Bias tape is often used as an edge finish.
It’s cut at an angle across the fabric, so it’s very stretchy and can go round curves.
In many applications it is folded before it’s applied.
You can buy it pre-cut and pre-folded.
But how can you cut it and fold it yourself ?
Here’s a general photo tutorial about bias tape, from Dana at MADE. Early sections of that post show the different types of bias and what they can be used for.
There are 2 ways of folding bias. Single fold (actually 2 folds) and double fold (3 folds).
A 2″ wide bias fabric strip folds to :
1″ single fold tape
1/2″ double fold tape.
In cross-section the folds are like this :
To add to the confusion about names, it is now difficult to buy pre-folded ‘double fold’ tape, and many suppliers call the tape with 2 folds double fold tape.
Want to make bias tape from your own choice of fabric ?
But don’t want to waste fabric in large unused triangles. Or sew dozens of little seams. Followed by all that fiddly folding.
Happily modern methods avoid all those problems.
The first sections of this post are about cutting and folding the bias tape.
The final section is about special presser feet for sewing on the binding.
There is a second post on sewing bias binding and bias facing.
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Cutting and sewing
If you just want a relatively short piece, for marking the starter cut it’s helpful to have a quilter’s ruler, as they have a 45º bias line marked on them.
Making a longer bias strip from a square of fabric :
Diagrams from All Well Workshop, with associated video – cutting from a 12″ / 30cm square.
More detail in this video from Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch – cutting from a fat quarter.
Trim the fabric edges so corners are square before starting this process.
It is much easier to do the marking if you have a long graduated ruler, like a quilting ruler.
I start marking the strips from the edge away from the seam. That way, the unwanted bit you trim off has some of the seam in it.
Cut bias strips twice the width of the final pressed ‘single fold’ tape you want.
For example, if you want 1/2″ wide single fold tape, mark and cut 1″ wide strips.
This is the usual size in clothes patterns, as it’s the size of the most common ready-folded tape.
If your fabric is very stretchy, you may like to check if you get a better result by cutting the strips 1/8″-1/4″ wider.
And here’s how to make a very long length of bias binding, from Megan Nielsen patterns.
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Folding – Single fold tape folded by using a bias maker
It isn’t always necessary to use pre-folded bias tape, so check the pattern instructions before doing this step.
The size name of the bias tape is the folded width, not the fabric strip width.
The range of Clover bias makers :
The size is colour coded :
. . . . single fold strip made from cut strip gives double fold strip (inches)
green . . .1/4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2
yellow . . 1/2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . . . 1/4
red . . . . . 3/4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-1/2 . . . . . 3/8
blue . . . . 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 . . . . . . . . . 1/2
black . . . 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 . . . . . . . . . 1
Here’s a video on using a bias maker, from Deborah Moebes at Whipstitch. She’s using 1-1/2″ fabric strips with a 3/4″ bias maker.
Videos makes it look easy, but there is a knack to it. Make sure the fabric stays in a smooth U-shape as it goes into the maker. Where seams go through the maker the strip may need more careful pressing afterwards.
Some tutorials tell you to pull the bias strip through the maker, but it’s much easier to pull the maker along the strip.
Some people show making the bias with the folded edges upwards, some with them downwards. Try both and see which you prefer. Or do both – I start with the folds up and do a final press with the folds down.
(You can also get tape makers which add fusible tape to the bias while it’s pressed. Used more in quilting than in clothes making.)
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Two tools combined
Fold and press single fold tape
This amazingly expensive gizmo combines folding tool and iron. It disappeared for a while but is now available again.
Fold and sew double fold binding using a presser foot
You can attach bias binding without using a special presser foot, see bias techniques, and probably get a more elegant result, but it takes longer 😀
A sewing machine binding foot folds the bias strip as you sew.
Several styles of foot, but they all work the same way – a shaper which folds the bias strip, and a middle slot which takes the fabric edge you want to bind.
You can also use this foot to make spaghetti straps.
Bias tape used for binding is double fold tape – the first fold which turns the edges in, then the second which folds the tape in half.
Here’s a video from Missy Billingsley.
There are several videos which show the person using the foot to make both folds. You need to feed the strip into the foot carefully, do much test stitching to check it is folding correctly, then keep a careful continuous eye on it while stitching. I confess I have not yet managed to develop this skill.
Most binder feet do the second (centre) fold and hold the tape in place, but work better with the first (edge) folds already done (see diagram at top of post). So buy commercial single fold tape, or make your own with a bias tape maker. And then use the binder presser foot to fold it and sew it around your fabric edge.
(Bernina bias feet can do all the folding for you. Their feet have 2 parts, a presser foot and a folder-guide which attaches to the needle plate. They provide separate folder-guides for pre-folded and unfolded tape, and for different widths of bias. Very expensive – you could buy a lot of fabric for the cost of a complete set 😀 )
Here’s a photo tutorial from SeeKateSew about a more sophisticated foot which you can adjust to sew different widths of bias tape.
Here’s a video on using this adjustable foot. This video does tell you to use a tape maker to make the first folds before using the foot to make the second fold and attach the tape.
This foot claims to be generic but it doesn’t fit all machines, so check it works on yours.
There’s another knack to holding in place both the tape and the fabric being bound. So practice before doing this for real.
And make test samples to get the needle in the best place for sewing your specific fabrics.
Some people never get to be happy with the result.
And yet more skill and practice needed to use these attachments when sewing round curves and corners. There is a tutorial on sewing corners using pre-folded bias tape, from about 3 minutes in this video from Bernina.
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Many useful tricks and tools to help us make and sew our own bias tape more quickly.
Well worth exploring if this is a look you like.
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Originally written February 2015, links checked September 2022
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