Adding a Basting Box or Stitch for Embroidery

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If you’ve decided not to hoop fabric based on the fabric or your preference, one way to secure your project outside the hoop is by using a basting box.

Using an embroidery basting stitch was something I initially shied away from when first learning how to machine embroider. I disliked the extra work of later ripping out stitches, and I wasn’t excited about testing fabrics first to make sure needle holes weren’t permanent. 

However, after having projects move more than I wanted them to, I became more proactive about adding basting stitches to my embroidery designs.

I now really like this solution! Not for everything, obviously, but for some projects, a basting box is great to use!

what is a basting box in embroidery?

What A Basting Box Actually Is

example of embroidery basting box

A basting box is a rectangle of long-length stitches used to secure an embroidery blank to stabilizer before a design is embroidered. 

Basting stitches can be made by hand, sewing machine, or embroidery machine. Regardless of the method, these stitches are easily removed after the embroidery is complete. 

Why Use a Basting Stitch in Embroidery

If you’re floating fabric (read: what is floating in machine embroidery?), you need to prevent fabric movement.

While temporary adhesive spray, pins, or sticky self-adhesive stabilizer are great options, sometimes I pick a basting box.

Like these other options, a basting box decreases fabric movement, thus decreasing puckering and producing a better stitch out. It also helps hold water-soluble topping on fabrics with nap or pile. 

One other benefit of a basting box is it gives you a preview of your design placement before starting to stitch.

adding a basting box

Every once in a while, when my machine first starts stitching, my fabric will shift. Viewing the basting box before my design stitches lets me correct any hooping issues like on this embroidered stuffed animal ear above!

You Can’t Add a Basting Box to All Fabrics

For instance, leather, vinyl, or cardstock. Any holes you put in those fabrics will be permanent and will NOT work with a basting stitch.

In general, any material that doesn’t respond well to pinning and leaves permanent marks is not a good candidate for a basting stitch. If you are unsure and working with a new fabric, always test first before stitching. 

Baste Hoop vs. Baste Design

Baste hoop vs baste perimeter

There are two types of basting boxes that you can add to an embroidery design.

  1. The first is to add a basting box to the hoop. This creates a basting box slightly smaller than the hoop you will be using. So, for example, a ~3.9″x3.9″ square for a 4″x4″ hoop.
  2. The other option is to use a basting design that goes directly around the perimeter of the design. This is a smaller area a basting box that encompasses the entire hoop area.

Which one you prefer depends on your design and fabric. I switch between the two depending on my project but lean towards using perimeter baste more often.

Finding or Making a Basting Stitch Embroidery File

Some embroidery machines come with their own basting box design that you can combine with other designs. Check your user manual to see if there’s a way to add this type of stitch using your machine’s touchscreen.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an option on my Brother SE1900, but if you have a more deluxe Brother embroidery machine, here’s a tutorial on how to add a basting stitch on a Brother embroidery machine.

For users without a built-in machine basting stitch, there are two ways to add basting stitches to your designs before embroidering. 

You can import a free (or purchased) basting box design, or you can create your own customized basting stitch design in software.

Free Basting Stitches for Machine Embroidery

If you don’t have basic embroidery software, the sites below offer free basting designs for your hoop. These will be basting boxes for 4×4, 5×7, 6×10, and other popular hoop sizes as well as some squares.

  1. GG Designs Embroidery has free basting stitches in 13 different sizes. 
  2. SWAK Embroidery also offers unique basting box sizes if you want to collect as many options as possible. 

If you don’t find all the sizes you need, you can purchase more options from your favorite designer’s site or on Etsy, for example. Or, you can design your own.

Creating a Basting Box with Software

Now, if you want to add a basting stitch close to the perimeter of your design or design a custom-sized box, you need software.

I’ll show you two popular basic software options below that will help you create a basting stitch around any design you import.

How to Add a Basting Stitch in SewWhat-Pro

I think Sew What Pro is the best basic editing software for the budget-minded. I recommend checking it out and downloading their free 30-day trial if you want to start learning to customize premade designs. (You can also read more in my SewWhat-Pro review of features.)

Now, if you want to add a basting stitch in SewWhat-Pro, you can baste the perimeter or baste the hoop.

To access these options, first, click on Tools and then Basting Stitch.

how to add a basting stitch in sew what pro

A window will pop up asking if you want to baste around the pattern (perimeter baste) or around the inside of your hoop. Choose whichever you prefer, and click OK. And that’s it!

choosing between hoop basting or around design basting

By default, the basting box should be first in the stitching order. If you make any more modifications to your designs, make sure that you confirm the basting box is still first in the stitching order for both programs.

How to Add a Basting Box in Embrilliance

There are different levels of Embrilliance, and the type of basting design you add depends on the level(s) you own.

If you have Embrilliance Essentials, you can add a basting stitch around the perimeter of your design. Simply hover over Utility and then click Baste Design to have a box surround the perimeter.

If you would like to add a basting stitch in Embrilliance Enthusiast, hover over Utility again and then click Baste Hoop.

This will put a basting stitch around the perimeter of your chosen hoop size. In this instance, I’ll get close to a 4″x4″ square basting stitch for my 4″x4″ hoop. Also very easy!

How to Remove A Basting Box After Embroidering

how to remove basting embroider stitches

After you’ve stitched your design, you need to remove your basting stitches as part of your clean-up.

Remove a basting box with your favorite seam ripper or other pair of small scissors.

I like to rip every 4-5 basting stitches on the front of the design and then pull out the bobbin thread unripped from the bottom.

Then, I use my fingers and a lint roller to get the excess threads from the front. I used to just rip the locking stitch at the end of the box and try to pull the two pieces apart without seam ripping, but sometimes this distorted my designs when pulling the fabric away.

Discover whatever method works best for you, and you’ll be able to remove your box in less than a minute with practice!

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