How to Baste a Quilt with Safety Pins for Machine Quilting

  • 01 of 02

    Pin Basting Techniques for Machine Quilters

    A Pin Basted Quilt Being Quilted
    Quilt Pin Basted and Being Quilted. Quilt and Photo by Rita J. McCart

    Basting with safety pins is a technique used to hold a quilt's top, batting and backing fabric securely in place while it's being machine quilted on a typical sewing machine.


    Pin basting is faster than basting with thread, but not as fast as basting with a fusible product. Like so many other quilting methods, your basting choice often depends on personal preference.


    Machine quilters avoid thread basting because it's too easy for threads to become entangled in the presser foot as you sew, and...MORE basting threads can be difficult to remove if they end up behind machine quilting stitches.


    Choose a Quilting Design


    Choose a quilting design before you baste the quilt with safety pins. If you aren't sure where quilting lines should be sewn, take a look at the work of other quilters. Attend a quilt show in your area or join a quilt guild. Most quilt guilds have show-and-tell sessions at their meetings, which gives you a chance to see how others are quilting their quilts. 


    Quilting magazines and quilting books offer lots of advice about quilting designs. Flip through the pages, looking closely at the designs that are used. Try the local library if your own collection of books and magazines is limited.


    It can be challenging to plan the placement of quilting lines. It sometimes helps to lay the quilt on a flat surface and use a contrasting color of yarn to preview their positions.


    • You could decide to stitch in the ditch, a method that doesn't require marking the quilt or planning the exact placement of stitches -- they're sewn within seam lines. Outline quilting stitches are similar, but are usually sewn 1/4" from the seams.
    • A free motion technique such as meander quilting is another choice that requires no marks.
    • Stipple quilting is very similar to meander quilting, but stitches are sewn more closely to each other.

    Knowing where your stitches will be placed helps you avoid securing the safety pins in the areas that will be quilted most heavily, and that means you won't need to stop and remove basting pins quite as often as you quilt.


    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    How to Pin Baste a Quilt Sandwich

    Safety Pin Assortment
    Safety Pin Assortment. Getty Images

    Safety pins are available in various sizes -- some are larger and thicker than others. Some safety pins made especially for basting have a bend in their center, which makes it easier to bring the pin back up through the three layers of the quilt sandwich.


    Use the size and type of safety pin that works best with your hands and fingers. Small brass safety pins are made from a softer metal than larger pins and are less abrasive. They are my favorite pins, and I've grown accustomed to their small...MORE size. Remember that pins add weight to your quilt, and the larger the quilt, the more weight you'll have to handle.


    I never close my safety pins when I put them away because I don't want to waste time opening them the next time I baste a quilt. Open pins clump together when you lift them out of the container, but are easy to separate from each other.


    Experiment with various types and sizes of basting pins to determine which you like best.


    Pin Basting Tips


    • Start pin basting in or near the center of the quilt. Smooth wrinkles and puckers towards the outer edges of the quilt as you work.
    • Leave basting pins open until you have completed at least a section of the quilt, just in case you change your quilting design. Once you are satisfied with the placement, close all pins in the area and move on to the next. Check the back of the quilt for puckers and tucks before you close the pins.
    • Position basting pins so that they will not get caught up in the presser foot. It's sometimes necessary to remove pins as you work.
    • Protect your fingers with small bandages, placing them where you must apply pressure when manipulating the pins.
    • Pins must be large enough to penetrate all three layers of the quilt and come back up through all three layers.
    • Use the edge of an old credit card, a spoon or a dull knife to help close each pin (and save your fingers).
    • Make sure all of your pins are closed before you begin to sew, otherwise they'll most definitely poke your fingers.

    Pin basting a quilt can be tedious, but it's worth the effort because the technique helps you avoid puckering and bunching on the front and back of a quilt.