Tutorial: Bias Facings and Bindings

Bias facings and bindings are some of my very favorite finishing techniques for necklines, armholes, and other hems. They're clean, pretty, and fun. You can add a pop of color or print that nobody will see or blend in seamlessly using the same fashion fabric. You can make them invisible by hand sewing the final seam or add a pop of contrast stitching.

Bias bindings and facings are used on two Blueprints patterns: Cabin & Saltbox.

This photo tutorial will walk you through the bias facing & binding methods used in Blueprints patterns, which give you a clean bias finish inside & outside without the need to measure.

First off, what is the difference between bias tape, bias binding, and bias facing?

Bias tape is a strip of fabric (or multiple strips sewn together) cut on the bias. It has two edges turned and pressed to meet in the middle. Bias tape is naturally stretchy and flows around curves gracefully, unlike fabric cut on the straight grain. This is what makes it perfect for finishing curved hems. There are two types of bias tape: Single fold, used most often for bias facing, and double fold, used mostly for bias binding.

Bias facing is a finish in which bias tape is sewn onto the raw edge, then folded over to the wrong side (so that it's invisible from the outside) and sewn in place. It replaces a conventional 'facing', which is a piece of fabric cut in the shape of a neckline or armhole, sewn to the raw edge and turned inward.  A typical facing is cut the same way as the bodice, where as a bias facing is shaped to the neckline using it's stretchy abilities.

Bias binding is when bias tape is used to enclose the raw edge of a neckline, armhole, or hem. In this case, the bias tape fabric is seen. It can be made of contrasting or matching fabric. In the case of stripes or plaids, a bias binding is particularly attractive since the design when cut on the bias becomes diagonal.

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Now that you're an expert on the differences between tape, facing, and binding, we'll cover some tips and tricks for getting a great finish.

We'll focus on the neckline, since this curved area is often the trickiest area to apply the binding. This technique also creates a bias finish on a closed loop without measuring its exact length, while still keeping a clean finish on the inside.

Note: If you are following this tutorial for another (non-Blueprints) pattern, you may need to adjust your seam allowances.

If you are adding bias facing, your seam allowance should be 1/2 the with of your bias tape (for example, 1/2" bias binding will need a 1/4" seam allowance).

If you're doing bias binding, regardless of its width, you'll want to trim your seam allowance away completely.  This is because while bias facing turns the seam allowance inward, bias binding simply wraps around the raw edge. Left untrimmed, your neckline will be slightly smaller than intended. Sometimes, this is okay - The Cabin pattern has a 1/4" seam for both facing & binding, but the difference is minimal. However, if using bias binging on a pattern with a 5/8" neckline seam allowance, the difference will be noticeable.

To start, prepare your neckline by sewing one shoulder seam and pressing it.

In this method, you will always have one seam open where you are applying the bias tape. At the neckline, this means one shoulder seam is open. Once neckline is sewn together, you can apply the binding to each armhole and sew them shut in the process. If you're binding the hem, be sure to leave a side seam open to attach the binding.

Unfold the right side flap of your bias tape. If you like, press this one side open. Leaving a bit of a tail at the beginning, pin this edge to the right side of your neckline opening.

Next, you'll sew the binding the the neckline using the seam allowance you trimmed to (most likely 1/4", if you are using a 1/2" bias tape). The stitching line should fall along the fold crease of the binding. If it's slightly wider, that's okay too.

You'll notice I didn't mention any pins beyond the first one. Instead of pinning, you'll align your binding with the neckline inch by inch and hold it in place as you sew. Trust me, it works. Believe it or not, you often have more control without using pins. Pins do a great job of holding fabric in place, but if fabric needs to shift or is improperly aligned, pins will hold you back.

A little wave. Keep an eye out for bigger ones, but this one looks jut fine. If you can squish it flat with your finger, you can surf over it.

A little wave. Keep an eye out for bigger ones, but this one looks jut fine. If you can squish it flat with your finger, you can surf over it.

