Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bias as a Flat Trim-A Tutorial

At Easter time I promised a tutorial on using bias fabric as a trim, and then quickly forgot. My brain is a sieve. More pours out the bottom than I could ever pour in. While I was making this sweet dress for one of our new babies on the way, I remembered making that promise. Thankfully, the memory floated to the top of the tar pit in time for me to snap some photos while I constructed that dress. So here goes.

In generations past, a sailor collar such as the one pictured above would have been trimmed with soutache braid. More recently things like flat ribbon and rick rack have been used. When I made Nugget's Easter outfit, I knew it would be difficult to color match the aqua pique so I used self fabric as a substitute for the soutache or ribbon trim.

It is an inexpensive but effective way to add a pop of color or just to mimic a traditional trim such as on my sailor collar.

What you need:
  • Fabric of your choice, natural fibers work best but poly/cotton can be wrestled into submission
  • Rotary cutter/mat preferred but not crucial
  • Starch
  • Glue
  • Bias trim maker
  • Wash Away Marking Pen
  • Hot Iron
  • Edge stitch foot for your machine
  • Patience, but not a lot.

This is a set of bias tape makers that I have. All are by Clover. Available in most sewing, craft stores. I realize that there is also a "machine" by Simplicity that is available but those little metal wedge things fit in the drawer and cost very little. If I were having to make hundreds of yards of bias I might would consider another gadget but I'm not. Couple of yards at a time is the most I would probably need. I would strongly advise against using prepackaged bias found in big box sewing/craft stores unless you are realllllllly forced to do so. The fabric that bias is made from is not always color fast (ask me how I know), may not be cut on a true bias and the fabric is not the best. I know I am a fabric snob, it is one of my many faults.

For glue, there are so many available on the market now. Everything from Roxanne's Glue Baste-It, Jillily's Appli-Glue, Sew-Line Glue Pen to plain ol' Elmer's Glue. All work. These are just a few of the options available. Just make sure what ever you choose is water soluble.

Starch! Starch! Starch! How do people sew without starch? I no longer am able to find the Niagra Non-Aerosol locally so I order it by the case from Amazon. I prefer it over the spray can.

Fabric, again the options are endless. For the baby dress, in order to have the trim match the piping, I deconstructed some of the left over piping and used the fabric from that.

First cut your bias strips, I am remedial and have already admitted that I can remember nothing, I have written on my individual makers with a sharpie what width bias I need for each size bias tape. You will see it in some of the following photos. I cut my bias with a rotary cutter but if you want to draw lines and cut with scissors, go for it. Make sure when you cut the bias strips, that you are cutting on the true 45* angle. That is crucial if you are going to shape/curve your bias trim.

You can see my sharpie notes on my bias maker. You feed the bias strip into the wide end of the bias maker, you might need to scooch it through with a straight pin to get it to come out the narrow end where it has magically folded it into folded bias strip.

As you gently pull the fabric through the tape maker, spray with starch until damp. Iron dry.

Use your iron to press the starch dry immediately as it comes out of the tape maker.

If you try to pull a long length out before you starch and press, it will pop open on you.  Even more so when you are using a poly/cotton fabric. This will result in a folded bias that is not consistent in width. So every couple inches, wet with the starch and dry with the iron.

This will result in a sharp, consistent bias tape. (And don't be judging my dirty ironing board cover. I know you were.)

Decide the placement on your garment.

Measure and mark your placement. I did this after I hemmed it. I feel like my placement with the marking pen and glue is more accurate having the hem to measure from rather  than trying to hem it after I have added the trim. 

I know there will be many who will express concern over ironing over the blue marks. I use this fine blue wash out marker from Clover. I buy them two and three at a time. I PERSONALLY have not had a problem with the blue marks coming out after I have ironed over them. And I iron over the blue marks with every garment I make or embroider. It is important to thoroughly rinse out the blue marks with plain running water before you use any soap on your finished project. And as always, if you are concerned, try a test on some scrap fabric first. 

I neglected to take a photo of the glueing step during construction so I had to recreate it. I glue down one side of the bias at a time. Use small dots of glue and making sure that you glue the bias down accurately, barely above your marked line. Avoid stretching your bias as you apply. 

Iron dry. This prevents you from accidentally moving the trim as you move your fabric.

This shows the second side still being free before I stitch that first side. In my experience it reduces the chance of it rippling.

Use an edge stitch foot to stitch the trim to the base fabric. Make sure the blade of the foot is running smoothly along the edge of your trim. Since it is glued down, you can stitch along with very little chance of rippling or movement. If you are using pins, I can guarantee it will not be as smooth a line.

On my machine I have clicked my needle position over two steps to the left or right so that I am as close to the edge as possible while still making sure the edge is securely stitched down. Experiment with your machine's needle positions to see what works best for you. This is not the best picture but look closely and you can see where I have lifted the presser foot so you can see the needle in the fabric.

Press your trim flat after stitching the first side then glue down the second side, again being careful not to stretch or handle the bias more than necessary. Ironing your glue dry as you go along. I stitch the second side down in the same direction as the first, again to help prevent rippling. 

Ta-da! Crisp, straight, sharp, bias trim. I hope you find this useful. Let me know how it works for you. 

Keep stitching, faithful reader. Lots more going on in the sewing room. Christmas and babies are coming!


  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial, it's very helpful. I have a question about how you "end" the bias trim, as on the collar or the bottom of the dress. Do you fold over and stitch down, or do you overlap if it is sewn in the round?
    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise.

    1. Stephanie, great questions. On the dress, I did fold under the end at the back placket. It can be seen in this post: As for the collar, I applied the trim to the collar piece before the collar was constructed so the end is enclosed in the seam. For a bottom of a skirt that did not have a placket I would stitch down one side within a few inches either side of the join, measure how much more I would need to complete the circle, cut the tape. I would open the tape, sew the ends to join, glue down the remaining tape and complete the stitching. I hope that makes sense.

  2. Thanks for the tutorial, have made miles of bias tape with the same gadgets but never considered using the starch to make sure that it stays pressed and straight.

  3. Lots of great tips here. I've pinned the post for future reference.

  4. Martha, your tutorial is brilliant. I've only been glue-basting for a year and I don't know how I ever lived without it. Thank you for pointing out that Niagara Spray Starch comes in a non-aerosol form. I need it!

  5. This is my second year sewing for my granddaughter, so I an looking for ways to 'up my game'. I can think of so many ways to use bias for decorative trim. Thank you for this tutorial. You made it look so easy, NOW - do you have a tutorial for that darling hem treatment? The whole dress down to that beautiful fabric is precious!

  6. You probably know this already since you made this tutorial, but the spray starch is available now at Walmart for less than $2 a bottle unlike on Amazon. There are 2 brands, and my husband and I made a fabric test and found that the Faultless Maxx brand was not shiny like the Niagra is after ironing. Hope this helps!

    1. Sorry, forgot to add that this spray starch is wonderful and doesn't make you sneeze like some of the liquid starch in a bottle found at many sewing stores. It has a wonderful fresh scent but not heavy in scent. It doesn't flake at all, like the canned aerosols.


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