Monday, July 26, 2010

1946 dress- homemade bias tape

I use quite a bit of commercial bias tape. It's very useful for nicely finishing curved raw edges where french seaming won't work. It's worth it to me to buy the stuff because making my own is expensive fabric-wise and time consuming. I know there are machines out there that automatically do the pressing and folding for you, but I don't have one, so I do it the old fashioned way--by hand and iron. In cases where you need an exact match to the fabric, knowing how to make your own is essential. And making your own cording is pretty much the same thing, though that's a topic for another day.

The first thing you know is that bias tape is meant to be stretchy, so that it can easily go around curved edges. This means that you need to cut it on the cross-bias, or diagonally on the fabric. Because it's in long strips, I prefer breaking out a quilting tool--my rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. (Yeah, I quilt, too.)

The first thing to do is make the piece of fabric into a square. Because I wanted to know which way the grain was running, it meant cutting off another edge other than the selvage edge. Next, I folded it into a triangle and cut the end on the fold--

Now, commercial bias tape, which we're trying to emulate, is approximately 1 inch wide. So we need to cut 1 inch strips. The ends of these strips aren't going to be straight, because for all intents and purposes, we cut diagonally across a square. We need to square them up to be of any use to us.

Next, we lay one strip over another and pin them diagonally and sew them together. The number of strips you sew together depends on how much bias tape you need. Make sure what will be your seams are all on the same side of the fabric, because we want the raw edges neatly tucked in. Check before you sew it. A few seconds of checking saves a few minutes of unpicking!

Next, trim off the excess fabric-- And start ironing! First, the seam allowances need ironing open. This is just about the only thing I bother with doing that. While you're at it, press the whole strip to get rid of the cutting creases. Then, starting at the beginning, fold it in half and press lightly--just enough to get a visible line. After that, start over again. (See? I told you this would take some time. It's just like making quilt binding, only quilt binding takes longer because there's more of it!) Fold the raw edges to the line you just made and press them in place. We're going for really good creases here, so don't be afraid to be aggressive about it.

Once you've finished, you have bias tape! I can count on one hand the number of times I've needed to do this, because it doesn't have to match exactly on the inside of a garment. A shade or so off doesn't really matter. But for say, the collar of my latest project, it does matter because it's out in the open.

In the morning, I'll go over the next steps--a bit of french seaming, stamping the embroidery pattern, and doing a bit of fancy hand stitchery.

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