Make your own bias tape
See this post for Cutting and folding your own fabric, including :
– cutting and assembling a lengthy bias strip,
– tools which make it simple to shape single fold tape,
– using a special sewing machine presser foot for attaching bias binding.
This post is about attaching bias binding and facing without using a special presser foot.
Some patterns use bias strips but do not need them to be pre-folded. I often find it easier to pre-fold anyway, but check your pattern instructions to see what is used.
cross section through tape
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Bias binding covers over an edge, and is visible from both front and back of that edge.
Bias binding, photo tutorial from Brooks Ann Camper.
pdf on binding from The Sewing Place.
Corners in binding, brief instructions for every type of corner, with detailed instructions for pressing curves, in this tutorial from Wearing History.
A lengthy photo tutorial from Sew4Home has many tips on making and using bias strips, also instructions for ’quick and easy’ application of bias binding with a single line of machine stitching.
Or follow the link at the top of this post if you want to try attaching a binding strip using a machine presser foot for binding.
If you attach the binding with a single line of stitching, you can use zigzag or a decorative stitch such as ‘blanket’ (pin) stitch or feather stitch (stitching by machine or hand).
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A bias strip applied as an edge finish but visible from only one side of the fabric.
Most tutorials for this give very wrinkled results. Many tutorials even advertise with photos of wrinkled distorted results. People teach classes wearing badly distorted bias facings. Some of the tutorials which show photos of beautifully flat bias facings describe a technique which actually gives distorted results.
I don’t know why this technique is used so often on beginner patterns ! I would guess this awful result is a big reason (along with fit) why many people decide making clothes is a magical process which they will never conquer. I certainly don’t find bias facing is a technique that can be done at speed with minimal attention.
In the sewing technique books I have (and I collect them !), nearly all describe a bias strip facing as if it is trivially easy to get a good result. Only the old and wondrous Vogue Sewing Book mentions stretching and pressing the bias into shape. And even they don’t mention any problems with doing the final stitching by machine. Perhaps they take it for granted you will hand baste the tape in place, and hand hem the outer edge 😀 But from the me-made photos people post on the web, I’m not the only one who has problems with bias facings.
The marvellous thing about a bias strip is it can bend around a curve yet stay flat. The trouble is, unless it is handled correctly, it tries to get back to its uncurved state, with distorted results.
This photo tutorial from Pattern Scout about making a bias facing is very detailed and covers most of the important points. Techniques for both armhole/ curved neckline, and V-neck. Adapt the V-neck method to finish a square neck.
That is a very long post. This is just added comments, not complete instructions here.
1. first steps : cutting bias strips and stitching them together. I think it’s easier to use one of the methods in the cutting and folding post, which don’t need you to sew individual strips together.
2. from about 1/4 of the way through post : 3 essential steps using an iron, before you begin the bias tape application :
– iron to stretch your unfolded bias strip.
– fold tape using folding tool.
– press again to curve tape to final shape. Lay the tape on the pattern tissue to copy the curve. And let it relax into shape. It’s the outer edge of the strip that needs to be the correct length without stretching, so you may have some bumps on the inner edge to press out. As the final tape is placed a little in from the finished edge, the outer edge will be longer. So press the curved tape into shape a smidge away from the edge. Leave it to cool before moving it. If it tries to straighten out, then the strip isn’t long enough for the outer edge to relax into the curve.
3. from about 1/2 way through : application steps.
I would add some points :
– It’s better to use a bias strip slightly too long than too short. I don’t pre-measure the tape, but cut it perhaps 4-6″ too long.
– I suggest pressing the bias after the first stitching. If the bias strip won’t lay flat, the outer edge is too short and no amount of battering it with steam pressing will solve the problem. It may lay flat now, but it will pop up too short later. Sorry, try again ! that’s why it’s a good idea to develop your technique by making samples.
– Understitching is essential on a true facing, to hold the facing behind the main garment. A bias strip is held in place by the final line of stitching, so understitching is not so necessary.
– For the final sewing down of the outer edge of the bias :
(This is not in the Pattern Scout tutorial.)
The feed dogs pull the fabric one way, and the sewing machine presser foot can push the upper layer of fabric the other way. So layers of fabric don’t go through the machine at the same rate – you may have found if you don’t use some pins when sewing a seam, the ends of the seam don’t match. It’s one of the reasons why you need to use a walking foot.
The result of this when sewing bias is a diagonal stretch.
You may get this when sewing hems and casings too.
– – So the bias needs to be held firmly in place before stitching. Many methods : you can’t machine baste as that can push the bias out of place too, so use hand basting, or washaway basting tape, a walking foot, or many pins.
– – Lots of pivots needed when stitching around the curves, both first stitching and second. Don’t pull on the curve to straighten out the stitching line : that distorts the fabric and you sew in the distortion so it’s permanent. Pivot often enough to make sure main fabric and bias tape stay flat and unstressed during the stitching.
(It is lovely to have a machine with a free-hand knee lever for lifting the presser foot when doing all these pivots, but such machines are more expensive.)
– – To be sure of getting an even distance relative to the edge, mark the final stitching line and sew from the outside of the garment. I have a french curve with widths marked along the curves, which makes it easy to do this marking.
– – The final stitching can be less visible if you do it by hand (and the tape can move a little so is less likely to distort).
This is definitely a sewing skill ! Even if you follow all these suggestions for bias facing success, you may find you need to try some samples before you find how to get a result you are happy with.
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Other methods of using a bias strip :
‘French bias’ used as a facing
This is a wider bias strip folded in half lengthways. Uses much the same method as a single fold bias tape facing. This takes slightly less effort than a bias facing made with single fold bias strip, as you don’t need to pre-fold the tape. Result is slightly thicker, so not a good idea if using a thicker fabric for the bias strip.
Pattern Scissors Cloth has an invisible method which can only be used on light fabrics which press well. It doesn’t include the final line of stitching which causes so many problems in most bias facing methods. Basically you bind the edge, then turn the binding in as a facing !
I confess I do find it easier to make a true facing to get a good edge finish. Some people manage to make a good quality bias strip facing without difficulty. I’m sad to say I am not among them.
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