Bias tape is often used as an edge finish.
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.
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Cutting and sewing
Here’s a video from Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch about making a continuous length of bias tape using the whole area of the fabric.
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 strips twice the width of the pressed ‘single fold’ tape you want.
For example, if you want 1/2 inch single fold tape, cut 1 inch 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 :
. . . . folded strip, made from cut strip (inches)
green . . .1/4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2
yellow . . 1/2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
red . . . . . 3/4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-1/2
blue . . . . 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
black . . . 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
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
There used to be an amazingly expensive gizmo from Simplicity which combined folding tool and iron.
Fold and sew double fold binding
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.
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.
Binder feet may claim to do the folding for you, but most of them do the second (centre) fold and hold the tape in place, but work better with the first (edge) folds already done. So buy commercial single fold tape, or make your own with a bias tape maker, and then use the binder presser foot to fold and sew it round your fabric edge.
(Bernina bias 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.)
Here’s a video from Sewing Cake about using the basic foot with pre-folded bias.
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 is a generic foot but it doesn’t fit all machines, so check it works on yours.
There’s a 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.
Some 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.
You can attach bias binding without using a special presser foot, see bias binding section in Techniques index, and probably get a more elegant result, but it takes longer 😀
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Many useful tricks and tools to help us make and sew our own bias tape.
Well worth exploring if this is a look you like.
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Originally written February 2015, links updated September 2020
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