How to Baste When Sewing By Hand

Typically when you want to attach two pieces of fabric together to stitch either by hand or machine, you use pins to attach them to each other. This is useful in most cases, but there are times when you want to use a technique known as basting.

Basting is simply a very long, easily removed placeholder stitch. Don’t secure the ends when using a basting stitch, because they will be removed at the end of your project. You can use it in a lot of situations when pins may add too much bulk or not completely hold the pieces together, for example:

  • Attaching certain notions like zippers and bias tape
  • When trying a technique for the first time, to make sure you’re piecing your fabric together correctly
  • When fabric is likely to shift
  • When using a lot of layers of fabric, which pins may cause to bubble or pile up

For a basic demonstration of hand basting, check out this short video:

Now let me show you some of the ways you can use basting on a project by making a zipper pouch.

First, I used basting on one of the sides and the zipper to make sure I was putting it together correctly.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
Here are the basting stitches when the bag is inside out.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

Here are the same stitches from the outside. When you sew basting, the stitches will most likely be a little loose as you can see in this picture, so be sure to leave long ends so that they don’t get pulled out of place!

I then used basting to keep the zipper in place before I stitched it.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

I left the basting in as I stitched, and that held the zipper and fabric together more evenly than pins typically do.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

After this I removed the basting and repeated on the other side.

Then I used basting to attach the bottom of the bag because I was going to stitch the seam from the outside and use bias tape around the edges.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

Next after cutting the edges to be even, I hand basted the bias tape onto the edges to keep that in place for stitching too.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

After this I just stitched the bias tape and it was done!

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

Here’s the bag after removing some of the basting. Note: Usually you use a thread that matches the bias tape, but I used materials that sharply contrasted on purpose for this demonstration!

Now some basic tips to make your basting easier:

  • Use a contrasting thread with your fabric so that you remember to remove it at the end!
  • Try to baste near your seamline rather than near the raw edge to mimic the real thing as closely as possible
  • Save your basting thread once you remove it so that you can reuse it later
  • Like I mentioned before, leave long ends free so that you don’t accidentally pull it through the fabric and lose the stitch
  • Find a way to store your excess thread by color. I use plastic bags and the thread does get tangled occasionally, but storing it by color makes it much easier to get what I need rather than going through a big knot of different colored threads.

Sewing basting stitches comes in handy for a beginner learning how to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

Here are a couple of my basting bags!

Now go forth and baste away, opening doors to all kinds of sewing opportunities.

Happy sewing!
Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

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Video: How to Tie off an End of Thread

Here on Sew Me Your Stuff we’ve covered plenty of hand stitches, but never really how to secure those hand stitches. Check out this quick video with a simple method for how to tie off thread!

Happy sewing!
Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
Pinterest & Twitter – Follow for tips, ideas, and more
Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

How to Set Up your Sewing Machine

I remember when I first got my mother’s sewing machine out of the closet it was already threaded and ready to go. I was toying away with it when I accidentally pulled the thread out of place and tried to re-thread it but could not figure out how to do it and had to give up until she could dig up the instructions manual. Sometimes the actual process of sewing by machine may not seem so intimidating, but how do you actually get the machine going?

Here is a guide on how to get your machine ready to sew.

First, you’ll want to get your thread spool placed on your machine. Note: Not every machine is exactly alike, so take these as general guidelines because your machine may have some slight differences. The basic idea is the same!

The first step for a beginner who's learning to sew is to put the thread on the sewing machine - Sew Me Your StuffThe first step for a beginner who's learning to sew is to put the thread on the sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

The first picture is a free standing spool of thread, with the spool pin behind it. In the second picture, the spool has been placed on the spool pin and secured, with one end of the thread free to sew.

Next, it’s time to wind your bobbin.

Winding the bobbin properly is important for a beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

To wind the bobbin, thread the proper guides and tension discs as your machine requires. My machine is illustrated to show you how to properly place the thread. After you have done this, insert one end of the thread upwards through a hole in the bobbin top (Click the picture to enlarge for clarity). Place the bobbin on the spindle until it clicks in place and if needed, slide the spindle to the side until it clicks. Hold onto the end of the thread as pictured and press your pedal.

Your machine will typically automatically stop winding the bobbin when it fills with thread. At this point you can cut the thread that attaches it to the spool.

A properly wound bobbin is important for an beginner learning to sew with a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

I didn’t fully wind this bobbin, but you can see the remnant of the thread that was stuck through the top of the bobbin and the loose end that was just cut.

Next, into the machine it goes!

Placing your bobbin properly in the case is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine. - Sew Me Your Stuff

While inserting the bobbin into the case, hold the loose end of the thread in your fingers and pull it through the gap in the case until it resembles the picture. If you pull the end, thread should come out of the bobbin without a lot of resistance.

Next, insert the bobbin and case into the machine.

