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Quick Tip for Binding Tabs…

…without anyone looking at the finished tab and asking if you were drunk and wearing mittens when you sewed it. I mean, everybody “knows” that if you want to bind rounded tabs you just have to use bias tape. Like, duh. But be honest with me – how well does that action really work when you try it? Between you, me, and the interwebs, when I try to machine bias onto a rounded tab in one swell foop, it usually looks poo.  But a miracle happened last week, and my brain kicked in.  There’s a little bitty-bit of magic from millinery that makes the difference between the top corset (the drunken-mittens approach) and the bottom corset (so much nicer…). And it’s fast, people. It’s faster than fighting the normal Battle of the Bias…

There’s a thing milliners do to to petersham ribbon before applying it to the edge of a brim. The term I know for it is “swirling”. It’s a magic trick with an iron that turns your straight piece of petersham into a curved piece of petersham, making it infinitely easier to smack it around the curved edge of a hat brim. It’s one of those preparation things that my millinery teacher was pretty adamant about.

I’ll be blunt: I’m not the biggest fan of prep steps. I only do them if they actively make my life easier and my finished work better, without taking up a lot of time.

This one, I will do every time I have to bind rounded tabs, from here until the time I die.

I mean, unless I lose my clue. That happens a lot. ;)

Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

  • Bias tape
  • An Iron
  • <5 minutes of your life
straight bias around a tight curve
The problem: when you try to put straight bias around a tight curve, it doesn’t want to lie flat no matter how hard you stretch it.
puckers caused by straight bias
This leads to little puckers and tucks in the bias when you sew it.

I’m not going to put all the trouble into making beautiful shiny silk bias just to have it pucker. That’s silly. (Yes, yes, I could do it The Right Way™ and sew it by hand/put it down with two passes on the machine/pin it (however you define “right”), but I really don’t see me doing any of that. Fat chance!)

Here’s what I do see me doing:

I approach the ironing board calmly, taking care that the iron does not sense my fear of it… ;)

beginning the swirl
I’m starting at the very end of the bias tape. As I iron, I’m always pulling the bias to the side of the iron (instead of the normal straight-pressy-flaty ironing motion).
swirl in progress
As I go, the iron is always chasing that bias. I’m effectively ironing in circles, leaving me with bias tape that is ironed in circles.
neat round of bias tape
Now I have a roundular piece of bias tape.
swirled vs unswirled bias
The outside edge of the swirled bias (right side) is permanently longer than the inside edge. It will not want to be straight ever again.

I mean, unless I send Mr. Bias Strip back to the ironing board for a bit of “re-education”. But let’s not think about that. Mr. Bias is finally cooperating…

binding around tab
Now when I go to place the binding around a tab, there’s very little puckering.
using seam ripper to control pucker
What is there can be flattened with a seam ripper while sewing.
finished tab
Voila! No puckers and tucks!

My stitches are woefully uneven here. :( Don’t judge me!

Comparison of bindings
The top corset is bound with straight bais. The bottom is bound with swirled bias. Yes, I sewed them both, several years apart. Now you can judge me – that top one is totally drunken-mittens sewing. ;)

So, ye sewing denizens of the interwebs, free yourselves from the shackles of the straight bias! Take off your drunken mittens, and bind your tabs ease and a relative minimum of cursing.

Ahem. Sorry – I’m a little over-festive today. I got to fit my very first pancake tutu this morning, and it went well. Surprisingly well. Like, it looked *exactly* like a proper tutu. Tee hee!  :)


  1. Laura
    Laura May 23, 2013

    This is completely cool.

    • missa
      missa June 8, 2013

      Tee… Thanks, Gregory.

  2. Gabriela
    Gabriela July 3, 2013


  3. Kelsie
    Kelsie February 14, 2014

    This is AWESOME, but what about if you want to edge the corset all in one fell swoop, and not each tab individually. Any advice? Because my bias tape is making me want to burn it the way it crinkles around those top corners :/

    • missa
      missa February 15, 2014

      Hi, Kelsie – I gotta tell you, I’m still trying to sort that. I can do it in leather (ahem, chamois), which is nice and stretchy and wants to work in both directions. There is a lot of evidence for this in corset history. Fabric is dicier. Theoretically, you could swirl the tape in the generally direction of your sewing, do a hulk-strong-pull-smash-flat on the reverse curves, then steam it all into complacency… Except that that has never worked for me. :( Perhaps someone with a working method would care to comment? Please? Because if you have a working method, I would love to know. I hate the look of the tape stopping and starting, and also, the process is somewhat straining on the patience.

  4. Erin Schneider
    Erin Schneider October 28, 2014

    True confessions of the laziest corset-maker you know – I bag-line my corsets. Including the tabs. So I only ever have to bind the top part…

    • missa
      missa October 30, 2014

      Oh, lord…. I can’t imagine turning that!

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