Monday, February 20, 2012

How to make bias tape

DIY bias tape
Have you ever thought about making your own bias tape? It's not that hard and it means you can have bias tape (or piping) in any color or pattern!

(Before we start, I recommend reading the instructions all the way through once before you start. And in case you didn't know, you can click on a picture to see it larger—and zoom in!—in Flickr.)

To check if your fabric will look good as bias tape, fold the fabric on the bias (from corner to corner and, using a piece of paper or other neutral object, cover all but the very edge of your fabric.
Testing for bias tapeI've found that stripes and small polka dots almost always work. Larger dots and really large prints can be iffy and, as you see in this photo, medium-size prints make for very abstract bias tape, which sometimes works and sometimes not.

After you've decided on fabric, make a perfect square by cutting or ripping on the grain. (Perfect? Well, as close as you can. The more accurate you are throughout the whole process the closer you get to the true bias, which makes the tape stretchier and more useful but even if you're just reasonably accurate, you'll get bias-y enough to have useful tape. So don't be afraid of this project!)

And by the way, start with a piece of fabric that's a decent size. One yard is great but you can go smaller. Here I started with a square that measured 21" x 21". Smaller squares are easier to work with but they mean you'll have more seams in your tape.

OK, so you have a square that's on grain. Now we're going to make a square on the bias.
Draw a line from one corner to the opposite corner.
Mark off the corners.
Then, using a triangle or a square quilting triangle, draw a line perpendicular to this line. This second line should not be centered and it should be far enough from the corner that it's not too short a line. My line here is about 14" long. Draw a third line (parallel to the second and perpendicular to the first) in the opposite corner. It should be about the same length as the second line. (Meaning it's about as far from the corner as the second line.)

Draw lines.
On your two perpendicular lines, make hash marks the width you want your bias strips. (Remember most bias tape is double fold, so you have to quadruple your desired finished width. My lines are 1" apart here so my finished sewn-on bias tape will be 1/4" wide.) Using these hash marks and a yard stick or long ruler, draw lines across the fabric.

Cut off the corners

Once you get to the ends of your perpendicular lines, you'll run out of hash marks. Cut off the remaining corners.
Lines drawn.

Then cut off the other two corners above and below the perpendicular lines. You now have a square of fabric on the bias with parallel lines drawn on it, also on the bias!

Ready to sew
Fold the fabric in half, right sides together. Offset the lines by one so you get this kind of wonky tube. Make sure everything lines up and pin.

Sew and press the seam open.
Tube sewn

Cutting the tube.
Cut along the lines. Keep going around and around until....

Yeah! Bias tape.
you have one big long bias strip!

At this point, you can press it into bias tape or sew it around cord for piping!

DIY bias tape
Or just roll it up for later!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Drawstring fabric gift bag

striped bag
As long as I'm on the subject of making gifts look nice, why not sew up some quick and easy gift bags?

For this striped bag, I used:
Two pieces of fabric 7" x 14". (2.5" of this will be folded over for the cuff.)
Two pieces (each about 24") of seam binding, ribbon, or sewn-together bias tape
Small scraps of cloth or fabric flowers

To start, sew on small pieces of scrap fabric for decoration. Use a zig zag stitch or even leave some of the raw edges to create a "fringe." (See the orange bag below.)
decoration detail
On the wrong side of the fabric, on one side edge, place a mark 4.5"" from the top of the bag. Place another mark 3.75" from the top of the bag. Mark the other side edge in the same places.
bag sketch

Using 1/4" seam allowance, sew the two pieces of fabric together along the sides and bottom edges, leaving the spaces between the marks open.

Press the seams open at least as far down as the holes.
press open seams

Fold the top edge down 1/4' and press. Fold the top down again another 2.25". fold cuff over
Stitch along the bottom of the cuff, close to the pressed edge.
Create the channel for your drawstrings by stitching again 1" away from the first stitching line. To keep your stitching line straight, you can first mark it with a disappearing pen. (Or you can just eyeball it!)

Turn the bag right side out.

Pin a safety pin to one end of one piece of the seam binding or ribbon. Work the seam binding into the channel, entering the hole on one side of the bag, going all the way around the bag, and coming out the same hole. Take the pin off, even up the ends of the binding and tie a knot.
With the other piece of binding, start in the opposite hole and do the same thing. (This creates two opposing cords, which making cinching the bag, well, a cinch!)

It's fun to alter the dimensions of the bag, or how big the cuff is, or even how long the drawstrings are.

Here are some more I did in different sizes:
polka dotted bag
This one started with fabric 10.5" x 6" and the cuff was folded over 3". (The marks are at 5.5" and 4.75")

orange bag
This one started with fabric 8.5" x 16" and the cuff was folded over 5". (The marks are at 9.5" and 8.75")

dark bag
I used an old dress shirt of Jay's for this one! Its measurements are the same as the polka dotted one.

So that's it. Easy, huh?

By they way, are you a follower of Smalltropolis yet?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


packaged hearts
I've finished making a whole pile of frayed ruffle hearts. They're cute the way they are, but to make them extra special, I'm putting them in pretty cellophane bags, with curly ribbons and hand-made tags. Sometimes I get lazy and don't spend the extra effort on great gift wrap, but it's so worth it, isn't it?

The other exciting part of this is I'm not just sending these hearts to family and friends. I've got 3 set aside for Aunt Peaches Valentine Swap! Yea!!!