Sewing Tips: How to Use Basting Tape

SKU: X-HT-300076



When working on sewing projects here at Sailrite®, one of our favorite tools of the trade is a simple one: basting tape. Sometimes called Seamstick or seam tape, basting tape is a handy little notion that makes a big difference in your project and helps make your sewing look professional. Basting tape is great for basting panels, seams and hems together prior to sewing. In this blog, we're going to discuss what basting tape is and how to use it in your project.

Basting tape is a double-sided adhesive tape. It comes on a roll much like other types of tape (painter's tape, Scotch® tape, duct tape, etc.). What's different about basting tape is that it has a paper backing on one side protecting the adhesive prior to basting. It can be used on a variety of fabrics and materials, and even thick webbing. At Sailrite, we sell four varieties of basting tape: for canvas, for sailmaking and vinyl, for mylar/Kevlar® laminate sailcloth, and for coated ripstop or coated polyester spinnaker fabrics. Be sure to read our blog "Which Basting Tape Do I Use for My Project?" (#300456XHT) to learn which type of basting tape works best with various fabrics and material types.

Now that you know what it is, why use it? Basting prior to sewing provides more accurate seams and hems. It's much faster and easier than using pins, especially on large assemblies. Some types of basting tape are repositionable if you need to readjust your hem or line up your panels again. It's also useful for forcing fabric to take a curve if you're sewing something with shaping, such as a round bottom bag.

Basting tape helps to prevent feeding problems, often called fabric shrinking or fabric puckering. This sewing phenomenon most often happens when sewing long runs of fabric. With very long fabric seams, the top and bottom panels can experience uneven feeding. When this happens, the layers no longer perfectly match up and one layer ends up being too short even though they were cut to the same length. Basting tape keeps the layers firmly together and helps prevent this frustrating sewing issue.

Another asset of basting tape is that it helps waterproof seams, which is a great benefit when fabricating outdoor projects like awnings, biminis, T-tops and dodgers, and protective covers. Basting tape won't leave holes in your assembly, unlike pins. Depending on what you're sewing, pins can leave permanent holes in materials such as vinyl and faux leather, window material, leather and sailcloth. In fact, basting tape is the only notion you can use to hold layers together when sewing sails.

Once you have your fabric measured and cut, you'll apply the basting tape very close to the edge of the fabric to create seams and hems. Start at one end of your fabric edge and carefully stick down the tape. As you unroll the tape, continue to carefully adhere it to the fabric. When you reach the end, tear or cut the tape from the roll. We like to tear the tape because it creates a wrinkled edge that is easy to pull the paper backing from. Remove the paper backing and either fold your hem over or attach your other fabric panel.

The width of the basting tape you use is important in certain applications. A general rule of thumb is to select a basting tape width just slightly narrower than the width of the seam or hem. That way you’ll get the best hold, but won’t have any excess tape sticking out from behind your seam. For example, when sewing 1/2-inch seams, use 3/8-inch basting tape.

We recommend using 1/4-inch basting tape for use in cushions and pillows because the seams are generally so small in those applications. This narrow width is also great for zippers, as the tape will stick well to the zipper tape and is narrow enough to stay away from the zipper teeth. 1/4-inch-wide basting tape is also used to attach a cushion's boxing to the plate and piping in upholstery work.

Once the basting tape is applied and you've folded over your hem or adhered your fabric panel, you need to add pressure to the fabric assembly so the basting tape has a very secure hold on both layers. We like to use the Sailrite® Canvas Patterning Ruler and run the metal edge across the seam, pressing firmly. This will ensure the basted hem does not peel up.

Now you can take your fabric assembly to the sewing machine and sew your seams. The basting tape will ensure that your fabric does not shift or slide around. You can sew through the basting tape without issue. If your needle gums up, simply clean it off with rubbing alcohol or an adhesive remover.

Watch our short video all about basting tape and how it will make your next sewing project so much easier!

Why not give basting tape a try and see if it makes a difference in your sewing? Find a great selection of basting tapes right here at Sailrite. Do you have any other questions about using basting tape? Is it your favorite sewing notion too? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments.