August 4, 2010

Updated Pages!

Posted in Assemble Your Sewing Notebook, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:06 pm by kdthreads

Check out the “Meet Me” and “Online Printables” pages for new information, photos and files for your sewing notebook!

August 3, 2010

Sewing Vocabulary:Bias Tape or Bias Binding

Posted in Q & A from You!, Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:39 pm by kdthreads

Simplicity Creative Group

For everyone who read the last post and either emailed me or thought about emailing me to ask: “What on earth is bias tape and what do you mean by quilting?”  I am here with answers!

Q: What is bias tape?

A: To understand the concept of “bias” we need to back up and establish how fabric is created.  The method used to transform the threads into material is just as important for a seamstress to know as the source of the fibers themselves.  Almost all fabric is created in one of two ways: woven or knit*.  There can be endless variations of weaving and knitting giving us things like: twill, terry cloth loop, loose weave, double-knit, cable knit, stretch knit and the list goes on.  When we are talking about bias, we are working with woven fabric, not knit.

Woven fabric is made on looms.  Small, hand operated looms are generally made of wood and each project is unique.  The size of the loom limits the size of the creation.  This is why most commercial fabrics we purchase are made in factories on mechanical looms that are wide enough to accommodate 45″-60″ inches of width (or more) and endless yardage.  The first threads on the loom are referred to as the warp.  These are the foundation threads that run vertically.  The horizontal threads that interlock with the warp are called weft. Sewers (in the US) generally refer to the warp as the grain and the weft the cross-grain. The grain(warp) generally has little or no “give” or stretch.  This means if you attempt to stretch the warp threads they won’t.  The weft is the opposite, it does have some “give” to it.

So what is the bias?  Bias refers to the diagonal direction of the weave.  I am not implying there is a third set of threads that run corner-to-corner in the warp and weft (though there can be, but that is a different issue!) If you have a square piece of woven fabric and you take opposite corners and pull, your fabric will suddenly stretch and curl around the tension.

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Q: So how is the bias used?

Understanding weave, grain and bias are essential to manipulating fabrics and for garment construction.  Commercial patterns will include an arrow on every piece indicating how to orient this piece onto the weave before cutting.  (Generally, the arrow is meant to run parallel with the grain.) Perfecting lining up your pattern cuts with the grain takes patience, but it is the difference between your work looking sloppy and “home sewn” instead of thoughtful and polished.  A video tutorial explaining how to do this is in the making.

Stretching fabric on the bias creates fluidity and the garment (or other item)  is enhanced by movement and will follow  curves with less need for adjusting.  The art of cutting dress pieces using the bias instead of grain for the center-front became popular in the 1930’s.  All of those slinky satin dresses worn by Hollywood starlet’s began the acceptance of bias-cut in the fashion world.  Using pieces in

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which raw edges are on the bias require extra steps to prevent loss of shape due to the stress on the warp and weft. When piecing quilt blocks incorporating triangles, inevitably, a raw edge cut on the bias is involved.  Consult a quilting book, website or blog to find out which seams can be made with bias edges, and which seams MUST be grain.  a quilt with bias cut raw edges (particularly along the quilt or block perimeter) will result in an uneven, wonkified mess.

Q: What is bias tape and bias binding?

I think it makes more sense to refer to bias tape as bias strips.  Bias tape and binding can be purchased ready-made in either the packaged notions section or the by-the-yard section.  Strips of fabric cut on the bias are infinitely useful in finishing techniques on garments, home dec items, and quilting.  These strips are made using the diagonal of the grain as a guide.  These strips can be cut in any width and are generally folded twice lengthwise: once in half, and then opened and folding so that outer edges of the strip meet in the center fold creating a thick “tape” with no raw edges visible.  These strips are extremely flexible and easy to manipulate.  If your original fabric was a stripe or plaid, your bias tape will add more visual interest.  I prefer to cut my own bias strips.  For small amounts of tape, I may lay out my fabric and use a rotary cutter and ruler to make several cuts across the fabric giving me many short strips that need to be sewn together to make one longer piece.  For a big project (like making 50 yards of cording for an upholstery project) I would follow instructions for what is called “continuous bias tape.”  In other words, a method that is time-consuming, but results in one, endless strip with no pieces to sew together.  The instructions to do this should be in every person’s sewing room.

Rosalie Quinlan Designs

Bias tape and binding are basically the same thing, the difference between them is how they are used.  Bias binding is made of bias tape.  Bias binding means using the tape in its folded state  to wrap around other fabric in order to conceal raw edges, or hold multiple layers of fabric together (or both.)  At times, bias binding is applied merely to add stability: satin binding on a baby blanket.   Any clothing that has interior seams covered in fabric is most likely bias binding (and a sign of good quality.)  The cording, piping or welting you see along the edges of pillows and sofa cushions is comprised of standard poly/cotton cord covered in bias tape.   Some pattern instructions may call for bias tape to be sewn on as a casing for elastic, or to hide a hem on the inside of a garment.  When a project calls for bias tape as an embellishment or trim, opt to make your own out of fabric of your choice.  Commercially made bias trims are not made of highest quality fabrics and will take away from the appearance.

Understanding grain, bias, and how to make and use bias tape are not topics to be skimmed as your sewing skills advance.  Working with a fabric’s weave will make all the difference in every project and you will be thankful to have  bias tape handy in your sewing room to resolve many situations.  Plotting and cutting large quantities of bias strips is time consuming and tedious work with nowhere near the satisfaction of assembling a pair of shorts.  But that’s sewing and it’s worth it.

For more information, MaCall’s Quilting has a simple but thorough page on binding and preparing a quilt for binding.  Resources for quilt blocks and information on piecing bias edges are available as well.

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