Hand Quilt Along: It’s Basted!


Have you ever wanted something real bad and then, when you get it, all you can do is sit and grin at it?

I’ve been grinning at my basted quilt for a week now!

And every once in awhile, I feel that grinning doesn’t quite capture my joy so I break out in a little song and dance, “It’s done! It’s done!”

Of course, the quilt itself is far from done but the basting is finished and, for now, that’s all I need to know.

The day came when I had to tackle this job. I felt some pressure, both because I couldn’t face coming back to you and admitting I hadn’t done it yet again and because the only table I can use for basting is on our glassed-in, unheated porch . . . and frigid temperatures were coming.

So, on a day when the high was going to be in the upper-40s, balmy for December in upstate New York, I shifted myself into gear.

I fired up the space heater and aimed it at the big table.

I reviewed the YouTube video by Sharon Schamber, my quilt basting hero, to be sure I remembered her technique.

I got my wood boards and my big needle and my thread, thimble, and finger cot.

I closed the door so the cats couldn’t come help.

I tuned Pandora, on my iPhone, to my favorite Chad Mitchell Trio station. I hummed along to good old folk music and sea shanties and I stitched together the three layers of my quilt.

The actual stitching, once I was set up, took just about 2 hours, including folding over the edges and basting down a sort of loose hem, to keep the edges from fraying and coming undone.

I have raved about this Schamber approach to basting in previous posts and, really, I love it. I have used it on several full-sized quilts now and I can say it really, really makes a tedious job so much less onerous.

Is basting fun? No. Nay. Never.

But with this method, of wrapping the layers of the quilt top and backing around long pieces of wood (I used 1 inch x 4 inch pieces that are longer than my quilt was wide), it is possible to manage a lot of floppy fabric and wrestle it onto a tidy, secure bundle without crawling on the floor or opening and closing dozens of safety pins.

What was three unwieldy separate pieces of textile—the pieced top, the fabric backing, and the batting—is now a unit. The three layers are firmly held together and will not shift and cause problems down the road.

When I was done, I folded the tidy bundle up and it has been sitting ever since, waiting for the busyness of Christmas to pass before I begin the hand quilting.


This will be my post-Christmas treat—quiet hours, sitting at my hoop, putting in the prim little stitches. The cold, blue light of winter will stream through the glass door next to my chair but I’ll be warmed by the quilt over my lap and the lovely, familiar, soothing process of quilting by hand.

This is my third installment in this Hand Quilt Along. If you are bereft to have missed the first two, you can go back and visit post one and post two.

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.
Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan, Jessisca,  SherryNanette, Sassy and Edith

83 thoughts on “Hand Quilt Along: It’s Basted!

  1. The “prep work” often seems more arduous than the task which we actually set out to accomplish. Enjoy those cold days of winter ahead (assuming we are not outside weeding in January, again, this year!) – Oscar

  2. Congrats on getting a major step done. It does look so tidy and flat, just as you need for hand-quilting to commence. I’ve only hand-quilted one piece. It was not large, so basting it wasn’t a terrible process. I did use pins. But I think for a next piece, I would go ahead and use the longarm for basting.

    I’ll enjoy picturing you at your hoop, needle in hand, finishing the process of bringing this quilt to life.

    • I paid to have one quilt basted on the long arm–it worked fine but I hated paying for something I could do. I don’t like pins because they can get hung up on my big hoop and rip the fabric. My current method makes me happiest!

    • Thanks, Kathy! I agree that this particular quilt top deserves to be hand quilted and I’m look forward to getting started. Not sure how I’m going to handle the blocks with the embroidery though . . .

  3. Good thing you got it done…I think those balmy days are a thing of the past for a while now. It was 6 degrees here this morning!

  4. I can so understand your delight at having the basting accomplished. That is such a huge task and getting it right determines how the quilting will go. I’ve said before how much I like the quilt top and am looking forward to seeing it complete. That will be no easy task either. That is the part you should take your time with and enjoy each stitch. It will be done when it’s done. 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. Enjoy.

