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How to Make Bias Tape

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to Make Bias Tape

Y'all know how much I love bias tape. I've been showing you projects with pre-made bias tape, but we all know it's so much cuter when you make your own. It seems a little complicated, but do it once and you'll be hooked. Bias tape is great for two things: stabilizing curves and finishing edges. There are two major steps to making bias tape: Cutting Bias Strips and Ironing it into Bias Tape.

I'll give instructions on How to Make Single Fold Bias Tape and Double Fold Bias Tape (and the secrets for doing each step faster than you thought possible) after the jump...

How to Make Bias Tape
First we will cut, then we will iron.  For this bias tape I used 1/2 yard of Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane Wash Day Ticking in Dandelion.  So I made about 11 yards of 1/2" double fold bias tape for $4.25.  Total deal.

Step 1: Cutting Your Bias Strips
Bias tape is cut "on the bias" meaning diagonal to the selvedges of the fabric. You have to do it this way for it to work. The fabric stretches differently when you pull it against the grain. Test it out by pulling your fabric at the selvedges and then on the diagonal (from opposite corners) so you see what I mean.

First let's figure out how wide our strips should be. If you are making single fold bias tape, you want your strips to be twice the width of your final tape minus 1/8" (so for 1/2" single fold bias tape, you need 7/8" wide strips). For double fold bias tape you want your strips four times the width of your final tape minus 1/8". So for the 1/2" double fold bias tape I'm making here, you need strips 1 and 7/8" wide.

Start with 1/2 yard of fabric. Fold one short edge of your fabric into a right triangle, then cut that triangle off:

Lay it right sides facing straight edges aligned on the other side of the fabric:

Sew it in place, so now you have a parallelogram:

We need to draw diagonal lines across it parallel to the cut edges.  The lines need to be evenly spaced at the width we want our strips to be. So for my 1/2" double fold bias tape, I need to draw lines on the bias 1 and 7/8" apart across the whole 1/2 yard. I picked up a handy bias tape ruler that makes this part a breeze:

Now the usual next step is to cut all of these pieces and sew them together at right angles one at a time, which takes forever. We are going to do it backwards and save ourselves some time. So, take your fabric and twist it, bringing the right sides of the long edges together. Line up the end of strip One with the start of strip Two, so they are off set, like this:

It is going to feel like you are doing something wrong - that it is just not possible for this all to line up - but you are doing it right.  The fabric is going to spiral as you line it up.  Now sew the right sides together with 1/4" seam allowance.  It will look all funky and twisted like this:

Flatten it out at one side, so it looks like this:

Now cut along your drawn line, it will be in a spiral:

Keep cutting until it's all cut into one long strip:

Wasn't that a million times quicker then sewing a bunch of strips together? Now go ahead and iron all the seams open:

All righty, we have created our bias strips. Halfway there!

Step 2: Ironing your Bias Tape.
So you need to iron each side into the center. Go ahead and try doing that by hand. No, I'm kidding, don't. Just trust me it's a pain.

You can get a simple Bias Tape Maker doo dad to feed your fabric through. You gently push one end of the strip through it, and iron as it comes out the other end. This works decently but requires a steady hand. This is how I used to do it:

But then a magical new product was invented, and I got one. It's the Simplicity Bias Tape Maker and it does the work for you (it's only $68 on amazon right now - pays for itself after just a few projects/quilts). You can get a bunch of different tips for it to make any size bias tape you want. So I feed my strip through here, and it does the nice even ironing for me:

For a video of the machine in action visit this post: Bias Tape Maker Video What What!

Now you have created single fold bias tape!

If you want double fold bias tape, simply fold it in half with the raw edges to the center and iron it again. I ran it through my Bias Tape Maker one more time:


Now wrap it around a piece of cardboard until you need to use it! Hold it in your hand and feel its homemade goodness. Sigh with satisfaction.

Go to our search box on the top right and search "bias tape" for about 50 million project ideas!

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Blogger Sandy a la Mode said...

ohhhh so THAT'S how you make it!!! i never knew!! i kept seeing that it was needed for certain things and i never had the chance to go out and buy it but i guess you just make it!! LOVE the fabric you used!!

May 26, 2010 at 4:03 AM  
OpenID tanvi said...

Thanks so much for this tutorial! I've always thought it looked like entirely too much hassle, what with the sewing every strip together, but this makes it look quite manageable! :)

May 26, 2010 at 5:28 AM  
Blogger walklet said...

Great tutorial! Thanks for taking the fear out of it!

May 26, 2010 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger Rosemary A said...

I'm in the process of making a baby quilt - I will definitely give this a try when I get to the binding!

May 26, 2010 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Jacinda said...

The twisted fabric method is genius! Bias tape in Nicey Jane! What's better than that!?!

May 26, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Michelle said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I recently fell in love with bias tape myself by hated making it. I don't have the money for the bigger machine, but I might try the little gadget to make it. I'm so excited!!

