How to Apply Bias Tape to Edges

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Hey, you!

I love, love, love the look of an edge finished with bias tape!

It’s so lean and clean looking. And just such a damn pretty finish to an edge.

And…

There’re at least 50 different ways to apply this hard working bit of fabric to an edge. I kid you not. So always be on the look out for new ways to play with bias tape.

Alright. Let’s start with the…

Rules for Applying Bias Tape

Rule #1: Decide these two things before you begin: (A) Do you want a bias facing or a bias binding? And (B) if you choose a bias binding, what is the desired finished width?

Rule #2: Choose a fabric for your bias tape that is the same weight or lighter than your fashion fabric! Click HERE to learn how to make your own super pretty bias tape!

Rule #3: Staystitch your edges. Yes, you absolutely must!

Rule #4: If you’re applying bias tape as a functional facing to the wrong side (WS) of the garment, you should understitch.

Rule #5: When applying bias tape to an edge, SLOW. DOWN. You need to take your time if you’re to end up with a pretty finish!

Rule #6: Use a spritz of water (or steam) as you press for a stunning finish!

So…

Which Will It Be? Facing or Binding?

If you’ve made the smart decision to finish your necklines and armholes with bias tape, you need to decide if  the bias will function as (A) a facing or (B) a binding.

As the boss of this project, you get to decide which look you prefer and how much “pop” or personality you want to add to your garment.

So what is the difference between a facing and a binding?

Well, it is all related to the finished look and/or function…

Bias Facing

With bias facing, if it is purely functional, the bias tape is attached, press upwards along with the seam allowances (SAs), and folded all the way to the WS of the garment. In other words, it is “private” and will not be visible from the right side (RS) of the garment.

Check out an example of functional bias facing here…

bias-facing-functional-application

However, bias facing  can also be applied in the reverse so that it is folded all the way to the RS of the garment — that is, the bias facing is “public.” This way it is not only functional but also a decorative detail.

Check out an example of functional + decorative bias facing  here…

bias-facing-functional-and-decorative-application

Bias Binding (aka Bound Edge)

With bias binding,  the edge is bound in such a way that the bias tape is both “private and public” — that is, it is visible from both the RS and the WS of the garment.

In other words, it encloses the raw edge so that half of the bias tape is visible from the RS and half is visible from the WS.

Check out an example of bias binding here…

bias-binding-application

In the samples above, both the bias facing and the bias binding were made using the same pre-made ½-inch single fold bias tape!

Sew easy tip: When working with knit strips, they are cut on the cross-grain (not the bias); and they’re called binding strips.

Alright. Now that you know the difference between bias facing vs. bias binding, it is time to learn how to make pretty edges…

How to Apply Single-Fold Bias Facing to a Neckline in the Round

Like I said before, there are at least 50 ways to apply bias tape and mix it up as bias facing or bias binding!

Applying bias facing is really not difficult. But frankly, in the beginning, it can be a tiny bit fiddly until it isn’t.

However, with practice and patience, you will surely be rewarded with a finished result that you love, love, love.

So are you ready to learn how to apply bias tape as a facing?!

Then, let’s do this…

Step 1: Prep the bias tape.

Cut bias strips that are 1 inch wide from fabric that is the same weight or lighter than your fashion fabric. Then, press one long edge over to the WS by ¼ inch. You can mark this with your favorite marking tool before pressing, or you can eyeball it as you press.

bias-facing-custom-prepped

For garment sewing, I recommend you custom make your own bias tape. Custom bias tape is much easier to shape and mold around curves than its pre-made second cousin. And as a bonus: It’s prettier too!

Keep in mind that you never want to cut strips that are wider than 1 or 1¼ inch!

Why?! Because wider widths are frustrating to impossible to mold around curves and give a pretty, flat finish!

You also want the length of bias tape to be at least two to four inches longer than the edge to be finished. The extra inches will allow for shaping and finishing.

To measure, just place the bias tape loosely around the neckline (or armhole) edge so it is longer than the edge and then cut.

Step 2: Prep the edge.

The first step of garment construction is always staystitching. No! You absolutely cannot skip this step! Because it is a must do if you are to avoid stretched out, gapey necklines and armholes!

If your SA is 5/8 inch, staystitch 3/8 inch from the cut edge. (This is a deviation from the normal rule of staystitching ⅛ inch from the SEAM line. You’ll see why soon.)

bias-facing-curved-edge-marked-for-staystitching

Before I staystitch, I like to mark the staystitching line, so I have a guide to sew precisely around the curved edge. I used my blue water-soluble pen in the image above.

Step 3: Sew the shoulder seams.

After you’ve staystitched both the back and front neckline, sew both shoulder seams.

If you are finishing a neckline, leave the side seams (SS) unsewn. This will give you unrestricted access to the neckline — because sewing in a tube is frustrating.

Step 4: Pin the bias tape in place.

