Bias tape has many uses in the sewing world – from binding armholes and necklines to binding the edges of quilts and quilt coats like my Daphne Jacket. Making your own bias tape is a great way to use up leftover fabric or add interest to garments with a contrasting binding.
In this tutorial I will walk you through two ways of cutting bias tape, or bias strips, and how to sew bias strips together to make longer strips.
In my pattern The Lakeview Tote some of the seams are enclosed with bias binding to make the insides look neat. Bias tape is flexible with a slight stretch which makes it easier to attach to angles or curves, like on the base of the Lakeview Tote (see photo above). The fabric I used for the binding is leftover from my Rosendal Dress and I love how pretty it looks on the inside of the bag 🙂
On the Hallon Dress by Paradise Patterns the straps are formed by sewing bias strips to the armhole and connecting into a circle. Some sewing patterns will come with a bias binding pattern piece, but it’s a useful skill to know when a pattern doesn’t include one.
What is the bias?
The short answer is that the bias is 45 degrees from the selvedge edge. Woven fabric is made with vertical threads (the length grain) intersecting with horizontal threads (the cross grain) that creates a non-stretchy fabric. However, if you stretch the fabric along the bias, it becomes flexible and stretchy.
What is the selvage (or selvedge) edge on fabric? The selvage is the tightly woven edge on fabric that goes along the straight grain/lengthwise direction. It’s usually a pretty visible border, but sometimes it can look similar to the rest of the fabric.
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Some things you’ll need
- Fabric – lightweight to midweight cotton fabric
- Ruler – this is my favorite quilting ruler
- Rotary cutter or fabric scissors
- Cutting mat – a must have if using a rotary cutter
Method 1 – Using a quilting ruler to find the bias
This first method relies on a quilting ruler to find the bias and it’s a helpful way when you’re working with smaller remnants of fabric. You will also need a piece that has even a little bit of the selvage on it. Look for the 45-degree angle on the ruler – that line is what will line up along the selvage edge.
Line up the ruler with the 45-degree line along the selvage edge – you may need to shift the edge a little to get it lined up. Scoot your ruler up as close to the edge of the fabric piece as you can to reduce fabric waste.
Cut along the right edge of the ruler with a rotary cutter (you may need to change your position if you’re left-handed).
Turn your fabric so the bias edge is on the left (again, this might be reversed if you’re left-handed) and measure out the width for your bias binding. I’m cutting 2″ wide bias strips for my pattern, the Lakeview Tote, but cut whatever width you need. Continue cutting strips until you have enough length you need for your project.
Method 2 – Folding the fabric to find the bias
This method is great for when you need a lot of bias tape – like when binding the edges of a quilt – but it does use up quite a bit of fabric. The bigger the piece of the fabric you’re working with, the longer the strips will be.
I’ve picked a smaller remnant of fabric to work with so that I only need to fold it once. If your fabric has a right and wrong side, turn it over so the wrong side is facing up. Fold the fabric on the bias grain by bring the selvage edge up towards the raw edge (the crosswise grain).
*I did not do this for my example, but you may want to straighten the raw edge with your ruler and rotary cutter to make sure it’s accurate when folded.
Turn your fabric so it’s comfortable to cut – I turn mine so the folded bias edge is facing the left. Line up your ruler and cut off a little bit, 1/8″ to 1/4″, of that folded edge.
You will now have two pieces of fabric with a bias edge on them. Put one piece of fabric to the side and just focus on one layer of fabric.
To make it easier to cut, take the bottom corner and fold it up to the top, matching the bias edges. This way you don’t have to cut along the whole length of your ruler and it will take less time to line it up. You don’t have to fold it all the way up to the top, just so long as the bias edges are lined up (see photos below).
Cut strips at the width you need until you have enough bias tape for your project.
Keep reading to learn how to piece together the strips!
How to sew bias strips together
Once you have all of your bias strips cut out, it’s time to piece them together! The strips need to be joined on the bias for them to maintain their flexibility – if they were just sewn together with a straight seam, then they would lose that slight stretch.
Start by cutting off the triangle ends of two strips and make a right angle. This tiny quilting ruler is nice for small cuts like this, but a bigger ruler just works fine (and is a little easier to control than this small ruler, now that I think about it 🙂 )
Place two strips right sides together and make a right angle (see photos above). Draw a line with a washable marker from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. This is where that tiny ruler really comes in handy!
Place some pins to hold it all together and sew along the line you just drew. I like to use a small stitch length, like 2 or 2.5, because the bias edge gets caught really easily when backstitching.
Cut off the extra seam allowance along the joined bias strips and press seams open. Now your bias strips are joined together on the bias! Continue sewing the bias strips together until you have the required length for your project.
And that’s it! What you can do next is pre-press your binding to use as a guide when sewing it onto your garment or bag. For this 2″ wide bias binding (used in my Lakeview Tote pattern), the bias tape is folded in half, pressed, and then the edges are folded into the middle and then pressed again.
Thanks for reading along and happy sewing 🙂