May 26, 2010 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Ofenstein said...

I love making my own bias tape! Thanks for a great tutorial that I can share with my crafty friends!

May 26, 2010 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger regan said...

I've just been thinking about how to do this! Your a genius :)

May 26, 2010 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Jacinda said...

And after reading again, the cost savings is what really struck me. Awesome. "Prudent" one might even say.

May 26, 2010 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Jaimie said...

Super cute! Still looks like a lot of work though!

May 26, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Elena said...

You are such a doll! I've tried the parallelogram method before, but had mixed strip came out a little wonky. I'll try your way. And I love gadgets too, so maybe I'll ask for a bias tape maker for my bday!

May 26, 2010 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger CollegeSAHM said...

LOVE the parallelogram idea!!!!! I made yards and yards of bias tape when making a civil war gown and I wish I had known this way of doing it! And I LOVE the machine too!! Might have to look into getting one!

May 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger jess said...

aw man I need one of those machines!!

May 26, 2010 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Suzanne in TX said...

This is absolutely fabulous! I had read about this cutting technique, but your photos have made it so much easier to understand. I'll be giving it a try shortly! Thanks so much for this great tutorial!

May 27, 2010 at 3:55 AM  
Blogger Mélanie and Brice (Deux Français à Vancouver) said...

this tutorial is great ! I was literally just about to go out and buy a bias tape maker, when I read this. I love your technic for saving time on sewing and cutting. I am trying it as soon as I get back from the store ! thanks !

May 27, 2010 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger jojoebi said...

I love using bias tape but hate sewing all the bits together, this method is pure genius, thank you!

May 27, 2010 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger SallyP said...

Wow! I have to try this! And you sold me on the bias tape machine. I've been wondering if I really need it & I do! I need that ruler too. I have cut my strips & then sewn them together & almost everytime I mess up. I think your method is pretty fool proof in that area. I can't wait to try this.

May 27, 2010 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

That is so awesome! JoAnn's online carries these for $99 but the homepage often has a code for 50% off one item to make it $50. Just a little cheaper than Amazon. :)

May 28, 2010 at 5:42 AM  
Blogger Tasia said...

Oh wow I wish I owned that bias tape machine! Great how-to guide, thanks for sharing :)

May 28, 2010 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Making bias tape ROCKS!!! Your tutorial is even better than a previous one I have used!

May 29, 2010 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger erin said...


June 1, 2010 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

what a fantastic tutorial and I just LOVE that machine - fantastic !!! Thanks so much for sharing x

June 1, 2010 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Felice said...

that bias tape maker machine is super cool, and i like how it looks like a little 70's computer. getting one.

June 1, 2010 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

will this trick work with straight binding?

June 1, 2010 at 2:05 PM  
Blogger Jaime said...

beth - i havent tried it but i think it would, if you just eliminated the triangle-cutting and sewing into a parallelogram step.

June 1, 2010 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger hodge podge said...

oh my, i have made bias tape for years but that twisted tube concept?!? BRILLIANT!!! i don't think i ever would have thought of it! thanks for a lovely tutorial ;n)

June 8, 2010 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Exquisite Accessories said...

Amazing I make my own & it takes me ages thats is great I will be over to Amazon now :)

June 21, 2010 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Just tried this today for the first time. Great tutorial! Sooo easy!

June 27, 2010 at 10:48 AM  
OpenID astitchinlime said...

Just finished making some today -- thanks so much for the tutorial. Sewing the ends together before cutting the strips was such a timesaver!

Excited to use the tape for a project soon :)

- Jana Kim

July 4, 2010 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger SweetSamantha said...

Saving this page!! Thanks so much for the great tutorial!!

July 7, 2010 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Sew on and Sew on said...

I've tried this method twice now and my rows don't line up. This last time I did it, the first row matched, but the rest were off by about 1/2 inch. Any ideas on how to fix this?

July 8, 2010 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Shiv said...

oh my goodness - i NEVER comment on blog posts but having just done this tutorial and reveling in the yards of bias tape that i have now to use over and over, I had to thank you so much for this. My dread of making bias tape is finally over. I have still to get the tape maker machine but this is a great first step. Thank you thank you thank you.

July 9, 2010 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger h.u.g.g.s said...

I'm still a bit new to sewing, and I don't think I would have been able to get so far without the help of the internet and people like you willing to take the time to share your knowledge. I struggled with bias tape for quite a while, and I just KNEW there had to be a better way then buying it or sewing scraps together! THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing this idea. I couldn't have done it without you!

July 17, 2010 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Jeff and Frances said...

Thank you, this makes it easy!

August 3, 2010 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger ajjah said...

owh i loveeee the machine...! it totally makes the ironing super easy

August 23, 2010 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger Papi and Wee Granny said...

