The first thing you want to do before basting is mark your quilt. It is a lot easier to mark the quilt top before it is put into a sandwich. I'm a huge fan of water soluble markers. They show up great on light colored fabric (it comes out light blue), not so good on dark. It is easy to erase if you make a mistake while you are marking. I usually have a damp wash cloth on hand just in case. Press it against the blue markings and they disappear. I do not recommend the purplish marking pens that 'vanish' on their own. Sometimes they don't vanish and sometimes they vanish too quickly. If you go with that option, always test a swatch first, and be sure you will be quilting immediately on that section. Otherwise all your time marking is for naught.
So you have your quilt marked, and your backing fabric sewn together. Make sure to press the seams open on the backing fabric. To do that, you iron the seam from the back, each piece of fabric to one side instead of both to one side. This helps reduce the bulk during quilting. You don't really want a bulky back seam to show through to the front of the quilt.
Alright, lay your backing fabric pattern side down on a clean floor. Time to break out the masking tape. And now is not the time to skimp and save on Walmart brand tape. I know this because I have done it. You are happily taping all the edges when you suddenly realize the tape is not sticking. You keep pressing it down, and it keeps coming up. Not exactly a joyful start to basting. So go with the good stuff. Nice and sticky. Don't worry, it won't be on for long, so there is no danger of residue on your quilt.
Start by taping each of the corners to the floor. You only need 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch pieces of tape. Then pick a side and put a piece of tape in the middle. Work your way out to the corners, putting a piece of tape every 5 or 6 inches. Do the same for the opposite side. Repeat for the other two sides. As you go along, you can pull just a tiny bit where you place the tape to make sure there aren't any wrinkles. Do not stretch the fabric though. If you pull it too tight, the whole thing will bunch up on itself once you take the tape off. It should look something like the above photo when you are done.
The next step is to put the layer of batting on top of the backing fabric. Doesn't matter which side you use. Then gently center the quilt on top of all the layers. If you have a seam in the backing fabric, now is the time to make sure the top layer is centered over the seam. Start at the center of the quilt and gently smooth it out to the edges so there aren't any wrinkles. Make sure you haven't smoothed it so well that you have distorted the lines. All the seams should line up straight.
Now is the time to start pinning. I've tried my hand at thread basting and it did NOT work for me. Maybe I didn't do it right, the layers constantly shifted around. And it took longer than pin basting. Just make sure you have proper quilt basting pins. You can get them at Joann's or any other sewing supplier. They will not rust (which is really important) and they are curved nicely so they are easier to put in.
First: Put a pin in the center of the quilt. Generally you would make a cross from the center and fill in the quadrants as you go, but this quilt makes it nice and easy.
I also put a few evenly spaced pins on the outer border. If you are a beginning quilter or you have an especially large quilt, you might want to throw a few more pins in for added stability.
Yay! Now you are done. Take the pieces of tape off the edges and you are ready to quilt. Just remove the pins as you go. Good luck!
Special thanks to Carrie P for letting me show you her beautiful quilt. You can see more of her work on her blog: A Passion for Applique.