thread basting tutorial

Thread Basting Tutorial

Thread basting a quilt

I’m primarily a spray baster, mostly because I like to get basting done and over with FAST! (I’ve timed myself, and it takes me 18 minutes to spray baste a throw size quilt). However, there are times that I will opt for thread basting a quilt instead. The last time I was doing it, I thought to myself, hey, I should create a thread basting tutorial for all of you who might be curious about trying it too!

Why Thread Basting?

My main reason for thread basting is when I am going to hand quilt a quilt that is either:

  • Large (queen or king sized)
  • Going to take me a while to quilt, either because the design is more tedious or complicated (orange peels spring to mind here) or because it doesn’t have a deadline so it is a “backburner” project (I need to have my hands busy at all times, so I always have a project that I work on in-between all the projects with deadlines)

At these times, I opt for thread because I find that it holds up better over time. Some fabrics on the market have a sizing over them that gets washed out, but if you’re like me and you don’t prewash your fabrics, that sizing can make the spray basting spray not stick as well to the fabric. I find this is okay when I’m machine quilting because I get quilts completed relatively fast, but with longer-term hand quilting projects where they’ll be sitting around for a while, getting twisted in all different angles, thread basting hold up better.

Riley the poodle hanging out on a work in progress
The reason I thread baste: Riley finds half-quilted quilts perfect napping spots

Thread Basting Supplies:

  • Curved Needles: I like this Dritz Quilting brand. I use the smaller 2″ needles because they are thinner than the 2.5″ ones. I have yet to find a thinner curved needle on the market, but if you know of one, let me know!
  • Scrap thread: use thread in a contrasting color to your top so you can see it easily. Old thread is great to use up here since thread deteriorates over time and is more prone to snapping. (Bad for quilting, great for thread basting!) Don’t use the good stuff here, you’ll only be throwing it away later!
curved needles for thread basting

The How To:

Start by taping your quilt backing on the ground, wrong side up. Add your batting on top, smoothing out any wrinkles. If your batting is very wrinkly, gently press with a warm iron prior to adding it to your quilt back. Layer your quilt top on top, lining it up with the backing, being careful not to warp the top.

To thread baste, start in the center of your quilt and work outwards in a spiral. If you’re quilt is really big, you can visually divide your quilt into segments and work each one individually, always working from the middle outwards.

divide a large quilt into segments to make it easier to baste
If you’re basting a large quilt, you can divide it into segments.

Bring your needle down through all the layers and back up to the top of the quilt, creating a stitch. Don’t worry about the neatness or size of your stitches, our goal is just to hold our quilt layers in place. I work my stitches about 3-4″ away from each other until I run out of thread. Then I cut a new piece and continue basting. I like to tie the end of my old thread to the new piece I start working. I’ve found if I don’t tie them off, over time they can pull and unravel. Especially if you have a poodle who likes to make nests in your half-quilted works ;).

Supplies for thread basting
Thread basting a quilt

Continue basting until the entire quilt is covered in stitches! I find thread basting works especially well for hand quilting. Some people use pins, but I don’t enjoy using pins when hand quilting because my thread always gets stuck in or around the safety pins. I don’t tend to thread baste when machine quilting. Once I’m done hand quilting, I’ll remove all the basting stitches. They are easy to see since I used a contrasting basting thread.

This quilt is my Starlite quilt pattern. I’m hand quilting a clamshell design over the entire quilt to add some subtle softness to the quilt. Find the clamshell hand quilting tutorial (with video!) here!

Want to see thread basting in action? Watch the video!

Starlite quilt with hand quilted clamshells
Clamshell hand quilting on a Starlite quilt. Find Starlite in my shop!
Clamshell hand quilting

3 thoughts on “Thread Basting Tutorial

  1. I thread baste my larger quilts using boards. It solves the problem of having to tape down the backing to the table. I’m sure you can find examples on YouTube. I have used old crochet thread with a 3” straight needle, but I’m going to try your idea of using old thread with a curved needle next time.
    Thread basting also eliminates the hazards of sewing over safety pins. I think that’s the best part.
    I look forward to my emails from Patchwork &Poodles. Keep up the great work.
    Hurst, Texas

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