Greetings chickadees! I finished a pretty pink Violet today. I love saying pretty pink Violet. Get it? Pink Violet? I started out working on it at work, so I used the serger for most of the major seams, but had more to do at home, so I needed some other seam finishing tricks. Not only do I dislike chaotic insides on my garments, but I was using a nice voile that was a bit persnickity. I did french seams for the arms, and decided on a simple bias tape finish for the armscye seams. Normally I make my bias tape by just folding in half, pressing, then folding the raw edges to the center fold and pressing again. Since the voile was so persnickity, that didn’t work so well so I pulled out the bias tape maker I bought months ago and gave that a whirl. I took pictures along the way, so here goes. If you’re a bias tape maker tool pro, sorry! I’ve got nothin’ for you today!
Well, first thing I needed some bias strips. Bias strips are awesome because they’re slightly stretchy and will go around curves really well since they’re cut on the bias of the fabric. Cutting on the bias means to cut on a 45 degree angle from the straight lengthwise and crosswise grain threads. Sometimes I cut strips on the grain instead of on the bias and those are OK for using on straight edges, but will be more bulky.
Nikol (my boss!) just posted an excellent tutorial on how to cut bias strips. It involves some super orignami-style folding if you need a bunch of strips. I suggest you go and read it! Right after you’re done reading this, of course! The thing is, Nikol’s awesome method requires a relatively square piece of fabric to start out with and I was cutting my strips from scraps. So I pulled out my trusty supply of quilting tools – specifically my clear ruler, my self healing mat and my rotary cutter.
Cutting bias strips
The clear rulers have diagonal markings on them. I’ve marked (in purple) the 45 degree line on the ruler. That’s the one you want to use.
OK, once you find your 45 degree marking, line it up along the grain of the fabric. The easiest way to find the grain is to line it up along the selvedge edge of the fabric (circled in green below.) The selvedge is the part of the fabric that is ‘finished’ when it comes off the bolt. You’ll be cutting along the angled edge of the ruler – marked in yellow below.
Here’s a closeup of the selvedge of the fabric that I’m working on. Lots of fabrics will have printing along this edge.
Here is what my fabric looks like after I make the first cut along the angled edge of the ruler along that 45 degree angle.
Now that the I’ve got a 45 degree edge cut, I can use the straight edge of the ruler to cut my strips. For the type of bias tape maker I’m using I need 1 and 3/4” strips to make 1” double fold bias tape. I’ve swung my fabric around so my just-cut edge faces the left (it’s still marked in yellow.) I’m right handed and assume that lefties would swing it the other direction. For reference, I’ve circled the selvedge in green to help orient you. Once everything is lined up, I cut my strips using the markings on the ruler and my rotary cutter.
Here, I’ve cut some strips!
Attaching the strips
Since I’m working with scraps, I ended up with a bunch of short strips that needed to be sewn together to make longer strips. Attaching the strips is pretty easy. The pictures below show the general steps – first lay two strips together as shown below, you’ll be stitching along the yellow line.
Once you’ve stitched, trim the excess fabric – I trimmed to just under a quarter inch.
See? This is what the joining seam looks like from the right side.
Meet Mr. Bias Tape Maker
Here’s the bias tape maker I’m using – the regular old Dritz kind. If you have a hard time finding one, check out the quilting section. I got mine in the quilting section of Joann’s
Here’s one side – this is the side that faces down while making bias tape. That metal loop is on a hinge and is just a little pully-handle sort of thing.
Here’s the other side.
And here’s the insides!
How it works
To load up the bias strip, you slide the fabric through the U-shaped slot on the wide end of the tool (you can see the U-shaped slot clearly in the photo above.) I used a pin to catch the fabric and pull it through – this is what it looks like once you get the fabric pulled through.
Pin the ends to the ironing board…
Then start slowly dragging the tape through the maker, following along with the iron. It’s definitely something that requires a bit of concentration! You have to make sure the tape is even – not wrapping too far towards one side or the other. It’s not hard, though!
Refining my technique…
Here’s a shot from one end of my bias tape – there were worst spots that were super uneven with one fold much wider than the other. I don’t really like how far apart the raw edge are from each other either. I think I can do better. Of course, I’m working with a very thin voile, so that was part of the problem…
After some experimentation I found that holding the maker at a 45 degree angle helped feed the fabric through the maker with a lot of control.
Here’s a birds-eye view of the improved positioning of the maker – see how nice the folds are?
Much better! Finished bias tape!
That’s it for today, chickadee-dee-dees! Let me know any questions or if you’re an old pro at this, chime in with a comment if I missed something!