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A place for ideas and happy stuff

December 10, 2011

Bias Tape Tutorial

Bias Tape Tutorial -
How to make and sew bias edging

When you want to add a nice finished edge to a fabric project, you can cut and sew strips of fabric called bias tape.  This is how I finished the fabric lining on my gator scarf tutorial
I like to  store my bias tape by wrapping it around  cardboard and pinning it in place.

This tutorial is designed to help you learn how make your own bias tape from the fabric of your choice and then apply it to the fabric edge.  You can also buy bias tape in a range of solid colors from your favorite fabric store if you want to skip the cutting and pressing step.  There is more than one method of applying bias edging, so feel free to experiment or ask how others bind their fabric's edges. 

     What you need to make bias strips:
          -   Fabric (see link at bottom to determine yardage needed)
          -   Cutting tool: Rotary Cutter is preferable - it is faster, easier, and more accurate than Scissors 
          -   Cutting surface/self healing cutting mat (if using rotary cutter)
          -   Straight-edge ruler: Clear Quilters Ruler is preferable - the grid helps you find the right angle and mark fabric for next cut 
          -   Iron and Ironing Board
          -   Bias Tape Maker (optional, but highly recommended - speeds up the project greatly) click here to find one

-Start with Step 1-
     What you need to attach bias tape to your project:
          -   Bias Tape (pre-made from store or make your own from materials above)
          -   Sewing Machine and Thread (Thread and needle will do if you want to hand sew your project.)

-Start with Step 5-

1. Cut Strips.
Cutting mats help line line up fabric and show you the bias angle.

Basic: Decide on a width for your tape, then line up your ruler with the edge of the fabric and cut stripsto the desired length.
Knitty Gritty: To be proper, you should first wash and dry the fabric, then iron, then rip/pull a thread from the cut edge of the fabric in order to find the true straight edge. When the fabric is printed, the print is not always truly straight to the weave of the thread.  By the time the fabric comes off the bolt and into your home, it may also have warped.  Washing the fabric can help this.  Pulling the thread shows you where the true edge of the fabric should be cut.  Ironing helps make the fabric crisp and ready to be cut without any wrinkles or puckering in the way.  At this point you must decide to cut basic strips by lining your ruler up with the now straight edge and cutting parallel to it (this allows you to be more frugal with the amount of fabric needed) or cut at a 45 degree angle to it, also known as the bias, (which uses more fabric, but allows the tape to drape more beautifully once applied to the final piece).  By cutting at at 45 degree angle, you also get fabric whose edges won't unravel.

-Choose which method works best for your project and time constraints.  For my alligator scarf, I skipped washing the fabric and cut straight with the weave.  For a nice dress, I would take the time to make true and proper bias strips. -

2. Sew strips end to end to acheive desired length.
Overlap strips to make "L" shape and stitch together.

Basic: Calculate the length of bias tape you need, then sew the strips from step 1 together to acheive that desired length.
Knitty Gritty: Place two of your cut strips right sides together, forming an "L" shape.  You want to slighty overlap the ends of each strip, criss-crossing them so the strips are perpendicular to one another (form a 90 degree angle).  On each strip, place your finger on the outside edge of the strip and run from the outside corner of the "L" to the point where the inside edge of the other strip overlaps the edge where your finger is.  Repeat on the outside edge of the other strip.  Now, sew a straight line connecting these two points.  When you pull the now joined strips, you will have one long strip.  Continue adding more strips until you have your desired length.  (See picture for help).

3. Iron and trim.
Basic: Iron all the the seams you just created open.  Then trim off any fabric the overlaps, falling outside of the desired strip width.

4. Fold and Iron.

A. Cut strip entering tape maker - B. Folded strip ready to iron.

Basic: Fold strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and Iron.  Then open fabric and fold the edges inward to the middle creaseline and iron.  Then, without unfolding the edges, fold the strip in half along the center creaseline and iron.  You now have tape that is ready to be sewn.
If you have a Tape Maker: Follow directions on packaging.  Basically, you will thread the fabric through the wide end of the tape maker, wrong side up (make sure the tape maker handle is on top and flat metal base is on bottom).  Use your fingers, a pin, or an awl to help push it through until you can pull it out the narrow opening.  Have the iron ready to press the fabric because as you pull it out of the tape maker, it will already be neatly folded.  You can then fold it in half once more and have tape that is ready to be sewn.       

5. Pin and sew.

A. Stitch in crease -  B.  Knitty Gritty-Trim the edge

Basic: Unfold the tape and line the tape edge to the fabric's edge with tape wrong side up, pinning in place.  Starting at one end of tape, sew along the crease closest to the edge of the fabric.  Stop sewing just before you get to the starting end of the tape.
Knitty Gritty: Before continuing to step 6, trim the edge you just sewed about a 1/8 of an inch or so.  When you fold over the tape to the other side, this will help give it a clean folded edge.

6. Fold and sew.
A. Fold over - B. Stich in place - C. Fold under loose end

Basic: Take the loose edge of the tape and fold it over the fabric's raw edge so it lands on the opposite side.  The narrow folded edge of the tape should still be tucked under. Pin down tape to fabric and sew in place, starting at same place you started sewing in step 5.  When you get to end, Fold the loose end of tape under about 1/2 an inch and catch both sides as you sew it in place.

Knitty Gritty: How to sew?  When finishing your bias tape, you have a few choices...

A. Stitch in Ditch vs. B. Top stitch
Stitch in Ditch:  If you applied the tape in step 5 to the right side of the fabric, then you probably will want to stitch in the ditch for step 6.  When you fold the tape over in step 6, make sure it lays a little past where you sewed the first side.  Then sewing from the right side of the fabric, sew inside the crease between the fabric and the tape catching the other side of bias tape underneath. This method helps hide the stitching, so use a thread color that blends into the fabric.

Top Stitch: If you applied the tape in step 5 to the wrong side of the fabric, then you probably will want to top stitch for step 6.  on the right side of the fabric, sew along the top edge of the bias tape, keeping the stitch as straight as possible.  You may prefer to stitch down the middle, this is fine, but make sure you are catching the raw edge of the tape inside so that it would pop out later after some wear. This method shows the stitching, so you can experiment with different colors or stitches.

Other Tutorials & Sites to check out:
Visit Jaybird Quilts to learn binding basics and how to bind around curves. -Favorite Tutorial
Take it one step further at The Cottage Home and learn to sew piping.
Bias Tape Tutorial at The Cottage Home or Sew4Home.
What is a bias tape maker? Check out this how-to video by Penny Halgren.
Learn to use a rotary cutter and clear gridded ruler at the Purl bee
How much fabric will you need to make your tape?  Use Quiltbug's chart.

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