Friday, June 08, 2007

I have been trying to update my website with a tutorial on how I pin-baste quilts on the kitchen table, but it is taking forever so I will do it as a blog entry and let you know when it's available on my website as a .pdf. I made a special effort last week to baste my Roman Stripe quilt, but I haven't been able to take a single stitch so far, which is frustrating. Maybe this weekend will see some quilting being done.

First step is to mark the centre of each side of the table with a toothpick taped in place. This helps keep all the layers centred, so there are no nasty surprises like running out of backing or batting when you shift the quilt
Next step is to remove the cats from the backing!I fold the backing into quarters with the right side out, so that I can lay it on the table with the folds lined up with the toothpicks. When it's unfolded it is already centred on the table.
The backing is clamped in place with bulldog clips; don't know what they are called in America. Make sure they are easy to open with one hand; you don't want to have to use both hands to get them open, because then you can't control the quilt layers.
I clamp each side with three or four clamps; I like to control that backing. It shouldn't be stretched tight, just held firmly and without any distortion. If the quilt is small, and doesn't reach all the way to the edge I tape any edges to the table with wide packing tape.

The batting is folded into quarters and positioned over the backing, lining up with the toothpicks too. You will be able to feel them, even if you can't see them. Then the same thing happens with the quilt top.
Most people I know leave it at this stage and start pinning, but that's asking for pleats and puckers.I place a clamp on one side, over all three layers. Then I take one clamp off the backing and replace it on top, over all three layers. I work my way round the table clamping every side the same way; stabilise with one clamp on top, then bring all the clamps up from underneath. This way the backing is never left to do it's own thing and create a problem pleat. The top is held in place, and you can take your time pinning, secure in the knowledge that none of those layers are going anywhere.

It makes my heart glad to see a quilt at this stage. The fun part is not far away.
Remove any cats that have migrated back onto the table.
I like to pin to a pattern. Once I have decided to place 8 pins per block there are no more decisions to make, and I can just go full steam ahead, placing the pins but not doing them up yet. I leave that until all the pins are in place, then go back and do them all up at once, using a Kwik-Clip tool. It's wonderful. The bowl of a teaspoon or a crochet hook also works to pry the point of the pin off the quilt while you close it, but I love my Kwik-Clip. It's very kind to the fingers. I place pins so that I can't put my fist on the quilt anywhere without touching a pin.

When you have pinned everything you can see on the table it's time to shift the layers. I position the quilt sandwich so that I will be able to catch the edge of the top in the clamps at the side of the table, which helps tension the top slightly as you pin. Once you have it in the right place, place clamps on the other side of the table to hold the quilt steady.

The most important thing is to separate the layers at this stage, so you can make sure that the backing is pulled out flat and firm. That's the only trick. Clamp the backing, lay over the batting and the top and repeat the clamping process again, one clamp to hold everything, then gradualy shift all the clamps.
See how the edge of the top is caught in the clamps at the sides?

Two hours later, and the quilt is ready to be quilted. And I did it without hurting my back or my knees or my patience. I know I have a big table, but I usually pin on a table that is 3' x 4'. I have to shift the quilt several times, but so long as I make sure those layers are in the right place then there isn't a problem.

One thing does amaze me. People in machine quilting classes often complain that their quilts have puckers and pleats on the back and mine don't. They want to know my 'secret'. When I tell them this process they are horrified! That's so much work! Well it's not really, and the results are worth it.


Ozjane 4:13 AM  

Moggie applauds your helper and says she realizes the strain and stress involved in such a difficult role, but she is always prepared to suffer in the cause of quilting too.

Glenice & Moggie

Joyce 5:43 AM  

Thanks for the tutorial. I am sick of pinning on the cement floor of my studio and now I will be giving it a try on the table.

Tonya Ricucci 5:43 AM  

wonderful helpers. Bob matches that quilt top beautifully. Bulldog clamps sounds like the right name to me.

Nola 5:56 AM  

Hey, Keryn, fancy that, it's my exact method too! I've never pinned a quilt on the floor, even once. Just thinking about it makes my bones ache! I sit on my computer chair and scoot around the table top, pinning like mad. The only drawback is I get so bored with moving the quilt all the time.

