Understanding bias grain and Making your own bias tape

You have probably seen the ribbon like strips of fabric right by the threads and zippers at your local fabric store and wondered what it is used for....Or you probably buy those ribbon like strips of fabric and know how to use them. They come in fixed widths, different folds, (which I will try to explain later here), and different colors...mostly solid. They have numerous uses (which I will again try and explain in a different post) and is kind of a must have for any level of sewing.

I used to buy these until I got bored of the solid color choices available and decided to use print fabric to make my own bias tape. There are again many ways to make them. This is one I have adapted and find it the easiest way to make bias tape.

Want to know more about bias tape...and make your own? Read on for my method of making bias tape...

If you are a newbie to everything bias tape, you need to understand what bias grain means. Open up any piece of cotton or poly fabric you have and look at it closely. The threads run in 2 directions perpendicular to each other. (Blue lines in the picture below)

If you cut the fabric diagonal to these two lines, you will be cutting the fabric on the bias grain. (Yellow line below)

Now let us understand why there is so much ado about the bias grain. Hold a scrap piece of cotton fabric where the blue arrows are pointing. Now pull both your hands outward. You will notice the fabric does not stretch...or does not have any give to it.

(The green arrow in this picture points to the selvage...the finished edges of the fabric. The selvage usually has information on the fabric....if it was printed for a specific store, type of material, etc. The selvage comes in use while cutting the fabric on the bias grain....you need to cut at 45deg to the selvage. The selvage is also useful for finishing of bottom hemlines....if you planned ahead to have the selvage on the bottom, you need to allot less for the bottom hemline). Now back to Bias....!

Now hold the fabric where the yellow arrows are pointing and give an outward pull....And lo and behold! Your otherwise rigid cotton fabric now stretches or has a little give.  This is the specialty of the bias grain.

This characteristic is very useful when stitching in curves, like armholes or necklines, etc. If you finish a neck hem by double folding the fabric, you'll notice the fabric will pucker up around the curves and you won't get a neat finish. That's when a bias tape comes in. Because it is cut on the bias grain, this strip of fabric will give a little around curves, thereby keeping with the original shape of the neckline, or armhole or whatever curved edge you are trying to finish.

Now let's make our own bias tape. Once you start making this, your options are limitless. No more store brought solid bias! Let's get started.

Lay down a 1/2 yard of cotton fabric on a flat surface. Grab one of the edges and fold over to the other side. Shown below.

Cut off that triangular piece along the bias grain. We are going to start making bias tapes out of this triangle.

Lay this piece flat.

Fold once along the bias grain.

Fold once more....

And once more. (You could have stopped with one fold and proceeded to cut too)

Now cut off 2" strips. It really helps to use a rotary cutter and mat to cut straight lines. (I will also explain later - why 2")

Now, you will have 2" strips of varying lengths. Don't square off the ends yet. But you can discard the tiny little triangular piece at the bottom.

Now we need to start piecing these together. Grab 2 strips and identify 2 similar ends. Keep the right sides facing each other and bring the ends together.....

Not like this....because...

You will end up with this...

Align the 2 ends like this and stitch along the dotted line.

Now that's more like it! You can snip off the little fabric peeking out.

Once you connect all the pieces, you should end up with a long piece of bias cut fabric.

Now, you can square off the 2 ends.

It's time to start folding and ironing.... Let's tackle each fold.

Fold in 1/2" from either side of the length and iron it in place.

And this will give you a 1" strip of single fold bias tape. If you are wondering why this is called single fold, when there are clearly 2 folds....well, I did too. And I never found the answer written anywhere... But I think the name comes from the way you use it while stitching. (I'll post in detail on that later). You open up the tape and stitch along one of the folds. Then you fold the fabric in the direction of the fold and top stitch. So there, you technically fold it only once while stitching...

To make a double fold bias tape, you simply make a single fold bias tape and fold further in half. And iron it in place. (and you guessed right.... you fold it twice while stitching!)

This will give you a 1/2" double fold bias tape. (notice how neatly the joints blend in)

Just fold your 2" strip once in half, iron and that's it!

To make the folding part easier and more consistent, there are little appliances called bias tape makers. they sell for under $10. All you have to do is feed the unfolded 2" strip into one end and it comes folded out the other end where you can iron it in place. This will give you a consistent fold. But they come in standard widths and if you want to make a wider tape, you either fold it yourself or buy a wider bias tape maker.

For me, the main advantages of making my own bias tape is the variety of fabrics available AND making my own widths. The store brought tapes come in standard widths, slim or wide. But when I am making my own, I am not constrained by that. So, I am not a big fan of the bias tape makers and like to wing it.

That brings us to the 2" width part. See how, the 2" wide strip gave us a 1" wide single fold tape or a 1/2" wide double fold tape? You just need to adjust the original width of the strip to get your desired final width.

The yield - from a half a yard of fabric that is 45" wide, if I cut 2" strips, I get about 8-9 yards of bias tape. (In this tutorial, remember we have just cut a portion of the 1/2 yard fabric. I will get 8-9 yards if I proceeded to make bias tape with the remainder of the fabric)

There you have it! All the pretty printed bias tapes! I like to make them in batches and use whenever needed. Get with all the ironing all at once!

If you are going to use it later, you need to store the bias tape properly in order to preserve the folds you just made. You can roll it around a piece of card board...

Or wrap it around a paper towel tube.

Aren't they cute, like bundled up babies?!

Up next or a little later, I will post about how to use each of these bias tapes...
Until then, don't singe your fingers with all the ironing!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...