You might appreciate a well-stocked sewing shop, but don’t you get bored with the limited choices for bias and binding tape? The standard spectrum of hues leaves little room for imaginative and interesting ideas.
If you’re sure the best binding for your project isn’t on the notions shelf, consider making it yourself. Although it’s possible to create tape with only an iron and your fingers, the process will go more smoothly and be more fun with a special tool called a bias tape maker. These little aluminum color-coded gadgets are sold at most sewing shops, including Sewingmachinesplus.com. They come in widths ranging from two inches all the way down to one-quarter inch and can be purchased individually or as a set. Save the instructions that come with the tool—you’ll need its measurement guide when cutting strips.
With a small tool that costs under $10, you can conquer the bias tape bores.
My curiosity about homemade tape led me to Susan Beal’s book “Sewing for All Seasons,” where I found a pattern for a canvas gardening apron made with DIY binding tape. My tape edging was folded from a poplin just slighter lighter than the canvas used for the apron body. I used a three-quarter-inch bias tape maker by Clover, and I even have some tape left over for a matching hat.
When making your own projects with DIY tape,
follow these 10 steps:
- Select similar fabrics. Cut swatches from your stash and consider how each would work as either the tape or the body fabric. As a general rule, your tape should be the same weight or just slightly lighter than the body fabric. Avoid using silky fabrics because you’ll have trouble keeping the tape in place when sewing. Also avoid transparent or translucent material that will show seams and frayed edges.
- Determine measurements. Refer to your pattern’s specifications – what size bias or binding is required? Use the guide that comes with your tool to determine how wide your strips should be in order to achieve the proper finished size. For example, if you need three-quarter-inch binding, your strip width (for medium weight fabric) would be one and three-eights. Make sure you have the right size bias-making tool for the size you need.
- Measure and cut your strips. If your tape will be sewn around curved edges, such as with a circle-shaped potholder or Christmas tree skirt, your strips should be cut on the bias (at a 45-degree angle against the fabric grain). If your project is made of only straight lines like the gardening apron in the photos, you can cut strips horizontally from selvage to selvage.
- Prepare the strips. If your pattern requires many yards of tape, you can sew long strips together with a three-quarter-inch seam allowance. Open and gently press the seam before using the tool.
- Press perfectly. Use an iron at the appropriate setting for your fabric to flatten the tape as you pull it though the tool. Take your time and use your fingers to hold the tape in position before applying steam. Store the finished tape so it doesn’t lose shape when you’re working on other aspects of the project.
- Check your machine’s needle and thread. You’ll be sewing through many layers, so make sure your needle is up to the challenge. Likewise, consider your thread color. A thread that looks good with the body fabric might not look as good when sewn into your bias tape.
- Pin the tape into position. Use plenty of pins with the head accessible in the direction you plan to sew. Use small pins that won’t distort the shape of your project. The flatter, the better. In some cases, you might want to baste the tape into place.
- Be careful at corners. Fold the tape at an angle, making sure it doesn’t slip. When sewing on the machine, sew one half of the corner and stop to pivot the project to the other direction before beginning again. Do not rush—take your time and concentrate on keeping the tape in place.
- Cut with caution. If your pattern asks you to cut the tape at particular points, don’t cut exactly flush to the body fabric. Leave a millimeter or two in case the next part of the process pulls your tape more taut than expected.
- Press gently. Resist the temptation to vigorously iron the tape after it’s sewn on. Give the project some time to settle into its seams, then use light steam to gently coax out lumps and wrinkles.
With a small tool that costs under $10, you can conquer the bias tape bores. New doors open with tape made from abstract prints, solids, florals, and plaids. A fancy or patterned bias edge against a plain fabric is a fun and interesting take on cosmetic bags, T-shirts, placemats, table runners or blanket edges. Make your own tape and take your project from OK to extraordinary.