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…

functional-bias-facing-example

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…

decorative-bias-facing-sample

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-example

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!

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, patience, and this tutorial, you’ll 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 strips of bias tape that are 1 inch wide from fabric that is the same weight or lighter than your fashion fabric.

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.

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.

single-fold-bias-strip-prepped-for-application

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!

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!

For example, 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.)

staystitching-curved-edge

Once you’ve staystitched the edge, it is time to…

Step 3: Sew the shoulder seams.

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

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

Step 4: Align the bias tape to the edge and sew 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. (I deliberately made a CF seam for the purposes of this demonstration.)

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

bias-strip-pinned-at-bodices-center-front

You can pin and press the bias tape around the entire edge before sewing.

But it can be easier and preferable to start at a seam, aligning the bias strip with the line of staystitching.

To do this, position your needle about 1 inch or so from the seam, and then sew without pinning like this…

starting-bias-strip-application-at-seam

In the image above, imagine that we’re starting at a shoulder seam. (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.)

Just slow down and take your time sewing your bias tape to your edge. You’ll be rewarded!

I like to place a straight pin at each seam as a reminder to PAUSE and make sure the SAs are positioned correctly underneath as I stitch the bias tape to the edge.

Step 5: Stitch bias tape to edge.

blue jar labeled patience

Okay.

Prepare to be patient!

Remove the flatbed attachment/accessory box from your sewing machine. And place the free arm through your neckline.

Before you begin to sew, take your marking pen and draw a line directly across the starting seam.

Then, position your needle so it is about one inch ahead of the starting seam.

Now, using a ¼ inch SA, backstitch and SLOWLY stitch the bias tape to the edge. If your sewing machine has speed control, then use it! I find this feature invaluable when applying bias tape to an edge!

starting-seam-marked-for-bias-tape-application

Stitch all the way around the edge, stopping about one inch away from the starting seam and and backstitching again.

Remove your garment from the sewing machine, lay it flat, overlap the second short end of the bias tape over the first end, and mark along the seam like this…

applying-bias-facing-overlapping-the-short-ends

The blue arrow in the middle points to where the short ends overlap at the seam (indicated by the blue straight pin). And the blue arrows on the left and on the right point to where you backstitched at the start and at the end of the bias facing application.

Now, you will need to join the two short ends of the bias tape together. And after too much research, this is the least crazy-making way to do so…

Step 6: Complete the loop.

Align the two lines you marked previously with right sides together (RST) and pin them together like this…

align-the-two-marked-lines-on-bias-tape

Now, stitch the two short ends together, backstitching at the start and at the end.

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

two-short-ends-sewn-together-trimmed-and-seam-allowance-pressed-open

Then, return to the sewing machine and close the gap, backstitching at start and end…

close-the-gap

Now, it’s time to…

Step 7: Trim, Clip, & Press Up.

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

trim-off-the-excess-seam-allowance

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 allow them to spread, so you get a nice flat finish.

Then, press the bias tape and the clipped SAs up, away from the garment. I find using a sleeve board makes this step less frustrating!

press-bias-tape-upwards

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.

understitching-bias-facing

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

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.

You can pin the bias facing to the garment if this will make it easier for you to edgestitch.

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

edgestitching-bias-facing

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. Check it out from the RS…

functional-bias-facing-right-side

and then from the WS…

functional-bias-facing-wrong-side

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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