Sewing · Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled

Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled: All About That Baste

This is the first post in my blog series: Troublesome Sewing Terms Untangled. This post I’m looking at the Baste stitch / Basting!

My first thought on reading as tutorial instructing me to “Baste along the longer side, 1/2” from the edge.” was…baste? Like a turkey?

Baste: verb (via Oxford English Dictionary), Pour fat or juices over meat during cooking in order to keep it moist. Origin – late 15th century, unknown origin.

Apparently no, not like a turkey.

Baste: verb (via Oxford English Dictionary), Tack with long, loose stitches in preparation for sewing. Origin – late Middle English: from Old French bastir (sew lightly).

A baste stitch is a temporary hand or machine stitch used to hold fabric in place while your actual stitching is going on. It’s usually a large straight stitch (the longest your machine will do!) and isn’t back-stitched or knotted at either end. Both of these things make it easier to remove once your proper stitchery is complete.

I like to think of a baste stitch as using your partner’s finger to hold wrapping paper together around a present while you’re preparing to stick the good strip of tape on.

It basically just holds all your bits in place while your permanent sewing is going on, then it’s taken out.

It looks somewhat like this picture of one of my latest projects (shhh, it’s a secret, I haven’t quite finished it yet!), in which basting came upon me. “The Project” has this pleat that needed holding in place until further stitching happened at either end to secure it properly.

Basting example

As you can see (hopefully, sorry about the terrible picture), I’ve used the largest length possible to run a stitch between the two arrows, securing the pleat in place until it’s finished at the bottom with it’s eventual proper binding. Then I’ll get my seam ripper and carefully take out the basting stitches.

The tricky thing I’ve found about a basting stitch is not back-stitching the ends! That little tap of the back-stitch button is a completely ingrained response when starting to machine stitch so I have to really think about it to stop myself!

Hopefully this has been a helpful summation of what a Basting Stitch really entails. If you would like more information on Basting I highly recommend this video from Professor Pincushion who will show you how it’s done!

Happy Sewing!



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