Sewing Basics: What is Basting? When Should You Use It? 

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If you’re new to sewing, you may have seen the term “baste” in a sewing pattern and wondered what it meant. What does baste mean in sewing? Is it necessary?

While it may sound like a complicated process, basting is actually quite simple and easy to master. This basic sewing technique is incredibly useful for creating more accurate and professional-looking seams. While it’s not absolutely necessary, it can make your projects come together more quickly and with better results.

What Does it Mean to Baste in Sewing?

Basting is a simple technique used to temporarily hold two pieces of fabric together before machine sewing. The basting stitch is a simple, straight and long stitch that’s easily removed when you’re done sewing your piece.

It can be used to keep the layers of fabric flat, or you can use it to help:

  • Gather fabric
  • Hold a zipper in place
  • Fit sleeves

Learning how to baste is a valuable skill. It can help you avoid making mistakes when sewing and help you achieve professional results.

When Should You Use a Basting Stitch?

Basting can be used for virtually any sewing project. Anytime you want to temporarily hold your fabric together, a basting stitch will be your best friend.

Some common scenarios where you’d want to use a basting stitch include:

Sleeves

If you’re sewing a set-in sleeve, basting can help you achieve better results and ensure your sleeves aren’t too restricting. It’s a good idea to start by basting the curve. This will give you just enough gather to fit your arm hole.

Garments

When sewing any type of garment, it’s a good idea to first create it out of muslin and use a baste stitch to construct it.

A basting stitch makes it easy to quickly sew the garment and make adjustments as you go along. For example, you can adjust your seams using the basting stitch to get a better fit.

Gather Fabrics

Basting is commonly used for gathering fabrics. All you have to do is sew two parallel lines of basting stitches inside the seam allowance, pull the threads to gather the fabric, and start sewing with your machine.

Zippers

Sewing zippers can be tedious and challenging without basting. This simple step will save you so much frustration because it will keep the zipper in place while you sew. Not only will your stitching be more accurate, but you won’t have to bother using pins.

Quilting

Quilts have multiple layers of material: the top layer, the backing, the batting, etc. Without basting, these layers will move around while you sew, making it virtually impossible to keep your raw edges even.

Keep Slippery Fabrics Together

Some fabrics have slippery surfaces that make it difficult to keep in place while you sew. Without basting, you could wind up with an uneven mess of stitches.

It’s helpful to use basting with the following fabrics:

  • Satin
  • Velvet
  • Silk

Taking the time to do a simple basting stitch will prevent slippage and make your sewing project a breeze.

The Basting Stitch: Hand vs Machine Sewing

There are two ways to baste fabric: by hand or with a machine. There are pros and cons to both, but each will ultimately achieve the same result.

Regardless of whether you’re sewing by hand or with a machine, you’ll want to place your stitch at the seam allowance or just inside.

Hand Sewing

Hand basting is the way to go if you want more accuracy and control of your project. Machine basting is quick and convenient, but even experienced sewers prefer hand basting because you just can’t beat the results.

  • Hand basting is best performed with an all-purpose needle.
  • Try using strong polyester thread.
  • Some sewers prefer to thread double, but if you’re working with an ultra-fine fabric, you may need a single thread to avoid creating large holes in the material.
  • Use a marked line (chalk is ideal) to guide your stitching.

Use a simple running stitch that’s about 1/2″ apart.

Machine Sewing

Basting with a sewing machine is incredibly simple, which makes it much easier not to skip this step when starting a sewing project.

It’s really all about choosing the right settings on your machine.

  • Choose a straight stitch.
  • Set the stitch length to the longest possible length.

If necessary, you can also lower the tension setting to make it even easier to remove the stitches.

Some sewing machines have a pre-programming basting stitch. This takes the guesswork out of your settings and makes it easier to get started.

Before you get started, you may want to lightly pin your fabrics together.

Basting Stitch Tips

  • Don’t back stitch when starting or stopping your basting stitch. This will only make it difficult to remove.
  • Choose a contrasting color for your basting thread so that you can easily locate your stitch and remove it.

Do Basting Stitches Have to be Removed?

Not necessarily. If your stitch is within the seam allowance and invisible on the outside, there’s no need to remove them.

Are There Alternatives to the Basting Stitch?

Yes. The basting stitch is the go-to option for sewing, but there other ways of achieving the same results.

Basting Tape

If you don’t want to be bothered with conventional basting, you can use tape. Double-sided, iron-on tapes will hold your fabrics neatly together, making it much easier to sew accurate seams.

Tape is an especially great option for sewing knits because they prevent puckering and hold the fabric firmly in place.

For harder fabrics, like vinyl or leather, tape saves you from having to make pin holes in the fabric.

Pins

If you want to save time, you could try pin basting. The concept is similar, but instead of sewing a long straight stitch, you place pins (vertically or horizontally) along the seam allowance. Just make sure that you remove the pins as you sew. Sewing over the pins is not recommended.

Wonder Clips

Quilters tend to prefer using wonder clips instead of basting stitches. They’re great for keeping multiple layers of fabric in place, and they’re so easy to use.

Clips aren’t ideal for thinner fabrics because they’ll slip right off. But for quilting, wonder clips can be a great alternative to the basting stitch.

Sprays or Glues

Basting sprays or glues are also available, and these are commonly used by quilters. Sprays are essentially a light glue that holds your fabric layers together. The glue washes out, which makes it easy to reposition things when needed.

Some people love sprays, and others hate them. Give them a try. Just make sure that you’re in a well-ventilated space and follow the directions carefully.

Basting is a simple way to set your project up for success. Whether you choose to do it by hand or with a machine, it’s worth taking the time to do it. Regardless of what type of fabric you’re working with, your stitching will be more accurate and professional. Click here to see what basting sprays we recommend.

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