En Provence Mystery Quilt

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Elmers Glue Quilt Basting Tutorial

A loooong time ago I became increasingly frustrated with all the ways that existed to baste my larger quilts.

I tried pin basting and oh my aching back, not to mention I always, without fail, would have a pucker on the back of my quilt when I had finished quilting.

I tried spray basting, certainly better than pin basting but still that dreaded pucker...and I would get a headache spraying those chemicals for a large quilt.

I am one of those people that loves quilting my own quilts on my domestic sewing machine...as we all know though, that requires a lot of moving and handling of the basted layers.  I twiddled my thumbs, obsessed, finally had a light bulb go off in my head....ELMERS Glue!  I knew you could use it for different aspects of quilting.. I had seen others on the Internet who used it for their binding, for making sure their points matched.  I always had Elmers Glue on hand, since I am a mother of four.

I researched and I found a blog that uses it, however; she chose to mix her glue with water or alcohol..I said to myself lets just try it as is.

There started my love affair with Elmers glue basting.  Now, this is not a perfect technique either... It has it's pro's and con's.  You have to wash your quilt when you are done, so if this is one that is a wall hanging and is too delicate to be washed, I would not recommend glue. A very important consideration is that it may not work with all fabrics, so make a test block if you are unsure!   It also does require some squeezing on your part.. Keeping the glue upside down in a cup helps and so does keeping the tip of the glue bottle unplugged with a needle.  I also wait to quilt my newly basted quilt, just to be sure it is totally dry.  I have had others tell me they had issue with not being able to get the glue everywhere it needs to be?    The last and probably most important con to this technique:  the glue itself!  If Elmers ever changes it's formulation I cannot guarantee this will work.  Wouldn't it be horrible to not be able to remove the glue?  With that consideration in mind I plan on making a small (12x12) glued sandwich, using the same fabric backing as my quilt, I will practice my quilting on that and then wash it before I start basting the whole quilt...just to be sure.

For positives, I have never, not once had a pucker since I used this method.  Not once have I not liked the results when I was done.  It takes me a fraction of the time and quilting through the layers has never been an issue for me.  It is also incredibly inexpensive.

Now theoretically I can see how it could be an issue for your machine if you over glue...not something I have ever encountered.  I am pretty sure I have used this method for at least 20 quilts, though I didn't keep count.

I think it's worth noting I usually use 80/20 batting or cotton batting but it should work with any washable, dry-able batting.  I am leery of 100% poly batting because if your iron touches it directly, it will melt, however; a friend of mine uses it frequently and loves this method with it..

1.  To start you have to have a table.  I do recommend the biggest you can find, however; I have done king size quilts on my table without issue, it just takes more maneuvering.

This table fits a baby quilt or small lap quilt
beautifully, anything bigger and I have to adapt.

2.  Get all your materials together:

tape/large clips/clamps
pins (for marking middle, sides, etc.)
pressed quilt top and backing
Iron set on cotton setting or even lower if your iron is ultra hot!

I cannot stress enough how important it is to use ELMERS Washable, No Run, white, old fashioned School glue.  

I almost made the mistake of using the wrong kind of glue once and that would be a disaster.  Elmer's makes multiple different kinds, one in particular states it washes out when wet but is set when dry, now that would be bad!!!!

Once all materials are together and organized:

3.  I place my batting on the table, smooth out wrinkles and usually use clamps to secure it down.  This just helps me so that it is not moving while I am pressing.  In the past I have used tape and I know others that have large clamps that fit on the table.

4.  I put my top on the batting to be sure it fits and center it by eyeballing it.  If it is a large quilt, I will walk around and reach down and make sure that I have enough batting under my quilt top because it will be hanging off the table.

