Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Bias Tape Maker Tutorial

Here's something a bit different for your amusement tonight.

I LOVE the Clover 1/4 inch bias tape maker (BTM). (I have tried other, less expensive brands and have found them sadly wanting. Accept only the best--Clover.) The following directions are for cutting and making 1/4 inch bias pieces.

First, lay your fabric out on the cutting mat. Align the 45 degree line on your ruler with either the crosswise or lengthwise straight grain. (Remember there are degree lines for both right and left handers.) Make this first cut and remove the resulting triangle. I keep this for leaves and shorter stems. My first cut is usually for a piece about 10 or more inches long.
After removing the triangle, align the 1/2 inch line on your ruler with the cut edge of the fabric. Yes, it says 1/2 inch. You cut the strip twice as wide as the finished bias, in this case 1/4 inch. Cut as many strips as you need. When the ruler is too short to cut one layer easily, fold the fabric in half, aligning the cut edge. You are now cutting two layers, but will have longer strips more easily.

Here is the Clover 1/4 inch (6mm for those of you on the metric system) bias tape maker and my cut strip. The diagonal end is better for the next step, so don't be tempted to square it off. See the handle? Make note of it for future reference.

Start the strip into the BTM, with the RIGHT side showing in the window. You will only be able to push the strip in so far with your fingers.

Now take a pin and pull the strip forward (toward the narrow end of the maker). See the tiny tip peeking out? Once it is so you can pull it with your fingers, you can stop using the pin.

Pull the strip until you have about 1/2 inch protruding. Now, here is where things diverge from the directions on the packaging. First, if you have not washed your fabric (shame on you!), you will probably want to spray the strip with either water or Best Press to better set the folds. Set your iron to a cotton setting with lots of steam.
Remember the handle? The directions say to put the handle up and to pull the handle while pressing the strip. Awkward at best and apt to leave gaps.
Here's the secret: Put the BTM with the handle DOWN and then DON'T TOUCH IT AGAIN!!!
Position the iron right next to the tip of the bias tape maker and then slowly let the iron move the bias tape maker along the strip. Look, Ma, no hands! If you use both hands, the one with the iron will be moving more slowly and the iron will lose contact with the BTM, leaving a gap. The way to fix the gap? There is no easy fix for this. The best way is to cut another strip and start over! Get it? Do as I say! You won't be sorry! Promise!

Keep the strip centered as it moves through the maker. Here you can see how this looks.
And, voila!!!! A perfect 1/4 inch bias strip--great for stems or Celtic applique work. You can see how the BTM folds the raw edges to the center, making a folded edge ready to applique. Before you begin placing the stems on your background, cut the weird end off straight so you are sure of exact placement.
Here you can see both sides of the finished strip. And the really strange part? The folds hold better when the BTM is used as I described--I've tried it both ways and this is the best. Also remember to let the steam and weight of the iron do the work--move the iron slowly to get the best folds.

Well, there you have it--the first tutorial. Let me know what you think. Enough pictures? Too many pictures?
P.S. Hey, Barb MacA, Nancy, Sandy and MKMouse--where are you? Haven't seen or heard from you in a long time. Everything okay? Missing you!


  1. Hi Sharon, That was a nice tutorial. I don't think that you had too many pictures. You said the "first" tutorial, so what fun do you have in store for us next? Well, I've taken a few quilting stitches for today and now it's time for some rest. Good night! Big hugs, Jay

  2. The tutorial was perfect. The pictures are nice and clear with excellent instructions. Thank you!

    Cindy O

  3. Tutorial was great--I love these makers and have them in 4 sizes and I use them alot!!!! But--why does everything you do come out soooo neat and perfect????? Mine aren't bad--just not as great as yours--way to Go Sharon!!!! Thanks
    Hugs diane

  4. good job!
    when can we see more;-)??
    Sharon G in Montreal

  5. This is great.I wish there was a way I could print your directions and save them.

  6. Betty at ThreadBearMarch 19, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    Sharon - found a link to you on Kate's (quilt professor) blog. So glad I did. Just read your tut. I really have to go find one of these bais makers. Makes it look like one would WANT to make bias! Thanks - VERY good job.

  7. Excellent pictures, and clear instructions. Only wish I had internet at home so I could make use of the info when I need it. Maybe someday...

    I always enjoy reading your blog and getting that little nudge to get something sewing.

    FYI...I just started the TEXAS STAR blocks by hand. 1st one took 7 hours! the next not so long.

  8. Good tutorial. I would love to see one for the stab stitch.

  9. Terrific tutorial - I'm getting ready to do a red/green on cream Celtic wreath. First time applique w/bias strips. Your info is very helpful!! Thanks!!

  10. Wow, this was really helpful, thanks! Do you know what the largest BTM is and where to find it? I thought I saw a 3 or 4" in a store about a year ago but wonder if I'm hallucinating. Too much winter, ya know??

  11. I just read the comments about printing. You can print this article! "Control P" gets you to the right spot. You will see that it is several pages long; you can select the pages you want to print and leave out the rest. If you don't have a printer, most libraries do, and your librarian will be happy to show you how to do it.

  12. That was the best tutorial! Thank you Sharon for really clearing up all the confusion about the handle and the tip for avoiding the gaps!

  13. I know you did this four years ago but I have just found it. It was really helpful and I now have bias coming out my ears not mention adorning my quilt. It was explained simply and the photos were excellent

  14. Awesome. It works beautiful thank you!!!

  15. Your method works MUCH better than the instructions that came with the BTM. Thank you!

    Is there an easy way to fold the finished bias tape in half for ironing?


Don't be shy! Leave me a comment...it's so lonely without hearing from you!