Sewing Tips: Using Basting Tape

When working on sewing projects here at Sailrite, one of our favorite tools of the trade is a simple one—basting tape. Sometimes called Seamstick or seam tape, basting tape is a handy little tool that can make help make your sewing look professional. Today, we’re going to answer some common questions about basting tape.


What are the Benefits of Basting Tape?

Basting tape is a really helpful tool for sewers because it’s easier than pinning fabric pieces together, especially when working on large assemblies. Since it’s just peel and stick, it’s really easy to adjust if you make a mistake, too. Basting your fabric in place also helps to ensure that your fabric feeds evenly into the sewing machine. Basting tape also helps reduce puckering when sewing and helps make seams water resistant.

What’s the Difference Between the Types of Tape?

There are different kinds of basting tapes that are formulated to stick best to certain kinds of fabric. Here are some examples of different kinds and the materials you can use them with:

  • Seamstick Tape: The least sticky of the four tapes listed, this tape works well with smooth Dacron sailcloth, nylon, vinyl or cotton.
  • Seamstick Basting Tape for Canvas: This tape is sticker than the plain Seamstick so it sticks better on coarse, canvas fabrics like Sunbrella or Top Gun. This is our most popular basting tape.
  • 3M Super Seamstick: This tape was developed especially for sewing laminate sailcloth and is incredibly sticky. It also works well when you want a strong bond for sailcloth, spinnaker cloth, or canvas.
  • Mylar/Kevlar Basting Tape: As the name implies, this tape was made specifically for Mylar or Kevlar laminate sailcloth.

Does the Width Matter?

The width of the tape does matter in certain applications. A general rule of thumb is to select a width similar to the width of the seam you will be sewing. That way you’ll get the best hold, but won’t have any excess tape sticking out from behind your seam. We recommend using a thinner tape, like 1/4” for use in cushions because the seams are generally so small in those applications.

Will It Make my Needle Sticky?

It could. The stickier the tape, the more likely it is to cause your needle to gum up. To prevent build up on your needle, run it through a bar of Ivory soap or swab it with rubbing alcohol.

Why not give basting tape a try and see if it makes a difference in your sewing? Find a great selection of basting tapes at

Do you have any other questions about using basting tape? Is it your favorite tool, too? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments.

  1. SueC56 said:

    Basting tape is wonderful stuff! For garment sewing I use Wash Away Wonder Tape. Using basting tape makes many tasks easier and more precise.


    • Nikki said:

      Thanks, Sue! Great tip for garment sewers!

  2. John said:

    It took a little while for me to figure out how to start peeling away the backing: I’d lay down the tape, cut it, lift the backing, and the tape would pull off my sunbrella. Darn! Then I learned that if you TEAR the tape rather than carefully cutting it, it tends to separate the backing from the tape a little bit, and then it’s easy to peel. Watch some of the sailrite videos and notice the quick tearing motion the experts use. :)

    Also: This stuff is the absolute best tool for zipper installations, but you really want to keep it well away from the teeth. (Don’t ask…) It’s one place where a skinnier tape may be your friend.

    Finally, for large-overlap areas (like “6 inches wide”), where you want some real OOMPH between panels, the carpet-hold-down two-sided tape that you can get at the big-box home-repair stores can be terrific, although the tape itself is much thinner, so you have to avoid getting it all gummed up into a ball of snot … takes a little practice. Lay it out, press it down thoroughly, peel off the backing, and you should be good.

    • Nikki said:

      Those are really great tips, John!

  3. rick said:

    what is the best way to evenly fold over your fabric to create your hem, etc with basting tape?

    • Nikki said:

      It depends a bit on the type of material. With a stiff, marine grade material, you can run an awl along a metal ruler and score the material to create a natural fold. For softer material, it helps to make a fold like and crease by hand or (if the fabric allows) use a cool iron to crease the fold.

  4. Dave said:

    Basting tape works great and now I am not using my hands as a pin cushion! Sew the tape down right away as it will release after 5 or 10 minutes. I use a little silicone on the needle to keep the tape from gumming things up.

  5. Rolf said:

    How do I get old seamstick off of my previously sewn canvass when doing a repair project? I’m adding two inches on the sides of my fabric at the zipper. I tore out the old seam, removed the zipper, but the old seamstick isn’t coming off very easily AT ALL. Any tips much appreciated!!! Its 26 feet of fabric overall.

