So, what is basting stitch? Basting in sewing creates professional results and helps beginners hold tricky seams in place. When basting a seam you temporarily hold a seam together before the final seam is stitched. By taking a little extra time to do either machine basting stitch or hand basting, you will get great results with the minimum of unpicking.
What Is Basting Stitch?
A basting stitch in sewing is just a temporary stitch to hold several pieces in place. It is done before the permanent stitches are sewn and may be removed or left hidden in seams. Basting is used to hold layers of fabric in place and prevent slipping.
Tacking in Sewing
Another name for basting is tacking or tacking stitches.
When to Use Basting in Sewing?
Basting stitch might be used for a gathered skirt before attaching to a waistband, a piece of bias tape on the edge of a quilt, or a sleeve joining to an armhole.
Zippers can benefit from a basting stitch as you will need to sew close to the teeth and don't want it to move before you sew. Basting stitch is also useful for difficult fabrics such as silk that will slip around under the sewing machine foot.
Before serging, it is important to do a basting stitch as it is harder, although not impossible, to unpick the seam if you make a mistake. When I am sewing leotards, I always machine or hand baste the seams before using my serger. Serging also cuts some of the seam allowances, so you need to be sure everything is working first.
Basting Stitch for Seams Tutorial
There are several ways you can use basting sewing stitches for seams. The most common one you will use in the majority of clothing sewing patterns is machine basting.
Basting stitch can be done by hand or machine and is best done in a contrasting color so it can easily be identified and removed at the end if necessary. Where possible, always baste just inside the seam allowance, so it does not need to be removed.
Hand Basting Stitch
When you need accurate control of a project you can’t beat hand basting sticth. This is especially useful when setting in sleeves to armholes or joining curved pieces. Even experienced sewers will hand baste to get the best results.
How to baste stitch by hand:
Step 1 - Thread Needle
Use an all-purpose needle and thread it with a strong polyester thread. For most fabrics, it is best to thread double. Ultra-fine fabrics may just need a single thread so as not to make large holes in the fabric.
Step 2 - Stitch with Running Baste Stitch
The best basting stitch is a simple up-and-down running stitch about ¼ – ½ inch (6mm-12mm) apart.
The smaller the running basting stitches, the more control you will have. For rough hand basting stitch, you can do several up and down stitches at once. Precise basting stitch should be sewn with one stitch at a time on a marked line.
Step 3 - Finish the Hand Baste Stitches
Secure the ends with a small knot or backstitch.
Machine Basting Stitch, How to Baste
Lots of my sewing patterns use machine basting to hold pieces in place before sewing the final seam. Machine basting is best done on straight pieces of fabric. You may want to place pins to lightly secure the edge first.
Basting Stitch Sewing Machine Settings
- STITCH TYPE - Basting is done with a straight stitch.
- THREAD COLOR - Most of the time, the basting will be hidden in the construction of the garment, but if you need to remove it later, using a contrasting basting thread will enable you to unpick it easily.
- FOOT - Basting stitch uses an all-purpose sewing machine foot with the needle in the center.
- STITCH LENGTH FOR BASTING - Just set your machine to the longest stitch length, which should be at least 4.0. Some machines may go up to 6.0-9.0. Longer stitches length can often just be pulled out by steadily holding the loose tail of the bobbin thread.
- LOOSEN TENSION - Check your sewing machine tension. You may need to loosen it slightly, especially if you will need to remove the stitches at the end.
How to Machine Baste Step by Step:
Step 1 - Pin
Pin the right sides of the fabric together with raw edges matching.
Step 2 - Baste with Long Stitches
Sew inside the seam allowance line with long straight stitches.
Step 3 - Finishing
Do not backstitch if you wish to easily remove the basting stitches later.
Alternatives to Baste Stitch
While it is the best, basting stitch is not the only way to hold the fabric in place.
Using pins is one of the fastest and easiest basting methods. Pin fabric by placing pins vertically or horizontally to your seam. Sewing over pins is definitely not recommended, so remove them to prevent breaking a needle or possibly your machine!
Double-sided and Iron on tapes
Iron on double-sided tapes such as Wonder Tape is great for basting before sewing knit fabric hems. Not only do they hold the hem in place before you start sewing, but they also eliminate puckered hems. If sewing leather or vinyl, double-sided tape can hold hems without worrying about holes from pins.
Basting Sewing with Wonder Clips
These cute little clips are used by quilters and bag makers to hold bulky seams in place. I have found they tend to slip slightly on thinner fabrics, so save them for bulky projects.
Improvised Baste Sewing
If you need to hold vinyl or other fabric in place that marks easily, consider heading to your cupboards for help. Try hair clips, paper clips, or even pegs.
Basting Spray and Glue
Basting spray is a light glue that is often used by quilters to temporarily hold the layers together. The glue usually washes out after the item is finished. Basting spray is also common when sewing leotards with layers of applique.
The idea is that this glue is not permanent, making it easy to reposition fabric until you get it in the correct position. Most of these sprays should only be used in well-ventilated rooms, so read the instructions carefully.
How to Remove Basting Stitch
Basting stitch is best unpicked using a seam ripper. Because it is such a loose and long stitch, you should be able to gently pull out the thread after you have made a couple of cuts in the stitching line. Remove small bits of thread left behind with a lint roller.
Basting Stitch FAQs
What is baste in sewing?
When you see an instruction in a sewing pattern asking you to baste a seam, it means to stitch the seam with a temporary stitch that can be removed later. This can be done with a long running stitch or a long length machine stitch.
Is basting stitch necessary?
The answer to this depends on your project. Basting stitch either by hand or machine will always give the best results when you need to hold seams temporarily before sewing. For easy seams, you could substitute using pins. If you are a beginner, basting seams is invaluable for great results.
What is the difference between a basting stitch and a regular stitch?
Basting stitch is a temporary stitch, while a regular stitch is used to hold seams and hems permanently. A typical basting stitch length is 4.0-7.0, while a regular stitch for seams will be 2.5 in length.
What is the difference between basting and tacking?
These are different terms for the same thing. Both tacking and basting refer to using a long hand or machine stitch to temporarily hold seams.
Basting Stitch - What is Basting - In Conclusion
So next time your pattern calls for basting stitch or basting, think of all the methods you could use and choose the one that makes your life easier! What is your most used method of basting? Share your thoughts below.
More Beginner Sewing Articles
- Needle, Thread, Pins, Scissors
Hand Basting Stitches
- Use an all-purpose needle and thread it with a strong polyester thread. For most fabrics, it is best to thread double. Ultra-fine fabrics may just need a single thread so as not to make large holes in the fabric.
- Pin the seam with right sides together and raw edgs matching.
- Take long running stitches about ¼ to ½ inch (6-12mm) apart inside the seam allowance.
- Secure the ends with a small knot or backstitch.
Machine Basting Stitches
- Pin the right sides of the fabric together with raw edges matching.
- Set the sewing machine to a long staight stitch. (4.0)
- Sew inside the seam allowance line. Do not backstitch either send.