    • I’ve learned, the hard way, that rushing the basting process is the road to heartache! I had to unpick hours worth of hand quilting once because of crappy basting and I’m always very careful now! Thanks for sharing my glee, Marlene–have a wonderful holiday!

  5. Oh I understand the reasons for not quite wanting to begin the onerous part of the job – and then the relief on finding that once underway the onerous part is soon over and was actually not so very hard to get done after all. And then, just like in actual childbirth, all discomfort is swept away when the beauty of your labour lies revealed in all it’s unfinished perfection……. Happy dance indeed!! I do love the thought of you tending and nurturing your quilt over the coming weeks and months making those tiny hand stitches. No wonder these quilts are so precious all the care and love that goes into them is truly amazing. You made me very happy this morning Kerry, thank you! xoxo

    • It seems weird to put in all these careful basting stitches . . . just to cut them out when the “real” stitches go in. But quilting is like that–you buy yards of fabric, then cut it up, only to sew it back together again. We’ve come a long way (and I’m not sure I’d call it progress) from our foremothers using scraps of old fabric to extend its usefulness. But, yes, I think quilt is worth it! Thanks for being such a cheerleader for all of us and our endeavors, Pauline, even as you’ve gone through your own upheavals lately!

  6. I love this quilt. It’s been a pleasure peaking in your progress, learning about hand-basting, and reading your beautiful words. You have a gift with words, weaving, quilting, seemingly all you touch. Thanks for sharing, Kerry. As Pauline says, above, this makes me happy. xo

    • I’ve gotten a lot of blog mileage out of this one quilt, haven’t I?! And more to come! I had put it away for awhile and I’m glad to be back at it, and still loving it! Your reactions are always so affirming and kind, Alys–thank you!

  7. I’m sure your knees are thanking you for using Sharon’s method. Truly, the anticipatory dread of a task can be worse than the task itself. Glad you were granted a warm enough day to baste, and hope snuggling with your stitching is pleasurable.

    • Oh, my knees. My poor old, creaky knees. I’m not sure I could do that floor basting now if I wanted to. And you’re right–the dread far outreached the actual task. I do that to myself ALL the time!

  8. Well, your stunning quilt will be a nice winter project. I have to say that your description, involving poles, makes me glad that when someone says bating, I think of some sort of baking meat. I have yet to settle to winter projects with felt yet. But I will in the new year. I’m glad this hard job is done and you’re off to the races (so to speak. Merry Christmas!

    • it seems like there are chores involved with all the crafts I love–stages that I just need to force myself through, in order to do the parts I like. And basting is definitely in that category. Do you find that with your felt work or is it all fun?

  9. I can feel your satisfaction radiating out of this post! And the sweet anticipation of cozy winter hours of handquilting ahead.
    On a completely different subject, I brought home a pile of old stained linen from Florida and soaked them in Oxyclean according to your linen-cleaning recommendations. They came out absolutely beautifully. Thank you.
    And finally, are you taking any Vavstuga courses this year? Have you heard any feedback on the flax to linen class? I wanted to take it but have to take the Basics class first. Unfortunately, all of the Basics classes for 2018 are already full, so I’m on the waiting list.

    • I’m so glad your linens came clean! And, really, if the Oxyclean doesn’t do it, the Cascade powder and Biz combo is amazing!

      I haven’t made any plans for Vavstuga this year, although I’d really love to take the Saga and Fluff session after Thanksgiving–all kinds of cool techniques, including krokbragd. I’ve been lazy about planning. I haven’t heard much about the linen course but I did see the spot where they’re growing the flax at the farmhouse. I wonder, though, whether you need the course–you’ve already done so much yourself? The Basics course was amazing–when I went almost everyone there had already been weaving for years and we learned so much more! I hope you get into a waitlist spot–I hear there’s a good deal of movement on those lists.

