What Is Basting In Sewing

While undertaking sewing projects, holding the seam or trim in place is a challenge. If you are a beginner in sewing, then the task becomes even more challenging. To overcome this challenging task, you put temporary stitches to ensure that the fabric does not move out of place. Once the permanent stitching is done, the temporary stitch can be removed. One such temporary stitch that is used to hold the fabrics in place is called basting stitch. 

What is Basting in Sewing? 

Basting or tacking is a straight stitch that is sewn to hold fabrics together. These stitches are long and unfinished and will be removed once the permanent stitching is done. Basting can be done either with hand or machine. The stitches that are made are called basting stitch or tacking stitch. Sometimes, X shaped basting stitches are also sewn to hold pleats together. 

In addition to basting stitches, fabrics can also be held together using pins and glue. 

When to Use Basting Stitch?

Basting stitch can be used in the following cases. 

  • Garment fitting

Sometimes while custom-making apparel, you will find that the garment does not fit the person correctly. You will have to remove all the stitches and redo it again to get the right fit. When a basting stitch is done you can easily remove and make modifications as required. 

  • Sewing sleeves

Sewing sleeves is a difficult task. You need to create a flat seam from a rounded hole. Through basting, you can get the stitches right without making mistakes. 

  • Sewing zippers

Zippers should be fixed at the right place so that it functions properly. If it is a little out of place, you may not be able to zip properly or the fabric puckers. Through basting, you can sew the zipper at the exact place. 

  • Gathering fabric

 Certain sewing projects like skirt and dress require gathering fabric. Basting is the best way you can gather fabric for a project. You can put two parallel lines of basting stitches inside the fabric’s seam allowance and then pull the thread through it. This provides a perfect gathering of fabric. 

  • Quilting

 Quliting involves holding together different layers of fabric. The top layer, batting and bottom layer should align properly so that the quilted fabric gets a good finish. Through batting, all the different layers can be joined together and aligned properly to get a perfect finish. 

  • Sewing slippery fabric

Fabrics like satin and silk are not easy to sew as they are slippery. During sewing, the material might move around, which can cause a lot of frustration. Basting can avoid such mistakes. It makes seam placement accurate and helps you to stitch without any errors. 

  • Sewing trims to drapes and pillows

Basting is very useful for adding trims or laces to drapes and pillows. Using basting stitch ensures that the trim or lace remains in place and does not shift. Once you put the permanent stitch, you can remove the basting stitch.  

What Are the Different Ways of Basting?

There are different ways you can baste a seam. Whichever way you follow, the primary purpose is to hold the fabric together. 

  • Machine basting: Here, the basting stitch is undertaken with the help of a sewing machine. If you have a basting option in your machine, you can select that. Otherwise, you can go for simple running stitch in 4mm or 5mm length.
  • Hand basting: For hand basting, you can use a needle and an all-purpose thread and sew running stitch along the seam. The stitch should ideally be 6mm-12mm apart so that it is easy to remove. Once done, you can secure the end with a knot or a backstitch.
  • Pin basting: In this method, instead of sewing along the seam, sewing pins are attached to the garment. The pins are later removed as and when you sew the permanent stitch. The main drawback of pin basting is that it is a time consuming process as you need to remove every pin while stitching. This can interrupt your sewing flow. 
  • Iron on tape: Iron on tapes are a great alternative if you do not want to sew temporary stitches. This comes handy while sewing thicker material like leather. 
  • Wonder clips: Wonder clips are typically used when you want to baste bulky seams while making bags or quilting. 
  • Basting spray or glue: This glue helps stick layers of fabric together. The main advantage of the glue is that it is washable. Thus, once you are done with the permanent stitch, you can wash off the glue. 

How to Do Machine Basting?

Machine basting is done inside the seam allowance, close to the final seam line. You should never do the basting stitch in the same place as the final stitch. This makes it difficult to remove the basting stitch later. It is best to do it outside the final stitch so that needle holes are not visible when you remove the stitch.

 Here are the steps to follow to machine bast fabrics.

Pin the fabric together

First, you should align the fabric as required and pin it together using sewing pins. This prevents the material from slipping off while sewing. 

Select the length of the stitch

Selecting the right stitch length is important as you will be wasting your time removing small stitches. The standard stitch length of most of the sewing machines are 2.5mm. You can increase it to 4 or 5mm while doing a basting stitch. This will provide around six stitches per inch. If you have an automatic setting for basting, then you can select that. 

Your sewing machines instruction manual contains all details about selecting the basting option and changing the stitch length. 

Select the thread

It is best to use a thin thread for basting stitch as it is a temporary stitch. You can even reuse old thread as you will be removing it from the fabric. It is best to avoid thick thread as it can leave marks on the fabric when you remove it. Similarly, you should go for a contrasting thread as it makes it easy to remove it later on. 

Sew the stitch

Now, you can feed the fabric and sew the basting stitch for the length required. But you should never go for a backstitch while sewing as it becomes difficult to remove it later on. Similarly, it is best to go for a long tension setting as it is easy to remove the stitch later. 

How to Remove a Basting Stitch?

Once the purpose of the basting stitch is over and you have put a permanent stitch, you can go ahead and remove it. Removing the basting stitch should be done carefully so that you  do not accidentally cut the permanent stitch or the fabric. Similarly, it is advisable to remove the basting stitch before ironing as the task becomes difficult once the fabric is ironed. 

A seam ripper is the right tool for removing a basting stitch. It is a fork like tool with two points – one long and one short. These two points are connected by a sharp center which is used for cutting the thread. 

To remove the thread carefully insert the long point of the ripper between the thread and the fabric. While inserting, make sure that the fabric thread is not accidentally pulled. Move the ripper forward till the sharp center cuts the thread. 

To remove the whole basting, you need to cut the thread in every third stitch. This helps you to pull the thread easily and remove all the stitches. 

If you are new to sewing, then you might consider basting as a time consuming task. But it is not so in reality. Basting can save a lot of your precious time by avoiding mistakes in sewing. It does away with frustration and disappointment, and leaves you contended once the project is over.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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