Vogue 8719, Part IV – Making Bias Tape


Sewing relatively complex garments reminds me in some ways of the problem I had with model kits as a kid:  Namely, all of the preparatory steps you have to do before assembling the actual thing can be maddening.  I never got very good at assembling models because my instinct was to snap all the parts off the sprues and just glue them together without sanding or painting them first; the assembly is the most gratifying part,  but models never came out very well when I skipped all that prep.

Thankfully I’ve gained a bit more patience as an adult, but it does sometimes feel like the list of things-you-have-to-do-before-the-other-thing-you-have-to-do-before-you-actually-sew-everything-into-a-garment is never-ending.

Here’s where things are after cutting out the major pieces of the jacket:

I’ve marked the darts and various other points of interest (pocket placements, etc.) with tailor tacks, which I find much better to work with than chalk or a marker for marking things in the middle of a big swath of fabric; you can stitch them right through the pattern, and they don’t rub off or blur.  I slightly modified the placement points for the breast pocket to make it perfectly perpendicular to the front instead of the slight angle in the pattern; with such strong stripes I think having a patch pocket at an angle in such a prominent spot would look strange/sloppy even if the stripes match perfectly.

Photo of a tailor tackThen it was time to deal with the bias tape. The outside of the jacket is quite loud enough, so I wanted to go with a solid color for the inner seam bindings.  The practical approach in this case would have been to just buy some prefab bias tape, but storebought tapes are always made from a cheap-feeling poly/cotton blend and I figured it would be good to have a go at making some from scratch.  The pattern has you cut a parallelogram-shaped piece of fabric along the bias, which you then sew into a large tube of fabric, offsetting the ends slightly so you can then start at one edge of the tube and cut it as a long spiral.  My first approach was to try and align the cut edge of the fabric against a line on my cutting mat, and use a straightedge along the other:

Photo of Cutting the bias tape - technique 1This worked OK, but because fabric is so prone to stretching along the bias it got hard to keep everything perfectly straight along the grid of the cutting mat.  My next approach worked much better; using a seam gauge I made a series of marks 1″ in from the edge and freehanded from dot to dot with a rotary cutter:

Cutting the bias tape - technique 2Before long I had an impressive pile of 1″ wide, bias-cut fabric.

Bias tape cutI thought about trying to fold and press 1/4″ on each edge by hand, and quickly realized it would take forever and probably not be very even.  Commercial bias tape makers are readily available, but I didn’t really want to drive or wait for shipping.  A bit of searching landed me on The Scientific Seamstresses’ incredibly clever (and free) print-and-assemble cardstock bias tape maker, which took about 15 minutes to make and worked brilliantly.

Cardstock bias tape maker in useWrangling the seams through the guide was a bit fussy but entirely manageable, and before long I had a nice long strip of 1/2″ wide, single fold bias tape.  The last step was to fold it in half to get the 1/4″ wide double fold tape that the pattern calls for for binding off all the raw seams on the inside of the jacket.  I was able to do this mostly “by hand”, slowly spooling it onto a bottle cap and folding as I went:

Quarter inch, double-folded bias tapeI find myself wondering whether starting with a 1.5″ strip and double folding it into a 3/8″ binding might not be a better idea. 1/4″ is not a lot to work with, especially when it’s supposed to go neatly over two more layers of fabric.  I will find out soon enough.

Next: Vogue 8719 Part V: Pockets & Body Assembly