Spray Basting a Large Quilt

Yesterday was a busy sewing day. For one thing, I finished binding the Over the Moon table runner. This ended up at 16 x 57 inches.

My goal was to get this finished for show and tell at my guild meeting next Monday. Mission accomplished. In the meantime, it's living on my dining room table.

Also, I moved my hoop on the first Hocuspocusville block. And I came to the first pumpkin. The whole piece is done in blackwork, but I'm using orange for the pumpkins.

And now it's hooped ready for the next section.

After that, I was ready to try this new scheme I cooked up for basting large quilts with spray baste rather than rolling them up on boards and thread-basting them. 

My favorite way to sandwich a quilt, hands down, is spray basting. To my mind, the sandwich is very secure, and I don't get ripples and wrinkles on the back as I quilt it. There are several spray baste products on the market, but I like this one.

The cans come in two sizes. I always get the large 10.93 oz can. (Yeah...don't ask me about that odd number.) I get the best price on this from Amazon. It isn't cheap, and you can easily use a whole can to baste one quilt. With that in mind, you'll want to have a spare can on hand if you decide to spray baste a large quilt. Regarding the expense, I figure I'm saving hundreds of dollars by doing this myself, rather than sending it off to a long arm quilter. I feel as if that justifies the cost of the can. And the reason for all of this scheming and gnashing of teeth is written right there at the bottom of the can. If I could spray it inside and not have problems with overspray getting all over everything...or having it explode, which will give you a headache every time...it wouldn't be an issue. But there you go. Sometimes hassle is unavoidable.

So what got me going on this was the arrival of these new industrial clamps. These are Rapps Spring Clamps. They too came from Amazon. A set of five will run you about $17.

I had these two steel clamps. The plastic ones above work better for many reasons. For one thing, they are light weight. For another, that orange plastic piece on the clamps above has a knobby surface that holds the fabric nicely. Finally, they have a stout spring, but not so stout that I can't open them with one hand. The steel ones below...not so much. Those are meant for strong manly men, not little old lady quilters like me. Nevertheless, I used them for today's little basting project.

So I've had my quilt sandwich laid out for several days. Everything has been ironed, and I went through this part of the exercise so that I could cut my batting and back to the right size.

Usually when I spray baste a quilt, it is small enough to fit on my table. I use painter's tape to tape the back to the surface of the table, and then the rest goes fairly easily. I simply take the batting and the quilt top outside where I can safely spray. I always spray the side of the batting that goes against the quilt back. By cutting the batting smaller than the quilt back, it is all covered by the quilt back, and I don't have excess batting with sticky spray baste sticking to everything and leaving sticky residue behind. Then, I spray the back of the quilt top and smooth it down against the batting.

Since this quilt is too large to fit on my table, I'm using the clamps to clamp the edges of the back to the table's edge. I'm starting at the quilt top, and I've used three clamps to clamp the edge of the quilt back to the edge of the table.

By aligning the side of the quilt with the edge of the table, I can also put one clamp there.

Now here's the whole point. You can see how much larger the quilt back is compared to the size of my table. But no problem. 

I'm just going to clamp that to the edge of the table too. Just leave the excess hanging down and clamp that baby to the table's edge. 

Finally, I used three pieces of painter's tape to tape the final side of the quilt to the table's surface the way I would ordinarily.

Now I'm ready to start spraying, but first, I want to check the quilt back and make sure it's nicely smooth and a little bit taut without being stretched.

You'll have to decide the best place for spraying your batting. I've done this different ways. You can fold it in half and hang it from a clothesline. Spray one side and then move to the other side of the fold and spray the other. My preferred way is to lay it flat on our outside patio and spray it there. It's important to use plenty of spray and I usually go around the edges and corners twice since it's easy to miss those areas. Then, I bring it inside and smooth it over my back. 

Like plastic wrap, it will try to stick to itself and you'll have to pull it apart. Don't worry about that. You can move it around and reposition it and it will stay nice and sticky. When you have the portion on the table nicely smooth, you're ready to remove your clamps and tape and then slide it to the side where the excess is hanging. Oh yes, and you'll want to move your cat too.

Simply slide it across the table until the excess is even with the table's edge and than clamp it again. (I had a little problem here that I'm going to modify in just a second.)

On the other end, you'll be clamping the quilt back and batting excess to the table's edge. Just let the extra hang loose.

Reposition your painter's tape on the fourth side.

Now you can smooth the remainder of the batting to the quilt back.

Now you're ready to spray your quilt top and smooth it onto the batting. You won't need to reposition your quilt. It's already positioned, so just start from the side that is positioned on the table top. Here's where I discovered a problem with my method. You'll need to clamp both the quilt back and the batting to the table's edge because the sticky quilt top will pull the batting out of place if you don't. No problem. Just a quick adjustment took care of that.

When you have that side all smooth, unclamp all your clamps, move your tape and slide the quilt across the table so that you can smooth out the other side.

Reclamp, and smooth away.

