Monday, April 13, 2015

Making Selfie Bias Strips

I made a lot of of bias tape for the stained glass and lattice work on Fenestra Rosa.  I prefer to make my own, but first I'll clue you in to what helps are available.

You can use the ordinary double fold bias tape sold in most stores selling notions.

You can now buy fusible bias tape in a roll.  I have not tried this, nor have I seen it in the stores.  However, I have never looked for it either.  I just know you can get it online
Clover, and maybe other companies, produce a tool in different sizes for making bias strips.  I have read that people really like this, but I had no luck with it.  Some like it, some don't.

Bias Tape Maker
If you want to make your own bias strips you must cut your fabric on a perfect diagonal in order to get the maximum and consistent amount of stretch.  There are good directions in this tutorial for both finding the bias and creating a tube for continuous binding.  That is, you don't have to sew the individual strips together because they come out all sewn when you cut.

Another method for cutting bias strips is by folding a rectangle in a special way.  It is pretty slick and very easy. You can see a video here.  Another video shows how to sew the strips together in addition to cutting methodology.  I have chosen not to go into all these details as they are already well done on numerous sites.

What I want to address occurs after all the cutting is complete.  I did not need to sew my strips together because I didn't need really long strips, and did not want to deal with the bulk of seams in the strips. There are three ways to finish the strips for sewing as taught by Harriett Hargrave:

1.  Cut the strip the desired length and width.  Fold in half lengthwise wrong sides together and stitch the raw edges together in a narrow seam.  Press the resulting tube flat with the seam folded to one side underneath.  (I do not like the added bulk in this method.)

2.  Do the same as in #1, but slide a bias bar (available where you buy notions) through the tube and press.  (Again, not my thing.  My tubes ended up either too tight or too loose for the bar and I lost patience.)

3.  My favorite way is to fold the bias strip in thirds lengthwise, but only at one end.  Keep  the raw edge just shy of the fold so it will be underneath and hidden when applied.  Press about 2 inches.

  Assuming you want your strip to finish about 1/4 inch wide, mark two lines on your ironing board 1/4 inch apart and position a pin across these lines so that there is a 1/4 inch space through which you can thread the folded fabric.  Position another pin in the same manner about 3-4 inches from and parallel to the first pin.

Pull the folded fabric through both pins as shown above, coaxing the folds to the left of the first pin into submission if they get disobedient.  Now you will have a perfect 1/4 inch fold ready to iron.

Then pull another length through and press it, and so on.  It will automatically fold as you gently pull.  A little starch as you go will give crisp folds.

Because there is no seam the edges will be a little loose as shown below.  I did not starch this strip, but that would have settled the edges.  They will be on the underside when the strip is applied to your project.

TIP:  Instead of spraying starch all over the ironing board, spray a little into the cap and use a paint brush to lightly brush some onto the fabric.  A press cloth will save the iron from starch gunk.  P.S. It is not helpful to try to save the ironing board cover if you dump the cap of starch onto it, like I did today!

You could also glue the edges down with Elmer's School Glue and then press (I don't bother.)  I do use the glue to secure the bias to my quilt before sewing.  Pins distort the bias strips and they look much nicer and smoother when glue basted.

For this demo I cut my bias strip 1 inch wide and the finished strip is 5/16 inch finished, which works nicely with stained glass.  Now your strip is ready to appliqué by hand or machine.  I applied mine with a tiny zig-zag stitch and a fairly small stitch length, but not close together like satin stitch.  It doesn't show unless you look very, very closely.

TIP:  If you plan to machine appliqué bias strips, allow some time for practice.  Try the zig-zag with different widths and stitch lengths.  See what looks best and write down your findings.  Every machine has its quirks, and you'd be surprised how fast you can forget the numbers.  Every machine is different.

Happy stitching this week.


  1. Great tips. Haven't needed bias tape yet, but I know it's a b**ch to make.

    1. I was for me until I learned to do it this way. Give it a try. Once it is set up it is quick, easy and accurate.

  2. Perfect! I love learning what I call the 'poor mans' version vs. buying all the notions. I wonder if a little glue applied to the strip before pulling it through the pins would work, then pressing? Or would it interfere with the fabric folding over on its self? Thanks for sharing all the tips and links!

    1. I am afraid the glue might squish out and make a mess. Those pins hold the fabric down pretty tight and almost press them without the iron. In fact when I first did this I was afraid I was stretching the fabric too much, but when I applied it to my quilt it fit smoothly on both straight and curved areas. I would do the glue later if you want to, but I found that I didn't need to use any glue.

  3. You have some really good tips for dealing with this type of bias strip. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this well written tutorial, Mardi. Those are some great tips!

  5. Great tips! I am going to have to try this.