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To baste or not to baste?

kjp | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Just a question out of curiousity…  I recently took a class with a dressmaker on fitting (my size was much easier to fit 20 years ago).  She has her students HAND baste EVERYTHING before sewing.  Previously, I only basted for fitting & fluid fabrics & sleeve caps.  So, I thought I’d throw this out to see what other experienced sewers do — do you baste or just sew??  Karin


  1. anneelsberry | | #1

    Hate to baste, but probably would even out timewise if you compared the time I would spend basting to the time I do spend ripping!

  2. sarahjane | | #2

    I own a small sewing business. I seldom hand baste anything, I use pins only when absolutely necessary, and I rarely need to rip. I learned to do this after I read the Threads article on sewing with out pins. It really works! It took a little practice but I really learned how to handle fabric by sewing this way. (The dearth of pins on the floor is another advantage...)

    I do find, though, that when hand-basting is necessary, it is the only thing that works.


  3. FitnessNut | | #3

    I, too, have a small design/custom sewing business. I rarely baste and use as few pins as possible. Basting is reserved for fabrics that are difficult to handle or design details that are a bit tricky to manoever. I can't imagine hand-basting every seam....I'd never get anything finished!!!


  4. carolfresia | | #4

    I guess if the class was emphasizing fitting, basting would be a good idea, but unless you were working with very tricky fabric, I don't quite see the point of hand-basting everything. Machine basting long seams would be fine, I would guess.

    Personally, I don't do much basting (by hand or machine), and use very few pins on the whole. However, I baste more often now than I did a few years back, when fitting wasn't as big an issue for me. Last summer I made a dress in which I mitered stripes on the bias along the center front and center back, and I did baste that very carefully!


    1. kjp | | #5

      Thanks for your replies!  It's good to know that I haven't been "off base" for all these years!  I think I'm going to try to find the article about sewing without pins. 

      1. EileenB5 | | #6


        I'm going to give you another view.  I hand baste EVERYTHING.  I find that it gives much more accurate seams than pinning and allows for a more refined fit. I do my basting when I'm watching TV or listening to music.  I sew a lot of tailored styles and hand basting is the difference between looking custom made rather than home made.

        1. kjp | | #8

          I can see where hand basting would help, especially fitted & tailored garments!  I hate to hand baste & my machine has a good long basting stitch which I use more often.  Nothing really does replace handwork, though, does it?!   

        2. louise | | #16


          I guess better late than never. I too hand baste everything except the simplest seams.  It is easier to control gathering, it makes fewer marks on the fabric and it is fast and accurate as well as much much easier to remove when done.  I keep a roll of leftover thread  on a "hanger" made by knotting some cord and just reel off what I need.  I also love it because you never have that problem of hitting a pin and searing off pin or needle or both, risking eye injury.  It allows me to test placement and  to see if a tricky detail will come out correctly.

          Basters rule!

          1. kjp | | #17

            It's been months since I started this thread...I've been hand basting more often...and taking more risks sewing some seams without pins.  The former has proven to be invaluable with fluid fabrics and setting in sleeves.  Sewing some seams without pins has increased my speed.  Formerly, I almost never HAND basted.  I do have a long basting stitch on my bernina which is very easy to remove, but hand basting offers much more control.  Good to rethink the basics sometimes!  Karin

          2. louise | | #18

            Dear KJP

            Yes sometimes the old ways are the best ways.  I find that more and more often tricky sewing becomes fast and easy with hand basting.  And we all will admit that sewing something correctly the first time yields the optimal result.  It is also invaluable when you are altering a garment.  You can baste it up in a second and assess the fit.  If it is okay you are good to go, otherwise you can at least see the effect of your alteration on the garment as a whole.  I also used it once on a suit for my mom.  The pattern gave her the ease she needed, but I built in a little more across the shoulders and back.  I basted the two separately and let her try it on, once with pattern ease and then with an additional 1 1/2" extra ease.  That way she could feel which adjustment made her feel more at home in her jacket.  We could directly compare one against the other.  She chose the greater ease, she doesn't like to feel any tension across the back of her jackets!  It worked brilliantly and I could assess the effect on the rest of the garment

            Go basters Go!

    2. SewNancy | | #7

      I am making a plaid jacket and I am slip basting.  Otherwise I baste hard to handle fabrics.  I should go back to that article on pinless sewing and practice it.  I hate picking up pins!


  5. SewTruTerry | | #9

    Karin I too, have a sewing business and there are times that hand sewing or basting is the only way to go.  For example I will never put a zipper into a garment by machine again. I always thought that it would not hold up but I will tell you that it is easier to restitch a hand sewn zipper than it is to fix a machine sewn one. Also when details count it is better to stitch by hand as you have lots more control and it all evens out time wise by the time you get pins in the material then stitch it taking care to remove the pins as you go and then having to rip out part of the seam when you discover that you have sewn a pucker into it because your feed dogs were working overtime.

  6. CTI | | #10

    Thanks for bringing this up Karin, and I'd also like to find that issue about pin basting or pinless sewing, whatever it was. I've done a bit of each - hand basting, machine basting, and pin basting and have never found one to be foolproof for my figure and the fabric, curve or darts.

    But I'll agree that it's easier to tear out my hand basting than machine the way I did it way back when I used to sew most of my clothes growing up. I still have memories of pants I kept trying to take in until they fit me the way I wanted - there must have been 5 adjustments, ending with a nearly indestructible half-inch practically welded seam that made a noticeable crease when ironing. I "outgrew" them in one way or another quickly!

    All I can say is that when you think your figure is perfect, start exercising like crazy so it will stay that way!

    1. SewTruTerry | | #11

      As far as the excercise goes a little can go a long way.  The problem that I am having right now is the old body is changing so quickly not only from the age part but I have been faithfully excercising 5 days a week for the last year and a half and my biceps are now so toned and have such definition that I have a hard time fitting into RTW with fitted sleeves.  In fact in some cases I feel that I need to cut some of the sleeves off as they are so tight.  Oh well I guess it could be worse.

      1. CTI | | #12

        Oh the toned body curse :) though I think fitted sleeves on RTW always leave a lot to be desired. Good for you on the daily exercise, I should be doing that too.

  7. enidshapiro | | #13

    I DOUBLE baste slippery fabrics


    hand sew zippers and set-in-sleeves.  You have more control and don't have to rip a million times.

  8. Elisabeth | | #14

    Sometimes I baste, it depends on the fabric. I think, though, if I was getting $4000.00 for a skirt like a well known designer is charging, then I would definitely baste.

  9. becksnyc | | #15

    I baste only when absolutely needed to control the fabric.  I encourage my students to wean themselves from pin addictions (:-) by increasing their skills at the machine.  Sewing without pins, or with just a few pins is a skill that comes with practice and experience...years of it! 

    I set in sleeves on tailored jackets with just a few pins (at the notches and shoulder seam), sleeve side closest to the feed dogs, placing my left hand between the jacket body and sleeve, using the four fingers of my left hand to distribute the ease.  This works on all but the slipperiest of fabrics.

    I rarely use pins when installing or replacing slacks/skirts/dress zippers (again, unless bulky, drapey, or slippery fabrics make necessary), but use an anchor, align and sew technique.  That is:

    1. Hold the zipper in place

    2. Anchor it by inserting the machine needle and lowering the presser foot

    3. Align the rest of the zipper to the garment

    4. Sew

    Basting is fine if you have time to spare, but time is money if you sew for a living, so basting could be wasting that precious resource.  No rules, though.  Do what your present skills require for the best results.  But be willing to take risks (when feasible) to improve your abilities.

    Becks (now ex-nyc)

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