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Pin basting vs glue basting? That's the burning question in this post. So, let's just get right down to business. (read more)
In my short time as a quilter I have only ever pin basted my material. If you're not sure what that means, I'll go ahead and provide a brief explanation so we're all on the same page.
Basting is what you do to keep two pieces of material lined up as you intended while you sew through them to make them one unit. Generally, you're going to need to temporarily attach them somehow so the material doesn't get pulled, puckered, or bunched as it goes under your sewing foot.
If you don't baste, you run the risk of edges not lining up, material getting stretched or squished, and generally just having a wonky outcome, which will make final quilting and squaring so much harder.
Ultimately, if you're sewing sub-par sections together to make a quilt, you're going to have a harder time overall, and the quilt isn't going to look as good as it could.
So, while basting of any sort takes time, it's a very necessary evil.
As I said, I've only ever basted one way, with fine shaft, glass head pins. I place my material one on top of the other, right sides together and line up the edges. Then I pin through the material so it's pierced twice and the material is secure, like so:
Pretend the material above isn't already sewn together. I took the picture as an afterthought, so use your imagination.
As you can see, it's basted, held in place by the pins. Here's a side shot:
My material is lined up just like I want it, and now I can sew it together without worrying that it'll spread out or move around, ruining the start of my block.
But, this method takes time. You have to pin each bit of material twice, and that's just on this 1 1/2" section. If I had a 6" section to pin, I'd probably put four pins it, one on each corner, and two in the middle, just to be really secure.
Then I'd sew it, clip the extra thread, remove the pins, (you can remove them before you sew, and you probably should, but since my pins are so fine, I don't bother with it), and finally press the seam to one side so I can easily nest it with another block later on.
When you're doing a quilt with small pieces, basting can take a TON of time.
So, what if there were an easier way?
That's what I decided to find out.
I'd read about glue basting awhile back when I was looking for new ways to baste my entire quilt top before quilting it. I wanted a way to attach the top, batting and backing together so I could have it stay together while I quilted. Any movement during quilting can really make the material bunch and pucker, so the better you baste it, the better your outcome.
The idea behind glue basting is that you take your two pieces of material, add a small line of glue to the top of one piece, turn the other piece face front onto the glued piece and then give it a quick press with the iron to seal the deal.
I had 160 squares to baste, so I decided to pin baste some and glue baste the others, then report my findings. I even went so far as to time my progress, so I'll show you a picture of that later on.
Time to get started.
First, the glue basting. Add a small line of glue to the area where you plan to sew. Leave a little space at the top and sides so the glue doesn't run out when you press it.
Lay one on square on top of the other and press lightly with your fingers. You can see where I've joined the material:
My pieces are lined up, right sides together, so close that it looks like a single square:
Now, we iron. Just a quick press, two or three seconds then lift:
The glued block does feel like it wants to stick a bit to the ironing mat, but it comes up easily and I did not notice any residue on my iron, which was a concern.
My seam is set, pulling on it doesn't budge the material. While I feel like I could get the two apart if I tried really hard, it would be impossible to accidentally separate them or misalign them before sewing.
I was concerned about the needle of my machine getting stuck to the glue or having residue build up, but apparently heating the glue with the iron is enough to eliminate that problem. My needle moved through smoothly, giving me no more resistance than if I'd simply pinned the material together.
I decided to do five of each style to see if I could tell which was easier and/or faster.
Here's what I found.
Don't make me math here, but what's the difference, a 10th of a second, am I reading that right? Whatever it is, it's darn close, I mean so close that the difference is absolutely negligible.
But wait, there's more.
What I did for each of these sets of five was glue/pin, iron/not iron, sew, and set aside.
What I still had to do on the pin basted squares was go through and remove the pins. It didn't take much time, maybe 20 seconds, but still, it was a step I didn't have to do with glue basting.
That said, I have pins for days, I can reuse them over and over. If I continue to glue baste, I will most certainly have to purchase more glue.
Also, it would be impossible to glue baste very large sections (I think), so you would need pins for basting your long block sections together when you begin assembling your finished quilt.
So let's go over the pros and cons, as I see them:
PRO - Reusable pins
PRO - Necessary for final assembly
CON - I noticed more bunching with the pin basting. This could be because I leave the pins in, but overall the material feels much less secure with pin basting.
CON - Pins in general can be a pain, I poke myself, drop them on the floor, step on them later, sometimes hit one dead on with my sewing needle (bending the pin), etc.
PRO - Simple and very tidy
PRO - I could see exactly what my seam was going to look like as soon as I glued the material together.
PRO - The material did NOT move as I sewed it, not even a tiny bit.
CON - The glue is not reusable, you will have to continually purchase more.
CON - I don't think glue basting a long section of blocks would work out well, but I do plan to try it and update this post
I believe another concern with glue basting might be the end result. When you glue the cloth together, the seam is quite hard. I haven't glue basted an entire quilt, but I do believe it would give the quilt a "crunchy" feeling until you washed it. So, if you're making a utility quilt (one you plan on using or giving to someone who will use it) that can be washed, this would be taken care of on the initial wash, since the glue is just school glue and will wash away.
If you're making a quilt for a show, I don't know how important those crisp seams would be or if they'd be a drawback. I've never made a show quilt, but I do know that they don't get washed, so this might be something to consider. However, they also don't get used, so maybe the crisp seams would be a benefit, rather than a deterrent.
All in all, I will continue to glue baste, I liked it that much. After I finished doing five each so I could time them, I finished out my remaining 70 pairs with glue basting.
I think I'm a convert, and I'd love to see if I could glue baste this way when putting the finished top, batting and backing together. I'll have to think about that, but if I do it, you'll be the second to know.
How do you baste? Glue, Pin? Another method? Let me know in the comments.
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About The Author
I started quilting in June of 2018 after attending a quilt show in support of my
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