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Bias binding can add classy touch to efforts

Bias binding is a wonderful substitute for bulky facings. If you think of bias binding always in matching fabric, think again once more. If you think bias binding must always be cut on the bias, think again. Many fabrics are suitable for bias bindings.

Not only does this technique cut down on bulk but the addition of binding in a contrasting fabric can add a classy touch. Visualize the following: satin side out silk charmeuse binding around the neck of a lace T-shirt, tissue-weight linen binding around the neck of a slinky rayon top, or smooth Napa leather binding around all edges of a wool mohair vest.

True bias is not mandatory except if the binding fabric is quite stiff. True bias is necessary with linen, a firm cotton, or dress weight satin. On the other hand, binding strips cut off-grain are quite suitable for a soft pliable fabric like silk crepe de Chine.

While true bias strips are preferable due to their ability to go around curves without wrinkling, true bias eats up a lot of fabric. Experiment with a small, off-grain strip to see if it is able to mold itself around a curve without wrinkling before committing yourself to true bias.

Some fabric for binding can even be cut on the cross grain. Synthetic leather and knit have their greatest stretch on the cross grain. A striped knit binding cut on the cross grain finishes into a nice binding which actually looks like small checks.

Purchased bias binding is also available. Bias binding, called "bias fold" or "bias tape" is available in cotton in a wide variety of colors. Don't confuse bias binding with hem tape. If you ever get to London, pick up bias tape at Liberty of London in satin and linen as well.

To determine the bias grain, position the selvage edge of the fabric so that is runs parallel to the cross grain (the grain of the cut edge) of the fabric. The folded edge formed is the bias grain (1). Press this fold at the iron to mark it.

While piecing is not usually necessary around small areas such as the neck, it may be necessary to piece the binding if a long strip is needed to go around the garment. While the purist joins binding strips on an angle, I have found this unnecessary except if you are binding with strips cut on the true bias. After joining binding, press seams open and trim seams to 1/8 inch.

To trim a neckline, cut bias strips 1-1/4 inch wide (2). Stay stitch garment neckline at 1/2 inch to stabilize. Trim seam allowance down to 1/4 inch. Clip curves at 1-inch intervals. On woven fabrics, press under 1/4 inch along one long side of binding strip (3).

Along the unpressed side, position the binding with the right side of the binding against the right side of the fabric. If you are binding a neckline, stretch the binding slightly as you sew causing the binding to fill in the neck area and lie flat against the body.

Sew a 1/4-inch seam, clip curves. Enclose raw edges by wrapping binding to the wrong side. Pin the pressed bias fold in line with the stitching line which attached the binding. The stitching line is visible from the wrong side. Pin in place. Finish binding on the inside with a slip stitch attaching the fold to the machine stitching line (4).

While it is possible to start the binding process from the wrong side and machine sew the final step, the hand-stitching method is more professional looking.

Press bound, flat areas on a flat surface. Press curved areas such as neck and armholes on a tailor's ham. Pound flat with a tailor's clapper.