Continuous Bias Tape Tutorial

Every time I attempt to bind a quilt (well, the whole three times I’ve done it in the past), I have to teach myself how to create continuous bias tape… again.  I forget how to do it every single time and it takes me about an hour to re-figure it out.  So, I figured this time I’d write it all down (with the prerequisite photos) and share it on the blog for all the other wanna-be-continuous-bias-tape makers out there.

Yes, I know its easier to create straight grain tape for quilt binding.  Truly, easier.  And I’m not one for unnecessarily making things more difficult.  But when it comes to quilt binding, I just can’t help it.  I think bias tape looks so much better.  And is easier to sew onto the quilt.  And creates a more lasting (if thats a phrase) quilt as bias tape is more durable than straight grain tape.  Need I go on?

However, the biggest issue I have with bias tape is all the fabric that it takes.  You have to cut a boat-load of fabric on the bias, measure it all out for your bias tape width, then spend an hour sewing together all the individual pieces of bias tape to create enough binding for your quilt.  And then crossing your fingers while sewing it down hoping that you’ve made just enough.  And in the process, I find that no matter how little bias tape is required, I seem to have used an entire yard of fabric.   When all I really needed was probably ~1/3 of a yard.  And nothing irks me more than wasted fabric.

That said, there is a super easy way to simplify making bias tape for your quilt.  Enter CONTINUOUS BIAS TAPE!  Disclaimer:  this is not something I invented.  I used the little gem of a book, “The Quilter’s Pocket Reference” by Peggy Scholley to show me the way.  But honestly, being a 21st century gal, I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t learn (or remember) anything without step by step photo instructions. And the half a page of only written instructions devoted to the subject in the pocket reference book, while ingenious, just wasn’t going to cut it.

Here’s the basic gist:  instead of cutting individual strips on the bias and annoyingly having to sew them up to create one LONG piece of bias tape, you cut a square, manipulate that square into an wonky-looking-tube (warning, slight math involved but I lay it all out in a little spreadsheet), and cut your bias tape in one long strip from that odd-ball-shaped tube.  Easy peasy.  Well, sort of.

So, I’m going to walk you thru how to create this ingenious-wonky-looking-tube and create just enough bias tape for your quilt with the absolute minimum amount of fabric.  Minimum amount of fabric = less wasted fabric…  Always a good thing.

Step 1:  Cut a square of fabric:  Continuous bias tape begins very simply with a square of fabric. The way to decide what size square you will need is by figuring out the length of bias tape you will need, the width of your bias tape, and then calculate the square root of that area.  OR you can just use this nifty (and very amateur) spreadsheet that I’ve created that figures it all out for you –>>

Simply enter the size of your quilt squares (mine were 6”), how many squares are in your quilt (I had 6 across and 6 down), the desired width of your bias tape (I typically use 2.5”) and the spreadsheet spits out what size square you will need to cut (mine was 19”.)  Then start cutting.

Step 2:  Create a parallelogram:  Take your square and cut it on the diagonal – creating two triangles.  Then, with right sides together, match up the straight sides of the triangles (not the sides that you just cut) and sew them together using a 1/4” seam allowance. Press that seam open.

Step 3:  Line it all up:  With a straight ruler, begin marking lines on the wrong side of the fabric in the desired width of bias tape (I used 2.5”).  You will end up with something looking like this. There might be a small stub of fabric at the end of the lines you draw… if thats the case, just cut it off.

Step 4:  Create the wonky-looking-tube:  This step requires a bit of patience.  And typically, some wine.  So look closely at the photos, grab a glass of pinot and jump right in.

What you’re going to do is match up the lines (but off by one line) to create an off-center tube.  What helps me is the number your lines like this:

Then, with the right sides together, create a tube and match up the numbered lines – pin your wonky-tube into place.  Sew that seam together with a 1/4” seam allowance and press open.

Step 5:  Get cutting:  Start at either end of the tube and start cutting along the line.  You will basically have one long continuous line drawn on your tube – cut that entire line.  In my case,  when it was all cut, it made a 132″ strip of fabric.

Step 6:  Finish it off: To create single fold bias tape (which I use for quilts), simply fold the bias tape in half (wrong sides together) and iron flat.  You’ve now got an entire quilt’s worth of bias tape that really didn’t take THAT long and required absolutely no piecing together.  Works for me.

And that’s that.  Doesn’t it look purdy?  I just can’t help myself – I love the little diagonals created from the bias tape and the skads and skads of tape that’s created from a mere 19” square of fabric.  And that just makes me happy – its the little things like that…

btw, if you have any questions on how I created the bias tape OR how my silly little spreadsheet works, please post a comment or email me at alexis@spoolsandskeins.com.

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