The Pros and Cons of Basting a Design

If you do a lot of counted canvaswork, sometimes it seems as if every other pattern you pick up calls for some sort of basting lines to be put in before you start stitching the actual design.

My confession: For the vast majority of these, I completely ignore the instructions to baste.

Why? Well, for one, I’m often too impatient to get started to bother with that step. But the other major reason I don’t baste is because the counting of many patterns really isn’t that complicated. If I’m building a geometric design from the inside out, for example, I don’t need to baste the areas of every border. I can just count out 10 or 20 threads or so (depending on the pattern, obviously) to start the next border. For me, there’s little benefit of spending the time to baste in this case.

Everybody’s different of course. I have some friends who swear by basting and would rather not have to deal with counting each step. If that works for you, go for it.

On the other hand, sometimes a design is made a great deal easier by simply adding a few quick basting lines. Here is the beginning of the borders for Ruskin Garden Square by Gay Ann Rogers.

RGS 7Nov2011 As you can see, for this design I chose to add the basting lines, which consisted only of marking the horizonal and vertical centerlines, and diagonal lines going out from the center. The reason is that each side of each border starts as a couched thread going from one corner of the border to another. If I didn’t have those diagonals in there, it would have meant double, triple, quadruple counting to find where each couched line starts and stops. When the distance between the outer couched line and the middle couched line is 40 threads, that’s a lot of counting. And a lot of room for mistakes.

With the basted diagonals, though, I just had to count the forty intersections out one corner to start the first side. Then I simply laid the thread straight across to the next diagonal corner. That easily, I know I have a straight line and where it’s supposed to end. No counting all over again at the second corner.

So I guess it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. If the cost of basting (the time and complexity of the it) is greater than the benefit to be gained (the saving of time when it comes to stitching the actual design), then I don’t baste. If I’m going to save a lot of time in stitching by putting in a few simple basting lines, then I’ll do it.

What about you? Do you put in all basting lines according to instructions, or are you more of a “let’s wing it” stitcher?

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