Bias binding is great to add little details and decorative touches. You can use ready made binding or make your own to hide raw edges of seams, highlight a hem or pocket opening, strengthen necklines or armholes, or as decorative piping.
Bias binding is so called because it is cut at a 45-degree angle to the straight grain of the fabric. This makes it more pliable and gives maximum elasticity for stretching it around corners and curves – plenty of those in dressmaking! I prefer to make my own bias binding because in this way I can give my sewing projects a uniquely personal touch. Also, quite often ready-made bias binding is a little stiff or rough, due to the coating put on it to help it keep its shape on the roll. When you make your own from a lovely soft cotton lawn, for example, it just feels so much nicer!
There are two methods for making bias binding. The continuous method makes one very long length of binding. It is useful for when you have extra long edges to bind or if you know you’ll use that particular fabric a lot in future projects. The single length, piecing method will make shorter lengths, but it is quicker; so if you just have a small section to bind and want to get on with it, this method is more suitable.
Equipment you will need to make your bias binding:
Square of dressmakers’ pattern paper 50 x 50cm (20 x 20in)
Quilting ruler , 60cm (24in), or an ordinary long ruler
Tailors’ chalk pencil
Bias binding maker in your desired size – I use the 18mm and 25mm (approx. ¾ in and 1in) sizes most often. It is possible to make bias binding without one of these, but I find it quite fiddly and very hard to get even.
1. Mark the bias line
Cut a rectangle of fabric measuring 55cm (22in) along the selvedge by the width of your fabric. Place the paper square along the selvedge, then fold it in half diagonally so that you have a triangle. Using your ruler and chalk, mark a line on your fabric following the diagonal edge of the triangle; this is the bias line.
2. Mark and cut the strips
Following the bias line you’ve marked, draw more lines parallel to it at the correct width for your bias binding maker. (Refer to the packaging for a size guide.) Cut out your strips along the lines you have drawn. A rotary cutter and self-healing matt, used alongside the ruler, will make this job quicker. Square off the ends of the strips.
3. Join the strips
Place two strips together with right sides facing at 90 degrees to each other, to make a square corner. Sew the strips together along the diagonal as shown. Trim the seam allowances to about 1cm (3⁄8in) and press the seam open. Repeat for the remaining strips to make the required length of binding and use a bias binding maker to turn the bias binding tape into bias binding.
MAKING BIAS TAPE: CONTINUOUS METHOD
1. Construct the basic shape
Using paper pattern, mark and cut out a square of fabric along the selvedge. This can be any size, but 50cm (20in) square is a useful one. Mark a diagonal line across the square, then cut along this line so that you have two triangles. Place one triangle on top of the other with right sides facing and two short edges matching; off set the edges by 1cm (⅜in) to provide for the seam allowance. Stitch them together and press the seam open. You now have a rhomboid shape.
2. Mark the bias strips
Place the rhomboid wrong side up. Using your ruler, draw a line parallel to one of the longer diagonal edges, to the width required for your bias binding maker. Continue marking lines across
the fabric. You may have a narrower strip left over; just trim this off . Mark identically spaced lines along the right side of the fabric. Along the shorter diagonal edges, press 1cm (3⁄8in) to the wrong side; this will become the next seam allowance.
3. Bring the shorter edge together
Place the fabric right side up. Bring the folded and pressed diagonal edges towards each other as shown. You will notice that the lines you marked on the fabric now line up vertically, forming columns.
4. Re-align the strips
Next, move one pressed edge along by one column, as shown (this will ensure that you have a continuous spiral when the fabric is cut); make sure that the lines on the seam allowances match up.
5. Join the new seam
Pin the pressed-back edges together (also hand-tack if you wish), and stitch them together along their pressed folds, so taking 1cm (3⁄8in) seam allowance. Press the seam open.
6. Cut the spiral
Cut along your marked lines; you will produce a long, continuous spiral of bias tape, which you can then use to make binding with a bias binding maker (see below).
