Ask, and you shall receive! Here's my little tutorial for making your own bias tape.
Quick disclaimer: I'm no pro, and I quite dislike making bias tape. But, I do love being able to personalize projects with a homemade trim, that is cotton (as opposed to the common polyester bias tape found at your local fabric store), cheap (as opposed to ALL bias tape for sale) and unique (made with the fabric of your choice). For these reasons, it is well worth knowing how to make your own bias tape.
Step 1: Cut your strips
Make sure your fabric is ironed (or was in the not-so-distant past, ahem). Lay it flat and align the edges so that you are facing a square or rectangle. If you're working with a cutting mat, you're rockin'. On most cutting mats, the diagonals are drawn for you and you just have to set your ruler against them to cut your strips. In the photo below, I made strips out of a fat quarter, so you can see the entirety of it lined up perpendicular, and the diagonal lines along which I cut.
If you don't have the convenience of a cutting mat, the easiest thing for a proper bias cut is to work with a square of fabric. Lay your ruler diagonally from one corner of the square to the opposite corner and cut. Then, depending on the width of the tape you want to make, move your ruler however many inches parallel to your first line and cut again. You now have one strip!
Why the diagonal, you may ask? "Woven fabric is more elastic as well as more fluid in the bias direction, compared to the on-grain direction" (according to Wikipedia). The strips are cut on the diagonal (or bias!) of the fabric, and the resulting tape is quite flexible to use for binding, trimming and other such purposes where a little "give" comes in handy.
Step 2: Assemble them into one strip
Lay your strips wrong sides together at a perpendicular angle. Mark the diagonal of that corner with a washable fabric marker. Sew along that line. Trim the excess to 1/4 inch. You now have a strip! (Apologies for my sloppy handiwork in the pics below, I should have cleaned up the edges a bit. Oh well.)
I usually work like an assembly line when making bias tape. I cut and sew long strips of various tapes all at once, then head to the iron to press open the seams and flatten all the pretty strips.
Step 3: Fold into single- or double-fold tape
Bias tape comes in several forms:
- a flat strip of fabric cut on the bias (1 layer)
- single-fold which means the strip is folded down the middle, wrong sides together (2 layers) OR it is a flat strip with edges folded in (I hope I'm getting this right, I'm so confused by the terminology on this one)
- double-fold which means the strip is folded down the middle and the edges are folded in as well (4 layers)
The measurements confuse the hell out of me, whether on the bias tape packages or on the bias tape maker. My 1/2" bias tape maker ends up making 1/4" double-fold tape but makes 1/2" single-fold tape (with the edges folded in).
I've made bias tape by hand before, without a tape maker, and it came out incredibly uneven and sloppy, so I prefer to use the little tool. Working with a bias tape maker takes a little practice but you quickly get the hang of it. Thread your fabric through the thingy and pin the end to your ironing table. Then firmly iron the part of strip that comes out while you gently pull the tape maker away. I usually let the iron kind of bump the tape maker along.
What comes out of the tape-maker is single-fold bias tape, with edges folded in. Then comes the fun part: the double-fold. Man, oh man, this one is the bane of my existence. I usually put on some happy music and make sure the kid is out of earshot (there tends to be a lot of cussing). Ironing with steam is key, while holding the narrow strip of fabric evenly and tightly folded, and I have not yet gracefully mastered this skill. Motherscratcher, my poor burnt fingers!!
So, to recap, you start with the flat strip:
After putting it through the tape maker, you get the edges folded in. This is one version of single-fold:
The final product, should you choose to go this extra step in folding and end up with hot dogs, I mean fingers, steamed to perfection, is double-fold bias tape:
A note on measurements: if I want to end up with 1/4" double-fold tape, I multiply that width by 4, i.e. the number of fabric layers, to end up with my strip width. That would be roughly 1 inch with a tiny bit trimmed off to allow for folding. If I want 1/2" single-fold tape, I multiply by 2 (the number of layers) and cut a slim 1 inch strip. If I want to end up with 1/2" double-fold tape, I cut strips that are just under 2 inches wide. You get the idea.
I hope this helps!! In case I haven't made any sense, here are some other tutorials for making bias tape:
- Colette Patterns: How to make bias tape
- You Sew Girl: Nothing to be afraid of, folks...
- Creative Little Daisy: DIY version of a bias tape maker
Thank you so much Jenny! I bought a few bias tape makers about a year ago (can't remember the sizes) and I haven't even taken them out of the package. I can't wait to try this out.
And sort of on topic: how big is your cutting mat? Do you have a favorite brand or type? Is it "self healing"? I'm starting to see the value in buying good quality supplies that work well, for saving time, making a better end product and also creating a more enjoyable experience!
Angel, I have to admit my cutting mat is one of the best investments I ever made for sewing and crafting. Along with my rotary cutter! They have completely changed the way I work, for the better. My mat is an OLFA self-healing Rotary Mat that measures 36 x 24 inches. It is the perfect size for my projects. Since these mats tend to be costly, I waited until I had a 40% off coupon for the craft store and made the purchase. Well worth it!