An Illustrated Tutorial of Basting in Sewing

  • 01 of 04

    Why Basting Stitches Are Used in Sewing

    Dart marked out with basting stitch on pink fabric
    Peter Anderson/Getty Images

    Basting is sewing long, easily removable running stitches, by machine or by hand. It is also called tacking. Basting stitches are sewn to temporarily join fabric together.

    There are many reasons that taking the time to baste is beneficial to saving time in the long run:

    • Sewing basting stitches on seams allow you to test the fitting (side seams) or placement (darts) before sewing regular stitches that might be hard to remove.
    • Basting can hold slippery fabric together while sewing regular stitches. Basting first allows the basting stitches to be easily removed if the fabric does slip out of place.
    • Basting is used to create temporary stitching such as the process of sewing in a zipper.
    • Basting allows two layers of fabric to be held together and used worked as one layer of fabric. The basting stitches are easily removed to eliminate extra bulk.
    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    How to Hand Baste

    Sewing basting guidelines onto needlepoint design (making a cushion)
    Steve Gorton/Getty Images

    Hand basting is easier to remove than machine basting, and it is easier to maintain control of an area when you hand baste.

    Hand basting is sewn with a running stitch. A running stitch is easily removed. Follow these steps:

    1. Pin the area together as you would sew the area.
    2. Thread a hand sewing needle and knot the thread.
    3. Place the knot on the edge of the fabric where it will not be sewn over by machine stitching.
    4. Do not baste exactly where you will be machine sewing. If you do sew over the basting stitches, it will be difficult to remove and could weaken your final stitching. For example; if you are basting a 5/8-inch seam, baste just inside the 5/8-inch marking on the seam allowance.
    5. Place the sewing needle into the fabric, through to the other side of the fabric and back up to the side you started sewing.
    6. Repeat until you have basted the entire area you want to be basted. The size of the stitches can be long or short, but you do want to make sure they are removable. This can be tested by tugging the thread to see if it moves easily through the fabric, just be sure to straighten out the stitching and fabric after you test the remove-ability of the thread.
    7. Sew one or two stitches in place at the end of the area you want to be basted.

    Note: Using a contrasting thread makes the basting thread more visible for easier removal.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    How to Machine Baste

    Worker using sewing machine in textile manufacturing plant
    Hero Images/Getty Images

    Machine basting is a fast way to test the fit of an area or temporarily hold an area together such as sewing in a zipper.

    Machine basting should be sewn next to the area you are going to final sew unless it is just temporarily holding the fabric together such as when you are sewing in a zipper.

    Follow these steps:

    1. Set the stitch length on your sewing machine to a long stitch.
    2. Pin the fabric together as if you were going to sew it.
    3. Do not backstitch as it would be harder to remove the basting.
    4. Bobbin thread can be used in the bobbin and upper thread if the thread is apt to leave marks in or on the fabric.

    Note: Using a contrasting thread makes the basting thread more visible for easier removal.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Removing Basting Stiches

    Close-up of unpicking stitches with a seam ripper
    Peter Anderson/Getty Images

    Always use care when removing the basting stitches. Carefully loosen the stitches with a seam ripper. Do not plow the seam ripper between the layers of fabric as that increases the likelihood of ripping through the fabric.

    When possible, remove the basting stitches before you press the fabric to prevent pressed in stitches.