5.  I fold back half of the quilt top.

6.  And lightly glue a stream of glue on the part that is on the batting, on the table.  Perfection is not required at this point.  If you are over zealous with your squeezing than take the tip of the glue bottle and spread the glue around.  What you don't want is puddles, just thin streams.  Usually I use the rule of, how closely would I pin this if I was pin basting?,  to know how closely to apply my streams of glue.

7.  Important note:  I always heat my iron to cotton setting, however; if you have a super hot iron, turn it down... You are trying to dry the glue, not burn your quilt top or table top.  Also DO NOT USE STEAM! I would assume steam could hurt the finish on your table.  Use discretion here.

I fold the half I just glued back on the batting and press out all the wrinkles, making sure to not stretch out my quilt top (just like regular basting).  I then start pressing from the middle to the edge.  I do a nice slow, even pressure.  I've found I don't have to be real careful.  You do have to set all the glue you have put on your quilt top though.

*Sometimes this requires multiple iron passes on the fabric.

8.  Check the corners and sides after you have done this, if they wont pull up you can tell the glue is dry.

9.  Proceed to fold back the half not glued and not pressed.

 10.  Proceed to glue the folded over part as instructed before.
11.  Fold back glued area.  Use your hand to straighten the quilt top.  Press from the middle of the quilt out, being sure not to press in any wrinkles.  Make sure it is straight and true with the other half.
(note:  if you have a larger quilt top, your job is not done.  You would unclamp and move the remaining areas that have not been basted to the top of the table, I usually do a side and top and then the other side and top.  Working from the basted area out so that you don't box yourself in.  You do this until the whole quilt top is basted and wrinkle free.  This quilt obviously fits on my table so I took a picture of a different quilt top that is larger.  I pulled down and then folded back the portions that are not basted.  I would put glue on the folded over area and then press from the basted areas out to the edge.  When I had this section done I would move the whole quilt top and batting to get any other areas.

12.  At this point I will often mark the sides, the middle of the top.  I will often trim the backing so that it is just a couple of inches away from the top.  If  you have a pieced back this is critical if you want it to be centered.

 13.  At this point I unclamp the top and batting, flip it over, center it on the table, and reclamp it.

As you can see in the picture, I circled my pin (so you could see it), showing through from the front.  I use this as my reference as to the positioning of the top.

14.  I put my backing on top of the batting.

I smooth out any wrinkles and position the middle and corners where I want them.

15.  I proceed in the same exact method as I did for the quilt top.  I fold back half, glue, fold back, hand press down, then use the iron to press from the middle out.

I then do the other half.  (I did not include pictures since it is exactly the same as the top) see # 5 - #11.

 16.  Test your corners and sides as you go.
 17.  When it is done, flip it over, you should not be able to move/pull any of the fabric. This whole process (including photographing), took about an hour.
I usually wait one day to quilt, just because I am paranoid.  This way I ensure that there are absolutely no tacky areas.  It sits next to my machine, patiently waiting.

With this method you should have absolutely no issues with your quilt sandwich shifting or with puckers on the back.   The only way you will have puckers if you put them in while pressing.

Note:  I have had multiple people express concern that their table would not be able to handle the heat of the iron.  If you are concerned and do not want to try this method on your expensive table I have two suggestions.  1.  If you have room, buy a cheap second hand square/rectangle table to do this on or 2.  Don't do it.  I personally can not be held responsible for all the variables that exist regarding this or any method.  I can only report what works for me.  It's up to you to decide if you want to try this.  If you do try this I would suggest starting with a small item to practice with, then decide if you like it or not.  My sincere desire is that is makes your quilting life easier not that it cause additional stress.

Happy Quilting!


  1. Oh Sara this is Wonderful! I love your method of glue basting! Now I have a place to refer back to everytime I start to baste a new Quilt! Thank you Thank you! Great tutorial!

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this great idea. I quilt as you go, and this method is a God send for me. I am making three quilts for three greatgrands. I tried this yesterday on the corner squares, WOW, how simple and easy. Once again, appreciate you sharing.

