Why I hand-baste


And, no, this has nothing to do with spreading fluids on roast meat. What I’m referring to are the loose running stitches that are used to tack fabric together in the place of pins.

Why baste? In the case of sewing it makes sense to baste if you’re not quite sure of the fit of the garment you’re making as they are easily undone and show the fit of the final garment better than something that’s tacked together with pins. Also, ouch, the pain when those pins connect with skin. It’s also useful when doing appliqué without using Bondaweb.

In my case, I like hand-basting fabric pieces to paper templates that are later used for patchwork in English Paper Piecing (EPP, for a description of the process see http://www.craftsy.com/article/english-paper-piecing).

This is what I do:


Here’s one of my templates (already used before, as you can see from the stitch holes).


I tuck the fabric around the template and stitch through both template and fabric.


The finished article looks like this. This piece is now ready to be stitched to another piece. The basting stitches are then removed along with the paper template.


Lots of little triangles ready to be used

The world of EPP seems to be torn with regard to the best method of fixing templates to fabric. A large number of people like using glue sticks, arguing that the pins leave holes. But mostly it seems to be a matter of time. It’s much faster to glue pieces together than to baste them together, regardless of which basting technique you use. But I’ve never liked the idea. Why, when it is obviously so much more practical and less wasteful (just think of all that yarn that gets wasted on basting…)?

One reason is that I can’t quite believe that the glue doesn’t leave some kind of residue on my lovely piece of patchwork / quilt, although my brain tells me that they must be water soluble – just like the fabric marking pens I use with reckless abandon. But mostly I rebel against the unspoken assertion that it’s always better to do something quicker.

Some people seem to always have their eyes on the next quilt. The question seems to be how many quilts you can make, not how much fun are you having while you’re composing the quilt you’re working on at the moment. To those people it makes sense to cut down on prep time – and wrapping fabric around templates is undoubtedly merely preparatory to the real work of sewing.

I’m of the view that the whole process should be enjoyed, and that it can take as long as it takes. I like to take my time basting – and I like to take my time stitching. That means I take quite a long time to finish projects. But is that such a bad thing? How many quilts does one possibly need? Unless I ever take up quilt-making professionally I can’t see the sense in rushing something that I do to relax, as a hobby.

I’m sure there is a connection between the mindfulness meditation that I’m occasionally attempting and what I like to think of as mindful stitching. Each stitch can be experienced, savoured. And that takes the time it takes. For me, it’s not about racing to the finish, but about enjoying the process of creating.



About alycevr

Academic, translator & maker of things
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