Skein Passion

Luscious 'fioro' hand died merino-silk yarn skeins from The Yarn Bowl in the shades sepia rose, abalone and plum purple As Valentines day approaches sprinklings of pink hearts and cutesy romance sayings start popping up all over the place. Yarn sales are overflowing with red and pink colourways and patterns are dotted with love knots.  But I want to talk about Passion. That deep intense desire you experience when you touch that divine squishy yarn skein, you know the one I'm talking about, that skein that makes your heart sing. It's a magic colour, squishing it is like touching a cloud with the lustre of angels. The yarn of your dreams. Where were you when you had that experience the first time? In a specialty yarn store looking at the silk-alpaca blends? I'm willing to bet it wasn't, more likely it was at the discount store passing the bargain aisle and this little ball of fluff caught your eye and you sighed and squished it and wished you had the skill to turn

How To Make Continuous Bias Binding From A Rectangle

There are several ways to go about cutting and sewing bias binding tape. They've all got their pro's and con's. I'm going to show you my favourite method, but first I'll discuss the strip-by-strip method and the continuous method using a square of fabric.

Whichever method you use you'll start with deciding how wide you want your finished binding to be and multiply that by four. For example if you want a 1/4 inch wide finish on your hem you want to cut 1 inch wide strips. (unless you want double fold bias binding in which case you multiply by six).

Strip-by-Strip Method

I hate this method, it drives me crazy and feels like it takes forever. I always seem to manage to sew at least one strip on the wrong way, or back to front, or on the wrong angle. My sewing machine likes to chew the edges a bit too. Then you have to trim all the seam corners and clip your threads individually then press each seam. And you end up with triangle fabric confetti everywhere, oh yay.

However, it's still the easiest method to get your head around, if you've never made bias binding before it's a good place to start. It's also the best method when using funny shaped off-cuts of fabric for making your binding and if you have a rotary cutter, you can cut out loads of strips super fast, so if it's the cutting out bit that grinds you down this might be the method for you.

You start by laying out your fabric and finding the bias (cross-grain) which is at a 45 degree angle to the straight grain and draw a line on the angle. Measure the width of your binding tape and draw the next line and so on until you've got lots of lines all over your fabric.

You can just go right ahead a cut those strips up and sew them all together one by one.

There are a gazillion tutorials on how to make bias binding using the strip by strip method so I won't bore you with another one.

Continuous Method Using a Square of Fabric

What is really cool about this method is that there's only two rows of stitching and two seams to press and the seam corners are magically trimmed for you without your sewing room being covered with confetti triangles.

All of the tutorials I've come across for the continuous method use a square bit of fabric. I think it probably came from quilters who use lots of square bits of fabric and often have them lying around. I don't have loads of square bits of fabric laying around and it seemed really wasteful to have to cut out a square so I wanted to figure out some other way to approach the continuous bias binding method.

So without any more babbling, here's my favourite method.

Continuous Method Using a Rectangle of Fabric

Start by cutting off a length of fabric from your main fabric, it won't need to be very long 30-50 cm is plenty to have you swimming in meters and meters of bias binding.

Mark a line on a 45 degree angle from the straight edge of your fabric starting from the top left corner of your rectangle. This line is the cross-grain or bias of your fabric. 

Measure and mark your next line at 1 inch (or 2 inches or whatever the width you want for your unfolded bias strip, remember this is 4 times your finished width ie: 1 inch will give you a finished width of 1/4 inch). Mark the next line and the next until you've got the whole piece of fabric marked up.

Now go back to the first line you marked and cut along that line removing the corner from your fabric. Do the same with the other corner. 

Set the corners aside for now, they won't be wasted, later you can use the square method to make more binding. You'll now have a fancy shape called a parallelogram. tip: If your parallelogram is quite wide make life easy for yourself and cut along one of your marking lines in the middle and turn it into two pieces.  

Either put half away for later or stitch the two sections up matching up the lines carefully on the seam allowance (not the edge of your fabric or your lines won't match up when sewn).

Fold your fabric over so the line ends touch each other.

Now move your fabric so that one set of lines hangs off the edge, if you don't offset your fabric this way when you go to cut out your binding you will get lots of individual strips instead of one long continuous strip.  
Haven't lost you yet? Right. Remember to make sure that the lines meet up on the seam allowance and not on the very edge of your fabric. This means offsetting your fabric even more then before. It will look all twisty but don't worry about that. Pin that sucker so it stays put.  

You can sew up that crazy edge now. 

I like to trim my seam allowance and press the seams open at this stage, it saves a lot of mucking around later.

You're ready to cut.  Start at one of the ends that is hanging past your seam and start cutting along your line,

and keep cutting,

(You'll notice I've turned my fabric right side out, this is so the line I'm cutting along doesn't have any fabric underneath that can get in the way of the scissors (see first pic), I learnt this the hard way.)

 and cutting

and cut some more.

Admire your beautiful long, long strip of flat binding that is all stitched together and has lovely trimmed and pressed joining seams just waiting to be turned into piping, edge binding or trims.  

The fabric I used here was 140cm wide x 52cm long and I ended up with 13.12 meters of 1 inch flat bias binding (1/4 inch finish when used for binding a fabric edge or hem). I haven't used the triangles yet which will yeild a few more meters.