USING A BIAS BINDING MAKER
Lay the bias strip on your ironing board, wrong side up. Feed one end of the tape through the wide end of the binding maker; you may need to give it a push with a small pair of scissors to get it started. With a hot iron, slowly move along your strip, pulling the binding maker and following it with the iron. This creases the side edges of the strip, producing bias binding that is ready to use. It’s best to store the binding wrapped around something to help keep the pressed folds in place.
BINDING A NECKLINE OR ARMHOLE
Using bias binding at an armhole or neckline isn’t just for decoration. It provides support and structure to help maintain the shape of the garment. The process is basically the same as for the ‘Bound Hem’, so you may wish to practise it first on a straight edge, as shown there.
Here is how I apply bias binding to get a really neat finish.
1. Attach the fist edge of the binding
Start applying the bias binding at an inconspicuous place – at the side seam for an armhole or near the shoulder seam at the back for a neckline – leaving about 5cm (2in) free. Open out one of the binding’s folded edges and line it up with the raw edge of the garment, right sides together; pin it in place all the way around, gently stretching it around the curves, until you get back to where you started. Again leaving 5cm (2in) of binding free, cut off the end. Hand-tack if you wish, then stitch the binding in place, using the crease in the binding as a stitch guide and leaving a 3cm (1in) gap where the two ends meet.
2. Join the ends
Lay the tails of the strip flat against the gap that’s yet to be sewn, so that you can determine the exact point where the two ends should meet. Insert a pin into each tail to mark their joining point. Stitch the tape ends together at this point, first pushing the rest of the garment out of the way. Trim off the excess binding and press the seam open. Finish stitching the binding to the raw edge across the gap.
3. Attach the second edge of the binding
Visible style using the tip of the iron, press the bias binding away from the main fabric all the way around the armhole or neckline. (It will help to use a sleeve board for this.) Now fold the binding in half over the raw edge and press it in place, making sure that the remaining creased edge of the binding covers the line of stitching inside. Hand-tack the binding in place. Now, working on the right side of the garment, topstitch the binding close to the seam line, moving slowly to ensure that the line of stitching stays on the binding.
Concealed style Press the binding away from the main fabric as for the visible style. Then fold the binding again to the inside of the garment and press it in place. Now the bias binding and the seam allowances will be completely inside the garment. Hand-tack around the edge to secure all the layers. Working on the right side of the garment, topstitch the binding in place; use a guideline or other marker on your machine’s needle plate to ensure that the stitching is a consistent distance from the folded edge.
ADDING YOUR OWN PIPING TO A SEAM
Adding piping to your sewing projects is also a lovely way to add detail and contrast. For example, inserting it in the seam joining a yoke and a bodice can break up a solid or strong-coloured fabric and accentuate the styling. Piping can also add depth and texture to accessories such as bags and cushion covers. You can buy ready-made piping, but making your own from bias tape is really simple.
1. Wrap the cord
Make the required length of bias tape, making it wide enough to go around the cord plus 3cm (1.in) seam allowance, but don’t crease it as for making binding. Fold the bias tape in half, pushing the piping cord into the fold, and insert a few pins as shown to hold it in place. With the zip foot on your machine, stitch the bias tape around the piping cord. Work along the length of your piping slowly, ensuring that the tape is folded in half so that the raw edges are aligned. Don’t worry about getting really close to the cord at this stage.
2. Sew the piping to one section
Pin the piping to the right side of one section, with its seam allowances aligned with the edge. Using the zip foot, machine-stitch it in place. I use a long stitch for this – 4mm (⅛in) – as it’s quicker and because this stitching is just to position the binding before it’s secured in the seam.
3. Join the seam
Place the other section on top, right side down, and pin it in place as for an ordinary seam. Again using the zip foot, stitch through all the layers, getting as close as you can to the piping cord.
4. Check the piped seam
Turn the work over and check that the piping fits snugly into the seam. If you can see some of the stitching from step 1 or step 2, just re-stitch the seam, trying to get a bit closer to the piping.
Taken from Learn to Sew with Lauren
Published by Octopus Books (RRP £25)