Embrace the Baste

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Basting is an important step in sewing, especially when working in felted-wool appliqué. I have seen many of my students attempt to skip this critical step, since it is temporary, and on occasion, our confidence can lead us to move quickly ahead. I caution my students never to skip over basting. When working in felted wool, which is almost a sculptural medium, the pieces can easily move while being held in the warm hands of the maker. Here are some tips for a successful basting process, which spans all forms of sewing, but is highly important in wool appliqué.

  • Use contrasting thread and a milliners needle.
  • Begin and end with a backstitch, anchoring the thread tails in the process.
  • Never use knots, which allow the threads to be easily removed.
  • Stitch, leaving most of the thread showing on the top side of the work for easy removal.
  • Stitch straight stitches, creating slanted threads on the top of your work for easy removal.
  • Stitch the center of your pieces, leaving the edge free for easy appliqué.
  • Do not think in terms of outlining your pieces; instead, think in terms of filling the center of the piece with basting stitches. Use large stitches.
  • In the example below, I have added two rows of basting stitches to the illuminated letter to secure it in the center of my book panel for appliqué. Note that the stitches are slanted so it will be easy for embroidery scissors to snip every other stitch and then lift out the threads when completed.

I encourage those working in wool appliqué to “embrace the baste.” Using adhesive bond and similar products will not allow for dimension in your work. In addition, the adhesive will produce drag on your needle, and the pleasure of the needle slipping easily through the soft wool will be lessened.

Sometimes we find the smallest steps lead to greater accuracy and perfection in our work … and of course that brings a smile to us all. 

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