(Pinterest link: https://www.pinterest.com/7pinedesign/7-pine-design/)
Some of the cutest sewing patterns use bias-tape-trim: strips of fabric cut diagonal to the fabric selvedges. Bias tape can be folded into binding, or stitched around cord to make piping. I love bias-tape-trim, but I’ve struggled with the most efficient way to cut and connect the bias strips.
It’s okay, but matching up strip after strip to stitch together is time-consuming… and pressing open all of those tiny seams can cause burnt fingers. I would only use this method if I needed a very small amount of bias tape for a single project n a specific color/print. But usually I need more than that for multiple projects….
Next I learned about the “SQUARE”method“:
You’ve probably seen this on a thousand tutorials already, but just in case you haven’t, here’s how it works (and it is quite genius!)
- SQUARE METHOD: cut a 22″ length of 44″ wide fabric (5/8 yard with uneven edges trimmed off), cut in half to make a square (you can use Fat Quarters and make this a bit smaller; I’m using this measurement here for the sake of comparison between methods):
Slice diagonally by cutting from corner to corner on the true bias, then pick up the left fabric piece and move it over to the right, lining up the straight grains together, and stitch a vertical seam to connect the two pieces into a parallelogram:
With a clear ruler and pencil, draw in lines 2″ apart on the true bias to create eleven strips:
After you connect the horizontal edges to create the continuous bias strip (I’ll explain how in a minute), and cut along the pencil-lines, you’ll have about 8 yards of continuous bias tape! However, it will have 22 seams (connections where strip is attached to strip)….the longer pieces will be 27″ and the smallest will be about 3″. Extra seams make pressing the bias tape slower, since they can get caught in the tape-maker. And they don’t look so great in your sewing projects.
Fun Fact: In the apparel industry it’s common for “Tech Pack” specifications to require that factories place bias-tape seams on the backs of garments only : any bias-tape seams on front mean rejected garments, that go straight to the outlets or discount shops.
Truth is, to obtain fewer seams, you need to use larger pieces of fabric. I thought about how my mom made miles of bias piping for slipcovers when I was a little kid: she used the entire fabric piece, selvedge-to-selvedge, not little squares:
FULL FABRIC WIDTH METHOD: this is also how they get such few seams in packaged bias-tape, or when you purchase by the roll. As an example of how this works, start with a 66″ length (1 and 7/8 yards) of 44″ wide fabric:
Draft 2″ apart diagonal lines on the true bias from selvedge to selvedge:
After stitching the selvedges together and slicing the pencil-lines, you would end up with 16 yards of bias, with only 11 seams. It may look like there’s a lot of wastage, but actually they keep going down the bolt using it all up, so there’s zero wastage. When all of the fabric is used, the result for that rectangle above is 48 yards bias, with 33 seams.
To compare the Square method with the Full Fabric method, imagine you used the Square method 6 times, taking up the same 1 7/8 yards of fabric. The result would be:
- Square Method: 48 yards bias, with 132 seams
- Full Fabric Width Method: 48 yards bias, with 33 seams
But what do you do if you’re a home-sewer, and you want a compromise between the little squares making so many seams, and the miles of bias that you’d get if you used full fabric width? There had to be something in-between. I call it the….
PARALLELOGRAM METHOD: use the same 22″ of fabric (5/8 yard with uneven edges trimmed off) as the Square Method but do NOT cut in half….use the full width of fabric :
- Cut off the right-angle triangles from opposite corners, you won’t be using these (I save them for making pockets, or donating to quilt guilds):
- With a clear ruler and pencil, draw in lines 2″ apart on the true bias to create eleven strips:
After you connect the horizontal edges to create the continuous bias strip, you’ll have just 11 seams, and long distances between the connections. The downside is that you lose half the fabric, due to discarding the two triangles. So, 5/8 yard gets you about 8 yards of bias, but only 11 seam connections, and they are ALL 28″ apart, so you can always figure out when sewing onto a garment if you will come up to a seam soon (in case you want to make sure the seams aren’t on the garment front).
So in comparison, the SQUARE METHOD is fine for small amounts, and you can use Fat Quarters to get lots of variety, but the downside is a lot of seams. The FULL FABRIC WIDTH METHOD is the best for industry, and for home-sewing in small lots, or for making miles of piping for home decorating projects. For most home-sewing the PARALLELOGRAM METHOD is the most practical.
How to make continuous bias using the Parallelogram Method:
- Cut a 5/8 yard of 44″ wide cotton.
- Trim off any raggedy-cut edges (I think it’s easiest to rip, but you may prefer rotary cutter or scissors). You want to end up with 22″ length by 44″ width.
- Check for accurate grain (right angles on all of the corners) and if necessary, yank fabric on the diagonals to stretch fabric into right angles
- Press with spray starch to make handling easier
- Fold up opposite corners on the true bias grain, and cut off :
- Determine which width of bias tape that you want: Clover sells bias-taper makers in 5 different widths; here I’m making the 1″ width, which requires 2″ strips of bias:
- Flip fabric over so that the wrong side is facing up
- Turn 90 degrees so that bias is facing you (check for stretch)
- Using a ruler and pencil, draw 2″ stripe-lines along the true bias:
- Continue drawing lines, perpendicular to each other on true bias:
This is the tricky part: you’re going to make a fabric tube, to connect the strips all at once, so that you don’t have to stitch (and press) numerous tiny seams. Instead you’ll be stitching a single long seam:
- Bring the top and bottom edges of fabric together, right sides together, and slide the top layer over until the corner of the top layer meets the first pencil line of the under-layer:
- Pin the edges together through the pencil lines, making sure they match up (this requires flipping the fabric over to check):
- Continue pinning across the top edges, until you have created a pinned tube, and make sure that the stripes/rows are OFFSET by one row (if the stripes are not offset, you will end up with 11 loops, instead of a single continuous piece)
- Straight-stitch the pinned edge in a single seam, then trim seam allowance
- Press open seam allowance well:
- Now cut along your pencil-marks creating one continuous strip, perfectly matched, already pressed, and best of all with long distances between seams!
- Press your continuous bias-strip into folded tape using the Clover tape-maker, or make piping by stitching the bias tape around piping cord using a zipper-foot:
And look how cute when used in the Brownie Goose “Junie” dress:
(Pattern review: here)