How to Make Four Basting Stitches

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Monday, November 10, 1913:  Am trying to fix one of my winter <missing word>. Wonder how it will turn out. I am good at doing awful sewing.

Source: The Dressmaker (1911)

Source: The Dressmaker (1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


I understand. I’m also good at doing awful sewing.

I’m not a good seamstress because I’m not a careful sewer and tend to take shortcuts. Were you the  same? Did you skip steps like basting?

Here’s basting directions from a hundred-year-old book:

Bastings are temporary stitches used to hold two or more pieces of material together while putting in the permanent stitches. Careful basting is essential to successful sewing.

There are four kinds of bastings.

Even Bastings start with a knot of the right side so that they may be easily removed. Pass the needle over and through the material making the stitches and spaces the same length. To fasten the thread, take two stitches over the last one made. (Fig. 1)

Uneven Bastings are made by the method just described for even bastings, except that the stitches and spaces are of unequal length. The stiches taken upon the needle are about a third shorter than the space covered by the thread. (Fig. 2)basting.stitches.jpg.2

Combination Bastings are used on seams where extra firmness is desired for close fitting. They are made by taking, alternately, one long stitch and two short stitches. (Fig. 3)

Diagonal Bastings are slanting and used in dressmaking to secure the outside material to its lining, particularly where the lining is eased on to the material, as is often the case in waist-making. The method is shown in Fig. 4.

The Dressmaker (The Butterick Publishing Company, 1911)

10 Responses

  1. Good at awful sewing–love this evidence of her sense of humor.

  2. I didn’t know there were 4 different bastings; guess I was good at awful sewing too :(

  3. That’s funny: I always hated basting, though my mom tried to instill in me how important it was!

  4. This is very interesting to me. Only yesterday I got a new book all about different types of stitching so this is a very timely lesson for me. :)

  5. In sewing class we had to do basting but once I was grown I preferred to use straight pens any time I could. I never liked basting. I did not know about diagonal basting. Hugs

  6. I used to use pins…

  7. The diagonal basting is new to me, it sure looks nice and neat in the diagram, Annie

  8. I remember the sewing lessons we had and I HATED them with a vengeance and yet when I need to sew now (very rare), my mind goes back to those lessons….. so the lessons served their purpose :)

  9. Hi. My whole sewing is basting. If it sticks together, that’s good enough for me. Jane

  10. Like grandma I too am “good at awful stitching”! ;)

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