Make Your Projects Look Perfect Every Time With Basting

I studied haute couture sewing techniques for several years at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and I had brilliant teachers who were working professionals. I would love to say that I remember all the amazing techniques I learned, but the truth is that knowledge without works is pretty useless. In other words, I have probably forgotten much of what I learned (which is why I took meticulous notes)!

Keep your basting stitches straight
and proportional to the project size.

But I will never forget the single most important thing that I learned from all those classes: Pin, baste, stitch!

It was an adage repeated endlessly by my professors. It was a sure bet that no matter what we were constructing, whether it was sewing together two side seams, installing a placket, or navigating a tricky collar, we would be told to "Pin, baste, stitch."

Having learned sewing from my mother and grandmother, and home ec classes, I had picked up home sewing techniques, which usually meant pinning and stitching, with little basting.

But the basting is the critical step and is about the only way that you can guarantee a really well-made project, whether it's a garment, accessory or home dec project.  The pinning is really only a securing step that allows you to baste properly

I had always thought that basting was a quick sloppy hand stitch that you executed to tack a sleeve to an armhole or a gathered skirt to a bodice. But basting is really an art that should be done as carefully as any other stitching.  

I remember so clearly the day a professor showed us the proper way to baste. Here are the steps:

1) Pin pieces together, then lay on a flat surface.

2) Keeping pieces flat, knot a single thread and sew a neat running stitch (see photo). The running stitch should be straight, and the stitch length should be proportional to the project. Smaller pieces require smaller stitches and so forth. Pieces should be secured enough to avoid any slipping of fabric.

3) You will want to run the basting stitch about 1/8 inch inside your final seamline so that the basted threads will not get caught in your final machine stitching and be difficult to remove.

4) Do not knot the other end of your thread when the basting is completed. This way you can remove the basting stitches quickly and easily by pulling the one knotted end. Remove pins.

5) When the basting is finished, you are ready to stitch!

If you aren't basting on a regular basis with your fashion or home dec projects, try it! You will be delighted with the results!

For more great sewing tips, check out the 'Quilting Arts TV' series downloads in the Sew Daily Shop. Definitely not just for quilters!

Do you have a special technique that you find gives you a great result with your sewing projects. Tell us about it on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching!



Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Hand Sewing, Sewing for Beginners

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

4 thoughts on “Make Your Projects Look Perfect Every Time With Basting

  1. i always baste except when making quick and dirty stuff like pull on pants. not only does it make everything lie better it saves you from doing daft stuff like putting in a sleeve back to front . its invaluable too when using techniques you are unfamiliar with as it allows you to see if you have got it right before approaching your machine and a basting thread is so much easier to pull out than lines of machine stitching ! and dont get me started on zips !! everyones bete noire but baste and sew and its easy peasy!

  2. Thank you for this information….basting is something I need to do more of myself. I’m starting a sew couture class now and I think I will hear more about the importance of ‘pinning and basting’ from the class instructor as well.

    I make quilts more often than cothing, but I can relate easily to the need to pin and then baste a quilt sandwich together before adding your quilting thread designs. Just imagine the mess you could have if you didn’t pn, then baste the quilt sandwich together first, especially on a large quilt. I do use a quilt basting spray adhesive now instead of thread basting, but I remember when that spray was not available.

    Now that I’m sewing more clothing, I find that working with zippers, sleeves, and collars is very frustrating for me most of the time. Like you, I’ve read and heard about pinning before sewing, but not much about ‘basting’. I wlll ‘pin, BASTE, and stitch’ first from now on. In fact, In fact, I’m writing myself a note to do this and I’m going to tape it onto the wall next to my sewing machine as a reminder. Off to do that now. Thanks for this information and the tut!

    I do sometimes use a clear drying wash out glue on some hems, especially draperies and bed skirts, to help hold them in place, but it’s a real pain if you realize that you need to adjust the hem length or fullness before you finish the project. It’s easier and less messy to remove all or part of the basting stich and some of the pins nstead.

    Oops! Now I can expect a blog posting here on how important it is to make a muslin form for clothing items too….still haven’t done that, but my clothing sewing projects have been simple, simple clothing styles so far.

  3. Gloria: I can’t wait to hear more about your couture class. I hope you post your projects here. And yes, basting is the key to great zippers, sleeves, everything!

    There are several shortcut ways to approach a muslin beyond the traditional way. For instance, you can use the pattern as a muslin for simpler fits by taping the pattern pieces together.