When you've got it all smoothed out, you'll be ready to flip it over and smooth it from the back side.

In my case, I ended up with my batting just a little too large for the backing once it had been all smoothed out. Obviously, it stretched a little bit in the process. No problem. You can just trim that off so that it's shorter than the quilt back. Just be sure not to use your good scissors on that sticky stuff.

And, for goodness sake, don't cut your quilt back. There we go. Perfect.

Now you're ready to flip it over and give the back a once over. It'll probably have a few rumples and wrinkles in it.

I usually work in quadrants for this part. Just set one hand down on the quilt to hold it in place, and then give the quilt edges a nice firm tug. You'll actually lift the fabric off the batting a little bit, and then smooth it out with your free hand. This is probably the most important part of the whole process. You want to be sure your quilt back is nice and smooth with no "bubbles" or wrinkles.

When you're satisfied, turn it back to the quilt top one more time and do the same thing there. It should be looking pretty good, but there may be a few little wrinkles you'll want to flatten out.

And there you go...one large quilt sandwich, folded up, ready for quilting.

This quilt is 62 x 71 inches. The Doors of Ireland quilt is the only quilt remaining of the four I wanted to sandwich. It is 76 x 76 inches. I'm going to try this same method with it. Hopefully, its larger size won't give me any trouble. While basting the quilt yesterday, I decided I wanted to order another set of clamps. The ones I had seemed the bare minimum that I needed to get the job done, and a larger quilt will probably need more clamps.

It took me about an hour to get this quilt ready for quilting. For me, that's a lot better than rolling it up on boards and thread basting. And to this quilter, the spray baste feels a lot more secure.

So, what do you think? Clear as mud, right?


Teresa in Music City said...

Nice! I am going to have to try it, although my long table is only about 36" wide. I'm thinking I could do it in thirds. I just HATE getting down on the floor!

Sher S. said...

I'm impressed!!! I've never used spray basting. I've always been on my hands and knees on the floor pinning it together as best I could. I don't have a large table like you and my kitchen table is butcher block at 2.5" thick so the clamps would have a hard time of it. I don't plan on making larger quilts anymore. The last one was 110"x 110" and it was a pain in the **** to quilt. Love your table runner, the colors are beautiful.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

I use this method, but pin baste. And like Teresa, I have the long banquet table and do them in thirds - it works.

Linda M @ Pieceful Kingdom said...

I've been using the spring clamps for a couple of years, doing it the same way you do...sometimes spray basting and sometimes pin basting. We bought the clamps at Northern Tool and Harbor Freight Tools, and I believe my husband picked some up for me at Home Depot last year for Christmas. Odd, the things I ask for Christmas...

Lynn - JnL4God said...

Hi Barbara - So If I read right you don't spray your back - you spray one side of the batting and that goes on the backing, then you spray the back of the Top and it goes on the non sticky side of the batting. right?
And I love the idea of taking it out an spraying and then bringing in. I haven't sprayed for about a year because of space but using this method and taking one piece at a time outside, I may be able to. Thanks

gayle said...

I've never tried this, so thank you for a very thorough explanation.
Though given my experiences with adhesive substances, I probably shouldn't be trusted with a can of spray glue. I'd end up wrapped up like a mummy and stuck to the wall...

Debbie said...

Good tutorial! I use the pinning rather than spray, and work in thirds for large ones. The Harbor Freight clamps work great and were gifts from hubby.

Vicki said...

I completely agree about spray basting. I open the garage door and set up a large surface in the garage using two 8' x 4' masonite boards on sawhorses to construct an 8' x 8' table. I tape the backing to the table right side down, spray the backing, lay the batting on top, spray the batting and lay the top. I'll gently smooth over the quilt to make sure the spray sticks everywhere, but I have never had any wrinkles to smooth out because I'm careful when I tape down the backing. Sometimes I baste two or three quilts at a time.

Instead of hours of arduous pinning, it takes an hour or so to spray baste. My knees and back are grateful! I love how it's so easy to peel back and reposition the quilt. No down side as far as I can see!

Betty said...

Great information here! Making the quilt sandwich is my least favorite part of the quilt making process. I like spray basting also. I don't have a good area for doing it outdoors, so I live on the wild side and use my dining table. I cover the table with a big piece of heavy cardboard and cover the floor with old towels to protect from over-spray. Then I open a window for ventilation and try not to breath too deeply while I spray. Not the best idea, I know, but I rarely do large quilts so it doesn't take long. Removing the cat is always a part of the process! ^-^

Kate said...

Great solution to your quilt sandwiching problem. Looks like Smitty got in there and added his stamp of approval.

quiltzyx said...

I have used spray baste, but so far only in a class. I don't really have an outdoor space to do the spraying in - dang, another reason to live someplace with a garage! Oh well.

Kirsty said...

Clamps...oooh, I feel I may need some of those. It would be wrong not to have them...

quiltingbonnie said...

You made it look so easy. Thanks