As you align the bias tape with the curve, little waves appear. Don't panic! These waves are good. This is a sign that the excess fabric is falling away from the curve. In theory, your machine should be able to sew along this line without creating little bunches or pleats. Sometimes the waves look like they won't fit under the needle, but as long as you hold your ground (fabric), those waves will smooth out under the foot. It's sort of magical. Observe:

So as you work your way around the neck, don't be afraid to let little waves sit under your sewing machine foot. It's sort of like surfing. You should be able to glide over these little swells, just watch out for big ones. (Full Disclosure: I've never even touched a surfboard, but this isprobably at least a little bit similar on a much smaller - and drier - scale.)

Around sharp curves, like the front neckline scoop or the shoulder seam, you might have trouble getting the waves to be small enough. In this case, use the properties of the bias tape to your advantage. Stretch the bias tape in the direction opposite your sewing. This will contract the tape and allow it to follow the curve more closely. Doing this also helps prevent the bias facing from 'standing out' once finished.

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Continue making your way around the neckline, aligning the bias as you go. When you reach the end, leave a short tail and trim your bias tape. When you're finished, take a look at the bias tape seam allowance. It should be a bit wavy but when you straighten out the neckline, it will fall fairly flat.

Press the bias tape towards the neckline.

Unfold and press the ends of the bias tape on the unsewn side. This will help you to align them at the shoulder.

Here's the tricky part: you want to align your neckline edge at the bias tape so that the bias seams match, rather than matching the raw edge like on a typical seam.

Start by aligning your shoulder seam, then shifting the seam where the bias tape is attached until it matches 1/2"(or whatever your shoulder seam allowance is) from the fabric edge.

I like to put a pin at this point (where you'll be sewing) and fold back the fabric to see if it matches. Do this and adjust as necessary.

Didn't match on the 1st try, which looked deceptively like it matched from the wrong side.

Didn't match on the 1st try, which looked deceptively like it matched from the wrong side.

Shifted things around to match, keeping the shoulder edge matched as well.

Shifted things around to match, keeping the shoulder edge matched as well.

Another trick I like to do to keep the bias facing nice and flat is to allow a little flex room here by sewing the seam at a slight angle. it helps to draw this out with chalk before sewing.

Start at the edge of your binding, sewing to the point where the bias attaches to the neckline. Stop with the needle in the fabric and pivot to get your shoulder seam ready to sew at the correct seam allowance.

Once you've sewn the shoulder seam, press it open.

Trim the bias tape to match the rest of the seam allowance. Then, fold the bias tape along its original fold and press.

Now is where you'll follow slightly different steps for bias facing VS. bias binding.

For bias facing, fold the bias tape all the way into the garment, so that you can see a tiny peek of the outside fabric at the edge of the neckline.

Press the bias flat. Using a tailors ham will help you press this flat along the curved surface of the neckline. You can use your iron and steam to contour the bias binding even more to the curve of the neckline, so that it stays flat once sewn.

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From the wrong side, edge stitch along the bias tape's edge all the way around the neckline. I like to start and end the seam at an inconspicuous place, like the shoulder seam. Edge stitching - if you've never done it before - is simply stitching along the edge of something. Try to get close the to edge while leaving a narrow margin. An edge stitch foot or zipper foot can help you follow the edge more accurately while sewing.

For bias binding, you'll fold the bias tape to the inside only halfway, so the edge of the bias tape matches the first line of stitching. Press the binding in place. If you're using double fold binding, you'll already have a nice crease you can use to fold the tape to the inside.

Edge stitch around the binding from the wrong side just like you did for the bias facing.

In both bias binding and facing, you can create an 'invisible' finish by hand sewing the last step instead of edge stitching. Use a thread color that matches your fabric and attach using any number of hand stitches for hems (here's a great tutorial with 5 methods)

Once you get the hang of this method, it's a great way to finish all sorts of necklines and other hems, especially curved ones. It makes a great substitute for neckline facing and can be swapped out in many patterns.