Hemming 101: Basting Tape, Pins & Clips
There are more sewing aids and notions on the market than ever before. The good news is this means it’s easier than ever to sew with professional-looking results, even if you’re a beginner! The downside is that with the huge variety of products available, so many options can be overwhelming. In today’s blog, we’re going to take a look at the three most common hemming notions — basting tape, sewing pins and fabric clips — and discuss the pros and cons of each type to help you know when to use which one for your sewing project.
We’re big fans of basting tape here at Sailrite. In fact, we use it in almost all of our how-to project videos. It makes seaming, folding and hemming fabric a quick and easy task. We went through rigorous testing to find the highest quality basting tape for our marine, home and auto DIY markets. Our basting tape holds securely and won’t yellow over time and discolor your fabric the way lower quality basting tape sometimes does.
Basting tape is a double-sided adhesive that bonds fabric layers together. There are different varieties of basting tape that are engineered for different types of fabrics or materials including canvas, vinyl, sailcloth, cotton, mylar/kevlar and more. Rolls of basting tape are also available in various widths so you can find a width to match your hem or material overlap.
With basting tape, the entire length of the fabric is taped down onto the other layer. This means there is no chance of creating a gap, which could potentially happen between pins and clips. This ensures even fabric feeding when you take your fabric assembly to the sewing machine. A benefit of using basting tape is uninterrupted sewing. You don’t have to stop sewing every time you need to remove a pin or clip from the fabric assembly. You have to be careful to select a basting tape width the same size or slightly narrower than your hem. Otherwise, the edge of the tape will stick out from behind the seam.
With nonporous materials, using pins creates a permanent hole in the assembly that is unattractive and can ruin the project. This is one of the advantages of using basting tape. Materials like vinyl, faux leather, sailcloth and real leather can’t be held together with pins. Basting tape can make your needle sticky, but this is easily remedied by swabbing the needle with rubbing alcohol or running it through a bar of Ivory soap.
- faster and easier than using pins
- no holes created in material
- can peel back and readjust fabric if needed
- fabric feeds evenly into the sewing machine
- very useful for basting zippers to fabric
- easier when working on large fabric assemblies
- reduces fabric puckering
- makes seams semi-waterproof
- can gum up the sewing machine needle
- must be careful that tape width is narrower than hem or seam so tape doesn’t show and attract dirt
- not reusable — more costly
- can adhere only two layers together
Sewing pins are the oldest sewing notion used to hold fabric layers together. This tried-and-true notion is a staple in every sewing room and sewing kit. They’re convenient, inexpensive, usually bought in bulk, and reusable. You don’t have to regularly order more pins as you do with basting tape.
The uses of pins are more varied than basting tape or clips. Not only can pins be used to hold fabric assembles together as you take them to the sewing machine, but they can also be used in patterning and cutting. Dressmakers and tailors use pins in their work, and they can be used to pin slipcover fabric onto the furniture piece during upholstery work. Another benefit of pins is that you can hold multiple layers of material, unlike basting tape which can only adhere two layers together.
We sell two varieties of metal sewing pins here at Sailrite: 2-inch T pins and 1-1/2-inch multi-use head pins. The T pins lie flat on your fabric assembly while the plastic head of the multi-use pins sits on top of the fabric. Both pins are easy to remove as you sew, though the head is easier to grab with your fingers. Regardless of which type of pin you use, do not leave the pin in your assembly; you must remove the pin before it reaches the presser foot. If you leave a pin in your assembly and the needle hits it, it could cause the needle to deflect and break.
- don’t leave a residue
- widely available and inexpensive
- can hold multiple layers together
- more uses than just hemming and holding layers together
- leave a permanent hole in vinyl, leather and other nonporous materials
- can cause injury if stepped on or you stab yourself
- easy to lose or misplace
- can cause needle deflection and affect machine timing if not removed during sewing
Fabric clips are a newer sewing notion to hit the market. They resemble office supply binder clips or chip bag clips. The clips sold at Sailrite are plastic and have a large mouth that can securely hold your fabric assembly together. Let’s take a look at what sets clips apart from pins and basting tape so you can decide if they’re the best option for your sewing needs.
In a way, clips are both similar and different from basting tape and pins. They are similar to sewing pins in that they can hold several layers of material together, unlike basting tape. Also like pins, they must be removed before the clip nears the presser foot. They resemble basting tape because, unlike pins, clips do not pierce the fabric. You can use clips on materials in which pins would leave permanent holes (vinyl, leather, silk, satin, etc.). Clips can only be used on the edge of an assembly, whereas pins and basting tape can be applied anywhere on a project.
A huge advantage to using clips instead of pins is that they’re easier to see. No more lost pins in your fabric assembly or fear of stepping on painful pins if you accidentally spill them on the floor. The Clover Wonder Clips we sell feature seam allowance markings on the flat underside of the clip so you can accurately position the clips for a perfectly straight seam line. Wonder Clips can also be used to hold binding in place if you don’t have a binder attachment.
- don’t leave a residue
- seam allowance markings on the underside
- can hold multiple layers together
- don’t pierce material
- easy to see
- more expensive than pins (by quantity)
- must stop sewing to remove clips before they reach the presser foot
- plastic clips could break if stepped on or smashed
If you sew for your home, boat, RV, apparel, bags and more, you’ll find a need for at least one of these useful notions for your DIY lifestyle. You may even find uses for all three. Whether you prefer basting tape, sewing pins or Wonder Clips, we’ve got these essentials in stock and ready for your next project.
Have you used any or all of these sewing essentials? We’d love to know your impression of these supplies. Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!