on November 18, 2016
  • I pin baste or thread baste. I don’t like sore fingers from the pins.

    —Nan Hohenstein on November 19, 2016
  • How do you folks make a sheet hold onto a wall? I need to make sandwiches and also could certainly use a design wall.

    Hi Marta, we do have a post about design walls here–9 different ideas, I hope one works for you! Thanks for your question! –Jenny

    —Marta on January 13, 2017
  • I’m so glad you said that you tacked your quilt to the wall I was a bit worried it would ruin it somehow. I don’t stretch it and this is the first time I’m going to use this method. Thankyou so much Jan

    —Jan-Maree Warne on May 2, 2017
  • The best part about making a quilt, is after you are done with the last stitching on it, you MUST throw it in the washer and dryer, on high or medium high heat! THIS washes out ALL of the sizing that the manufacturer puts on it before selling the fabric to you, and washing and drying it shrinks the fabric up as much as it will shrink, when it is 100% cotton. This is what gives it the old-fashioned, vintage/ antique "puckery" look, and it also imbeds all of the stitches in to the fabric AND the batting!

    ESPECIALLY If you give it away without being washed first, then the first time the recipient washes it they will think they have ruined it, when they have not! A quilt is made to be used, and washed and dried many numerous times over its lifetime! If somebody has given him a brand new quilt, they are afraid to wash it. But if you wash it before giving it to them, and it removes their fear of it!

    The old-fashioned puckery look ("soft as butter!) happens AFTER washing and drying it! And it makes it softer, with each wash & drying!! It is necessary to wash it after you have made it, to get all of the sizing out of the fabric, which makes fabric stiff and uncomfortable.

    Nobody starches a quilt after the quilt is finished being made! And nobody wants a quilt with starch!

    This is why I always use 100% cotton batting, as well as 100% cotton fabric on the top, backing, and binding. 100% cotton has a study and certain shrinkage right amount. Once it’s shrunk, it does NOT progressively shrink more the way wool does. I usually do not pre-wash my fabric before I put it in a quilt, but I will always wash it after it’s done being made, and especially before I give it to somebody else!

    —DonnaTN8 on August 11, 2017
  • The shrinkage rate for cotton is STEADY (NOT study!), and is usually about 2 inches. And that is it. It does not shrink more later. And it is a consistent CONSISTENT rate!! So if you use 100% cotton on the entire quilt, then it will all shrink at the same rate.

    —DonnaTN8 on August 11, 2017

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