How to Make (and Apply) Handmade Bias Binding
There's something so satisfying about making your own bias tape and binding your sewn creations. Custom bias tape has the beautiful texture of your favorite fabrics and, because it's custom, it can be any length, width, material, or combination of fabric scraps that you desire. In this tutorial I'm going to construct the binding from the same 100% cotton fabric that I've used for the bottom strip of the tunic. (I've used a Kona solid for this bias tape, but you can use any scrap fabric you choose.) Note: This is the same technique I use to make bias tape for quilts, blankets, dress necklines/ armholes, pockets, and hems but my technique does differ when I'm attaching a quilt binding versus a neckline binding--I'll get to that later. Let's go!
Moderate. Basic sewing stitches but just a few tricky spots in attaching the binding. With patience and basic sewing skills, you can do it!
- Fabric--length and amount determined by each project, but it's possible to use all of one fabric or multiple fabrics for a "crazy binding" look.
- Bias Tape Maker--examples over here.
- Fabric scissors
- Straight pins
- Fabric pencil/ marking tool
- Thread (Ideally it matches the bias tape exactly--see Step 9.)
- Sewing machine
- Optional: A self-healing cutting mat and rotary cutter
Note: Before you begin, please wash, dry, and iron all fabrics. Feel free to use several different fabrics to make one long bias tape in a variety of fabrics/ patterns.
Step 1: Measure & Cut
Cut all the binding bias at the same width (I measured 1 and 3/4 inch, but adjust the width to your specific bias tape maker and your preference). Don't worry about various lengths--that's okay. Cut all the fabric on the diagonal or "on the bias" meaning that all cuts will be at a 45 degree angle from the selvedge edges. I use a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and metal ruler for my bias cuts but a ruler and scissors is also fine. Cut as many strips as needed for your project--be sure to leave room for seam allowances and at least 4" extra for finishing seams.
Step 2: Pin
Position the ends of two strips at a 90 degree angle overlapping at the corners by the amount of the desired seam width (if sewing at a 3/8 seam allowance then overlap with a 3/8 inch margin at the corners). Using a ruler, mark a straight line where you'll sew. See image for details. Then pin into place. Repeat for all strips until you have one long, continuous strip of pinned bias tape. Be sure that all right sides are pinned together and all seams are on the "wrong" side.
Sew all strips together using the marked line as a guide. When finished, you should have one continuous strip of bias binding with all the seams on the back side. Trim the corners where the seams start and end to remove any protrusions. Also, iron all seams open.
Step 4: Fold & Iron
Using the bias tape maker, pull the fabric through the tool and iron the edges flat. This will result in one continuous strip of binding that has two folds. (Note: If making a quilt, I do not use a bias tape maker tool. Instead, I iron the strip in half length-wise. Once ironed, I sew the unfolded edge of the binding to the unfinished edge of the quilt. Then I fold the folded edge over the raw edges, pin with quilt clips, and then finish the binding by hand with a simple ladder stitch. For this tutorial, I will walk through the sewn binding method using a bias tape maker.)
Step 5: Pin
Now, open up the ironed tape and put the right side of the bias tape to the WRONG side of the fabric (garment, quilt, etc.). Line up the unfinished edges and pin into place. Leave approximately 2 inches overlapping at the start and finish of the tape. Do not pin the ends into place.
Step 6: Mark & Sew
This is the trickiest part of using binding, so go slowly. There are more basic and more advanced ways of completing this next step, but here is my tried & true technique. Mark where the two fabrics join to make the correct length needed for your project. (Pinch the fabric ends together and use the fabric pencil to make a line that will become your sewing line. See photo for details.) Once your sewing line is marked, go ahead and sew your binding bias ends. Once joined, pin to the fabric.
Step 7: Pin & Sew
Pin the bias binding into place. Remember, the right side of the binding bias should lay against the wrong side of the project. Sew into place.
Step 8: Flip & Fold
Remove the pins and flip the bias tape over. Now the bias tape should naturally curl under so that you have a finished edge on the top of the right side of your garment. See photos for details. Once you have the bias binding folded under, pin into place.
Step 9: Breathe & Sew
When I bind a quilt, I stitch this top binding by hand with a simple ladder stitch or blind stitch. Sometimes I use this same technique for finishing the binding on a garment. It takes much longer but it's a beautiful finish. If I want to sew the binding by machine I take a deep breath and sew very slowly! I also make sure I can sew from the top side of my garment and I've learned to measure my seam allowance from the inside of my bias tape. It's true--practice makes perfect. Or practice makes it straighter, it's true.
Also, I have learned that it's worth the time and extra money to make sure my thread matches my binding tape exactly--it reduces the noticeable imperfections of machine stitching. Unless you are a professional seamstress, then I'd recommend a precise color match. You'll be happy for the extra planning.
Step 10: Dance the jig!
That's right, dance the jig. You've just learned how to make bias tape and how to apply it by hand or by machine. Go you! You are on your way to binding necklines, armholes, hemlines, pockets, quilts, potholders, mini quilts, and just about anything else that will ever need a binding. And, if you have leftover bias tape from this project, then you are that much closer to finishing the custom bias binding on your future projects! Have a cup of tea and a cookie. Enjoy.
(Please note: All of my tutorials and projects are intended for readers' personal use only. Not intended for resale, retail, wholesale, or any other form of reproduction. All images and text copyright Katrina Rodabaugh. Thank you.)