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Quilt Basting on My Dining Room Table

pinwheel quilt is basted

Basting is the process of putting your backing, batting and quilt top together. (Quilters refer to this as a quilt sandwich.)

To me, basting is pretty much the most frustrating part of quilting, mainly because I don’t have a great space in which to do it. In the past, I’ve basted my quilts on my den’s floor, but that is noooo fun.

The only big enough space we have that’s not on the floor is our dining room table, and I’ve always been scared I’d scratch it with my safety pins, so I’ve stayed away from that, until now! 🙂

I decided to use my quilting mat to protect the table, I moved the mat around as I pinned to keep from scratching up my table, and it worked pretty well. Not perfectly, but I enjoyed the process much more than when I baste on the floor and I think it did turn out a little better.

Now, this quilt is a small one, I made it for my 5 year old, so the smallish size made it easier. I’m going to try it with a bigger quilt (if I ever get the time to make one again!) and I think it will work, but I’m anticipating it being more challenging because of the size.

So….. Here’s what I did.

(* A Little Disclaimer* I’m NOT saying this is the only way or even the best way to baste a quilt, it’s just what I did. I used what I had and it worked. A professional quilter might roll her eyes, but hey, you gotta do what works, right?)


First, I folded my quilt top in a square so that I could find the center.

center point of quilt

Then I finger pressed the corner so I could find the center when I unfolded it.

finger press mid point of quilt to baste

Then I did the same thing with my batting and backing. (I folded them in squares and finger pressed and/or ironed so I could find the centers when I unfolded.)

I did end up ironing the creases into my backing and batting. The ironed creases are much more noticeable, but finger pressing also worked fine.

(It’s important to match up the centers because then your quilt will be aligned. If all 3 centers are lined up, then your quilt is going to look better, trust me!)

Now get your work space ready. Here’s what I did. Remember that I was working on my dining room table. In a perfect world I would have a huge quilting table to work on that I wouldn’t mind scratching. But even if I could find a table like that, I wouldn’t have anywhere to put it, so I make what I have work for me.

This is what I did. Obviously, you can’t see under all your fabric to make sure you’ve got everything lined up, but you can feel what’s under your fabric. So, I got my quilt mat and taped a screw to it. I know, sounds weird, just keep reading. 🙂

screw to mark center of quilt

Why did I use a screw? (Because it was the best thing I could find in my junk drawer.)

Okay, next, you’ll place your quilt backing, right side facing down on your mat. Find the center point and put it directly on top of your screw. (or your nail, or pin or whatever……it just has to be something with a tip that you can feel through 3 layers of fabric.)

using screw to mark center

See what I mean? You can’t see under that fabric to make sure you have your center lined up correctly, but you can feel under it.

You’re going to put your batting on next and then your quilt top. I don’t have any good way to hold my fabric in place on my table, I can’t use clips because the table is too thick, so I use masking tape to help my keep my fabric from shifting. I place a piece of tape about every 10 inches or so.

masking tape helps hold quilt in place

Tape does not keep your fabric perfectly still. You’ll figure it out as you go, but the best way I know to describe what you’ll do is to say you should very gingerly place your batting on top of your backing and your quilt top on top of your batting. It’s not a quick process, at least not for me. Take your time and keep your fabric from shifting. The tape helps, but it’s not perfect. If you have some way of clipping your fabric to your work space so it can’t move, that would be best.

Anyway, now place your batting on top of your backing. My finger is on the screw. And you can kind of see where I ironed my batting so that I could find the center.

feel screw through fabric

And my quilt top. This time the screw is between my fingers. Having the screw as a guide enabled me to get my layers lined up almost perfectly. The centers of all 3 fabrics were in the same exact place.

can feel screw through all 3 layers of fabric

This is what my quilt sandwich looked like after I laid all the layers on my table, but before I pinned them together.

layers are smooth

I never trim my batting before I make my quilt sandwich. I don’t know if you’re “supposed” to or not. I don’t and it’s always worked out fine. The way I look at it, I’d much rather have too much batting and have to trim when I’m either quilting my quilt or binding it, than take the chance of accidentally trimming too much.

After I’ve got all my layers laid out, I start pinning. I start in the middle and work my way out.

safety pins to baste quilt

I constantly smooth my fabric and check that everything is aligned. And I also expect to have to unpin and repin about 4000 times. That’s just part of it. Unless, of course you have a perfect place to quilt. A big table where you can clip your quilt nice and tight and not have to worry about it moving and the fabric bunching up. Sigh, maybe one day.

I’m smoothing my fabric here…..

constantly smooth fabric

I pin every few inches. Save your fingers and use big safety pins! You can buy safety pins just for quilts, I think they call them basting pins, maybe? I’ve never used them, so I don’t know if they work better or not, but I do know that big safety pins have always worked just fine for me. And remember that I was using my dining room table so I would baste the area where my mat was located and then I’d reach under my quilt and slide it to a new place.

pin about every 6 inches

And here’s my totally basted quilt sandwich. All ready for quilting!

basted quilt

I actually loved basting on my dining room table. Like I said, it wasn’t perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it did work pretty well. Much better than when I baste on the floor. For one thing, my back wasn’t killing me by the time I finished. 🙂 It was also easier to see what I was doing, I could tell if I had wrinkles more easily than when I work on the floor. So, if you’re looking for an alternative to basting on your floor, I would recommend this if you have a big quilt mat. Shifting my mat wasn’t really that big of a deal since by the time I needed to move it, I already had a large area pinned. Just be careful and move slowly, you’ll figure out what works for you.

Good luck!


  1. I love this post. As a beginner myself, I have to improvise – I don’t have a design wall either. I always baste quilts on my living room floor. I have hard wood floors that are pretty old and scratched, so I don’t worry, but I kinda like the idea of basting on my table – I will have to try that next time. Thanks for this!!

    • I always basted on the floor, too. (Our floors are so scratched after 2 boys and 2 dogs it doesn’t matter what we do to them…. they are awful!) But I thought using my dining room table was easier and MUCH more comfortable. It’s kind of a pain sliding your cutting mat around, but other than that, I highly recommend it.


  1. […] far as the width goes. But again, it did work, so all is well. And this is the first quilt that I basted on my dining room table, so if you want to see what I did, you’re welcome to have a […]

  2. […] here’s what I do. After completing the quilt top and making my quilt sandwich, I then baste my quilt. After basting, it’s ready to be […]

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