In Week 6 of our T-Shirt Quilt Sewalong, we’re going to square up our quilt tops and baste together a quilt sandwich.
I like to do both of these steps on my kitchen floor. Not only does it give me enough space to completely spread out my quilt, but it forces me to do a thorough mopping first because I don’t want my hard work getting dirty. Win win :).
You can use a table, too. Just make sure that, if the quilt top has to hang over the edge of the table, it’s not creating any tension in the fabric which could cause your cutting or basting to be off.
Okay, on to squaring up the top you’ve worked on diligently for the past few weeks!
First, lay the quilt top out on a flat surface. (Isn’t it handy that my kitchen floor has straight lines already on it??)
Bring your cutting board, ruler, and rotary cutter down to the floor (or on to the table). Choose a corner to start with. I like to start with the corner that looks the most “square” or even. Try to line up the edge of the top with a line on your cutting board if possible. Next, line up your ruler with a seam, the long edge along where you’ll make your first cut.
Take a deep breath and trim off any fabric that does not line up. It might just be a tiny amount, but it can make a big difference in the end!
Shift your cutting board, if necessary, and continue trimming around the edges of the quilt. Keep about 10″ of your ruler flush with the straight line you’ve already cut each time to ensure you’re keeping everything nice and lined up.
At each corner, line your ruler up both with a seam further down the quilt and with the corner you already cut. This will make for a square corner.
Once you’ve trimmed all the way around the quilt top, fold it over on itself. If it’s a patchwork top, you can line up all of the seams with one another and double check that all of the sides lie flush when folded.
You’re now ready to baste.
Basting is how you make a “quilt sandwich” so you’re able to quilt or tie your blanket without the fabric bunching and shifting. A quilt sandwich is your backing fabric on the bottom, batting in the middle, and your quilt top on top. You want the backing fabric to be 8-10″ wider and longer than the quilt top. Your batting should be 4-6″ wider than your top. This will give you ample space in case your quilt top shifts.
In other words, don’t do what I did in the photo below. The price was right, and I bought a quilt backing that was less than 2″ wider than my quilt top. It turned out okay in the end, but it was a stressful basting session ;).
You’ll need a roll of painter’s tape and spray adhesive and/or safety pins.
Lay your backing fabric right side down on your basting surface. Use the painter’s tape to tape down the edges. Make sure the fabric is smooth and pulled far enough that there aren’t any wrinkles, but softly enough that you’re not causing any tension in the fabric.
Grab your batting and shake out any wrinkles. I actually will lay my batting out flat on a bed for a day or two before using it. This releases some of the wrinkles from packaging.
When I’m basting a small quilt (this one is 48″ x 60″), I lay the entire piece of batting on top of the backing, then fold back half. If you are doing a larger quilt, I highly recommend using a pool noodle or small board to roll out the batting and quilt top instead. Here’s a great tutorial I’ve had success with for that method.
Once half of the batting is folded back, use spray adhesive to spray both the uncovered backing and the batting. Carefully lay the folded batting back down on the backing fabric, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go. Repeat with the other half of the batting.
Once the batting is secured, repeat the process with your quilt top on top of the batting. If you quilt is small enough, you can use the same method and fold back half of your quilt top or you can roll your top onto your batting and spray row by row.
A couple of things will make this process easier. First, take your time and go slowly. Smooth out wrinkles as you go along. The adhesive isn’t permanent, so you can also lift up the top (or batting) and easily reposition it if things get wonky.
Second, pay attention to your seams. If all of your long seams are pressed the same way it will be easier for you to make sure they’ll be laying flat as the top is basted into place row by row.
Finally, use your fingers to check the seams to make sure they’re laying properly. You can press them into place as needed.
And there’s your quilt sandwich! You can start quilting with it just like this. Since I used a stretchy minky backing as well as a t-shirt top, though, I like to add some pins in as well. Some people purely spray baste, some purely pin baste. I do both when things are stretchy and prone to shirting! A little extra time at the beginning can save a lot of frustration at the end.
Since we’ve already spray basted, you don’t need to put your pins as close together as if you weren’t purely pin basting. I like to do one in each block around the sides and then fill in one or two a block in the middle sections.
Here’s a timelapse video of me basting a memory quilt. I didn’t use any batting for this one because I had a heavy back and a heavy top, and I used a pool noodle to lay out my top because it was so big!
I’m happy to answer questions about basting your t-shirt quilt in the blog comments or on Facebook. “See” you next week when we start quilting!