All About Bias Tape
What is bias tape? Bias tape is a strip of flexible fabric that encases raw, cut edges to neatly finish them and prevent unraveling. From the outside of the garment, bias tape can finish collars, sleeveless armholes, and other exposed edges without having to 'turn under' the fabric. From the inside, bias tape hides internal seam edges and zipper tape eges. Bias tape can be bought or made from scrap fabric.
Why bother with bias tape? Bias tape is a clean way of finishing a raw edge while reducing bulk (because you don't have to 'turn under' your hems or add a facing). It's exceptionally useful on projects that require lots of layers or thick fabrics.
What's the difference between single and double-fold bias tape? Single-fold tape is often used as a facing on armholes or neck holes, while double-fold tape binds edges like cuffs, hems, and seams. On single-fold bias tape, the edges are turned under once. Then, technically, double-fold bias tape is just single-fold bias tape folded in half.
Making Bias Tape At Home
When should I make my own bias tape? Sometimes, you just can't find the right color of bias tape. Or your project calls for yards and yards of bias tape. Or you just have some scrap fabric to use up! Whatever your reason, it's handy to know how to make continuous bias tape. Thankfully, with 1 yard of fabric, it's easy to make a whole bundle of bias tape by hand, very quickly.
Why not just cut regular, horizontal strips of fabric? Tug at a diagonal on any fabric and you'll find that even fabrics labeled 'no stretch' have a tiny bit of stretch. This diagonal is known as the 'bias'. Thanks to the small amount of stretch, cutting strips on the bias makes tape that is much easier to manipulate.
What type of fabric do you need? Any lightweight fabric can be used to make bias tape, but try to find something that holds an ironed crease well. Cottons, linens, shirtings, chambrays, and voiles work nicely, but satins and silks can also have a great effect. You'll find bias tape is often made out of the same fabric that makes up the garment.
- Square piece of fabric
- Fabric pencil
- Iron and Ironing Board
- Bias Tape Maker (optional)
Notes: A 36"x36" square of fabric makes about 20 yards of 1/2" double-fold bias tape. Smaller squares will yield less. A 1" bias tape maker will make 1" single-fold bias tape, or 1/2" double-fold bias tape.
Continuous Bias Tape Instructions
- For this technique to work, you need a square piece of fabric. Cut off the selvage edge, and then fold your fabric at a 45 degree angle. Line up two of the edges and cut off the excess of the other side.
- Cut along the diagonal fold. You should now have two identical right triangles.
- Right sides together, pin the two triangles along a straight end as shown (not on the diagonal). Make a 1/4" seam.
- Open the fabric and press the seam open. Your fabric should be in the shape of a parallelogram.
- Now, you have to measure and mark strips onto the fabric.
How thick should the strips be? For single-fold bias tape, multiply your desired width by 2. For double-fold bias tape, multiply your desired width by 4. As an example:
Single-Fold, 1/2" bias tape: 1/2" x 2 = 1" wide strips
Double-Fold, 1/2" bias tape: 1/2" x 4 = 2" wide strips
The most common width for projects is 1/2" double-fold bias tape. Mark the fabric with lines parallel to the long edge, spaced out by the calculated width (e.g. 2" apart for 1/2" double-fold bias tape).
Hint: The pressed seam should be at a diagonal to the lines.
- Fold the parallelogram edges inward, right sides together, to make a square fabric 'tube'.
Match up the lines, offsetting the first section by one - this will give you clear 'start' and 'end' tails. Pin along the edge.
- Make a 1/4" seam and press open.
- Find the 'offset' tail at one end or the other, and begin cutting along the marked line. Cut continuously as the marked line winds down and around the fabric. You'll end up with a pile of 2" fabric ribbon.
- Now for the ironing. Since double-fold bias tape is just single-fold bias tape folded in half, we first need to make single-fold bias tape by turning the edges under once.
With a Bias Tape Maker Tool: If you foresee a lot of bias tape in your future, consider picking up a set of these incredibly handy doohickeys. Just feed the fabric strip into one end and iron the folds that come out the other end!
Without a Bias Tape Maker: Ironing is still very easy without the nifty tool. First, fold in the edges of your fabric strip under 1/2", and press the end of the bias tape to get it started.
Lay it flat on the edge of your ironing board. Stick a pin through your ironing board cover, straddling the bias tape to hold it down (the pin should not catch the bias tape).
As you pull the tape off the ironing board, the pin will help fold the edges under. Keep the iron close to the pin to press the folds flat.
- Finally, your single-fold bias tape needs to be folded in half and pressed to make double-fold bias tape. You can fold your strip in half by hand, or use the pin trick above. If you can, try to fold it so that one side is just a tiny bit wider than the other. Press to hold the crease.
Binding an Edge with Double-Fold Bias Tape
There are two ways to encase an edge in double-fold bias tape. The Easy Method is fast, but the Official Method is more fool-proof (especially with handmade tape).
THE EASY METHOD
Open up your double-fold bias tape, and wrap it around the exposed edge, 'sandwiching' it. If your bias tape has one side that is less wide, it should be on the 'right side' of the fabric. Pin in place. Topstitch close to the edge, catching the other side of the bias tape underneath.
THE OFFICIAL METHOD
Open up your bias tape all the way. If your tape has one side that is wider, work with that side. With the right side of the bias tape on the wrong side of the
fabric, line up the tape's raw edge and the fabric's exposed edge. Pin in place. Keeping the edges lined up, sew on the first fold of the tape.
Fold the bias tape up and over the exposed edge and pin closed. Now, sewing from the right side of the fabric, edgestitch along the fold. You don't have to pay as much attention to catching the underside of the bias tape, as it's already secured.