      • Oh, there’s so much for me to learn about spinning flax and weaving with linen. I would love to be around people who have an interest in it. I have met some people in Maine interested flax production, but most are almost as much in the dark as I am. I have been winging it all the way through. I have no idea if the flax I raised and processed is good quality or not and really don’t know if I’m spinning it properly. And then weaving homespun linen is a whole new world! I would welcome every bit of knowledge that I could gather. Let’s hope that I get a spot in the Basics course. How did you like the counterbalance looms that you used at Vavstuga?

        • Okay–you convinced me that you should take the linens class at Vavstuga! And, you’re right–it’s inevitable that you’d learn so much! I liked a lot about the counterbalance and countermarche looms we used, even though I’m unlikely to ever get one for my own. I like the big shed and the hanging beater and I like the tie-up approach. But they are SO big! Even the small ones! And we’ve happened across so many very good, very reasonable jack looms . . . and I am so comfortable with dressing the jack looms at tis point, I think that’s the direction I’m committed to.

  10. I’ve been wanting to sew a red and white quilt for a while now. Red and white look so crisp together. I live near a quilt shop that offers long arm basting and wondered how well this type of basting held up? Again, you’ve another quilt well done. 😀 Can’t wait to see what it looks like after it is quilted. Merry Holidays! ~ Joanne

    • My two most recent quilts have been red and white and I’ve loved doing both! I only ever had one quilt basted on a long arm machine and it was a *long* time ago. I can’t say i was thrilled with it–it didn’t hold the layers firmly and seemed “floppy,” so I had layers shifting in ways they shouldn’t. But, really, that was very likely user error on the part of the person using the machine. I’d ask a lot of questions at your quilt shop and maybe get a referral, to talk to someone who’s actually had a quilt basted that way.

  11. Do you keep track of the hours of work you put into your quilt? And how did you decide on which quotes to use? Nice to see how it comes together through your blog, and get a peek behind the scenes!

    • OMG–no! It would be depressing to know how many hours! Lots . . .
      I chose the quotes because the quilt started as part of a theme my guild was doing around the US women’s suffrage movement (gaining the right to vote). I wanted words involved in my quilt and decided to go beyond voting rights to the more general topic of women’s rights. Then i just picked the ones I liked best!

    • Thanks, Andrea–I like what I’ve done so far with the quilt, which is very motivating for the next stage. Plus I just really enjoy the process so it’ll be a nice, soothing way to ride out the winter.

  12. I am so pleased you have done that basting! Isn’t wonderful that there are innovative people out there who have labour saving ideas and are willing to share them! The quilt is so elegant and the colours are crisp and lovely. I so look forward to seeing it finished! Merry Christmas to you and yours and a very Happy New Year!

  13. There are many aspects of different crafts that are a complete pain. Knitting a swatch before you can start the main item is my equivalent of your basting, I think – such a nuisance to do, but you know in your heart it will be worth it, and it always is. Looking forward to the next instalment of your quilt story! And in the meantime, I send you and yours all the very best for Christmas and 2018. 🙂 x

    • Weavers are supposed to sample, too–dress the loom with a mini-version of the planned project. I have to admit I don’t do this . . . and have paid the price a couple times! Have a wonderful, perfect holiday season, Liz!

  14. Good for you! There is nothing fun about basting….and as you read, my quilt is only pin basted it and it’s not good. I am sure that I will quilt a fold in the back… I jsut discovered (duh) that I can machine baste with my Sweet 16, so I will try that next time.

    • I’ve had those folds in the back–the worst (except a fold in the front!)! I paid to have one quilt machine basted on a long arm but I still didn’t really like it–it seemed like the layers shifted even during that process. I hope it works out for you!

  15. Hello Kerry, Happy New Year. I’m doing a month of catch-up reading of your blog. Certain pleasures had to drop just before Christmas and reading your blog was one of them.

    I love your wise women quote quilt – the power of the red – incredible. I even let myself watch the quilt basting video. Some day in the next decade, I think I’ll make a quilt, I’ve told you as much a few months ago. A tiny one for a doll or baby, I imagine. And I’ll remember the board trick – it’s brilliant.

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