I've taken up sewing again, since I now have grandchildren. My 4 yr old granddaughter, Ellie, loves to help me sew. She pushes the foot pedal, and is quite good at following my directions. "Slow down, and nowwww....stop!" I love this tute, and will instruct her in making bias tape. She'll be an expert in no time! Thanks so much for the help.
Wee Granny Cathy

November 10, 2010 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Heldin des Chaos said...

Great tutorial.
I have one of these simple bias tape makers but I never quite manage to put the fabric in it... is there a trick?

November 11, 2010 at 2:33 AM  
Blogger Krista said...

I am stuck on this step -- the first one! Can you help. "Fold one short edge of your fabric into a right triangle, then cut that triangle off:" I can't figure out how you have your fabric folded. Do you just mean to cut off a triangle from the short side (no folding required)? Does it matter how big the triangle is? Maybe I need to go back to 10th grade geometry!!

November 28, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
OpenID bononers said...

wow, i was so intimidated by that spiral thing! totally worked out amazing though! thanks for the tutorial!
ps: made it by hand, and will be investing in that miracle machine STAT.

December 1, 2010 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Linda H. said...

Krista, that was confusing to me at first, too. Yes, she means to cut a triangle off the short side. The point of folding it first is just a help in finding the diagonal.

December 26, 2010 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Starry said...

I finally "get" this. I made my first *almost* right strip of bias binding Went a bit squiffy at the end). So impressed with my self and you for making a great tutorial :D.

January 1, 2011 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger KB said...

I thought I'd proved Jamie wrong - that it IS impossible for the lines to match up in the spiral - but alas, it was my own inability to draw straight lines (ack!) - I even used one of those fancy clear rulers. Any tips? Seriously, my 2 yr old daughter seems to be more accurate... (is there a tute on drawing lines for bias tape or shall i just return to kindergarten?!)

January 4, 2011 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger mary said...

i seriously have been sewing for nearly 40 years
and finally with your tutorial i know how to do this

January 21, 2011 at 6:38 AM  
Blogger K said...

Eureka! My second attempt was extremely successful! One question: to make the double fold, do you first iron it in half by hand & then run it through the machine - or do you only run it through the machine? If so, do you still use the 1" tip? Thank you! -Karen

February 9, 2011 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Jaime said...

k - awesome! first run it through the machine to make it into single fold, then fold it in half and run it through again without using a tip

February 9, 2011 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger vshaynes said...

Thank you for the great tutorial with pics. I have the bias maker machine and LOVE it. But I never knew a good way to cut bias tape that wasn't wasteful and time consuming. This will make my life so much easier.
@ Jamie ~ To make double fold, I leave the tip and run it thru using just one side of the tip. It acts as a guide and makes it fold perfectly without me having to help it at all.

March 6, 2011 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Joelle said...

I'm thinking of buying the bias tape machine but after reading some reviews about the tips not working for 1/2 inch double fold I'm wondering if there are a certain brand of tips to buy, or if some people just don't know how to follow product What tips do you use? I'm mainly interested in making lots of 1/2" double folded tape. Thanks so much! I love your tutorial!

April 23, 2011 at 6:06 AM  
Blogger kmer said...

This is SO GREAT! Thank you!! I am an amateur seamstress learning how to do a lot for the first time via the internet. It has been a great experience so far, thanks to videos and tutorials like this one. Yours is the first post to show how to actually cut AND make the strips. Awesome! Thanks so much! :D

June 2, 2011 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger Eva's Mummy said...

I just tried this and it wouldn't work for me, when i join end of strip 1 and beginning of strip two and i sew along THAT edge when i go to cut the line isn't connecting on either side of the seam because the seam cuts through the drawn line so low down. When i looked at your 8th photo it is the same, the first few lines (looking from the right to left) are ok but the further alone the further apart the connected lines are, what do you do when it comes to cutting it? guess and go between?

July 22, 2011 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Eva's Mummy said...

** 9th photo

July 22, 2011 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Amy @ Positively Splendid said...

I truly wish I could hug your necks for this tutorial! Piecing bias strips was always the bane of my home decor existence! This is something I will use again and again. Thank you!

August 14, 2011 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger littlebitty said...

Thank you for this tutorial! I used it today.

September 20, 2011 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger AngelicaSews said...

Here's a little trick I saw on the web (sorry, I forget where I saw it). Instead of buying all the tips and whatnot to make bias tape in different widths, go low-tech: all you need is an ironing board, an iron, and a long needle. Place the pin through the cover of your ironing board at the needed width of bias tape (1" gap = 1" single fold = 1/2" double fold. Cut one end of your bias strip to a point and run it under the needle wrong side up. Carefully pull fabric through, ensuring it is folding symmetrically. Pressing in place as you pull through. For double fold tape fold in half and press again.

January 22, 2012 at 6:28 PM  

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