  4. Sarah, thanks so much for the great idea & good instructions! I have a question: What do you do about your table top being affected by the heat of the iron? I am afraid I would damage the finish. Do you use something to protect it? Thanks for any suggestions.

  5. Sarah, thanks so much for the great idea & good instructions! I have a question: What do you do about your table top being affected by the heat of the iron? I am afraid I would damage the finish. Do you use something to protect it? Thanks for any suggestions.

  6. I once ruined a table basting a quilt using fusible batting (which required steam). I would not use even a dry iron on a cotton setting on a nice table. Find another table, or only use one that you don't care if it gets ruined!

  7. Wow, this seems to be quite amazing. Doing the sandwich is sometimes the hardest part.
    Will definitely give this a try. Thanks for the info.

  8. I can see why you stated to avoid "puddling" I actually broke a needle on a hard spot....I do love this method I have tried them all! Next to the tedious thread and needle basting this is the easiest, I wished I had Ironed after smoothing the fabric.

  9. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I have glue basted two quilts using this method and, with your tips, it went even better this time. My tip is to hold the glue fairly high over the quilt top or backing, as much as 10-12 inches. This way, the glue comes out in a more narrow stream and you can sweep your hand back and forth across the quilt and get fewer "puddles" of glue. I also followed another blog's tips and used my granite island countertop. By doing this, I was able to iron directly on the quilt without damaging a wooden table. It was also higher and did not put as much strain on my back.

    1. What a great idea! Thank you for sharing!

  10. I, too, would like to know how you protect your table. I have a 3'x 6' self-healing cutting mat on mine, and nearly ruined that, steaming on one of those table-top ironing boards, set on the mat. I suppose ironing on THAT table is going to be out. My dining table is oval, so that's probably not good, either. Still, how do you protect your table, and do you use steam?

  11. Thank you guys for all your comments! It seems that quite a few of you are concerned regarding your table and what will happen to the finish. I can only report that mine has had absolutely no issues, however; I do not use steam (I'm sure steam would ruin the finish). I do not want anyone to damage their table so if in doubt and worried I would use an old table or a portable table you won't be concerned about. Still, don't use steam. If using a plastic fold out table use a lower heat setting too.. I've updated the tutorial to reflect the concerns.

  12. what about putting a large piece of heat resistant batting on the table, like the kind they use for hot pads? Just an idea for those who are worried about their tables. I will be using my crappy apartment counter, thanks to whoever choose the cheap stuff that has a high melting temp! Also, thanks for the idea. Spent a few hours pin basting and then quilting a bunch of puckers into my quilt. Will give this a try and report back.

  13. Thanks so much for explaining how to work with the Elmer's glue. I have one of those hollow doors that I put on my table top to give me a large rectangular surface. This way I don't have to worry about the table's finish and I have a much larger surface to work with. You can find them at relatively low prices, especially if you don't mind a blemish or two. I'm not decorating with this door so I don't care what it looks like.

  14. I cannot wait to try this! I have a quilting friend on Instagram and this is the only method she will use. I free motion quilt on my domestic machine and my stitches look so much better if I do not have to continuously start and stop as I do when I pin baste. Thanks for the great tutorial with pictures!

  15. I am wondering if there are any special tricks for laundering the glue out after quilting? Thanks!

    1. I launder my quilt on gentle cycle with regular (scent free due to allergies) detergent and all the glue comes out, no issues. Thanks.

  16. I use a glue stick. Don't have to worry about puddling. Also, I don't have to iron the quilt as you're gluing it.

  17. Hi I have put large pieces of cardboard down on my dinning table first and it seam to protect the table.

  18. I've used your method and it works like a charm, as to the concerns about the table finish, I have a couple pieces of heavy corrugated cardboard from an appliance box the I use over my table top-- with an old wool blanket over that--- been doing it a couple of years and never damaged my table. The corrugated cardboard is an excellent insulator.