So you’ve heard that we’ve just released Mini Darling Ranges, you’ve got 10 daughters and you’re thinking to yourself, can I be bothered making enough bias binding for ALL those gorgeous matching dresses? Well, firstly, woah. That’s a lot of daughters, and that’s a lot of binding. I can’t relate on the 10 daughters part, but I have had to make ridiculous amounts of bias binding before, and I’m here to tell you –
I KNOW AN EASIER WAY!
This method involves a bit more sewing than the continuous strip method which i know is really popular, but it results in less seams in your binding, and also gives you the opportunity to line up stripes or checks if you’re a big fan of pattern matching like me. It involves some fancy folding and accurate cutting, but taking it step by step, its a super easy way to make a huge amount of binding relatively quickly. And when i say huge, I mean HUGE! Today I’m making around 40m (almost 44 yards) of binding! But of course the same technique can be used on a smaller scale too.
This method isn’t just for people with lots of daughters, it’s also great for making binding for the edges of quilts, super easy bunting or spaghetti straps, for binding seams on the inside of garments or for a decorative bound edge on the outside of garments – the list goes on. Having your own giant stash of binding, ready to go at a moments notice, is ridiculously handy – so let’s get started!
So What Is Bias Binding?
Before we jump into making our bias binding, we should probably have a chat about what it actually is!
Woven fabric is made up of threads that run horizontally across the fabric (the weft weave) and threads that run vertically up and down the fabric (the warp weave), and you’ll notice that when you pull against these threads, most woven fabrics don’t stretch. Something cut on the “bias” has been cut at a 45° angle to the edges of the fabric (and the warp and weft weaves). Why is it cut at a 45° angle you ask? Well, that’s because fabric (even non-stretch fabric), has more of a “stretch” or give, when you pull it between it’s weave!
The stretch that fabric cut on the bias has, gives it the ability to mould and adapt to different shapes, like curvy hips in gorgeous bias cut dresses! So bias binding is simply strips of fabric that have been cut on the bias which can do this same moulding & adapting! It’s pretty wonderful stuff and we go into it in a little more detail here, so check it out if you’re looking for more info on bias. Now we’re all full bottle on what it is, let’s get to the making part!
What you’ll need:
A ruler to cut with, a clear quilting ruler with guide lines works best
A piece of pre-washed, light to mid-weight fabric
A bias tape maker (optional)
How much binding you’ll end up with depends on the binding width you plan to make, the width of your fabric, and the length of the fabric piece you are working with. This method works best with a relatively square piece of fabric, but it doesn’t have to be exact. If your width x length ratio gets more than about 1.5 though, it’s doesn’t work as well.
This is what I have used for today’s tutorial:
Fabric Width: 150cm (59″)
Yardage: 1.6m (just over 1.6 yards)
Binding Width: 5cm (2″)
Yield = Approximately 40m of binding (almost 44 yards).
You might not need that much, so you can always use a square or rectangle piece that’s not the full width of your fabric!
Prepping Your Fabric
First things first, you’ll need to square off the cut ends of the fabric so they are a perfect 90° to the selvedge edge. I find it easiest to do this with the fabric folded in half so that the selvedge edges are aligned, and so I’m cutting through two layers of fabric.
Line up your quilting ruler with the selvedge edges, making sure it’s square to the folded edge at the other end of the ruler too, and use your rotary cutter to trim. You can do the same to the other cut end, before also trimming off the selvedges (which I forgot to do, whoops!).
The Folding Method
Fold 1 – Cut Edge To Selvedge
Now that we have lovely squared edges, we are going to take one corner and bring it diagonally over so that the full width of one cut edge meets with one of the selvedge edges.
If you have a perfect square, the corner you are pulling will line up with it’s opposite corner. If you are working with a rectangle, use the shorter edge of your fabric as the “cut edge” and the longer as the “selvedge edge“. The corner you are pulling wont end up matching with another corner, but will sit somewhere along the “selvedge edge“.
It doesn’t matter if your fabric is right side up or down, but it does matter that you take the time to match up the edges the best you can, and that the corner where your cut and selvedge edges intersect, is a nicely aligned point. This new folded edge we’ve created is what this method is centred around, and from this point on I’m going to call it the “diagonal edge”. The other two fabric edges which we didn’t specifically align aren’t the important ones in this folding process, and I refer to them in the next step as the “other” cut/selvedge edges.
Fold 2 – In Half
Now take your pointed corner and bring it across, so that the diagonal edge is being doubled over.
If your fabric piece isn’t a square and the other cut edge extends beyond the other selvedge edge, pull the pointed corner further along the diagonal edge (still keeping it aligned) so the fold we are making is over half way and the tip of the pointed corner is more in line with the other cut edge’s corner of the fabric.
At this point, it’s important to check the fold you just made is 90° to the diagonal edge and to take the time to readjust if it’s not quite right. Otherwise you might end up with chevron shaped binding strips!
Fold 3 – In Quarters
The final fold you’ll need to make is once more along the diagonal edge, so it’s now approximately in quarters. Be sure to check again that the fold is at a 90° angle, and that all of the layers of the diagonal edge are nicely aligned.
The purpose of the last two folds we’ve just done is to make the diagonal edge a length that’s short enough to be able to cut in one go with our rulers. If you started off with a much smaller piece of fabric and your diagonal edge was short enough to cut before this final fold, then you don’t need to make it! And if you’re working with a really wide fabric, or short ruler, you may need to make another fold.
