Note: today we continue the series of seam finishing tutorials by April Henry that we started last summer.
Bias Binding is a strip of material cut on the bias for extra stretch and often doubled. It is used for binding hems, interfacings, or for edge decoration and is very useful for many sewing projects. It adds a touch of embellishment to set your garment or project apart for a more professional appearance. You can purchase ready-made bias or make your own.
Bias-making tools are helpful and efficient, but a good steam iron is the necessary tool. I personally prefer to make my own bias binding because I can customize it to my project, but some of the old-fashioned vintage unused packages can be quite fun to put to use, too. The focus of this tutorial will be set around making your own bias.
For a 1/4″-wide finished binding, you’ll need to start with 1″-wide bias strips, for a 3/8″-wide finished binding, you’ll need to start with 1 1/2″-wide bias strips, and for 1/2″-wide finished binding, you’ll need 2″-wide bias strips. The following illustrations will show how you can enclose the raw edges of your seam allowances using the regular presser foot on your sewing machine or by way of an old Singer Attachment.
I prefer a 1/4″ wide finished binding, so my illustrations will reflect using 1″-wide bias strips.
Before binding, stitch your seam allowances as directed in your pattern instructions. With Oliver + S patterns, this is a 1/2″ seam allowance. To follow with binding, trim the seam allowances to about 1/4″ [editor’s note: by trimming your seam allowances to 1/4″ the binding will finish at the seamline. To keep the bias binding further from the seamline so the bias doesn’t add bulk, leave the seam allowances untrimmed]. Fold and press one long edge of the bias strip to the wrong side by 1/4″. Pin the opposite long edge of the strip to the seam allowances with the right side of the bias strip facing the seam allowances and the raw edges aligned. Stitch the layers with a 1/4″ seam.
Trimming your seam allowances slightly will help to ensure that your previous stitching lines are covered within the bias as it is folded over and stitched.Wrap the bias strip around the seam allowances so the folded edge just covers the first row of stitching. I like to re-press at this point so that my bias lies flat while I stitch it in place. Then stitch the bias in place along its folded edge.
This method is particularly useful for finishing seams on heavier fabrics. (Be sure to choose a very lightweight cotton such as lawn or batiste so as not to add any unnecessary bulk at the seam allowances.) Using a contrasting fabric adds that last finished touch to the inside of a garment, such as this Sunday Brunch Jacket I made for my daughter.
The following illustrations are shown using an old Singer Binder Attachment and 15/16″ wide bias strips. (A little bit of trivia: remember, the tutorial illustrating the Singer Hand-Crank Pinker? Using a straight-edge disk, the cutting guide was specifically designed for 15/16″ maximum width cut for this very purpose!)
A Singer Binder was included as a standard basic attachment with most vintage Singer Sewing Machines but are still useful for today. If you want to avoid the extra steps of pressing, this attachment will aid in stitching, folding, and binding the raw edges all at one time. Granted, it does take a bit of practice to get the feel and direction to hold the bias strips correctly, but there is something fun about using tools from days gone by.
The engineering of this attachment basically allows only for traditional cotton quilting wovens to be used, but it is particularly helpful for quickly binding seams or binding the edge of a single layer piece of fabric (e.g., aprons, ties or sashes, bibs, collars, etc.) all in one pass. I only trimmed about 1/8″ from the seam allowance before applying the binding with the Singer Attachment, being extra cautious not to sew into the seam allowance itself. You will find more ideas and samples at April1930s.com.
The bias strip is guided through the attachment while simultaneously being folded and stitched in place as it encloses the raw edge of the seam allowances. You can use this attachment for a variety of bias-width cuts, but the maximum width allowed through the binder is 15/16″.
When you are finished, be sure to press the seam allowance in the proper direction as directed in your pattern instructions.