Tutorial and Tips: Sewing with Bias Tape

Well, folks, I finally have it for you: a tutorial on how to sew with bias tape. I don’t know why it took me two weeks to get to it, but here it finally is. ๐Ÿ™‚

My last tutorial showed you how to make your own bias tape, so go grab that beautiful stuff and let’s get started.

First, a disclaimer: There are many excellent tutorials out there on how to sew with bias tape. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I do want to give you some tips on how to make your bias tape a success right from the very beginning.ย 

So are you ready? Here goes!

There are three ways to sew on bias tape: the “proper” way, the quilt binding way, and the “cheater” way. Each method has its use, and I’ve used them all at one time or another. Although I’m calling the first one the “proper” way to sew on bias binding, feel free to use whichever method scares you the least. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I think the most important quality in a good sewer is confidence, not necessarily perfection. ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s get started!

HOW TO SEW ON BIAS TAPE

You will Need:

  • Bias tape (length depends on the project)
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine

Skills Needed:

  • Sew a straight line
  • For method #1 only: a hand-sewing stitch called the slip stitch



METHOD #1: The “Proper” Way

Okay, this is the method I use most often and it only requires two steps. You’ll see this used a lot in garment sewing.

USES: Binding a raw edge, straps for a dress, binding a blanket or quilt etc. There are innumerable uses.

First, get out your project, your bias tape and your pins. Open up your bias tape like this:

Align the raw edge of your bias tape with the raw edge of your fabric, with right sides facing. Insert pins into the fold line 1/4″ from the raw edge. Pin along the length of your project spacing the pins approximately 1 inch apart.

When you finish pinning, head to the machine. Position your fabric under the machine so that the needle is directly above the fold line where you want to stitch.

I can easily stitch a straight seam by lining up the right edge of my presser foot with the edge of my fabric and adjusting the needle position so that it points directly above the fold line. As I stitch I make sure the right edge of my presser foot stays lined up with the right edge of my fabric.

It’s best if you remove your pins as you go, before stitching over the pins. (I don’t always do this, but it’s still good advice). ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, fold your bias tape over to the back side, encasing the raw edge. Pin as you go.

Bias tape folded over to the back side:

This is what my pinning looks like. I slip the pins under the bias tape on the top side and make sure it catches the bias on the back. Then I make sure the pins stick out at the very top of the bias tape. Can see this in the picture below? I find this keeps the bias tape from wrinkling up as I stitch.

Try and make sure the back side of your bias tape drops below the front side. This way your stitches will catch the back side of the bias tape although you can only see the front while you sew.

Pin the full length of your project.

Back at your machine, top stitch on the left side of your bias tape as close to the edge as you can get without going over. This is my favorite part! I just love the way those tiny stitches look on the bias tape when I’m done.

Tip: again, I topstitch by lining up the right side of my presser foot with the right side of the bias tape and adjust my needle so that it pierces the bias tape about 1/16″ from the left edge. I’m able to stitch a straight line by keeping the right sides of my presser foot and my bias tape aligned.

Admire your pretty stitches. (Oops, you can tell I didn’t remove the pins while I stitched my bias tape in place!)

Now, check the back side of your bias tape. Your stitches may have missed a few spots like mine did:

When this happens you can either take the stitches out and sew it again, or you can stitch over it with another straight stitch OR a zigzag. Sometimes I just go over my bias tape again with a very tiny zigzag. I just depends on what look I’m trying to accomplish. Other times I just go over the missed spots with a short row of straight stitches.



And there you go! That’s one way to sew on bias tape. If you need instructions on what to do when two ends of the bias tape come together (while binding a quilt, for example) you can get Heather Bailey’s continuous quilt binding tutorial here. I thought about taking my own pictures for you and writing instructions here, but really, she’s the one who taught me with her tutorial. ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, on to the next method, which is…


METHOD TWO:ย Quilt Bindingย (sometimes called French Bias Binding)

This method for attaching bias tape requires three steps and is the most time-consuming way to sew with bias tape. It does, however, yield beautiful results!

Uses: binding a quilt, attaching bias tape to a fancy dress (if you don’t want the stitches showing)

You will Need:
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Thimble (if you like to use one)
  • Patience

My instructions here will be a little abbreviated because I covered some of these steps in method one.ย 
First, if you are binding two layers together, the fabrics must have wrong sides facing. (If this was a quilt, there would be batting in between the two layers of fabric).

Following the pinning steps from method one.

Stitch the bias tape in place.

Fold the bias tape over to the other side.

After you fold your bias tape over to the other side, pin it so that the bias tape covers your row of stitches.

