In the past I have made quilts using the 'quilt as you go' method and thus never had the issue of how to hold the quilt top, batting and backing together while quilting the item. But I have started to quilt the conventional way of piecing the top first and then quilting the backing and batting after it has been sandwiched. In my first item the Pumpkin Runner I used adhesive spray to hold the layers together and then free motion quilted it without any problems. However I next had a twin size quilt and a long runner to quilt and did not think that the spray basting was a good solution. I knew I was not going to hand baste them and really did not think I wanted to pin baste either. So I started asking other quilters what they do and an employee at my local quilt shop suggested gun basting. I bought the Microstitch gun shown above on Amazon.com for around $20 and it came with 1200 plastic tacks.
The premise of the gun is that you place the needle through all layers, squeeze the handle and it puts a plastic tack in the hole that holds the pieces together. One has to hold the item off the surface so that the tack can have space to go through the 3 layers. Thus you have to hold the bottom layer up with your hand but this could have the potential of sticking your fingers with the needle and tack. So my hubby had a 2' X 4' ceiling light grid that I employed to keep my quilt up off the surface of my rotary mat. First I laid my mat on my cutting table and then hung the center of my runner over the center of the table with the sides hanging over. This allowed me to smooth all layers; backing right side down, batting and top right side up.
Once my runner was sandwiched and stretched I slipped the lighting grid on top of the rotary mat and under the runner layers. I then smoothed out all the layers again. As you can see below, this allows the item to be easily stretched over the grid.
Now I could easily place the needle of the gun into the sandwich through a hole of the grid, allowing the tack to be placed appropriately without having the needle hit the mat below. I placed my tacks about 3-4 inches apart and approximated the distance by laying my hand flat next to the tack that had been placed.
I used about 720 tacks for a twin sized quilt (about $3 worth) and 150 tacks for the runner shown above. The tacks hold the quilt together well and I was able to free motion quilt without having the layers shift. Also I was able to sew right over the tacks without any problems. After my quilting was done, I sewed my binding on and then easily snipped the tacks from the backing side. It took about 1 and 1/2 hours to tack baste the twin quilt and 20 minutes to do the runner. It took about the same time to remove the tacks.
Thus far, I am a fan of gun basting a quilt. I plan to use this method for any new quilting projects.