This in depth guide to bias binding was written by Christine Down.
What is bias binding and where do you use it?
Bias binding is a length of fabric cut on the bias. The bias is made by taking a line at a 45-degree angle to the straight grain of fabric. This makes it stretchier and more pliable than a strip cut on the straight grain. By joining strips together, you can get a long tape. Although in theory you could make bias binding out of most fabrics, generally they come as cotton, cotton/poly mix or satin.
Commercially made bias binding is available in different widths ranging from about 1cm (1/2 inch) to about 14cms (5½ inches). Of course, if you make your own you can make any width you like.
Bias binding comes in single fold bias and double fold bias. Single means that the sides are folded to the middle and pressed. Double bias means single bias is folded over again and pressed.
Bias binding can be used for binding quilts, around bibs and potholders, lots of craft projects and it is especially handy for the edges of purses and wallets. It can also be used in dressmaking in the place of facings and for edging. Some binding is also available with a picot (lace) edging and can be used for decoration.
How to make bias binding
First you need to decide where the bias binding is going to go and how wide it needs to be. If you are making something like a purse where you want the binding to be seen, you want double binding. But if you are facing the neck of a dress you don’t want the binding to be seen. The binding for that will be single binding.
You need to measure the width of where the binding is to go and multiply by 4. So, if you want the finished edge to be 1cm (1/2 inch) the width of your bias cut will be 4cms or 1½ inches.
Work out the length you require and cut bias strips to that length. If you need to join strips together you can do that by following these steps.
Fold the fabric on the bias and press.
Open flat and draw a line on the pressed fold.
Measure the next line the width you have worked out you need. Mark and rule a line at those measurements.
Continue until you have sufficient length for your project. Cut along the lines and join as necessary.
To join a bias strip, you need to cut the ends that are going to be joined at a 45-degree angle.
Place the strips on top of each other right sides together. You are going to make a 1cm (1/2 inch) seam.
Stitch across where you can see the marks above.
Press the join open and flat.
Fold over and press. Now you can try to fold over a long strip of bias binding by hand, but I find that using a bias maker is quicker and easier.
Below is what a bias maker looks like. They come in quite a few sizes from small to large. Just thread your bias strip through the maker and iron it as it comes out.
Ways of attaching bias binding
Here are three common ways of attaching bias binding to your project.
If you are sewing bias binding around a neckline, armholes, or other place on a garment you will want a nice smooth shape with no bias binding showing. You need single bias for this. Open the fold on one side of the bias binding flat. Line the raw edge up with the raw edge of the part to be faced, right sides together. Pin into place. Make sure you don’t stretch any curves. Try to keep to the shape of the garment.
Make tiny v-shaped clips where there are curves in the seam allowance. Then flip the bias over to the wrong side. Leave the other side folded. Manipulate the fabric so that it sits flat around the area being faced with none showing on the right side. Press. Pin the binding and stitch near the edge of the binding. This stitching will show on the right side, so if you don’t want that you can slipstitch the binding into place.
Visible binding: single fold
This is similar to the method above but instead of flipping the bias binding entirely over to the wrong side, fold it over the raw edge so that half the binding is on the right side and half on the wrong side.
You can see that the binding has been folded over the raw edge so that it is visible from the outside.
You can see what it looks like sewn on the outside.
Visible binding: double fold
You can also use this method with single fold bias binding if you give it a press to get a central fold thus making it ‘double’. For this method you leave the bias binding folded and pin or clip it to the fabric so that the fold sits on the raw edge. Both sides of the binding will be sewn at the same time. If this is a project where the start and finish need to be on top of each other you need to leave a small section at the start and end unsewn, then cut the ends at a 45-degree angle and sew to fit.
When sewing both sides at once use the point of some scissors or a bodkin or similar to smooth the binding and keep it in place while sewing. Go slowly and if the binding starts to twist or wrinkle, remove it from the machine re-arrange the binding, re-pin and then go on.
When you get to a square corner you need to be able to neatly go around the corner and continue on. There are probably quite a few ways to do a mitred corner when binding and I am going to show you two of them.
Single fold mitred corner
Sew the binding almost to corner.
Make a pleat at the corner by pinching the binding.
Push the pleat flat with the fold towards the outside of the binding.
Put the project back under the machine foot so that the needle is on the other side if the pleat and start stitching along the next side.
When you’ve finished on the wrong side, fold the binding to the right side. Tuck the fabric in to make a neat pleat that aligns with the corner.
Stitch around the binding from the other side.
Double fold mitred corner
Make a mitred corner with double folded bias by putting the bias around the corner and tucking the excess tape at the corner inside until you get a neat, flat pleat on the corner. (See below)
To make cornering easier use some fabric glue like Gutermann HT2. Glue the pleat into place. Wait for it to dry. Clip or pin the bias all the way round the raw edges. Make sure that the centre fold of the bias binding is exactly on the raw edge. That way the two sides of the bias will be equally balanced on both sides of the edge. You might like to swap to a zip foot. I actually use my “J” foot with the needle on the extreme left. Go slowly and use the point of embroidery scissors, a bodkin or similar, to keep the bias where it needs to be for stitching. (See above).
If you are making a project or quilt with cotton, try to get cotton binding. There is binding available made from man made fibre and it is usually quite cheap to buy but there’s a reason for that. Get good quality bias binding or make your own. You put a lot of work into your project, don’t let it down with cheap bias binding.
If you prefer your binding pre-made Pound Fabrics have a great range of low cost bias binding
You can buy bias binding makers in a range of sizes from Sew Me Sunshine.
Frumble have a beautiful range of premade bias bindings, including ones with a picot edge.
Sew Essential sell the Gutermann fabric glue mentioned above.