Inserting the bobbin and bobbin case properly into the sewing machine is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

Do this by lifting the latch on the top of the case while pushing the case into the machine until it clicks into place.

Next it’s time to put your needle in place!

Inserting a sewing machine needle properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your StuffInserting a sewing machine needle properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

In the first picture, I am sliding the needle upwards into place. In the second, I am securing it by twisting the knob (lefty loosey, righty tighty, of course).

We’re almost done! Next it’s time to thread the needle with the top thread.

Threading your top thread on your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine. - Sew Me Your Stuff

Follow your machine’s specific instructions, but on machines like mine you’ll find a numbered guide to help you thread the machine properly.

When you reach the needle, push it on through.

Threading your sewing machine needle properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

Some machines have fancy gadgets to thread the needle for you, but I just physically push the end of the thread through the eye.

Now you need to retrieve your bobbin thread.

Setting up your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

Hold the end of the thread upwards and to the side.

Setting up your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machineSetting up your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

Using the handwheel, not the pedal, slowly rotate so that the needle goes downward and back up through one stitch motion, holding on to the top thread with your hand the whole time.

Setting up your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

A loop of thread will appear out of the bottom of the machine. Voila, this is the bobbin thread!

Setting up your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

Pull upwards on the top thread that you’re holding until the loop comes loose and the end of the bobbin thread is out.

Setting up your sewing machine properly is important for any beginner learning to sew on a sewing machine - Sew Me Your Stuff

Push the two ends of thread under the presser foot and backwards, and you’re ready to roll!

It may seem like a very long process, but once you get the hang of it it’ll be a snap! Happy sewing!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff

How to Choose from the Most Common Brands of Thread

Honestly, when I choose thread for a new project my main criteria is matching color. I’ve never stopped to think about the differences between brands and what’s right for what project until today when I decided to do a little research into the different types of thread and wow is there a lot of information out there!

To help you choose what thread you’d like while you’re standing in the fabric store, I decided to make a little guide to the most familiar brands and their different lines of thread. I’ll include some links at the bottom to more information.

  • Dual-Duty All Purpose
    Dual Duty All Purpose thread is an inexpensive option for people learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
    I mentioned way back in this post that this is the only brand of thread that I’ve really used since I started learning to sew. This thread has a polyester core wrapped in polyester, and polyester thread typically is good for a wide variety of fabrics including synthetics. The polyester core gives it elasticity so the seams can work with stretchy fabric, and the polyester wrapping makes it glide easily through fabric as you sew. I have never had any problems with this thread, though I did find some claims that their sewing machines reject its cheapness. I still say it’s a good choice for a beginner!
  • Gutermann Sew-All
    Gutermann Sew-All Thread is a slightly more expensive thread but works well if you are learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
    This brand is one of the more expensive options at your typical fabric store. As you can see from the picture, it is also 100% polyester. Reviews of this brand say that it is more durable than Coats and Clark, and the thread is more tightly woven so that there are fewer loose strands that can cause issues on a machine. I recommend that if or when you move from hand-sewing to machine sewing, if you’re ready to make the investment this might be a better choice for more serious projects.
  • Sulky
    Sulky thread is mostly intended for embroidery and may not be the best choice if you are learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
    The first time I went to buy thread at the fabric store, I picked up Sulky because it had the closest color to my fabric. Luckily one of the employees thought to ask what I was using the thread for, and I told her I was learning to sew. She told me Sulky is best used for embroidery and isn’t intended to hold seams together. If you’re interested in embroidery, this thread is made from rayon which will lay flat where cotton threads may stand up. It’s displayed in stores right next to all-purpose threads so don’t be fooled! Unless you’re doing embroidery it’s not for you!
  • Mettler Silk Finish Cotton Thread
    Mettler Silk Finish cotton thread is made specifically for cotton fabrics, but may be an expensive choice for someone learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
    This thread is a popular choice among quilters and is intended to be used to sew cotton fabrics. Cotton thread can also be used on linen and rayon, but should not be used on woven fabrics because it won’t have enough elasticity. This thread in particular gets very good reviews for both machine and hand sewing, but it is on the pricey side compared to some of your other options. I say make this purchase after you’ve built up some skill and are ready to make the investment!

So that’s just a look at some of the more common threads you’ll find if you shop in the mainstream fabric stores. I recommend as a beginner that you stick with Coats and Clark for now because it’s inexpensive but still pretty good quality for your beginner projects. When I’m ready to upgrade to a better quality brand I think my next move will be to Gutermann, and I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Here are some more links if you’d like more details. Most of these sort their information by the material used to make the thread:
How to Choose the Right Sewing Thread // Types of Sewing Thread
Is There a Difference in Sewing Threads? >> This one is great because it includes microscopic images of each brand!

Happy sewing!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
Pinterest & Twitter – Follow for tips, ideas, and more
Etsy – Shop Sew Me Your Stuff