what is a basting stitch guide

What Is a Basting Stitch?

When it comes to sewing, basting is an important technique to learn. Basting is simply sewing a loose stitch that is meant to temporarily hold two pieces of fabric together. The stitches themselves are long making them easy to remove.

The purpose behind this temporary stitch is to make it easier for the sewist to complete the project’s final, permanent stitch. Basting can be performed either by hand or with a sewing machine.

Reasons to Baste

For the novice, the thought of sewing the same pieces of fabric together twice may sound like a waste of time, but those with experience know that the basting stitch is not only a useful, but also a necessary sewing technique.

Unsecured fabric can move, making seams uneven and unsightly. Basting fabric together keeps the seam line secure and eliminates the need to rip out tightly sewn seams. If the fabric does happen to slip, basting stitches are easy to remove for readjustment.

Basting also lets the sewer see where seams and darts will lie on the finished project before making the permanent stitches.

Basting by Hand

Using the hand-sewn method to baste stitches allows for better control and a looser stitch that is easier to remove when finished with the project. Be sure not to sew the baste stitches where the permanent stitches will be sewn.

Sewing over basting stitches makes them harder to remove and could ruin the integrity of the permanent stitch. Use a thread color that contrasts with the permanent stitch thread to avoid any confusion during the removal process.

Start by pinning the two pieces of fabric together. Thread a needle and knot the end. Poke the needle from the underside of the fabric through the layers and pull straight through until the knot is reached. Do not pull too fast or hard as this could break the knot or pull it through the fabric.

From there, plunge the needle back down through the layers at the point of length of the desired stitch and pull until a loose stitch is made. Bring the needle back up through the fabric, again keeping the stitch snug, but not tight.

Repeat this process until reaching the end of the material being basted. Secure thread with a basic knot and then snip off any extra.

Basting by Machine

The basting process can be completed quicker by machine than by hand. Just about all newer sewing machines come with a basting stitch function. When used, this function changes the stitch setting to the longest length, usually about 5mm.

If the machine does not have a basting setting, change the stitch length to the longest available. Just as with hand sewing, use a thread color that contrasts with the color of the permanent stitch and do not place the basting stitches at the exact location of the permanent stitch.

Just as with hand sewing, begin by pinning the fabric together. Set the sewing machine either to the basting setting or to the maximum stitch length. Feed the fabric slowly through the machine. Do not backstitch. This will make the basting harder to remove. Continue to feed the material until the basted row is the desired length.

Basting Drapes and Pillows

Rather than replacing, change the look of drapes and pillows by adding trim. Use a basting stitch to attach a piece of trim to the seam of the drape or pillow. This ensures that the trim will not shift or bunch during the final sewing.

Basting Quilts

Quilting is a long, in-depth process. There are numerous layers of backing, batting and fabric to work with, all of which must be accurately aligned before the quilting process can begin. By basting together the different layers, the quilter can be confident that the materials will stay lined up and that the final sewing will be a success.


Basting Clothes

Basting is an essential technique to know when making and altering garments. The loose stitching allows a seamstress to make alterations before applying a permanent stitch. This is especially helpful when adding sleeves. A basting stitch allows for an accurate fitting to make sure sleeve placement is comfortable for the wearer.

When adding a zipper, basting helps to ensure proper alignment and makes sewing the final stitches easier.

Removing Basting Stitches

Once the permanent stitches have been sewn into the project, the basting stitches can be removed. It is important to move slowly and carefully during this process so as not to disturb the final stitches or tear the fabric. This step should also be completed before the material is ironed. This will prevent the basting stitches from leaving an imprint on the material.

To remove basting stitches, use a seam ripper to loosen and cut the thread. Then delicately remove the thread from the material.