Learn the hand basting basics of what, when, how and why.
What is a basting stitch?
In sewing, the hand basting stitch or tacking stitch is a loose running stitch used to ease, baste, gather or secure two or more pieces of fabric together. It is a temporary stitch that will later be removed.
Hand basting by hand serves as a tool for quilting, home decor, zippers, serging and shaping a variety of different garment finishes like seams, gathers, sleeves and ruffles.
In hand basting, running stitches are used to baste before being replaced by permanent stitches.
What are the types of hand basting stitches and when are they used?
- Even Hand Basting Stitches - Even hand basting is used when working curvey edges, corners or when working with thin, flimsy, sheer fabric.
- Uneven basting stitches - Uneven hand basting is used to hold various layers together to keep them flat, hold zippers, trim, pockets and the like in place until permanently sewn.
- Diagonal basting stitches (aka Tailor Basting Stitches) - This type of basting is used in tailoring.
Learn more about the even basting stitch by watching our video Or keep reading this post to learn about all the basting stitches.
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How To Do Basting Stitches (Running stitches)
when to use basting stitches?
There are many occasions when basting stitches or running stitches will help you with a sewing project. Here are a few times when basting will come in handy.
- To gather fabric for sleeves, skirts and dresses
- Fitting sleeves into a garment
- Making ruffles
- Matching plaid, chevrons and other designs
- Checking and altering garment fit
- Sewing along the bias
- Stabilizing slippery or velvety fabric
- To hold bulky fabric like fleece and blanket fabric together
- Hold a zipper in place
- When sewing with stretchy fabrics
- To hold seams in place
- In quilting to hold the quilt top, batting and quilt backing together
- To hold decorative trim in place before sewing permanently, like ribbons, piping, bias, or lace
WHAT TYPE OF THREAD SHOULD BE USED?
- Regular Sewing Thread
- Specialized Basting Thread
- Water Solvable Thread
Why Baste Stitch before You Stitch?
- Basting stitches ensure greater sewing accuracy
- Can keep sewing along without having to stop very often
- Helpful when fitting a garment
- Stop slippery or velvety fabrics from shifting
- Keeps layers of fabric from shifting during permanent stitching
- Not having to stop and remove pins
how to do the basting stitch
WHAT YOU NEED to practice the basting stitch:
- Hand Sewing Needle
HOW TO SEW AN even basting stitch
The distance between these hand stitches should be the same as the stitch length. The even basting stitch is quick, easy and strong. It's frequently used in areas that need more security and control such as curves and corners.
STEP 1: thread preparation
Start by threading a hand sewing needle with a single thread in a different color than the main fabric. This is so the thread is easier to see and to remove after permanent sewing is done.
To anchor the thread to the fabric, either tie a knot at the end of the thread or use one or two backstitches to anchor the thread instead of knotting.
BASTING TIP: When using the hand basting stitch to gather fabric, use a double-threaded needle.
STEP 2: sew basting stitches
Working from right to left, if you are left-handed working from left to right, anchor the thread and then make several running stitches by weaving the needle up and down two or three times through the fabric, where it won't be sewn by machine stitching, at evenly spaced intervals catching all fabric layers.
Pay attention to the stitch length and spacing. The distance between basting stitches should be the same as the basting stitch length. Grab the end of the needle and pull the thread just enough to make the stitches stable. Don't let the fabric pucker.
The stitch lengths should be: Shorter running stitches of 1/8" to 1/4" for easing, gathering and seaming and larger running stitches of 1/2" to 3/4" for holding layers together.
STEP 3: continue basting
Continue to make the stitches and spacing between them even until you reach the end of the fabric. Then secure by making a small knot or backstitches.
HOW TO MAKE AN UNEVEN BASTING STITCH
The uneven basting stitch is different from the even basting stitch in that it is an irregular kind of basting with a longer stitch and a shorter distance between stitches.
It's used in many applications to secure pieces that don't need a lot of control such as along straight seams, marking patterns and style lines, zippers, trims, and pockets.
STEP 1: THREAD PREPARATION
To sew the uneven basting stitch, start by threading a hand sewing needle with a single thread in a different color than the main fabric. As mentioned above, this is so the thread is easier to see and to remove after permanent sewing is done.
For this method, again, you need to anchor the thread to the fabric. And once again you can either tie a knot at the end of the thread or use one or two backstitches to anchor the thread. In the above example, I used the backstitch method.
STEP 2: sew UNEVEN BASTING STITCH
Working from right to left, if you are left-handed working from left to right, anchor the thread - push the needle through the fabric from the backside to the front where you want to begin basting but where it won't be sewn over by machine stitching.
Work a longer running stitch. Insert the needle through the fabric to the reverse side about 3/4" to 1" length from where the needle was anchored and bring the needle a short distance away catching all layers of fabric.
Pull the thread to secure the stitch but not too tightly.
TIP: To quickly stitch uneven basting, don't do one stitch at a time. Weave the needle up and down two or three times through the fabric. Pay attention to the distance between basting stitches and the space between which should be shorter than the basting stitch length.
STEP 3: CONTINUE BASTING
Continue to make the running stitches that are longer than the spacing between them until you reach the end of the fabric. Then secure by making a small knot or backstitch.
HOW TO SEW DIAGONAL BASTING STITCH
This stitch is often used in tailoring to hold multiple pieces of fabric together securely for a fitting. It's used to hold interfacing, linings and facing together. It's used in quilting to hold the quilt sandwich (top, batting and backing) together when making a quilt or quilt project.
As the name suggests, it is long running stitches sewn diagonally across or up the fabric.
STEP 1: THREAD PREPARATION
Thread the needle with a different color of thread than the main fabric. Tie a knot at the end.
STEP 2: ANCHORING the THREAD
Working from right to left (or left to right if left-handed) insert the needle through the fabric to the backside and bring it out to the front side above the point where the needle entered.
Pull the needle through the fabric.
This creates a vertical stitch on the back and anchors the knot.
STEP 3: FIRST DIAGONAL basting STITCH
Next insert the needle down through to the fabric to the left and even with the point where the needle was first inserted (where you see the knot). Poke the needle out to the front vertically above where it was inserted and pull the thread through forming a diagonal stitch.
This produces a long slanted stitch on the right side of the fabric and a vertical stitch on the back.
STEP: 4 REPEAT
Repeat this process until you have created diagonal stitches along the entire fabric and
vertical stitches on the back.
- It's helpful to use a different color thread than the fabric so it is more visible for removal.
- Try basting near (but no on) the seam line
- Use shorter stitches for extra control
- Use a thin, sharp needle
- Basting is quicker with longer stitches
- If you have old thread, use it for basting
HOW TO REMOVE BASTING STITCHES
Hand basting stitches are faster and easier to remove than machine basting. But always be careful when removing basting stitches.
The purpose of the basting stitches is that these temporary stitches can be removed easily, with or without a seam ripper or snips.
Many times basting stitches can be removed simply by grabbing the end of the thread, holding the other end of the fabric and pulling the thread out. The fabric will bunch as the thread is pulled but simply smooth out the fabric by pulling it away from the end.
Sometimes a seam ripper, snips or small embroidery scissors is needed. Be careful to snip only the thread and not the fabric. With one of these tools, snip a few placed along the basting line, and you should be able to gently pull out the thread.
Hand Basting Stitch Alternatives
- Sewing Machine Basting
- Pin Basting
- Using Fabric Tape
- Wonder Clips
- Basting Spray or Glue
Now that you know all about hand basting I am sure you will have better results in your sewing.
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Hand Sewing Stitch Tutorials