When it comes to layering and basting a quilt together to prepare it for machine quilting, there are several ways to approach the task. I've used different techniques including spray basting, pinning to the floor, etc., but my standard method is using an oblong table. This procedure is explained and illustrated further in Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting--4th Ed.
The first step in putting it all together is to turn your quilt top over and clip all the loose threads from the back, making sure your seam lines are pressed to one side or open, with no flipped seams that will add bulk. If you plan to stitch-in-the-ditch, always press seams to one side in the piecing process. Press both sides of the top and use a bit of spray starch if desired. If your backing fabric has a seam, press it open and starch the entire backing for smooth quilting.
Mark the center edge of the two short sides of the table with either a toothpick, safety pin, or button; tape over the top. Fold the backing fabric and mark the center edge with a safety pin. With the fabric wrong side up, lay the backing down on the table, matching the safety pin to the toothpick on the table.
Use large office clips to secure the backing fabric to the table top. The fabric should be taut but not stretched off grain.
Use as many clips as necessary to secure the backing fabric to the table top. Smooth out any wrinkles and re-clip if you see any waves in the fabric. The center clip on both ends of the table should clamp over the toothpick.
Fold the batting to find the center and lay it over the backing, matching the center fold with the tootpick (you can't see it but you can feel it). Smooth out the batting over the clamped backing.
Put the top over the batting, matching the centers. It's a good idea to cut your batting piece about 2-4" larger than the quilt top--this is a bit close here so be careful to give yourself what you need.
Be sure your pins don't get in the way of your quilting foot. My quilting plan is to first stitch-in-the-ditch through all the horizontal and vertical seams; next I will free motion a continuous curve through the rose colored triangles (this could actually be accomplished with a walking foot because of the slight curve and it can also help get over any bulky seams where the triangles meet). Therefore, I pinned the aqua and light green triangles so it will hold secure and my walking foot or free motion foot will clear the pins.
Begin pinning from the center out. Once you have pinned everything on the surface, unclamp the backing. Smooth out one side and pin out to the border; repeat with the other three sides. After stitching-in-the-ditch and forming a grid of stitch lines your quilt is now anchored. If necessary, some of the pins can be removed without worry of shifting the layers.
Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs