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Tips and Techniques for the Savvy Sewist
by Nicole vasbinder
Even the best sewists will encounter problems, snags, and little
glitches in their work. Expert sewist Nicole Vasbinder’s Sewing
Solutions is an indispensable reference filled with invaluable
Organized by stages, you’ll find:
• Detailed advice for the sewing process, including pros and
cons, and basic considerations of working in each step.
• An easy-to-follow layout providing basic information as well
as step-by-step techniques for making bias tape, sewing
trims, buttonholes, zippers, hems, and more.
• Easy-to-navigate color-coded cross-references available for
• Troubleshooting tips that advise how to deal with every
Whether choosing the right tools, reading patterns correctly,
or everything in between, Sewing Solutions will prove to be an
essential sewing companion.
Nicole Vasbinder owns and operates StitchCraft and an independent accessory line Queen Puff Puff. A founding teacher of Stitch
Lounge in San Francisco, she currently teaches at Stonemountain
and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. Her designs have been featured
in the Wall Street Journal, Adorn Magazine, JoAnn Magazine, Venus
Zine and Craft. She lives in Petaluma, California.
Page Count: 192
Trim Size: 5¾ × 8¼
US Price: $19.95
Release Date: December
Season: Fall 2012
Interweave books are sold and distributed to the book trade by Perseus distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
(800) 343-4499 | firstname.lastname@example.org
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT: NOTIONS AND
What it is
What it is
Bias tape or bias binding is a narrow strip of fabric, cut on
the bias or cross-grain to make it more stretchable than
fabric that is cut on the grain. It is used to make piping,
binding seams, and to finish raw edges. Many strips can be
pieced together to form a long tape. Bias tape widths can
vary from about ½” to about 3” depending on what it is
being used for.
see p.143: What is cross grain?
Also called ric rac or rick-rack, rickrack is made by braiding
thread into a flat zigzag shaped tape, it is used as trim on
clothes and curtains. Typically, rickrack is made from
polyester and from a single color, and it has a dull or
matte finish. Rickrack can also be metallic, glossy, or
variegated with strips or gradations of color. Some
manufacturers add decorative details with embroidery or
paint to make rickrack more colorful.
Most commonly seen on
Most commonly seen on
Aside from piping, binding, and finishing raw edges, bias tape is
most commonly seen on edges of quilts, placemats, bibs, as
dress or bag straps, and around armholes and necklines.
Types of bias tape
Commercially available bias tape is usually of three types:
simple, single-fold, and double-fold bias tape.
Can you make bias tape?
Yes, it’s possible to make these at
home using bias tape makers,
which come in a range of sizes.
see p.73: Bias tape makers
Where to get it
Most fabric stores stock bias tape. Store bought bias tape
comes in a variety of widths and a huge range of colors, but
the majority of these are solid rather than patterned.every
crafter should knowHomemade bias tape is great if you
want a patterned bias to match the fabric used in your
project. It’s also so simple to make that most crafters prefer
to use their own rather than store bought!
see p.142: Making bias tape
Q. Why use bias strips?
A. Most woven fabrics (unless they
have a bit of spandex blended
in) have no stretch. But if you tug
a piece of woven fabric along the
Rickrack is often used on quilts and curtains, but it’s
flexible enough to be used for almost any project your
imagination suggests. You can attach it along the hem of an
item, apply it as a top trim or insert half way into a seam to
create a scalloped edge.
to knit or crochet with fine
needles using thread that can hold
Where to get it
Most craft and fabric stores sell rickrack, usually in an
assortment of colors and patterns to meet crafting
needs. In some cases, the material is available by the yard,
allowing crafters to select as much as they need. Other
stores sell rickrack in prepackaged lengths, which can result
in an excess of unused rickrack.
Q. How to apply rickrack?
A. Rickrack is usally applied by hand
using thread that matches the item
being decorated. If you’re not
Every crafter should know
It’s not that it “stretches” but it has
Other thread, such as silk or cotton, may be used, but the
resulting rickrack may be more expensive.
much for hand sewing, it can also
be straight stitched through the
bias, the fabric will give a little bit.
some “ease” to it. Tape made from
Q. Can you make rickrack?
A. Yes, the simplest options are
middle by machine, or if the item
you’re making won’t be washed,
simply glue on the rickrack.
see p.150: Sewing on
bias-cut fabric forms around
curves much more easily, without
causing fabric to pucker.
p.73: Section One: Chapter 4: Bias tape makers
p.142: Section Two: Chapter 8: Making bias tape
p.143: Section Two: Chapter 8: What is cross grain?
p.150: Section Two: Chapter 8: Sewing on trims
SOLUTIONS AND TRICKS: FABRIC SOLUTIONS
Use the burn test to identify the fiber content of a mystery fabric.
This will help to sew, press, and care better for your project. Clip off
a 3” length of yarn or fabric, hold one end with sturdy metal tongs
and light one end of the sample. Observe the sample for the results
listed here to determine the fiber content.
Making bias tape: Method 1
YOU WILL NEED
(diagonal to the
selvedge of the fabric)
Burns and chars
Burns and melts
Soft, gray ash
Soft, black ash
Soft, gray ash
Open, lacelike ash
First decide how wide your strips should be. If you are
making single fold bias tape, you want your strips to be twice
the width of your final tape minus 1/8” (so for 1/2” single fold
bias tape, you need 7/8” wide strips). For double fold bias tape
you want your strips four times the width of your final tape
• 1 yard of fabric
• Bias tape maker
see p.73 Bias tape
• Quilting ruler
• Tailor’s chalk or pencil
• Rotary cutter
• Cutting mat
Fold the selvage over to form a
triangle, creating a 45 degree
fold along the bias.
A. Looking at the fabric diagram
cut from the big bolt at the
fabric shop) and the other
edges create fabric grain
lines. The selvage is
Cut along that fold and voila,
you have a bias cut edge!
But since most of us have a
small cutting surface, fold the
triangle in half along again,
creating another 45 degree
fold along the bias. This will
allow you to cut more of the
fabric at once on a smaller
Q. What is a cross grain?
the cut edge (where it was
Then fold the triangle in half
I’m making ½” wide doublefold bias tape, so I need to cut
2” wide strips. Remember that
you’re cutting from the BIAS
CUT EDGE. Use your chalk to
mark which edge is which, if
you need to. Using a rotary
cutter, quilting ruler, and
cutting mat, continue cutting
your strips till you get to the
end of your fabric.
the lengthwise grain, while
the cut edge is the crosswise
grain. The bias is a diagonal
line in the middle of that,
creating a bias grain. It makes
two 45 degree angles with
the cut edge and the selvage.
Fabrics with small prints work
best, as large prints might not be
Now sew all the strips together. This can be tedious but this
method is fairly quickly and seems easiest to me.
obvious on a thin bias tape. Here
are some types of fabric you can
make bias tape from:
Take two strips of fabric that
have edges angled in the same
p.73: Section One: Chapter 4:
Bias tape makers
p 146: Section Two: Chapter 8:
Making a Bias tape: Method 2
edge is the Selvage. Both
If you have a super long
cutting mat, you can start
cutting bias strips now along
the bias cut edge. Go straight
to Step 6.
If you need to make your
triangle even smaller still, cut
along the bias fold you have
on the far left, one edge is
Does not burn
MAKING BIAS TAPE
SOLUTIONS AND TRICKS: EMBELLISHMENT AND TRIMMING SOLUTIONS
FIBER CONTENT OF FABRICS
Put the right sides of the fabric
together. You need the tip of
each strip to overhang a bit,
(you’ll see why in the next
step). The strips end up
overhanging about ½”) and
make a 90 degree angle with
each other. Try to be as exact
• 100% cotton
• Cotton/poly blend
(I find this easiest to use)
• Satin (or Polyester Satin)
• Flannel, corduroy, and