| Sewing Patterns for the Modern Woman - Blog Post: How to Use Bias Tape

How to Use Bias Tape

By Allie

Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog. blog | How to Use Bias Tape

Once, a very long time ago, I decided to take the sleeves off a beloved dress to make it more summer-appropriate. I was new to garment sewing and had never heard of bias tape or binding. In my mind, a double rolled hem around that armhole seemed practical. I set to work on those armholes with my trusty steam iron by my side.

Disaster ensued. Not only is a double rolled hem next to impossible to press into a very curved armhole, the final product was a wonky, wavy armhole that didn’t lay flat against my skin. My beloved dress became unwearable.

Don’t let this happen to you, use bias tape.

What is bias tape exactly? Bias tape (sometimes called bias binding) is a very long strip of fabric that is cut on the bias (or diagonally on the fabric, usually) to maximize stretch. This ensures that the bias tape will stretch nicely around the curved seams of your armhole.

Bias tape or binding can either be purchased pre-made, or you can make your own. In this tutorial we will show you how to sew store-bought, double-fold bias tape into your armholes. This tutorial can also be used for neckholes, and shirt and dress hems too!

1. Start by pressing the center fold your double-fold bias tape flat. Press several feet of your bias tape, but keep it attached to cardboard it was packaged with. We will cut the bias tape to length later after it is sewed into the armhole to make sure we maximize the amount we use.

Pressing the bias tape open |

2. Next press one edge of your double fold bias top flat.

Pressing the bias binding top fold open |

3. Starting at the armpit seam of your armhole, position your bias tape so that 1” of the bias tape extends beyond the seam. The raw edges of your bias tape and fabric should be aligned with right sides together.

Positioning the bias tape around the armhole |

4. Continue to pin your bias tape around the circumference of your armhole pinning every 2” or so. Stretch the bias tape just slightly as you pin so that is eases around the armhole curves.

Pinning the bias binding around the the armhole |

5. Once fully pinned, trim your bias tape so that 1” of your bias tape end extends beyond the seam. You should have two bias tape tails about the same length.

Trimming excess bias tape |

6. Align the bias tape tails so that the seam of the bias tape is centered over the armpit seam of the armhole. Place a pin perpendicular through both layers of bias tape (but not through the shirt or dress fabric) where the bias tape tails meet and sit flat against the fabric.

Aligning bias tape along armhole seam |

7. Begin sewing the bias tape to the shirt about 1” forward of the armpit/bias tape seam. Be sure to backstitch. Use a ⅜” seam allowance so that your stitch travels down the original crease you ironed out in step 2. Remove your pins as you sew.

Sewing the bias tape |

8. Sew around the entire armhole, taking it slow if this is your first time using bias tape. Stop about 1” from the armpit seam and backstitch. The pin holding the bias tape tails together should remain.

First pass of sewing the bias tape around armhole |

9. Remove your shirt from under your presser foot and snip your threads. Pull the bias tape tails away from the fabric and sew a vertical stitch down the short length of your bias tape where the pin was located. Backstitch once up the entire length of the bias tape. Make sure you are not sewing any part of the shirt or dress fabric when doing this.

Finishing off the first pass of seam sewing |

10. Trim your bias tape tails to ¼”. Lay the bias tape flat against fabric and pin.

Pining the bias tape hole |

11. Stitch the unsewn portion of the bias tape to the shirt fabric using the same seam allowance. Your armpit seam and bias tape seam should align.

Sewing the bias tape hole |

12. Press the bias tape away from the fabric, making sure your seam allowance is also pressed away from the inside of the shirt.

Right side out view:
Pressing the bias binding away |

Wrong side out view:
Pressing the bias tape seam away |

13. On the right side of the bias tape, stitch ⅛” from seam. This is called understitching. Understitching allows for a nice crisp armhole that lays flat and hides all of the bias tape inside of the armhole. We recommend understitching every time you sew with bias tape, otherwise your bias tape may peek out from your armhole if you don’t press well. If you use a contrasting color of bias tape this can make for an unsightly armhole.

Understitching the bias tape |

Finished bias tape understitching |

14. Now turn your garment inside out, press your bias tape into the inside of the garment and pin every 2”.

Pinning the understitched bias tape |

15. Secure the bias tape into the garment by sewing on the bias tape with a ⅛” seam allowance from the inside edge starting at the armpit seam.

Sewing the understitched bias tape |
Press the finished bias tape flat |

16. Turn your garment right side out and press your armholes. Put on that shirt and enjoy your crisp arm and neckholes finished with bias tape!
The finished bias tape seam |

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Avoid wonky, wavy armholes! Learn how to sew with bias tape (a.k.a. bias binding) to finish armholes and necklines for a professional, crisp look. |

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