I was so inspired by some of the projects shared as part of the Seasonal Sewing Series back last November that I have been keen to try my hand at lots of non-clothing sewing projects. On my list for this month – sewing for the kitchen and I wanted to make some swanky potholders. Oh no, they need bias binding, and I've never made or even used it before. So here's my first attempt at making continuous bias binding tape – shared for you all to enjoy or laugh at, depending on how it turns out!
You will need:
- A square of cotton fabric
- A ruler and Fabric Marker
- An iron
- Optional but highly recommended – a Clover Bias Tape Maker
Two ways to make bias binding
It seems there are two main ways to make bias binding strips.
- Cut lots of individual strips of fabric on the bias. Discard all the edge pieces which are too short. Sew the lot together individually to make one long strip. (Nah, sounds like too much little fiddly stuff.)
- Turn a large square of fabric into one long strip and avoid the fiddly stuff with very little waste. (Sounds like my favorite option.)
If you want to have a go at option 1, then you will find some really good tutorials on the So Sew Easy Sewing Tutorials Group Board. Not a member yet ? – you should be! It's the best place to pin all of your favorite sewing tutorials and find new ones. Read about it here and let me know if you want to join.
Making Continuous Bias Binding Tape
We need to start with a square of fabric. Make sure to cut it accurately. Later on, I'll be sharing a table and a spreadsheet calculator which will show how much you can make from a square of any size, or how big a square you need for any length. For now, I'm using an 11 inch square of cotton.
1. Mark with your fabric marker just some little dots on the wrong side on opposite edges, 1 dot on two sides and 2 dots on the other sides. This will help us line up the right edges later on. Draw a line across the diagonal from one corner to the other then cut along this line to make two triangles.
2. Place the triangles right sides together, matching up the sides with the single dot. Sew with a 1/4 inch seam.
3. Open out and press the seam flat. You now have a funny shape called a parallelogram.
4. Starting at one of the long edges, draw lines right across the fabric. I want to make double fold 1/2 inch finished tape so I am cutting my lines 2 inches wide. 2 inches folded in half twice = 1/2 inch. You'll probably end up with some extra fabric at the top that doesn't make a full row. That's OK.
5. Now comes the tricky part. It's time to sew the sides together that have the two dots we marked earlier. BUT – they don't go together evenly. If you sew them together evenly you'll end up with rings of fabric, not one long strip. So you need to OFFSET the rows by one.
6. We are going to sew with a 1/4 inch seam again, so to line up accurately, I stuck a pin through the FIRST line at 1/4 inch from the raw edge. Then I stuck the same pin through the SECOND line on the other edge of the fabric, 1/4 inch in from the raw edge. Once these were matched, I could pin all the way along.
7. It's going to look rather odd, with a spare bit of fabric hanging off either end, but it's all going to work out well in the end so stick with it. Sew these two edges together with a 1/4 inch seam, then press this seam open.
8. Now it's time to cut. Start at one edge and cut along the line you drew earlier. As you continue to cut, you'll see that you don't come to the edge of the fabric, you just keep on and on cutting in one long spiral, until eventually you get right to the other side of the fabric and have cut a big long strip 2 inches wide. Magic, and no fiddly sewing of little bits together.
Turning the strip into bias tape
There are basically two methods for turning your long strip of fabric into usable bias tape:
- Fold it all very slowly and meticulously by hand as you iron. (Boring, with burnt fingers)
- Spend a few dollars on a handy bias tape making tool and actually have fun doing it in super quick time. (Guess which one I went with!)
If you don't have a bias tape maker, then the procedure would be to fold your fabric in half all the way along and press. Then open out, fold in the edges towards the center, fold in half and press again. Laborious if you have a lot of length, but it can be done with good results.
With the Swanky Clover Bias Tape Maker, it's actually fun and really fast. I bought the 1 inch size – careful when you buy the tape maker because the sizes can be rather confusing. The 1 inch size takes 2 inch wide strips and makes 1/2 inch wide double fold tape. Confusing right?
Simply take one end of your tape and feed it wrong side facing up into the wide end. I used a pin to help feed it through to get it started. Then you can pin the end to your ironing board, gently pull the little handle and press with your iron when the neatly folded tape comes out the end. Eventually I got fed up with repositioning the pin, and I just pushed the maker along the ironing board with the tip of my iron slowly and this worked just fine too.
Once you have the neatly folded tape, now you can fold in half again and press to make the double folded tape. Traditional bias binding is usually a fraction wider on one side than the other, so you can make yours this way too by folding the top over so it doesn't quite meet the edge on the bottom. And voila! Your own cute home made bias binding.
Wrap it up neatly on a piece of thick cardboard and pin in place and it will be ready to use. I've got so many ideas for how I might use this tape and I went a bit crazy and made yards and yards all in different fabrics. It was really quite fun.
Have you ever made your own continuous bias binding? What do you use it for? Share a link to your projects in the comments…