Skill Level: Beginner
Pros: Easy, Saves Money
Cons: Requires Tools, Takes Time
Best For: Decorative Bindings
Making bias tape is shockingly easy. Sure, it’s a little tedious, but it’s really easy. The question is, why would you make bias tape when the fabric store sells it? Maybe you want bias made out of something other than a poly-cotton blend. (Honestly, once you see real silk bias binding, there’s no going back.) Or maybe you found yourself in some sort of silly situation that requires 20 or more yards of bias tape, and payng 3.59$ for every 3 yards of the stuff just failed to look like a good idea. Whatever your reason, here’s how you do it….
You will need:
- Something to mark with
- Clear Quilter’s Ruler (technically optional, but very helpful)
- A Bias Tape Maker
- An Iron and Ironing Surface
It is technically possible to make bias tape without these little gidgers. It takes about 5 times as long, and you burn your fingers a lot. Seriously. These things are worth their weight in gold.
Here we go:
Now, I’m giving myself the biggest luxury in the world of sewing here: I’m using whole cloth to make my bias strips. Whoa! Normally, at least in costume shops, the bias is made from scraps. If you totally luck out, you get to make your bias from the waste fabric next to a gore, and your life is beautiful because it’s a nice long piece and the angle is already there…. If you’re down a little in the feeding chain, you get the scraps that other people didn’t want and you end up making bias from the waste inside an armscye or something stupid. (I’ve heard a theory that bias tape is totally not period because it wastes too much fabric. Anyone saying this has not worked in a costume shop.)
A 45 degree angle is optimal for bias tape, but truly, 30 or so will do. Ideally, you want pieces that are longer than 12″, because you still have to join them and you’re going to loose some length in the process. I know people who just sight things and whack out bias haphazardly. As long as its close, but the bias won’t press and nice and it gets wibbly edges and weird bits and it will be a pain to sew. Unless time is a major factor, it’s worth the 15 minutes it takes to mark a few dozen yards.
Ps- This is a lot of cutting. You can use a rotary cutter to make life easier if you have one. (I do, but my big mat is hopelessly scarred up from leather work. Ooopsies…) I’m using a pair of titanium scissors to take some of the strain off my hand. Titanium sheers for sewing run 30$ or so, last I checked, but the ones for paper cutting are often under 10$. I’m using the paper cutting ones. They work just ding dang fine. ;)
There’s a magical tube method of bias tape making that uses a rectangle of cloth and one or two long seams to make a bias tube from which miles of bias can be but. I’ve tried it. I find it more tedious than joining the strips. Also, it requires a rectangle of cloth…
As you’re doing this, check to make sure that all the seams are on the same side of the bias. Usually, there’s one or two that ended up inside out. Just cut those joins off and try it again. Also, do not do what I always do and randomly cut a join on the wrong side of the seam allowance. (Seriously, I do this all the time. Making bias tape lowers my IQ and makes my lumbar vertebrae fuse into a solid column of hate. I have no idea why, but be careful, because both things seem to happen to anyone making too much bias tape.)
Now, you’re going to use your off hand to pull the Maker gizmo away from the pinned end in 1-2″ increments. Your other hand will have the iron in it. You want to press right up to the edge of the Maker. (I’m so sorry, but both my hands were in use at this point, and I couldn’t sort how to take a picture without risking scorching something.)
Keep doing this little inch-by-inch pressing trick until you run out of bias. Be careful at your joins – they’ll want to get stuck in the maker.
You can see my work table is going a bit pink here. I’ve been combining two processes – as I’m ironing in the bias, I’ve been soaking the strips with water with a little touch of detergent in it. I’m using the water/detergent/steam to shake off any loose dye and make sure the dye is really good and set. (You know, like how you use a steam bath to set chemical dyes.) It’s actually made a really fab imprint on the worktop, too – you can see how the dye was forced off by the steam as I moved the iron.