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:

Done!

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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97 Comments

Sidney Lumsden

Oh my goodness this was tedious, but so happy I can use the fabric I WANT instead of what’s available!!! :) Thanks for the tutorial!!

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beth

this idea looks great, but it did not work for me! I don’t know what I did wrong, but maybe it was because my idea of a half yard is different from that of the sewing world. I used a piece of fabric 18″ x 18″. Plus I have a yard stick and a pen, not all of the fancy gadgets that you have. Wish it worked for me, I will use the cut and sew method.

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Jaime

ah yes, that is known as a fat quarter and would be very difficult to make bias tape with using this method…

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Emily

I don’t understand the twist thing. I have my parallelogram and lines drawn. How do you twist it? Do I just start twirling it around and around or do I fold it? Your pic looks like you somehow managed a square edge. I don’t get it…

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Susan300

You want to offset by one strip-length, so that they *don’t* match up. It’s the same effect as when you accidentally button your blouse wrong. Like this:
1..2..3..4..5..6..7
1..2..3..4..5..6..7
You’ll end up with one strip-length of over-hang at each end.

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Mary

THANK YOU for the great tutorial!!! I am new to sewing and depend a lot on information I find online. I choose to iron my seams open before cutting and luckily it worked for me!

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Gail

I recently volunteered to make pillow case dresses for children. I kept running out of bias tape! Thank you so much for your tutorial. Your right, it does get easier each time you make it. I am in bias tape heaven.

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Michelle

I do not get the ywist match up either. Sorry. Do you have less zoomed in photos or a video?

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Michelle

I do not get the twist match up either. Sorry. Do you have less zoomed in photos or a video?

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Niina

I’ve had this bookmarked what seems like forever and today and finally made some bias tape this way. I used to make it by sewing all those strips together separately. Stupid and slow, yes, I know. I managed to get 11 meters of bias tape out of one vintage pillowcase! I feel like I’m invincible now. Today bias tape, tomorrow, the world!

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Patti Giuliano

I am in the process of doing your tutorial and have a couple of questions
The twisty part to line up the long ends I am having a hard time figuring this step out, I tired to line up in the way I thought the instructions stated but it did not come out exactly right.
the other question is the cutting part you say to cut on the drawn lines and when I do it does not spiral it just cuts out each strip without the continous strip what am I doing wrong?

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Rachel

That is AWESOME!! I bought a bias tape maker several years ago, but haven’t even opened it. Until today! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience!

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Kim

Thanks for a wonderful tutorial. I made a wonderful batch of bias tape and it didn’t take forever! This is the best tutorial I have seen on making double fold biased tape!

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Laura

OMG! I just did the first half of this tuorial for a continuous strip for piping! I can’t belive I did it! EASY! Although it did seem like I did something wrong when I sewed the whole pieces together. THANKS!

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Rindy

So started making my bias tape via your ‘time saver’ method, which is brilliant, however I came across what seems (by observing the same issue in your photos also)like an issue that you have but must solve somehow: Once the seam is sewn in joining the ‘strips’ together the lines no longer match up as they are now offset by the width of said seam. I notice in your photo that by strip number 3 (of your 7th picture in the tutorial) your lines also no longer line up. What do you do to solve this???? Other than trying to eyeball the width as I start getting close on my cut to seam and thus the ‘joining’ line I don’t see a solution!

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Jill

Jaime, great post!!! Thank you!!!

For people confused by the whole twisty thing, there’s another blog post (not mine; no affiliation) that explains it with diagrams. At first glance it was confusing, but if you look at them very carefully and you’ll see what is going on with the twisty thing:

http://buzzville.typepad.com/buzzville/2006/03/cutting_continu.html

If it still doesn’t make sense, try it on a piece of paper first as suggested.

Neither post explains this, but when you match up the cutting lines to sew the long seam, you have to allow for your seam allowance: you have to match the lines where the seam allowance will be and NOT on the cut edge of your fabric. Matching the lines on the cut edge of the fabric is how you get the wonkiness described by Rindy in the comment above mine.

Also, no need to press open a gazillion little seams after cutting — press the one long seam open before cutting. Who cares if you iron in a crease or two? It’s not like that’s the very last time your bias tape will ever see an iron, not by a long shot! So press that long seam open before you cut and save yourself the trouble of pressing open a mess of little seams. :)

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Jill

It occurred to me after posting that the ironing tip I offered would only be practical with wider lengths of fabric — I can’t imagine trying to iron the long seam before cutting on something only a foot wide!!! I actually think it’s easier for me to just cut strips and sew them manually when the width is that narrow, but maybe that’s just me.M

Sorry for posting twice, but I didn’t want anyone to try the ironing tip on a relatively narrow tube of fabric and then get all discouraged thinking it worked for me… because it didn’t! 😀

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Debbie

I love your tutorial and have had it bookmarked for a long time! I use the Simplicity bias tape maker for quilt binding. I also had trouble with the marked lines not lining up. Now I iron down the quarter inch seam allowance along one marked edge. Then I place the other marked edge on top of it and start matching the lines and pinning at every line junction. Now everything lines up great. Keep up the good work!!

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Liz

I love this idea! i just tried to make bias tape using this method and ran into a bit of trouble… i’m hoping that you can help me. The first couple of strips turned out pretty well, but as i circled further when i was cutting, the lines were very off. I looked at the instructions again and in the 9th picture above – the one after “Flatten it out at one side, so it looks like this:” – i see that your lines aren’t lining up all the time either. I’m wondering what you did about this to line them up? how did you cut those sections to still make the tape the correct size? any help or direction would be very much appreciated. -Liz

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Samantha

Haven’t tried making bias tape yet, but I have a project that I’m starting that calls for it. Looking into buying a bias tape maker, but the one you show here got some pretty bad reviews… just wondering how long you’ve had it and how its held up?

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Jaime

I’ve had it a long time and it has held up well. Teh hard part about making the bias tape is really the cutting and sewing, but I love the maker to save time on the ironing.

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