Monday, May 19, 2014

Sewing for Belegrim: Basic Bias Tape Techniques

One of the most basic things you can do to make your garb look better in Belegarth is bind it with bias tape. It's an easy way to create color combos and finish raw edges without turning them under. You can even make it match your colors perfectly by making it from left over fabric instead of buying it.

Although the basic concept of "wrap and sew" is very simple, many Belegrim don't know enough about bias tape to make sharp corners or finish their piece without having an unfinished bit of bias tape at the end. To make your bias tape experiences a little better, here are a couple of the most important techniques you'll need for a clean, polished look.

 Choosing the right bias tape

Extra wide, double fold is the right stuff. This is what I usually get at my local sewing store. You'll probably see a lot of single fold while you're at the store - don't get it for finishing edges or you'll be in for a huge headache!

Clean Corners 

When I get close to a corner, I like to put a pin in about an inch from the end.  This helps me maneuver through the next steps without the bias tape falling away from the fabric edge.

Note that I've turned the bias tape inside out here because I'm going to be folding down that corner. There are two straight lines you'll want to see: the tacked end of the bias tape should extend straight out as far as it will go, and the free end should lie flush with the edge of the fabric.

When I fold it down, it makes a nice sharp point. You'll probably need to play with the corner a little to get it to lie exactly how you want it, but it should be close.

Make sure you catch the corner when you pin or it will come undone.

After you pin, check the other side to make sure its point looks nice, too. You may need to remove the pin and adjust.

When you sew, try to keep at least 1/8"-1/4" from the unfolded edge of the bias tape to make sure you sew all three layers: the front bias tape, the fabric, and the back bias tape. When you reach the corner, carefully remove the pin and stitch until you just catch the crease in the corner. 

Leave your needle down in the fabric. Most modern machines have a button for this, but you can also crank the needle manually.

Raise your presser foot and rotate your sewing 90 degrees with the needle still down. Once you've realigned, lower the presser foot and finish sewing.

The finished corner, front and back.

Finishing off a bias taped edge

You MUST leave a tail of unstitched bias tape when you start sewing it down to use this technique. I usually try to leave a long-ish tail of a few inches to make things easier.

We're going to pretend I just finished wrapping around an entire tabard and have finally met up with my original tail. I don't want it to be obvious where I started and stopped stitching, so I'm going to use a little trick so there's no excess hanging out.

Unfold the outer layer of bias tape, leaving the center line against the fabric.

Fold the upper corner under, until the raw edge of bias tape is flush with the lower side. It should make a 45 degree angle as shown above. You may want to crease this hard - we're going to be sewing along this line.

Gently slide your hand under where you just folded and grab that corner you along with the lower piece of bias tape (the tail you left at the beginning). You'll be pinching the raw edge of the upper piece of bias tape and the side of the lower piece of bias tape.

Very gently, pull. It will look kind of weird at this stage, but that's okay.  Make sure that you're pinching tightly so neither end of bias tape is able to slip. If it does move, you'll want to go back a few steps and try again. It's very important the bias tape doesn't move too much, so it lays flush in the end.

Lay flat. You'll notice the two pieces of bias tape now sit perpendicular to one another with their folded sides together. You may not be able to see it here, but that top piece still has the crease at a 45 degree angle on it that we're going to stitch along.

Stitching along the line. You can use pins to hold it in place or mark it if you aren't confident you can stitch corner to corner freehand.

Trimming off the excess. You'd normally want to clip the dangling threads here as well.

Flattening it out, we can see that angle we just sewed, now combining the two pieces of bias tape.

A perfect fit and a clean edge.  Just clean up your threads, sew it down, and no one will ever know where you started and stopped your bias tape.


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