As you know, I can’t resist a good diagram, so here’s a little summary of what we’ve just covered:
The Cutting Method
(Note: I am right handed, so if you’re left handed, it will probably be more comfortable to swap things around!)
Cut 1 – Trimming The Diagonal Edge
With the bulk of your fabric underneath, push your ruler up to the diagonal edge which is where we are going to make our first cut. Use the horizontal guides of your ruler to line yourself up with the top and bottom folded edges of your fabric. This first cut sets you on your way for the rest of your binding, so make sure it’s nice and square!
To reduce waste, get as close as you can to the folds of the diagonal edge before you hold your ruler firmly and trim them away. To keep your ruler steady and in place, you may need to pause half way through the cut and move your stabilising hand to a higher position. That’s our first cut done! Woo! Now, rotate your cutting mat and fabric with it, so your fabric is on your cutting hand side.
Cut 2 & Beyond – Cutting Your Bias Strips
Now with the bulk of your fabric on the other side of your ruler, line the vertical guides up with the freshly trimmed diagonal edge so that your ruler is covering the fabric for the width that you want your binding to be. Be sure to line up the top and bottom folded edges of the fabric again with the horizontal lines of the ruler. With everything in place, hold your ruler steady and cut your first strips of binding!
Scoot your ruler along to line up the newly cut edge with your vertical guides, check your top and bottom folded edges are square, and cut again, then again…then again. You’re on a roll now! Look at you go! If during the process, you notice your cuts are getting less square, its ok to pause, spin your cutting mat back around, and trim your edge slightly to get it back to the 90° angle you need.
Keep at it until you reach the end and are left with two little triangles. That’s all your cutting done! How easy was that? Here’s another little summary of what we just covered:
The Sewing Method
Now with it all cut, I like to unfold and sort my binding into size groups so I can evenly spread the tiny and medium sized pieces between the big, full length strips. I set my piles up next to the sewing machine, and pick from my different groups as I go, but depending on your space and the way you like to sew, you might find a different method that works better for you.
To stitch your strips together, you’ll need to align the ends so that the short angled edges are in line, and the two pieces are at right angles to each other. Once you have them together, slide them diagonally up or down (with the edges still aligned) to increase or decrease the amount that the tips of the strips stick out – this determines the amount of seam allowance you have. You will be sewing from the point that the pieces intersect, parallel to the the angled edges, to the intersection point on the other side. The seam allowances don’t have to be exact but approximately 6mm (1/4″) is a good amount.
If you’re using striped or checked fabric and you’re pedantic like me, you might want to match up your stripes. It’s more time consuming but the end result is oh so satisfying. You can pick and choose strips to find ends that go well together, but sometimes when there aren’t any good matches, you can just increase the seam allowances of the join to a point where the pattern does align, and simply trim off the excess later.
An important thing to note at this point is whether or not your fabric has a right and wrong side. If the sides are obvious, it’s super easy to make sure you’re continuously putting right sides together while you are sewing, but if it’s not super obvious – just take care. Once you’re in full binding sewing swing, it’s easy to forget and have pieces with the fabric the wrong way out, or the seam allowances swapping from one side of the binding to the other.
At the start, you may wish to pre-pin, but as you get into the swing of it, it’s easy enough to simply place the pieces together and sew them as they are.
Thread Saving Sewing
When you’re sewing 40m of binding, with around 40 joins, it would be incredibly time and thread consuming to back stitch and cut threads between every seam. So instead, you can just sew the binding pieces together in one continuous row of stitching, pausing before the end of each seam to line up the other end of the piece you’re currently stitching with the next strip, before continuing on. Machines don’t always like stitching thin air, but if it’s only a couple of stitches between pieces, you can get away with it!
The aligning and sewing of the strips is the more time consuming part of making binding, but put on some good music or a podcast, don’t forget to stretch your back and neck every so often, and it’ll be done in no time! By the end, you’ll have a big long string of bias loops.
Trimming & Pressing
You’re on the last leg! Now you just need to trim the threads connecting the pieces, and while you’re at it, the overhanging tips of the seam allowances, so that they are flush with the rest of the strip.
If there are any seam allowances that are a bit bulky, you can trim these back as well, before pressing all of the seams so that the seam allowances of each join are all pointing in the same direction. This may seem a bit tedious, but the end result will be cleaner, crisper, and so much easier to pull through a bias tape maker, if you are planning on using one. If you’re not though, you can alternatively press the seams open, which will help to reduce bulk.
Bias Tape Makers
Depending on your project, you may need your bias strips flat, pressed in half, or with the raw edges folded in, the later of which is most easily achieved with a bias tape maker! It’s a handy little tool which comes in different sizes depending on the width of the binding you are wanting to make and I highly recommend them!
To start off, you feed the end of your bias strip into the large end of the tool, gently pushing it through till the point peeks out the other side. The strip should be wrong side up, and you should be feeding it in the same direction that your seam allowances are pressed, so they glide easier through the tool instead of getting caught. Then you just need to grab this emerging tail and tug it though, so the binding begins to pull smoothly out in a folded formation. It wont stay like that though, so before it unfurls, you need to press it into place with your iron, pulling the tool as you go and keeping some tension in the strip. If your fabric type permits, steam is your friend, but be careful not to burn your fingers! Use the little metal handle to pull, so you can keep your hands further away from the iron.
Once you’ve made it through your big pile of binding, if you’re not using it all at once, take a comfy seat, put your feet up and wind all of your beautiful binding into a roll or wrap it around something like an empty overlocking bobbin or cardboard tube to keep it freshly pressed and in mint condition until you need it!