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Putting the Quilt Top, Batting & Backing Together

by Serena Smith

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There are many ways that you can sandwich the batting between the quilt top and backing to prepare for machine quilting. Whether it is thread basting or pinning the layers together with safety pins, there is more than one way to get the job accomplished!

My favorite place to spread out my quilt top, batting and backing is the floor. I know everyone may not have the space to do this or may be unable to crawl around on the floor, but it works very well for me. You will need to work on carpet that does not contain loops where the carpet fibers could get pinned to the quilt.



My first goal is to spread out the backing, wrong side up on the floor. I want the backing to be as smooth and wrinkle free as possible.

Using t-pins, I will pin the backing edges into the carpet every 12 - 15". I usually pin two sides and then pin the other two sides, carefully pulling the wrinkles out of the backing. As I am pinning the other two sides, I stretch the backing a little to keep it taunt. You will not want to pull it tight, it just needs a little tension to keep it smooth as layers are being added.

After the backing is smooth and wrinkle free, I start smoothing out the batting on top of the backing. The batting just needs to be laid over the backing. You do not want to stretch it out of shape or it could cause problems later. I start in a corner, leaving a couple inches of the backing showing. I work on one side at a time, carefully smoothing and gently pulling the batting to cover the backing.

I take several t-pins out of the backing edge and pin through both the backing and batting to hold the layers together. This will prevent the batting from scooting or bunching as the top is laid on it. I also make sure that I can see the backing all around. This way I know where the edge of the backing is located and I can easily tell if I lay the quilt outside of that area.

It's time for the quilt top! Again, I start in one corner, leaving a few inches of batting from the edge of the quilt top. I smooth out the top, working on one side at a time. If needed I can gently pull the quilt top up, down or sideways to get it in position. Because the backing and batting is tacked to the carpet, the quilt top will move without creating wrinkles or ripples in either the backing or batting. Using my hands, I slide across the quilt, feeling for any bubbles, wrinkles or tucks.

I dump my safety pins in the middle of the quilt and am ready to start pinning. Usually I start in the center, although I have started on one side and pinned to the opposite side. Either way works great! I like to use medium sized (#2) curved safety pins. They are large enough to handle easily, yet small enough not to make holes in the fabric as the pins are inserted. The curved edge is a lifesaver as you are inserting and pulling the pin back through the fabric to close it. I put my safety pins about 4 - 5" apart. If I am stitching in the ditch, I will be sure to place my pins about 3/4 - 1" away from the seam, so they will not catch on the walking foot as I am stitching.

Working from the center, I keep pinning, rotating on all four sides and continue to pin until I reach the edge of the quilt top. As I am pinning, I am keeping the quilt top smooth, carefully pulling and stretching a little if needed. I also look at my sashing and borders to be sure they are lying flat and straight. If a strip of sashing is pinned with a wave or curve, it will be quilted the same way. Be sure everything lays flat and straight. Now is the time to change it before you start quilting.

After I have pinned the entire quilt with safety pins, I will cut off any extra backing or batting that extends 3 - 5" beyond the quilt top. The quilt is heavy and bulky enough without the extra that I don't need. Starting on one side, I tightly roll the quilt toward the center. On the opposite side I will again roll tightly toward the center. The quilt is ready for stitching. I will start quilting in the center and continue to stitch toward the edges.


Serena Smith is an avid embroidery and quilting enthusiast living in Kansas. Creating new projects and sharing them with others through local classes and online lessons is one of her greatest joys. Visit her website, Embroidery Treasures, for fun projects, helpful tips, inspiration, notions, fabrics and embroidery supplies!

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2007 Serena Smith
Embroidery Treasures

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