How to Make and Use Binding and Bias Binding in Sewing Projects

3 August 2022
Head shot of Helen Mawdsley
By Helen Mawdsley
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Lately, I have re-kindled my joy of creating me-made clothes. With this dive back into sewing, I’ve been reflecting on some of the hurdles and milestones in my sewing journey. In the very beginning, one of the biggest eye-opening moments for me was seeing how fabric behaves when it is cut on the grain versus cut on the bias grain. This article provides an overview of what these terms mean and why binding and bias binding matter in sewing, and a detailed tutorial for making your own.

image description: a small piece of fabric, with raw edges visible; an orange line is draw on top, at a 45 degres angle to the edges; two black lines follow the lines of the edge, they are perpendicular to each other

Fig. 1: Fabric grain (black lines) and bias (orange line).

The grain of a fabric is the direction in which it is woven. Woven fabrics are made with threads running in two directions; warp threads run the full length of the fabric, and weft threads run the width of the fabric. To find the grain, take a sample of your fabric and look for the little threads that run parallel and perpendicular to each other, indicated by the black lines in Fig. 1. The bias grain comes in at forty-five degrees to this, shown by the orange line.

Pattern designers know how important an understanding of the grain and bias grain are. Pattern pieces will often have arrows showing the direction that the piece should be placed on the fabric for cutting in relation to the grain. This positioning is important. If a woven fabric is cut along the bias grain direction, it will have more flexibility and stretch in its movement than if it is cut along the grain. Depending on the type of garment you are making, this may be key in adding (or tempering) additional flow or drape in your finished product.

It is tempting to optimize your fabric yardage when cutting out pieces—resist this temptation! The position of the pieces and where they need to be cut with respect to the grain really matter in your finished product. And those extra spaces in your yardage come in handy if you need to make bias binding, or you can use them for other fibre arts projects.

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All images by Helen Mawdsley except featured image. Featured image by Jeff Wade on Unsplash.

Head shot of Helen Mawdsley

About Helen Mawdsley

Helen is a fibre artist and woodturner. She enjoys being curious and exploring history, traditions, and new forms of craft. Her work has appeared in Spin Off magazine and Piecework magazine by Long Thread Media, also with Laine Publishing Oy in Finland, and at the Centre for Craft in Manitoba. Learn more at mawdsleyfibrearts.ca.

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