Helen 6:26 AM  

Great tutorial, wonderful helpers. That's how I baste my quilts as well (sans cats.)

Helen in the UK 11:58 AM  

Thanks for sharing your process. How could you move the kitties when they look SOOOOO CUTE ?!?!?!

Paula, the quilter 12:45 PM  

That is exactly how I pin baste a quilt. Minus the cats.

Carol E. 11:23 AM  

I love the helpers. My daughter's cat used to live with us and loved to supervise the pinning, too. I sort of do your same procedure but am less meticulous. Your method sounds like a super way to avoid problems. I need to become a better friend of Meticulous.

Kim West 9:07 AM  

I pin my quilts the same way also - though I always shifted the whole layer. I never got puckers, but I will try your way next time and see how it works.

I use the largest binder clips though because my table is so thick.

sewprimitive karen 11:31 AM  

Darling kitties! Oh, and a nice tutorial too :-).

meggie 3:25 PM  

Great tutorial! Great cats too! so obligingly helpful.
I must try your way, I have used the table because of dud knees! Didnt think of the clips though.

Tazzie 6:20 PM  

How wonderful to have such obliging kitty helpers! Only one of my kitties has the inclination to quilt ... and not in a helpful way!

Anonymous,  7:42 PM  

I use a very similar method that I learned from Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting book. I agree that it definetly helps minimize the chance of tucks and pleats in your quilt backing. I can't imagine crawling around on the floor trying to pin baste a large quilt, or pushing tables together and breaking your back trying to reach over to the center to pin. The Hargrave method doesn't involve seperating the layers when you shift the quilt -- I'll have to try that next time I pin baste - thanks.

Jenni 8:07 PM  

That's pretty much how I was taught too. The toothpick is a good idea. I too have a big table and use the bulldog clips. My table is an old pine one that I'm not too precious about, but I read somewhere recently that if you are worried about the pins scratching the table you can put a marble underneath and move it around to keep the pin point off the table. I don't enjoy all that pinning and carrying on, which is why I tend to put the finishing part off... Cute cats.

Feeling Simply Quilty 6:56 AM  

Great information for quilters. Thanks for taking the time to teach us with pictures of helpers to boot!

The Calico Cat 7:15 AM  

Thanks for the tutorial. Love the kitty helpers. Reminds my of my own little boy cat.

Diana 7:05 PM  

Thanks for the tutorial, Keryn. That idea of using the toothpick was great!

Magpie Sue 8:08 PM  

Those cats do like to supervise, don't they? ;- )

Sue 10:59 PM  

Thanks for the tutorial, that will work much better than my usual method. Your cats are so cute, and it's obvious they take their job as Quilt Sandwich Supervisors very seriously!

Kairle Oaks 1:59 PM  

Good tutorial. That's the way that I was taught. It's nice when you have a large table. Looks like your cats attended the same school of helpfulness as mine!

Rose Marie 4:36 PM  

Many, many thanks for the tutorial! Usually, I do this on the floor and after many hours of sore knees, back, legs, etc. it's done. I have a table that has many leaves to expland it and a quilt top ready for trying it your way. I'll have to do a post so you can see my progress.

Anonymous,  4:19 AM  

Awesome tutorial. Thank you! Do you still make your backing 3-4" larger on each side? Sheila in Ohio

Holly 8:57 PM  

Keryn, what a wonderful tutorial. I am going to try your method sometime. Do you mind if I ask how wide and long each individual strip is in your rail fence top? The blocks look bigger than in most quilts I've seen. It's a beautiful quilt. Just gorgeous.

Andi 11:31 AM  

What a great tutorial, very explicit. I tried the floor route, but I have severe lung disease and that just does not work for me, so I use our kitchen island table which is at pub height and it works like a charm. I didn't know about the toothpicks though and that is just perfect! Thanks

Nancy E 5:49 PM  

Great tutorial.... I have been doing it on the floor, just end up 'carefully' laying on the floor to pin the middle. I don't usually get puckers, but will have to try your method. BTW, I saved myself $10.00 on the Kwik-tool, by using a long screw from my husband's toolbox in the garage! Works great!!

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