Everything You Need to Know About Bias Tape – Part 1

everything need to know about bias tape - part 1

Welcome to our 4 part series on bias tape, covering everything you need to know to make best use of this sewing staple. Helping you produce high quality garments, bags and home decor projects with ease.

Part 1 – What is bias tape? Which type should you use in which situation. Homemade versus shop bought.
Part 2 – Sewing with single fold tape and how to turn single fold tape into double fold.
Part 3 – Sewing with double fold tape.
Part 4- Making your own bias tape – both strip and continuous methods.

What is Bias Tape?

Bias tape is used to cover raw edges in sewing (both visible edges and hidden ones) adding strength to curved shapes, such as those found on necklines and around armholes. It is also used as a ribbon style trim to decorate projects, to make straps on dresses and tops, and to cover piping cord.

Look around you and you will find bias tape everywhere!

examples of bias tape
It is made out of strips of fabric, cut on the bias to make them stretchy, this stretch helps you ease the tape smoothly around curves when sewing.

Once cut, the strips are sewn together (at 45 degree angles) and then the raw edges, on the long sides of the tape, are folded/ironed onto the wrong side of the fabric, giving you a neat finish.

The tape can be as wide or thin as you like, the thinner the tape the more fiddly it is to sew with, the wider the tape the more impact it will have on your finished project.

What is ‘the Bias’?

If you place a square of cotton fabric in front of you and try to stretch it, left to right/ top to bottom, it will move a little, but if you pull it diagonally it will stretch a lot!

That’s because you are pulling it on the bias. (at a 45 degree angle). When you cut fabric at 45 degrees you lock this stretchiness in.

bias path

Exception to the rule…

If you are sewing bias tape onto your project in straight lines, or just turning at 90 degree angles, such as in the case of quilts, or in the construction of ties and straps, you don’t need to cut the fabric for your tape on the bias, as you don’t need the stretch.

Types of Bias Tape and Their Uses

Single Fold (both open fold and closed fold)

Is designed to be used where you want to hide raw edges, and often, the tape itself, typically, but not always, inside a garment, where you want to sculpt or reinforce shapes e.g. around necklines and armholes. It is also used to decorate projects in the same way as ribbon, and you can make double fold tape out of single fold tape to (see part 2).

Looking at the back of the tape you will see that the raw edges have been folded in towards the centre, once on each side, either:

  • by a small amount, typically 6mm (1/4”), this is called open fold tape and has been folded in just enough to enable you to securely sew your tape to your project, with the minimum amount of bulk.
  • or almost, or right to the centre, this is called closed fold tape, this more generous fold gives you a little more wriggle room when sewing, but does add a little more bulk, and as it is made from a wider piece of fabric, it costs more.

The size on the packet refers to the width of the tape when measured across the front of the tape (not the unfolded tape).

single fold tape types2

Double Fold

Is used where the bias tape is going to be visible, covering raw edges for example around the sides of a quilt, along the tops of bags, trimming visible raw edges of clothes or in the construction of straps.

If you open up the first fold of the tape, and look at the back, you will see that the raw edges have been folded in, either just short of the centre line, or to the centre.

If you close the tape back up you will see that the folded edges of the tape are either aligned, or that one side is slightly longer than the other, this is not a mistake, it makes sewing the tape easier – we will get on to how in part 2.

The size on the packet refers the width of the tape when measured across the front of the folded tape (not the unfolded tape).

double bias tape
A Note About Bunting…

Bias tape is regularly used for bunting, but we don’t recommend it, the flex in the tape reduces its strength and once you hang the bunting you will notice that the tape will start twisting and warping. We recommend using our specialist bunting tape. It is strong, easy to sew with, the fold line is already set into it, and it won’t warp or discolour in the sun.

Is shop bought or homemade best?

Shop bought bias tape saves you time and comes in a wide range of widths, colours and patterns. Making your own bias tape can be rewarding, once you have got the hang of it! It’s a great way to use up scraps of fabric and, because you can use almost any fabric to make the tape, you can make it in the perfect colour or pattern for your project.

We sell ready made single fold tape at Prints to Polka Dots, (which you can easily turn into double tape, see part 2) as well as bias tape makers, if you would like to have a go at making your own bias tape read part 4 of our guide.

Other parts in this series…

2. Sewing with Single Fold Bias Tape

3. Sewing with Double Fold Bias Tape

4. Making your own Bias Tape 

Click here to download this guide!

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