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Saving the planet with pins?

Updated: Feb 10

This month's blog looks at why I use pins for basting my quilts.

First of all let's deal with the term 'basting' because in sewing terms it doesn't mean the same as it does in the world of turkeys! It is the technique used to temporarily hold layers of fabric together.


When making a quilt you end up with three layers - your topper (the bit you have spent ages piecing together), the wadding (sometimes known as batting) which is the warm filling bit and the bottom fabric which becomes the back of your quilt.

Here you can see the three layers and why they call it a quilt sandwich - but I'm worried about losing you to the fridge with all these food references.


With so many layers we need to ensure that they all remain flat and wrinkle free ready for the quilting process. If we took this to the sewing machine it wouldn't stay in place. By ironing the layers you do get a little adhesion but not enough. So therefore we baste.


There are a number of options for 'basting a quilt' - You can go down the quick route with wadding that has an iron on adhesive surface so it just sticks in place when heat is applied or you can spray baste with an aerosol glue. Then there is the S-L-O-W method using pins or hand sewing large basting stitches. All of these will temporarily hold your quilt sandwich together until it has been quilted so it is just a matter of preference as to which you opt for. And me? I'm pins all the way!

They are not dressmaking pins or even your regular kind of safety pins, although the latter can be used. These have a little kink in them to make it easier to descend the layers and pop out the other side without disturbing the quilt too much. I have a cutting mat surface on my table which makes it easier to jab those pins through, although I have been known to pin a quilt to the ironing surface of the cutting table when the mats are not in place!


The pins can get really tangled in their box and difficult to access quickly as I whiz along so I have a dedicated Pindog, the Guardian of the pins, a canine version of a porcupine if you like, who keeps them ready for action.

I will have worked out the design that I am quilting beforehand so I know roughly where to place the pins so they don't get in the way of my sewing. However, I still remove them as I stitch, returning them to my faithful Pindog who remains by my side.


So why do I choose this method over the faster route?

  • Well pins are reusable, once they are bought you have no additional costs. The adhesive wadding and spray adhesive are expensive, in fact a can of spray costs more than a pack of pins, and it's a cost that you incur repeatedly.

  • Plus those cans have to be produced and their plastic lids, then when empty they need recycling where possible or end up in landfill.

  • Pins have no residue. The spray is sticky, very sticky, it has to be it's glue! It's messy so be careful not to get it elsewhere and if you overspray it stains the fabric.

  • Pins are not flammable. However, the aerosol is so care needs to taken when using it. It is recommended to use it outdoors...yeah right, it's tipping down here today!

  • There are no fumes with pins. Now although the spray is not toxic, it can aggravate lungs so spraying has to be done in a well ventilated room.

The quilts I create are precious keepsakes. Very often they are made using treasured fabrics with sentimental meaning so it is important to me that I do everything possible to treat them with respect. They are not produced in a factory style environment where speed is of the essence. They are crafted by an artisan who loves every stage of the process and cherishes the traditional methods and skills, this take time but it is time well spent.


So yes I will be sticking with my pins!


Let me know your thoughts and join me again next month, Joanna x