Basting is a temporary hold or marker, for getting everything in the right place before doing the final stitching.

It can be done by hand or machine stitching.
Or without any sewing, using basting tape, spray or glue.

Stitches are long, and easy to pull out and re-do if they’re in the wrong place.

Sewn through 1 layer of fabric for marking.
Through 2 or more layers for a temporary hold.

When all is correct, do the final stitching and pull out the basting.

Hand basting


Here’s a video from Sew New York.
Though if you want to mark the line to sew along, I would do it with a marker pen or tailors chalk, rather than a seam gauge.
I also usually don’t start stitching with a knot, as this makes the thread more difficult to pull out.

The best basting stitch depends on how strongly you want it to hold.
Usually :
Long-short stitches for ‘thread marking’.
Even stitches about 1/4″ long for holding fabric pieces together.
Angled stitches for a really strong hold, see
post with video on diagonal basting from FashionSewingBlog

Best to use a contrasting colour thread for basting, so it’s easy to see. Though check it won’t leave little fibres you can’t remove, such as red on white or white on black.
There’s even special basting thread, which does not pull out easily yet snaps easily.

Machine basting

Some machines have a special long basting stitch. If not, use the longest straight stitch.

Here’s a basic tutorial from eHow.

Basting tape

It can be quicker and easier to use basting tape, which has 2 sticky sides.

Search ‘basting tape’ at Amazon to find many products.
Some are wash-away, some are good for wovens, some for knits. Some can be applied by finger pressure, some need heat from an iron. Some are meant to be left in, some have to be removed.
(Some can be used for permanent seams, so you don’t need to do any sewing at all !)

Many people love this basting method, and top sewers recommend these tapes. I’m not a fan (I enjoy slow sewing), but I do sometimes use wash-away tape.

Here’s a basic tutorial from eHow.
Some tapes have a cover strip. You need to remove that before adding the second layer of fabric.

Here’s a tutorial from Do-It-Yourself Advice blog about the types of tape available for tough applications such as sewing sails and tents.

Basting spray

There’s also basting spray. Much used by quilters to hold whole areas of fabric layers together.
Can also be used for clothes making. For example for placing patch pockets. The trouble is you have to cover with paper everything you don’t want glue on. So they’re not as quick and easy to use as you might think.

Fabric Glue

There are many temporary/wash away fabric glue pens and sticks now, which many people love for basting. Just make sure you use temporary glue for basting and permanent glue for construction !

When to use hand basting

Hand basting may just seem like a lot of time-wasting trouble when sewing easy fabrics, but it can be a sanity saver when trying to control :
– difficult fabrics,
– combining complex curves,
– multiple layers of fabric.
With hand basting you have complete control over the fabric, where you place it, and how much ‘hold’ you want to add. That isn’t always the case with machine or tape basting.

So hand basting is much used in couture.

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Links available June 2014

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