For a functional bias facing, align the RS of the bias tape with the RS of the garment.

To begin, fold the bias tape in half to determine its center. Then, place the center of the bias tape at the center front (CF) of the neckline. (The black arrow points to CF in the image below).

bias-facing-pinned-at-center-front-neckline

And align the unfolded long edge of the bias tape with the line of staystitching.

Then, pin and press the bias tape as you go around the edge.

bias-facing-pinned-and-pressed-on-front-bodice

Continue pinning around until you reach center back (CB).

When you get to CB, abut the short ends up against each other and finger press where they meet. Like so…

bias-facing-short-ends-abutted

Please take your time here! You want to make sure that your bias tape is the correct size for edge it is finishing!

Sew easy tip: I like to place a straight pin at each shoulder seam (pink pin heads) as a reminder to pause and make sure the SAs are positioned correctly as I stitch the bias tape to the edge.

NOTE: When finishing armholes, I find it easier to pin the center of the bias tape at the side seams (or underarm) and finish and join at the the shoulder seams.

Step 5: Complete the loop.

Now, with a straight pin, pin the two short ends of bias tape together along the crease marks made in the previous step. You can also mark the crease lines with a marking pen or chalk and then pin. I didn’t mark the crease lines in the image below but its not a bad idea.

bias-facing-joining-short-ends-in-the-round

Next, remove the pins on either side of CB, so you can easily stitch the short ends together.

After you’ve stitched the short ends together, trim the excess length and press the SAs open like so…

bias-facing-short-ends-joined-and-stitched

Step 6: Stitch bias tape to edge.

Okay.

Prepare to be patient!

Remove the flatbed attachment/accessory box from your sewing machine.

Place the free arm through your neckline and position your needle at the CB seam.

Then, using a ¼ inch SA, SLOWLY stitch the bias tape to the edge, backstitching at the start and at the end. If your sewing machine has speed control, then use it! I find this feature invaluable for this!

bias-facing-stitched-to-edge-view-at-center-back

To be precise — and you do want to be precise, you can mark the stitching line before you begin.

Since I’m a very lucky seamstress, my sewing machine provides instructions that allow me to select a stitch width that will sew a perfect quarter inch from the right edge of my presser foot!

Step 6: Trim, Clip, & Press Up.

Now, remove your garment from your sewing machine and with a small embroidery scissors, trim off the SA, along the line of staystitching.

By doing it this way, you don’t have to worry about parts of the staystitching peeping out on the RS of your garment once you’ve completed the final step of attaching your bias facing to the edge. In other words, no unpicking necessary.

Next, clip the SAs. This will help to give you a nice flat finish.

Then, press the bias tape and the clipped SAs up, away from the garment. A sleeve board or a tailor’s ham, can be very helpful at this point. (I find using a sleeve board less frustrating than using a tailor’s ham!)

bias-facing-pressed-up-on-a-sleeve-board

Now head back over to your sewing machine to…

Step 7: Understitch.

SLOWLY, understitch the bias facing to the SAs, starting at the CB seam. This will make it super easy to turn the facing all the way to the WS or inside of the garment.

The black arrow in the image below points to the line of understitching.

bias-facing-understitched

Many tutorials skip clipping and understitching. But I’ve found both these techniques are crucial to a pretty finish!

NOTE: When finishing armholes, start and end understitching at the side seams (or underarm).

Guess what?!

You’re almost done…

Step 8: Turn, Press, Edgestitch, Press. And Voila!

Turn your garment to the WS.

And then bring the bias facing  all the way to the WS or inside of the garment, spritz, and press.

With the pin heads pointing to your right, pin or hand baste the bias facing in place. Whether you pin or hand baste will depend on the fabric. Check out the direction of the white pin heads in the image below…

bias-facings-pinned-and-ready-to-be-edgestitched

Now, edgestitch from the WS to secure the bias facing to the edge.

In the image below, the black arrow is to point out how I am using the right edge of my presser foot and the line of understitching to edgestitch precisely!

bias-facing-being-edgestitched

NOTE: When finishing armholes, start and end edgestitching at side seams (or underarm).

Finally, hit that finished edge with spritz of water (or steam) and a quick press to get rid of any wonkiness.

And voilà!

You have a truly lovely, bulk-free, professional finish. See…

bias-facing-applied-to-neckline

NOTE: If this was a real garment, I would have used white thread for an almost invisible finish.

The End

Alright.

That’s enough information to get you started and more than a bit excited about finishing edges with bias tape.

By now, you should be totally in love with the idea of using bias facings. And once you try them, I am certain that you will fall irrevocably in love with this way of finishing edges.

So now that you’re in the know, get busy making some pretty edges!

And remember…

Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn the least you need to know about facings!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to make your own custom, pretty bias tape! Super easy!

RELATED: Click HERE to learn how to topstitch and edgestitch like a pro!

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