Make Your Own Bias Tape! It’s EASY!

(I get so many questions about bias tape… how do I make it, how do I get such a smooth finish etc. etc., so I thought it was high time I did a series devoted to bias-taping and here’s the 2nd in a little three-post mini-series.)

So…

in our last post in this little mini-series we gave you EIGHT good reasons to make your own bias tape but it now occurs to me that we may have left out the best reason(s) of all…

It’s EASY! (and oh yeah, it’s fun too!)

And having already anticipated the skepticism out there (yep, I see those eyes rolling from here!), I’ve prepared this little tutorial for you. I don’t expect this post will make me real popular with the good folks at Wright’s but that was never my objective anyway. So here goes!

Biastape11.  Choose a fun fabric and which cutting ‘angle’ you’re going to use for cutting.

I’ve gotten so I only rarely choose a solid color for bias tape. Of course there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but I generally go with a complimentary print or a black & white stripe, polkadot or print, which I think of as the “perfect neutral”!

Next, choose your bias ‘angle’. In the picture at left I’ve demonstrated the classic 45 degree cutting angle, but you know what? This angle tends to “eat up” more fabric than a steeper degree of angle would and I have honestly had success using bias tape at virtually any angle. The important thing is to cut across both sets of threads (both lengthwise and crosswise) to sufficiently “damage” the fabric, thus allowing it to s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

Biastape22.  Cut your fabric strips.
How wide should your strips be? That all depends on your project. Pre-packaged bias tape is typically ~7/8″ wide, which is for the most part inadequate for binding bag edges. We always recommend extra-wide bias tape (for those who insist on purchasing it) but it’s usually 1-7/8″ wide which is almost always too wide. (and yes, that can be just as big a problem as too narrow!)
We generally prefer strips that are 1-1/2″ wide, although our recommendation is sometimes design specific.

Biastape3
3.  Trim off the angle ends of each strip.

You want to get rid of the angle on BOTH  ends of each strip in favor of a straight 90 degree corner.

 

 

Biastape4a4. Stitch your bias strips together to make one continuous length.

Assuming that more than one strip of bias tape will be needed, match your corner edges right sides together and secure this placement with pins.

Biastape8

 

 

 

5. Stitch diagonally across strip from corner to corner.

Trim the seam to ~1/4″ removing the diagonal corners, then press seams open and flat.

Biastape11

 

6.  Press a 3/8-1/2″ fold into ONE of the long edges of your bias tape length.

Here’s the one area in which I take issue with the directions normally provided by the bias tape manufacturers, by bias tape pressing devices, and by many designers for that matter. They would have you press BOTH edges over to center of tape and then centering these folded edges over the raw edges of your project and stitching them in place. I think this is a recipe for lumps, wrinkles and a wavy finish. That’s just not pretty and this is the usual complaint I hear from customers concerning using bias tape to finish edges.

When I display our sample bags at shows, I receive innumerable compliments about our bias tape and how smooth it looks. Most folks insist they could never accomplish a smooth finish like this, but here’s the deal. Achieving a good-looking bias tape finish is no mystery, nor is it just reserved for professionals. The only thing you need do is quit following the manufacturers instructions for applying it!

First of all, I absolutely do NOT recommend pressing BOTH long edges over to the center, which is the way you see most commercial bias tape presented in packages, and also the way most folks have learned to apply bias tape.  I suppose it might work OK for items with ALL straight-edges like quilts, but for small projects with curved edges (like handbags), it’s absolutely a recipe for ripples and lumps! Why is that? Actually, I feel so strongly about this that I’ll devote my NEXT post in this series to that question, but for now, I recommend just pressing only ONE edge over ~3/8-1/2″ wrong sides together.  Now I know most people only press over ~1/4″ , but this extra allowance gives me some wiggle room, because let’s face it, all unbound edges are not created with equal thickness. By my way of thinking, I would MUCH rather have to roll out a bit of this extra allowance in order to cover the stitching and raw edges evenly, especially in the event that I encounter a bulky seam junction (which I probably will somewhere along the way).

And now…

Your bias tape is ready to apply to your project!  So stay tuned for the next post in this series when I’ll show you the a foolproof, sure fire way to get a ripple-free finish on  your bias-taped edges!

So….  Which type of bias tape do YOU use? Do you generally make your own, or do you purchase it commercially? I would love for you to share your preference as well as the reasoning behind your choice!

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And don’t forget, we actually LOVE questions and comments too, so if you’d like to share yours, please feel free to do so below! And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it via FaceBook or Twitter!

 

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32 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. I always make my own bias tape. I use a bias maker, but when applying it to my project or bag I open the side I am going to stitch first and apply as normal. I find this works well for me.

  2. absolutely love reading your blog. Am looking forward to next issue on bias (nemesis) tape! 🙂
    Thanks for such useful info!!

