Food analogies come naturally to me...must be time for lunch! Basting is a term most folks associate with turkey--not today. When quilting, whether by hand or machine, I fall back on thread-basting. For me, it's the best way to ensure that all the layers of the quilt "sandwich" stay together and exactly where I want them. Basting thread is white and thus won't impart any color to fabrics as it is pulled through. Plus it's thin and when the job's done, basting thread is easy to break and pull out.
If you're a cook (still with the food thing-) thread-basting can be likened to beating cake batter: you can only rarely baste (beat) too much but you can easily not baste (beat) enough. No more lumpy quilts or cakes! Don't skimp on basting even though the process is boring. Just crank up the radio and put your brain in neutral.
When basting a quilt, the easiest method is to tape the smooth and ironed backing to table(s). Obviously, if it's a large quilt, you're going to have to shove several tables together. You can crawl around on the floor at home to baste but fortunately last Saturday I didn't even have to do that. My friend Patti, who owns ALB Fabrics, cleared her workroom and we basted my latest quilt on her tables.
First down was the blue painter's tape that holds the backing nice and taut. Next the right size batting, cut to size and smoothed over the backing.
Followed by the quilt top, first pinned and then basted by hand using thread and needle. Finally, pins can come out and now there's a lovely soft sandwich that's much easier to handle.
After basting, the batting is trimmed to size.
We both worked at the job but used different needles.My faves are shown left. Patti preferred an enormous needle, well, more of a spike let's say.
See the comparison photo here. My #7 Long Darner needle is about 2 1/2" long while Patti's choice, a Doll-making needle, is at least 5"!
To misquote Crocodile Dundee: "Now that's a needle!"
Both of these basting needles are available from Colonial Needle Company mail order www.colonialneedle.com but as always check first with your local fabric store.