At Sew Crafty I get asked a lot about bias binding, like how to use it and what it’s for, which is understandable, if you have never been taught about it, it may seem like a bit of a mystery. I love how it can take a project from okay through to polished and it really isn’t as complicated as it may appear. So I thought for this month’s sewing tips post I would write a definitive post including everything you ever wanted to know about Bias Binding.
What is Bias Binding or Bias Tape?Bias Binding is a strip of fabric cut at a 45 degree angle to the straight weave of a fabric. It is cut this way to take advantage of the ability to curve around corners when fabric is cut on the cross.
What do you use it for?Often it is used to edge quilts and bags, it can be used as a narrow facing, particularly around arm holes in clothing. You can use it to cover piping cord to make an edging or you can sew it together to make a rouleaux style tape to use as ties or cord.
What different kinds are there?At Sew Crafty we stock cotton bias, polyester satin bias and printed bias. You can also make your own out of pretty much any fabric and you can also get stretch or Lycra bias, although I prefer to cut my own if I’m sewing with Jersey from the same fabric if needed. I usually buy an extra half a metre of any stretch fabric I buy to allow me to cut bias.
How do I make my own?To make your own bias tape you simply need to cut strips across your chosen fabric at a 45 degree angle to the straight weave of the fabric. You can then with or without a bias binding maker, fold the edges in and iron it to set the edges in place. If you are going to be using it as single fold it is easier to do this before you start to sew it in place, if you are using it as double fold, you wont need to do that step.
What is the difference between single fold and double fold bias?
When talking about single fold and double fold some people get confused, the bias you traditionally see with the two raw edges folded in, is actually single fold and bias tape with the raw edges unfolded is double fold bias.
Single fold is attached by unfolding the pre-folded edges and sewing the raw edge to the raw edge of your project with right sides together using the fold as a sewing guide. It is then folded over and the other raw edge folded under and hand catch stitched in place so that none of the stitching shows.
Double fold is usually much wider, usually hand cut. You sew the two raw edges to the raw edge of your project and then fold the whole thing over to the other side before catching it down by hand. It is designed to give an easier finish as you are catching down a fold and not having to fold under a raw edge as you go like single fold. However it does make the finish a little bulkier as you are using a double layer of fabric.
Are there any special tools you need to sew it?You may remember I mentioned in my Top 10 Sewing Machine Feet post about this little wonder that is a bias binding foot. This little guy takes all the faff out of sewing bias tape in place as it holds the bias in the attachment as you sew it, so basically it feeds the bias through sewing it perfectly in place every time. Some people don’t like it because you can see the stitching but it makes big jobs so much easier. As I explained above it is not necessary to buy one, you can just sew bias with a regular sewing machine foot, or by hand.
It curves!?The best advantage of bias binding being bias cut is that it will nicely curve around corners, this is great for edging around things obviously, but it is also a great help when finishing off necklines and armholes on clothing. It is also great if you struggle with hemming flared skirts as it will curve with the hem and give a smooth wrinkle free hemline.
How would you use it as a facing? If you don’t want to line a piece of clothing but you want a nice neat finished edge you can use bias binding to help you get a nice professional finish. By sewing the bias as you would normally, but folding the entire tape to the inside of the garment and sewing it with a line of top stitching you get the benefit of a crisp finish without the bulk of a lining.
What else can it be used for?Bias tape is also great for covering piping cord, again because it is so great at going around curves it sits beautifully when wrapped around cotton cord or simply sewn into the seams for cushions and detailing on clothing.
Wow! That is a lot to take in, sorry, I wanted to be thorough. I hope that has answered everything you ever wanted to know about our flexible friend. If you have a question that isn’t answered in this post, let me know in the comments below and I will do my best to answer it for you.