What is a Basting Box in Embroidery and How to Add One

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If you’ve decided not to hoop your fabric to be embroidered based on personal preference or the features of your fabric, one way to secure that fabric outside the hoop is to use a basting box.

Using a basting stitch was something I initially shied away from when I first started learning how to machine embroider because I disliked the idea of having to rip out stitches after embroidering. I was never a fan of unnecessary work, and I hated having to test fabrics first to make sure basting stitches wouldn’t leave permanent marks.

However, after seeing some projects move more than I wanted them to with other fabric securing methods, I looked into adding basting stitches to my embroidery designs. I now really like this option! Not for everything, obviously, but for some projects, a basting box is great to use! Let me teach you more about this handy embroidery trick.

what is a basting box in embroidery?

What is a basting box in embroidery and why use one?

example of embroidery basting box

Essentially, a basting box in machine embroidery is a rectangle of basting stitches to secure the fabric to the stabilizer before you embroider your design. They can be done by hand, by sewing machine, or most popularly, by your embroidery machine. Embroidery basting stitches are very long length stitches that are easily removed after you’re done embroidering your design. 

If you’re floating your fabric (read: what is floating in machine embroidery?) you always need a way to prevent fabric movement. While basting spray, pins, or sticky self-adhesive stabilizer are great options, sometimes a basting box may be the preferred option. This basting box decreases fabric movement and puckering and provides a better stitch out in many cases. It also helps hold water-soluble topping onto fabrics with nap or pile. (Check out my basting box in action in my how to embroider a beanie tutorial!)

One other benefit of a basting box is it gives you a preview of your design placement before you start to stitch. Every once in a while, when my machine first starts stitching, my fabric will shift. Viewing the basting box before my design stitches out lets me correct any hooping issues like on this embroidered stuffed animal ear below!

adding a basting box

Can you add a basting box to every fabric?

No, there are some fabrics you want to steer clear of using a basting box on! 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 main types of basting boxes that you can add to an embroidery design. The first is to add a basting box to the hoop. This will create a basting box that is slightly smaller than the hoop you will be using. So, for example, a 3.9″x3.9″ square for a 4″x4″ hoop.

The other option is to use a basting design that goes directly around the perimeter of the design. This is going to be smaller than the hoop basting stitch.

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

Finding or Making a Basting Box File

Some embroidery machines come with their own basting box design that you can combine with other designs. This isn’t an option on my Brother SE1900, but if you have a more deluxe Brother embroidery machine, here’s a tutorial for how to add a basting stitch on a Brother embroidery machine. Check your user manual if you have a different brand to see if there’s a way to add this type of stitch using your machine’s touchscreen.

If you don’t have that option, you have two other ways of adding a basting box! First, you can import a free (or purchased) basting box design you download, or you can create your own customized basting stitch design. Let’s talk about those two options.

Free Basting Stitches for Machine Embroidery

If you don’t have basic embroidery software, these three 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. Embroidery Garden offers several free basting boxes
  3. SWAK Embroidery also offers some unique basting box sizes, if you are wanting 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 to help with that. 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 to an Embroidery Design in Sew What Pro

I think Sew What Pro is the best basic editing software for the budget-minded. I’d 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 Sew What Pro review of features if you think this may be a good fit for your software needs.)

Now, if you want to add a basting stitch in Sew What Pro, you have the option to 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!


I hope this tutorial has taught you what a basting box is in embroidery and how to add a basting stitch to your embroidery design. Happy embroidering!

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