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Rolf,
      We’ve actually found that McLube Sailkote removes stains and glue from most fabrics and hard surfaces. It’s not designed for that purpose, it’s a lubricating spray, but for some reason it is a miracle stain and adhesive remover. Be sure to always test an inconspicuous spot on the fabric before using everywhere because Sailkote has been known to remove the urethane coatings from some fabrics.

      Here’s a link:!&ea_q=mclube%20sailkote

  6. Jim Hepburn said:

    Hi all. I started useing ¼ ” tape on my last project making a wheel pedestal cover, neat seams, but had a nightmare with the needle gumming up with in the first inch or so. I cleaned the needle with cleaner and started again. Cleaned and used silicone spray to stop build up but broken thread and gumming badly. A real nightmare. It’s the way forward but don’t want to use again. How do the professionals get away with long seams using tape? Help please Jim

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Jim,

      Usually, when sewing with a medium or heavy-weight fabric, the needle is usually cleaned automatically as the needle enters and exits the fibers of the fabric as you are sewing. However, when using a lighter weight fabric there are fewer fibers to help keep your needle clean, so you might see more buildup. We’ve also noticed that home sewing machines have more of a problem with buildup than industrial machines do.

      All this to say, you can clean the buildup off your needle as you see it happening with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, Goo Gone or McLube Sailkote. We’ve had customers tell us that rubbing Ivory soap on their needle helps reduce buildup from forming, but we haven’t tried this ourselves to say for sure.

  7. Rich said:

    I just made a new cover for our wakeboard boat in a heavy waterproof canvas – there is no way I could have done it without this tape! It’s given me so much confidence that I’ve now started reupholstering all the vinyl :-)

    • Nikki said:

      That’s great, Rich! We’d love to see photos of your projects when you’re done.

  8. Using the Biastape I have found a small cloth with white lithium grease helps stop the needle guming up with adhesive. More that increasing the bobbin and needle tension helps pull the thead through the tape.

  9. Dave said:

    tried using the basting tape 129 on light weight drapery fabric. gumed up needle and presser. stopped the feed dogs from feeding fabric on my home machine? maybe should not have used on light weight fabric. adhesive bleeds through

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Dave,
      Sorry you’re having issues! Using #129 and other basting tapes for canvas on lightweight fabrics does tend to gum up the needle quicker because the lighter fabric doesn’t have the body in the fabric to clean the needle as it leaves the fabric. You can clean off your gummed up needle and other machine parts with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or with Goo Gone. We’ve even had luck using McLube Sailkote ( to clean parts and prevent build up. In the future to prevent this problem we’d recommend using a lighter basting tape (like this one: or using pins to hold your fabric in place.

      Hope that helps!

  10. curt giebler said:

    When I use seaming tape with ripstop nylon, my machine doesn’t catch the thread on the bottom, if I move to the side of the tape my machine sews great, back to the tape same problem, we like to applique projects and the tape really helps .what to do ?

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Curt,
      It sounds like the basting tape might be building up on the needle. When this happens the needle doesn’t form a good thread loop for the hook to catch and you get skipped stitches. Here’s a couple of things to try:
      1. Be sure you are using the correct needle and thread size combination. Using a properly sized needle means it can get cleaned off by the fabric as it enters and exits.
      2. Use Goo Gone, rubbing alcohol or McLube Sailkote ( on a cotton ball to clean the basting tape residue off your needle whenever you get skipped stitches.

      Hope this helps!

  11. Y Rauch said:

    Did my best to not have my seaming tape sticking when I was done sewing the seams but was not successful in some places. What is the best approach for removing the tape that is sticking out. Taking the seam apart is not really an option for two reasons: the fabric easily frays and I had just enough material to do a 1/4″ seam.


    • Sailrite said:

      Hello T Rauch, unfortunately there is no “easy” way to do this. We have found that using the cushion/application for a season will result in the exposed basting tape turning brittle, at which point it will be easiest to remove! Otherwise a lot of patience and a good TV show is the best method in removing exposed basting tape.

      • Y Rauch said:

        Well, just confirmed what I had hoped was not true. Netflix here I come! LOL.


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