If you’ve been following me for any amount of time you’ll probably know that I love basting. I find it totally wild that those who sew for themselves rarely employ this valuable technique.
Basting is sewing with temporary stitches. Since temporary stitches are soft and quickly removable, there’s no risk and no pressure for perfection. Basting allows you to stay in the moment, work one step at a time, make improvements, and learn the answers to all of your questions- all before making a permanent stitch. Basting offers an open book test- right before the real test.
One of my very favorite things about sewing is that it is full of reversible adjustable processes (which I talk about in my “Pep Talk” on the Love To Sew podcast.) The way I sew can be considered slow, but it allows me to improve upon my work and answer almost all of my questions- which eliminates the need to laboriously unpick permanent stitches (which is no fun, could potentially leave scars- and talk about slow). When you baste, you can relax and enjoy the process. There’s no expectation for perfection- while offering opportunities to make easy tweaks that could make all the difference. Why would you want to skip that?
A student from my Intro to Custom Sewing online course Skirt Skills (enrollment opens soon!) even mentioned learning the joys of basting in her testimonial:
“The sewing process you teach takes time, and I came to love the act of undoing – as you taught, undoing something that was only ever intended to be temporary, or a draft, is not the laborious and demotivating task of undoing what was meant to be permanent. It’s been very free-ing!” – Alice
I hope this post inspires you to enjoy the process and benefits of basting!
Basting Jenn's top together
Every fabric fits and feels a little different, so even through we had already worked though our basted mockup fittings and the pieces of the mockup were basted to the inside of each layer of satin cut from her mother’s wedding dress, it would be important to have a basted fitting in the real fabric before stitching everything up permanently. I still had lots of questions and I wanted to get the best fit and finish possible in the limited time Jenn and I had to work together.
To prepare for our upcoming basted fitting (and the last time I’d see Jenn before the wedding), I started the construction of Jenn’s top with some machine basting. Using the thinnest needle and the longest stitch length, I used the stitch lines already marked on my mockup underlining to quickly baste together all of the darts by machine.
For the seams (and pretty much everything else), I decided to baste by hand. I wanted quick adjustability without any scarring. Since we rearranged the steps of my patternmaking and fitting process, I anticipated that we’d want to make slight changes pretty much everywhere in order to get the best fit for Jenn.
While keeping everything as flat as possible for as long as possible, I prepped for basting by pinning- which is a also form of basting. When you pin line-to-line along the line, you use each pin as if it were a temporary stitch.
Outfitted with my thimble and threaded needle, I removed each pin while adding a quick hand basting stitch to join the revised princess seam lines from the mockup. It’s really fun because hand basting is a “running stitch”, which is the simplest, easiest, and quickest hand stitch.
Since the large seam allowances on the curved seam offered bulk that I didn’t want to trim yet (we might still need it!), I also did a quick hand basted running stitch as a “top stitch”. This allowed me to softly and temporarily control the seams to be a little flatter- without pressing or trimming.
Here’s what it looked like from the inside with both curved princess seams hand basted and their allowances controlled (with more basting).
The side seams were straight, so the stitching was a little more straight-forward. The white hand stitches in the allowance are from the underlining (probably sewn by Charles or Rebecca). With the light blue line of running stitches, I’m in the process of basting Jenn’s side seams together.
I also basted up the hem of the peplum with a quick soft running stitch.
Once the shoulder seams were basted together, I basted one edge of the collar to the top. Next I’d attach the peplum!
Back when I prepared the peplum, I added a double line of machine basting in the allowances above the waistline. Next, I pulled the thread tails of those basting stitches to gather the top of the peplum and began to pin it in place along the bottom of the top.
My machine basting stitches were loose enough to create a really nice gather when pulled tight.
All gathered up!
Next (you guessed it), I’d replace the pins with basting! A line of basting stitches would follow along my marked stitch lines connecting the peplum to the top. Then another line of basting was used as a “temporary top stitch” to control all the excess currently in the allowances.
After I could no longer keep the garment flat and open, I hand basted an invisible zipper down the back for the closure.
Isn’t it looking pretty?
It would be easier to see how this looked on Jenn if I had padded a custom dress form that matched her shape. It is really rare that I’ll skip that step, (I think I’ve created a custom dress form for possibly every other bride!). But for Jenn, a friend I’d barely see during our making process, we had to do a lot of things a little differently.
While on the dress form, I folded and checked the collar. Then I quickly basted it temporarily in place.
Then I basted back the allowances of the armholes…
…so I could pin in the sleeves…
…and replace the pins with hand basting!
Whoo hoo! Basted Fitting ready and Brooklyn bound!
Jenn's Basted Fitting in Brooklyn
I live in North Carolina. Jenn lives in Brooklyn.
In addition to making one-of-a-kind custom wedding wear, I teach custom sewing online. I also have been teaching one in-person class per year- My Couture Hand Sewing Intensive at Camp Workroom Social.
You may remember from the beginning of this bridal blog story that I had just signed the contracts to teach at Camp 2019 when I got the “Save the Date” from my (kinda famous) friend Jenn for her wedding the same weekend. I ended up revising my plans so that I could attend Jenn’s wedding and still teach the class- only this year it would be at Workroom Social’s Brooklyn studio, instead of at Camp.
Bonus: My hand sewing class was scheduled so that I could also meet Jenn for a fitting- which would take place at Workroom Social after a day of class.
Double Bonus: Jennifer Wiese, the founder of Workroom Social, was a wonderful and willing photographer! (Her dog Rosie is real cute too.)
Triple Bonus: Jenn looked great in the basted top- even before beginning our basted fitting!
The fitting seemed to be informative for the students…
…even though we gabbed and giggled through most of it. It was so great to see my friend Jenn again!
During the fitting, I ended up pinning improvements to the back waist darts, the back waist seam placement, the side seams, and the sleeves of Jenn’s wedding rehearsal top.
Just because something fits, doesn’t mean you can’t make it fit even better!
For this Brooklyn fitting, I had also basted together a custom veil for Jenn to try on. (In the pic below, you’ll see a student looking at it- hanging on a dress form).
But this veil would not be worn on the wedding day, nor with the rehearsal top… Jenn would be wearing it with a Temperley London wedding dress in a photoshoot with People magazine!
I will share the making, fitting, and photoshoot with Jenn’s veil in my next blog post, but it was around this point during our Brooklyn Basted Fitting when Jenn told us all an incredible tale.
The dress had been shipped to Jenn, but a thief stole the package as it was being delivered. Once he discovered it was a wedding dress, he contacted Jenn with his demands- holding it for ransom!
Some fantastic female cops got involved and Jenn got to be part of an undercover sting!
The dress was recovered safely.
The fitting was to be continued….
NEXT POST: I’ll share my creation process and the fitting of the veil + the gorgeous shots of Jenn in the photoshoot for People Magazine!
The final season of CLAWS (starring Jenn) premiers this Sunday on TNT!