How to Prevent Needle Gumming With Basting Tape

Item # X-HT-300515

Basting tape is one of our best-selling products. It's incredibly useful for keeping fabric layers together when hemming and joining panels. As much as we love basting tape, one of the downsides to using it on your projects is that it can sometimes gum up your needle when you're sewing. This frustrating side effect shouldn't deter you from using this fantastic product. In today's blog, we're going to pass along our tips on how to prevent needle gumming when sewing with basting tape. We'll also give you our recommendations for which type of basting tape to use with various fabrics.

Basting tape is a very useful sewing notion.

First, let's briefly compare and contrast our two most popular basting tapes: Basting Tape for Canvas and Basting Tape for Sailmaking & Vinyl. We'll discuss the properties of each and which applications we recommend them for.

Seamstick Basting Tape for Canvas

This is an aggressive basting tape — for a very important reason. Many marine canvas fabrics like Sunbrella® have a protective or water-resistant coating on them. This is, of course, extremely advantageous for their overall purpose as awnings, biminis and covers, but it also means that tape doesn't stick well to the canvas. The adhesive on our canvas basting tape is engineered to work itself into the fabric's fibers when pressure is applied so that the bond holds incredibly well.

Seamstick Basting Tape for Sailmaking & Vinyl

We know, the name sounds very limiting. It sounds like this basting tape is only meant for sail material and vinyl. And while it is great for these materials, it can also be used for certain applications where you want a less aggressive and less sticky tape.

This basting tape is not nearly as sticky and powerful as our basting tape for canvas and upholstery. What that means is that basting tape for vinyl is great to use with lightweight home décor fabrics. These fabrics are thinner than typical marine canvas fabrics. If you use the canvas and upholstery basting tape with such thin home fabrics, there's a very high risk of your needle gumming. Plus, with such light fabrics, you don't need the extreme holding power of canvas basting tape, so the basting tape for vinyl will still adhere well and hold your layers together perfectly, with the added benefit of not gumming up your needle.

Here is a chart comparing the two basting tapes:

Chart of canvas and vinyl basting tape specs.

As you can see in the chart above, basting tape for vinyl has far less adhesion strength than basting tape for canvas. That's why it works great for lightweight materials.

Common Questions About Basting Tape

When should I sew through basting tape?

Sewing through basting tape adds an extra level of water resistance to your seams. Essentially, as the needle penetrates through the tape and exits the fabric, the tape is drawn up and "plugs" the stitch hole. This is useful for outdoor projects where you need ultimate water resistance. Projects like biminis, dodgers, awnings, shade sails, canopies and covers could all benefit from this technique.

The overlapping and semi flat felled seams are two of the most popular seams for outdoor canvas projects. When sewing these seams, we recommend sewing through the basting tape. Marine canvas fabric like Sunbrella is inherently thicker and often more tightly woven than home décor and upholstery fabrics. The layers of canvas "clean" the needle as the needle exits the fabric assembly; therefore, the needle is less likely to gum up as with lightweight, loosely woven fabrics.

When should I NOT sew through basting tape?

The simple answer is: if you don't need your seams to be waterproof. For most home, hobby, craft and upholstery sewing projects, you should not be sewing through the basting tape. This is especially true for projects that you sew with wrong sides together and then turn the assembly right side out (think cushions and pillows, bags, fabric toys, etc.). If you sew through the basting tape when making a cushion, and then turn the assembly right side out, the tape will be visible on the right side of the fabric. This is definitely something you want to avoid.

This is where basting tape width comes into play. You always want to select a basting tape narrower than your seam allowance. When you adhere the tape, make sure you are lining it up with the very edge of your fabric. This ensures that you will most likely not sew through it when you hem and sew fabric panels together. This is why we recommend the 3/8-inch or 1/4-inch width for most upholstery projects that have a 1/2-inch seam allowance. If you're concerned about sewing into the tape, choose the 1/4-inch-wide basting tape. It will still hold your fabric in place and you won't have to worry about your needle sewing through the tape.

We're using 1/4-inch basting tape to sew a pillow cover.

How do I remove basting tape from my fabric?

The thing about basting tape is that it's meant to be incredibly sticky. It's designed to hold your fabric layers together prior to sewing — if it's not sticky, it's not doing its job. The downside of this, though, is that it can be very difficult to remove if you've accidentally placed basting tape on the right side of your project or if you can see the tape through a seam when you turn your cushion or pillow right side out.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to remove basting tape. After testing and using basting tape for years in our project videos, we've found two options for removing basting tape from woven fabric. You can use your fingers, tweezers or pliers to carefully and patiently pick away at the tape. This process can be time-consuming depending on how much tape you need to remove. The other option is to leave the tape. After time and use, the tape will collect dust and debris. It will become brittle and dry, and at that point, it is easy to pull the tape off of your fabric.

If you have basting tape stuck to your vinyl window material, such as dodger and boat enclosure windows, tent windows, Jeep® soft top windows and more, we have a solution. We've had great results removing excess basting tape using 3M™ Specialty Adhesive Remover (#108984). Simply apply the adhesive remover to a clean, soft rag and then softly rub away the basting tape glue residue.

Tips for Sewing With Basting Tape

1. Change your needle frequently or clean your needle with rubbing alcohol or adhesive remover.

2. To prevent needle gumming, run your needle through a bar of Ivory® soap before installing it in your sewing machine. The soap residue will help keep the tape from sticking to the needle.

3. When applying basting tape, we like to rip the tape at the edge of the fabric panel instead of cutting it off. The ripped tape edge makes it much easier to pull off the transfer paper.

Here's a helpful chart listing a variety of fabrics and materials and the basting tapes we recommend for them.

Basting Tape Types and Uses Chart.

Hopefully we've answered your questions about basting tape and needle gumming. Feel free to check out our other resources on basting tape. Our "Which Basting Tape Do I Use for My Project?" (#300456XHT) guide will help you choose the right tape for your project. "Sewing Tips: How to Use Basting Tape" (#300076XHT) video will demonstrate how to apply basting tape to fabric for the perfect results every time. If you have any questions or comments about basting tape, post them below. Let's start a conversation!