Basting. Are you kidding me?

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I’ve never had an aversion to needles. You can see my veins from space, so blood draws on me have always been easy, low-stress affairs for both the phlebotomist and myself. Finger pokes, however, are another story. I hate the finger pokes. Always have, probably always will. They’re not quite so bad now, with the spring-loaded lancets, but back in the day with those nasty, triangular blades? Ouch.

The astute amongst you will have tied this all together by now.

I laid out Mom’s quilt on the hardwood dining room floor, ready to go at it with a will. I figured it would take me two, maybe three hours tops. The quilt is about 70″ x 75″.

Deep breaths, off we go

Deep breaths, off we go

So far, so good

So far, so good

Man, this is taking a long damn time.

Man, this is taking a long damn time.

After an hour

After 30 minutes - one panel covered. Shit.

One point five hours

One point five hours

That’s where I stood at an hour and a half. The charm had utterly worn off. I knew I was in for a long day.

Seeing that, some of you are laughing right now. That’s ok – I forgive you. At some point, I’m certain I will look back at this and laugh. At this moment, however, I want to stab myself in the eye ( one of only a very few places I actually managed not to stab myself today, incidentally. I kid you not – I stabbed myself in the ass. And under my thumbnail. For future reference? I will take a stab in the ass any day over a stab under the thumbnail, holy crap.)

By the fourth hour, I was only halfway done.

I had long ago run out of basting safety pins and was busily stabbing myself in every available finger with a long basting needle.

Damn.

Damn.

I tried being Edward Thimblefingers, but I couldn’t make it work. As soon as I put a thimble on the most-often-stabbed finger on my left hand, or the most-sore-from pushing-the-needle finger on my right hand, my brain said, “Oh – no more sensory information coming from that finger, it must be gone,” and started using another one, and I didn’t even realize half the time, until it was too late. Sew, sew, sew, sew, STAB OW WTF THIMBLE!! I tried thimbles on all fingers – slowed me down desperately, because I couldn’t get any tactile feedback about what I was doing. Blood pressure… rising… sewing meditation… pissing me off… thinking… like Bill Shatner!!!

Another bold new adventure

Another bold new adventure

At least I found a way to use up the nasty polyester thread.

The bumpy start

The bumpy start

I hadn’t done any research – I had no idea how to baste. I started out in running stitches and then realized that was not the best idea – the fabric could easily shift through the stitching. I settled in short order on a zig-zaggy style (which is, apparently, called “herringbone,”) that seemed both secure and efficient. But holy mother… still … so… SLOW. At a table, with television – fine. But contorted in various positions on a slippery hardwood floor? BLARGH!

Meanwhile, also at hour four, one of the kitty-cat-cats decided he had had enough of me not petting him or doing anything he considered useful. He hopped over the dog gates, and strolled onto the quilt top, purring vociferously. Attacking thread tails. Batting at safety pins.

Oh, kitty...

Oh, kitty...

Shedding.

Lounge, shed, repeat

Lounge, shed, repeat

This pin is fascinating

This pin is fascinating

I adore animals, I generally tend to like them better than people. I let him hang out with me right up to the point where he got his claws stuck in the fabric; he was then ejected from the arena.

The hours passed. Slowly. I’d started out with nice, close stitching, like so (thimble included only for size reference – god knows I wasn’t actually using it:)

Hour two-ish

Hour two-ish

But that rapidly degenerated:

Degeneration

Degeneration

Going into hour seven kneeling, squating and sitting on our hardwood floor, all I could think was, “ffs, I could have had the whole bloody thing quilted by now, what the hell?” And then… then the (new when I started) spool of thread ran out. That was it. I’d had it. I ran the last of the thread through the middle of the last three panels and called it good.

Eff it

Eff it

Here’s the kicker, though – I can’t bring myself to un-tape it from the floor. If I’ve just spent the last seven hours turning my neck and back into what feels like granite and my fingers into pincushions only to find a big, giant wrinkle back there?

Well.

This will be the first and last full-sized quilt I ever make.

There has got to be a better way to do this. Either I’m basting way too much, or … I don’t even know what. [EDIT: I was basting way too much.]

It was doubly-unpleasant because there is no television, music or any other distraction in the dining room. I sat on that damn floor for seven hours listening to the wind howl and the rain pour – any other time, fabulous, but not a good distraction whilst one is basting a quilt. At this point, I can’t seem to turn my neck more than a few degrees. I think a hot bath may be in order.

But first…first, I should steel myself and get the basted quilt off the dining room floor, because it’s a main thoroughfare for our house.

Christ.
Wish me luck.

PS: No disasters found. Whew.

PPS: Basting stitches get caught on EVERYTHING one walks past.

PPPS: The Internet is your friend. I wish I’d done some homework and Googled video for “hand-basting a quilt” at 11am this morning, instead of after seven very unpleasant hours. This may just save my butt, in terms of future quilting endeavors.

First, I way over-basted -I have pins or stitches pretty much every inch to two inches, but every 3 to 4 would apparently work for stitches, and every 4-5 for pins. Second, this woman’s board idea is phenomenal. Might not be possible for a king-sized quilt, but I think up to a queen would probably fit on my sewing table, if I took everything else off.

This is a two-part video tutorial.

On top of that, I worked ahead and found Amyalamode‘s seven-part hand-quilting tutorial. It is fabulous. She goes into excellent detail, and the video and dialogue really clear up some questions I had about this style of quilting heretofore. Thank you, Amy!

PPPPS (and at this point, I really should just make a whole new post:) Mike’s comment: “You shouldn’t give this quilt to your mom. It’s too cool.” I love that boy. We’ll see.

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7 responses to Basting. Are you kidding me?


  1. Oh how I feel your pain!
    I have found that the pins are better than thread basting because it’s faster. As for the needles I am an embroiderer so I handle needles very well, never poke myself… unless I am basting a quilt! I had to pull out all the old thimbles I have inherited and never used and I quickly found out I HATE thimbles. I even bought some nifty new kind that didn’t cover the whole tip… they aren’t any better. So I too have decided that I am never going to make a full size quilt again, ever. Plus once you try to get it in your machine so you can quilt the middle… you’ll want to hang yourself! Sorry but I have a feeling YOU can handle the truth! Great Post, I loved it.

  2. Erin

    Thanks for the input, Jennifer! My fingertips are so flipping sore from all the poking, they’re just throbbing. I’m thoroughly, completely, utterly and in all other ways Unamused at this point.

    But! If you go back and look at the post again, I linked a video tutorial at the bottom that may just save the both of us. Or, it may drive me further into a cave. We shall see. 😉

    The throat of my machine is tiny, so I think you’re right about wrangling anything large through it – this one’s going to be hand-quilted, though (ha, cuz I didn’t get enough stabby action with the basting, right?) and if I decide to keep quilting, a larger-throated machine will definitely be in my future.

  3. Joy

    Have you ever considered ‘quilt-as-you-go’!??! The largest piece I ever have to pin now is about 15″ wide. Try it, you might like it :o)!!
    Cheers,
    Joy :o)

  4. Holy crap, that was the GREATEST blog post I have read in a very, very long time. Can’t wait to read more.

  5. Lisa

    OMGosh, LMAO. Wow! I send my bed-sized quilts to a long-armer to do. Talk about cheating, right? I just mail her my quilt top and she tells me how much it will cost for the batting and fabric backing and I write a check. 🙂 And she lives in Michigan! I am very happy with that part. Somehow makes me feel better.

  6. Erin

    Joy – I hadn’t realized that was possible! I Googled it, and it does sound interesting. Thanks so much for that pointer.

    Megan – I love your blog so much, I’m glad to see you here. 🙂

    Lisa – FFS, you should try one!! If only to appreciate not having to in the future. 😉

  7. Pingback: Confounded By Quilting » Blog Archive » Mom’s Quilt Process in Photos & Words

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