Now, it’s time to hand-stitch this side of the bias tape to your project. To be totally honest, this is my least favorite part. BUT it surprisingly doesn’t take very long and it looks beautiful when you’re done. So, turn on a movie and get stitchin’! (Martha Stewart has some good instructions for the slip stitch).

Your stitches should be hidden on both sides of the bias tape.



And lastly…


Method #3: The “Cheater” Way


This method is the quickest and only requires one step. I use it a lot to bind boy blankets and quilts, for bunting banners and ties. This is a time-saving method, perfect for when I don’t need my bias tape to look perfect. For example, I don’t use it on dresses but I do use it on boy items. I think it’s cute when the binding on a boy blanket is just a little messy or wrinkled.

First, open up your bias tape and use it to fully encase the raw edge of your fabric.

Pin the bias tape down.

Top stitch the bias tape by following my instructions from method one. TIP: since your bias tape hasn’t already been stitched into place it may shift while you sew. Go slow and hold it in place, especially when you remove the pins. You might want to stitch 1/8″ from the left edge rather than 1/16″.

Remove the pins as you go.

This is how your stitches will look when you finish. NOTE: I used white thread here to so you could see my stitches clearly, but I would usually use matching thread.

The backside might look like this. Matching thread would help to hide irregularities.

Again, you can use a zig zag stitch to help you catch the front and back of the bias tape while you sew. I like to use the zig zag on boy quilts like this:

And there you have it, folks! This tutorial is by no means exhaustive, but I hope you got something helpful from it as you approach sewing with bias tape. It’s a beautiful and striking way to finish a project. Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

Please let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for reading!

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome tutorial! I should have read this a week ago. I just finished some holiday placemats, and I did a very sloppy job of attaching the binding. Thanks for the tips and details on the different methods. I’ll definitely refer to this next time I sew on bias tape!

  2. Anonymous says

    Thank you. About to add bias binding to my first quilt. I must say I will probably go for the last (quick) option. Will check out the link to go around corners.

  3. says

    I am so glad I found this tutorial! I have been using…ahem trying to use bias tape and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing “wrong”. I have been using the cheater method. It makes so much sense to use the #1 method and stitch it on first! Thanks so much!

  4. says

    I cannot tell you( and honestly wouldn’t wanna know) how much time I have spent looking for bias tape tutorials that were actually helpful. I’m sooo glad I finally found yours! Great pictures and instructions thank you thank you thank you!!!

  5. says

    It’s nice for we beginning quilters to have some great tips like this (love the detailed pictures) to help us along. Thanks for posting!

  6. says

    I really like your easy to follow guide which is very comprehensive. I would like to link to your tutorial on how to encase a raw edge with bias tape. If possible I would like to copy and use just 2 of your photos to give my readers a taste of what you would be showing them. Would that be acceptable to you? My tutorial is on making a Christmas Tree Skirt and I foolishly lost the step by step photos of my project. You can see some of my work on Inkspirational Designs. I am only just starting to feature some tutorials. http://inkspirationaldesigns.blogspot.com.au/

  7. Anonymous says

    Thank you for the easy to follow tutorial. I’ve read several different tutorials today and didn’t REALLY understand them. I want to make a simple cotton nightgown and haven’t sewn a garment since 1969, when I was forced to produce a garment to pass my home economics class!

  8. says

    I loved having these three different methods in one place and they are so easy to follow. I also loved that you showed it’s ok to make a mistake and then just go back and fix it the best way you can.
    Many thanks!

  9. says

    This is great, I wanted a refresher as it’s been a long time since I have done this. I ended up, however, using a 4th variation from my sewing past. For almost the same effect as the hidden hand sewn method, particlarly nice when finishing a ‘revised’ neckline on a tee or sweatshirt, sew the short fold seam, fold over a bit agressively ( match edge to edge of bias tape & fold at edge of fabric), then instead of top stitching, sew right in the valley where fabric & tape come together on the right side of fabric. If thread color matches fabric this is virtually invisible! Thanks again for a great tutorial.

  10. says

    wow, i didn’t even know the first 2 ways existed – the people i know and i do quilt binding differently..interesting to learn Another new way! BUT what i was looking for is how someone else does CORNERS in the cheater method – i am switching to that for the second 10 of 20 baby quilts i am making and donating…

  11. says

    Excellent tutorial, best I’ve seen on bias tape yet. Easy to understand and the pictures with the arrows make it extra clear. Will definitely recommend to others. Thanks!

  12. HB says

    Hi! What a fantastic tutorial! For a novice sewer this has been really helpful. Such clear explanations complete with pictures. Thank you so much!

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