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Bias Tape

The versatile bias binding was designed to enclose raw edges, thus providing a finish that both conceals and strengthens them. A binding can be beautiful as decorative trim around closure edges-whether you use self-fabric or a contrasting fabric. It can be helpful around a neckline or armhole when used in place of facings. One of the great satisfactions of sewing is a bias binding that turns smoothly and evenly over an edge with nary a twist, a pull, or a ripple to mar its flat surface. To achieve a perfect binding, cut strips of fabric evenly on the true bias, join them on the grain, and press and shape them before application.

You can also purchase bias strips ready-made in a variety of colors and a choice of several widths. Whether single- or double-fold, the edges are usually pressed under for your convenience. Depending upon your needs, the folds can be pressed open and the full width of the bias made available. The techniques used for applying or piecing the commercial bias strips are the same as those suggested for bias-cut strips you have made yourself.

Cutting Bias Strips
The ideal bias strip is cut from one piece of fabric long enough to fit the desired area. However, this is not always the most economical usage of the fabric, so piecing becomes a necessity. This can be done in one of two ways-by continuous pieced strips or by individual pieced strips.

For either method, take a rectangular piece of fabric cut on the straight grain. Fold it diagonally at one end, as shown, to find the true bias. Using the bias fold as a guide, mark fabric with parallel lines the desired width of the bias strips, marking as many strips as needed, allowing for 1/4" (6 mm) seams. Cut away the triangular ends. Mark a 1/4" (6 mm) searnline on the lengthwise grain along each edge as shown (1).

Continuous pieced strips are easy to make. On the marked piece of fabric, join the shorter ends, right sides together, with one strip width extending beyond the edge at each side. Stitch in a 1/4" (6 mm) seam and press it open (2). Begin cutting on the marked line at one end and continue in circular fashion (3).

Individually pieced strips are more time consuming. Cut along the markings for the bias strips. The short ends, previously cut on the grain, will appear diagonal. Mark a seamline 1/4" (6 mm) from each end. With right sides of the strip together, match the seamlines (not the cut edges), pin, and stitch. Press the seam open.

Preshaping the Binding
To preshape the strip and to take out the extra slack, the bias should first be pressed, steaming and stretching it gently (1). You will then have a slightly narrower, taut strip to work with, eliminating the problem of a wobbling seamline. Fold the strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press again lightly (2). For single binding: open, fold cut edges toward the center, and press lightly (3). Lastly, shape the tape into curves that correspond to those on the garment by positioning it on your pattern piece and steam pressing (4). Since one folded edge of the finished binding will be even with the searnline of the garment, you must always trim the seam allowance from the edge to be bound. When applying the bias strips to the garment, try to place the piecing seamlines at inconspicuous locations wherever possible. Also, leave 2" (5 crn) extra on the bias strip free at the beginning of any application for finishing. (Note: Commercial binding can be shaped, but the slack has already been removed by the manufacturer.)

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2006 March 28