Aimée 5: sandwiches without tears

…. and without a sore back or knees, bad language and grumpiness.

This is the table-sandwiching method for quilts for those who no long find grovelling on the floor fun, who value their spines and joints, and who want a fairly quick and foolproof method for pinning or hand-basting a quilt.

You do need a big table. It needs to be as long as your quilt is wide, or two tables placed edge to edge. I’m fortunate, mine is very long and not too wide, making it easy to reach from one side to the other from a sitting position without much stretching or leaning. If the surface is delicate and you are worried about scratches, first cover it with a blanket and then with an oilcloth or vinyl table covering, stretched smooth and taped or clipped down. This will enable you to pin through the quilt layers without destroying the table top. Mine is natural wood, and has had an interesting life, so a few more marks don’t matter.

Screen shot 2015-01-20 at 5.52.51 PMFirst, spread the top edge of the backing along one long table edge, and tape it down smoothly and tightly. Go to the short end of the table and secure part of the side of the backing, and repeat at the other end. This is where you will start. Arrange the rest of the fabric neatly over three chair backs at the other long edge, allowing some to hang down and give the fabric on the table tension.


Screen shot 2015-01-20 at 5.52.27 PMNext, spread over the batting and smooth out carefully. You don’t need to tape it, as it will cling to the backing. Again, place the surplus on top of the backing over the backs of the chairs.

Screen shot 2015-01-20 at 5.51.58 PMFinally, arrange the quilt top on top of the other two layers and smooth out. Pin or baste along the taped long edge of the table to secure all layers together in the correct position.

Screen shot 2015-01-20 at 5.51.31 PMWorking from the long edge, pin until you get to the centre of the quilt, or as far as you can reach, or until you arrive at the other side of the table, whichever applies. Use a chair on casters if you have one to speed up the process of moving along the edge. I place pins about the width of my palm apart if there are lots of seams. Fewer seams = fewer pins…

When you reach the halfway point, or to the other side of the table, peel off the tape. Place your hands on the quilt about halfway across, and draw the quilt towards you, keeping it flat on the table, and pulling the remainder of the three layers onto the table at the same time. Ensure you still have a couple of lines of pins showing on the table top to anchor the fabric and prevent sagging. Spread and smooth the layers, and start pinning again.

Screen shot 2015-01-20 at 5.51.10 PMI’m pretty lazy, so I don’t trim out the backing and batting to size first if I’m using a wideback or plain backing. I just plonk everything down lined up along one edge, and trim out as I go along. No grovelling, remember? No struggling with massive pieces of batting or fabric, either.

Screen shot 2015-01-20 at 5.50.51 PMI got Aimée sandwiched and pinned in about 2 hours from start to finish.

And I feel fine 🙂

28 thoughts on “Aimée 5: sandwiches without tears

  1. tialys says:

    Thanks Kate – I just did this yesterday after you had recommended this method and I can vouch for its efficiency. Clearing off my worktable first was a bit of a stretch as it’s always covered with cutting mats, scissors, pincushions, etc. but at least I didn’t have to push back the furniture and clean the floor!

  2. Carole says:

    I did my last one on the table. I’m not really up for crawling about on the floor either. I didn’t think to tape the backing down though so I’ll remember that for the next one.

  3. Bravo. I use roughly that method, except that I DON’t pin! except for the back edge starting point. I use 555 temporary glue, on the batting, then on the backing with the aid of an obliging husband to pull taut the bits I can’t reach. The batting is first taped to the table and the backing accordion folded to spray the glue in phases. When backing is all smooth, the whole thing is turned over, re-taping the edge, and the top glued in the same fashion. The glue doesn’t last indefinitely, so I tack round the outer edges (sitting in a comfy chair), before getting stuck in to the hand quilting. I rarely machine quilt as I’m very bad at it!

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve had a couple of unsatisfactory experiences with glue, and don’t like the way basting can get stuck in the foot of the sewing machine, so pins it is for me. But it’s worth knowing there is another way to do it on the table in case anyone out there wants to give it a go.

    • I’ve done this on small quilts. Good to know it doesn’t last long. I’d better get at it. Thanks for the information.

  4. Brilliant tutorial – I have a big table in Spain but in England I think I can make do with a couple pushed together! It was a killer when I did my last (and pretty much my first!) quilt on the floor so this will really help 🙂

  5. dayphoto says:

    My mother loved to quilt, so did my Grandmother on my father’s side. They would LOVE to see how you do things. As for me…I’m finding all this fascinating!


    • katechiconi says:

      I’m not at all traditional in my methods, and I don’t believe in sticking slavishly to the ‘proper’ way, either. If it gets the job done, why not? And I’m simply not up to crawling on the floor anymore, the pain is a great motivator to find a better solution!

      • I crawled on the floor for my first large quilt more than 20 years ago and vowed never again. When I was a member of a group which met in a school, we pushed tables together and all lent a hand for the task, which spoiled me for ever more! It helped that some were left-handed and we could sew away from each other! The group is no more, and I no longer have any quilting friends to help with the table method.

      • katechiconi says:

        These days I do it by default. I simply cannot bear the pressure on my arthritic knees and my back if I do it on the floor. So the table it must be…

      • Hugs of fellow-feeling. In my case it’s getting up and down from the floor that’s a problem!

  6. EllaDee says:

    My non-quilter observation is I like your table! Very useful, and interesting. Looks similar to our big old timber table made from floorboards & posts.

    • katechiconi says:

      The table was made for me to my design by my brother in law who is a cabinet maker and who still lives in Dorrigo. It’s made from Cryptomeria, or Japanese Cedar, grown, felled and seasoned on my property there. It’s a beautiful timber, and quite light, so despite being 3.1m long and 90cm wide, it’s quite mobile.

  7. Kirsten says:

    So glad you did this post because when you mentioned it the other day I was wondering exactly what you meant. I think I will need to use this method with the quilt I need to finish for my sister. I’ve been putting it off for months because it is so big.

    • katechiconi says:

      I recommend it. You get the job done in a fraction of the time, there’s no hoovering needed, or moving of furniture, and best of all, no pain in the back or knees. I used to dread the process, and now I don’t mind it at all.

  8. Are you trying to tell me something? (Like, I have a penchant for doing things the hard way. I admit it! 🙂 )

    • katechiconi says:

      Whatever works for you! Perhaps in a few years you’ll be ready for the cheat’s way… While I was still agile enough to grovel, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do it any other way, but now the hip pain is a constant in my life, I look for easier ways.

  9. pattisj says:

    You are knocking this out in a hurry!

    • katechiconi says:

      Well, it’s only 3 years late! It’s sitting on my ironing board, neatly pinned and folded, waiting for me to have enough free time in a big block to get started with the quilting. In the next few days, I hope.

  10. rutigt says:

    I would click twice on like if it was possible 🙂
    Gun, Sweden

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