All About Spray Basting a Quilt

What’s your least favorite part of making a quilt? Mine is basting. Or it was, until I discovered basting spray.

Basting spray glues the layers of a quilt together temporarily until you can quilt them together permanently with your sewing machine.  It’s by far the fastest and easiest way I’ve found to baste, and the glue washes out after the quilt is finished. But spray basting isn’t perfect. Here’s a review of its advantages and disadvantages, followed by step-by-step instructions for spray basting on a wall, the floor, or a table top.

Basting with Spray Adhesive: the Good and the Bad

First, the good:

  • It’s fast! It’s easy! (So much faster and easier than pin basting, using tacks, or hand stitching.)
  • You can reposition the layers if you need to during quilting.
  • There are no pins, stitches, or tacks to remove while you quilt.
  • The glue washes out after the quilt is finished.

Then, the bad:

  • Fumes. These can be pretty nasty, especially if you have any chemical sensitivities. It’s essential to do your spray basting only in a well ventilated area.
  • Spray residue is sticky, so you need to be careful not to get it on your cutting board, your ironing board, or other surfaces. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
  • Length of hold. Some sprays keep the quilt layers for months or years. Some don’t last that long. Check the instructions on your can before you baste. If you think it may take a very long time to finish a particular quilt,  you may want to consider pin basting the quilt instead.

Major Brands of Quilt Basting Spray

There are several major brands of basting spray that can be found at quilt stores, big-box fabric stores, or craft stores. These include:

  • 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive. That’s what I use.
  • Sullivan’s Quilt Basting Spray
  • June Tailor Basting Spray

All three say they are odorless, colorless, and repositionable. They all claim not to gum the sewing needle while you quilt. 505 Spray and Fix and Sullivan’s also say they are acid-free. The June Tailor spray is only recommended for quilts, not for applique, and for 100% cotton fabric and batting. 505 Spray and Fix says it works well on all types of batting and fabric.

You should be able to baste several bed-sized quilts with one can of basting spray.

Getting Ready for Spray Basting

You can baste on a wall, on the floor, or on a table. Choose a place that is well ventilated so you don’t breathe in too much spray. Cover the area around the quilt to protect against overspray. Some quilters cover the basting area with taped-down newspaper or butcher paper. I like to use an old sheet which can just be tossed in the wash when it gets gooey.

Spray Basting on the Wall

Quilt backing taped to wall

  1. You need an open wall area larger than the quilt you are planning to baste. The photo above, by amy dame, shows a quilt being glamorously basted on the wall of her building’s laundry room. If you have a quilt design wall set up for pinning, that’s the perfect place to baste. Learn how to make a quilt design wall.
  2. Cover the wall around the spraying area with paper or an old piece of fabric to protect against overspray.
  3. Pin or tape the quilt backing fabric to the wall, with the right side facing the wall. Stretch the fabric so it is smooth and taut, but not so tight that it distorts the shape. For large quilts, this may be a two-person job.
  4. Lightly spray one the backing with basting spray. If the backing is very large, spray one half at a time.
  5. Smooth the batting onto the sprayed area.
  6. Continue spraying the backing and smoothing the batting until the whole batting layer is adhered to the backing.
  7. Lightly spray the batting with basting spray and smooth the quilt top on, right side facing you, the same way you did the batting.
  8. Take the quilt down from the wall. Put the quilt on your cutting table to cut away any excess batting and backing fabric. Leave 1-2″ margin of batting and backing around the whole quilt top.

You are now ready to quilt!

Spray Basting on the Floor

Quilt basted on floor

  1. Lay the quilt backing fabric on a clean hard floor, right side down.
  2. Use masking tape to tape the fabric to the floor, starting at the corners and taping all around the outside edge. The fabric should be smooth and taut when you are finished.
  3. Lightly spray one half of the backing with basting spray.
  4. Fold the batting in half. Align the fold with the center of the backing fabric, then unfold and smooth the batting onto sprayed side of the backing, working from the center out to the edges. Smooth until there aren’t any wrinkles left.
  5. Spray the other half of the backing fabric, then smooth the second half of the batting into place
  6. If the quilt you are basting is very large, you can divide the backing into quarters and only spray one-quarter at a time. If you do this, fold the batting into quarters and unfold it a quarter at a time onto the sprayed sections.
  7. Lightly spray one half of the batting with basting spray. Fold the quilt top in half with right sides together, then unfold it onto the sprayed section of batting the same way you did in the previous steps.
  8. When all wrinkles have been smoothed away, remove the tape.
  9. Trim away any excess batting and backing fabric to reduce bulk while quilting.

Spray Basting on a Table Top

Basted quilt Quilt being basted on a table top

  1. To baste on a table, center the quilt backing fabric on the table, right side down, and smooth out any wrinkles. I like to use large binder clips to hold the fabric in place around the table edges. If the fabric is too big for the table, let the extra hang down over the table edge.
  2. Lightly spray the section on the table with quilt basting spray, then smooth the batting onto the backing, aligning the center of the batting with the center of the backing fabric.
  3. Remove the binder clips and move the backing fabric so an unsprayed area is centered on the table. Spray the backing and smooth the batting into place. Keep spraying and moving the fabric until the batting is adhered to the whole backing.
  4. Glue the top to the batting in the same way. Make sure the right side of the quilt top faces up.
  5. When the whole quilt sandwich is glued together, trim away any excess backing and batting.
  • January 9, 2012

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Felicity Walker
 

Felicity Walker is the author of the best-selling Quilting for Beginners book series and other books for quilters. She has been quilting for nearly twenty years and loves finding easier, faster, and more fun ways to make quilts.

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