  3. Thank you for this tutorial. Please explain why in step 3 you cut off the angle if you sew diagonally and cut off this excess in steps 4 & 5? TYVM

  4. I like to make my own tape; it is so much friendlier to projects than the ready-made. I’m totally enjoying your instructions and can’t wait for all installments. I may have been sewing for 60+ years but am always ready for new ways to sew things. 🙂

  5. I make my own bias tape, but did not know about only pressing one side, I will try that!
    I do, however, make a template from a manila folder for my edging… now I will make a mark along the straight side 1/2 or 3/8 and fold to that line, I find it so much easier if I have a guide to keep the fold straight. Keeps the fingers from getting burned too badly, too! 🙂
    Nancy

    • That’s a great idea Nancy. I generally don’t worry about pressing it too accurately though. I just roll-out more or roll-in more as necessary to cover the 1/4″ seam. 🙂

  6. Great tutorial -why don’t you prepare as a PDF for us to download? I know –you have enough to do but thanks for all you share!

    • Thanks for commenting margie and this is a good question. But you know what? This is easily printable just as it is, and if you prefer printing it as a pdf, you can do that as well. 🙂

  7. Thanks for this tutorial – and I found I could print it off without it being a PDF file. Had handwritten your instructions but now it’s nice to have the photos!

  8. Bias binding has always scared me to death and I’m 76 yrs. old and have been sewing almost that long……LOL! I am going to print off your very clear instructions and do this on a potholder first……You do make it look easy. I like the idea of using the template to iron the one edge over 1/2″… Thanks for doing this….it will help a lot of us….:)

  9. Thanks for this tutorial! Can’t wait for the next post!!

  10. I do make my own bias tape – I use the continuous method – the one that you mark and sew first, then cut into strips and use. I start with a big rectangle instead of a square so there are fewer seam lines. It works really well!

    • I agree Marty that for a large project like a quilt, this method is definitely best, but for a small project like a bag, it’s a bit of overkill. That said though, any method of making your own bias tape is superior to buying it!

      • Ah, now you know – I’m a quilt maker as well as a handbag maker! But I try to make bias tape that I can use on more than one bag, so it works out well.

        I’m making a fun Wrapsody right now. AND, you were right about Soft and Stable being superior to regular batting in the bags. I’m loving the results it produces!

  11. I always make my own bias. The store bought stuff is such poor quality fabric, in my opinion.

  12. I am excited to try this, because I think a patterned bias binding could add so much to a project. I have made my own quilt binding, but that doesn’t have to be cut on a bias. And here I thought I needed to buy one of those bias tape tools….thank you so much, I will definitely be printing and saving these tutorials!

  13. I confess that I don’t usually press under even one side. After I sew on the first edge, I fold under the second as evenly as possible. The reason??? Well, I’m always worried that I’ll stretch the bias edge by accident as I try to press it and therefore end up with an uneven bias strip. I like Nancy’s idea to make a template using a manilla folder! That would help keep the fabric from stretching, and would make stitching down the second edge so much simpler for me if it is already folded and pressed. I am also pleased to discover that you don’t worry too much about how accurately you’ve pressed since you can adjust it as you stitch the second side. I feel much better about bias already!!! I think I’ve been much too uptight about it all these years! Thanks for this tutorial!

  14. I have always made my bias. Love all the possibilities, especially stripes and polka dots for my kids donation quilts bindings. I always folded my fabric in a triangle and folded it again or twice depending on how much I need. Then I’d cut it with a ruler and rotary cutter. Now I use the Studio cutter. I usually use a 44” square, fold it in the triangles and cut it all at once. One pass with the studio and all the strips are cut.
    I fold in half and press. then apply with all the raw edges even, to the right side, then fold the balance over to the back side and and either hand stitch it on the back or or top stitch it from the front side, catching the fold on the back.
    Whatever is left, I keep to use with whatever else I need. Sometimes I use several coordinating leftovers for other quilits.

  15. I have wanted to make my own tape for a while now. This is a great instruction you have given. So glad I can print it out. I’m going to make a notebook with these type of things so my daughter will have them in case she decides to give sewing more of a try. You have made making the bias tape & the corners so much easier than anything I have watched on You tube. I have Alzheimer’s so the notebook will help me remember when I start losing my processing hopefully. Now to see which fabrics I want to make bias tape out of first !

  16. This is great! Can’t wait for the second half. I am teaching a class featuring your Gadabout! See Pinsandneedles.com. This will be helpful. I usually handsew the finish.

  17. Two questions for you on this. Does it matter if the fabric is single layer or double when cutting the strips out? Do you just measure around the item or area to figure out how much bias tape to make? Thanks! I can’t wait to try this!

    • It shouldnt matter if the fabric is double-layer as long as you dont cut across a fold, and yes indeed, you just measure along the edge that you’ll be taping. 🙂