Bias Binding Tutorial (traditional method)

bias binding traditional

I’ve been excited to share a few bias binding tutorials with you ever since I released my Gemma tank sewing pattern (which also happens to be the tank shown in these pictures)!

Gemma is a Presto Pattern and my goal was to keep the instructions short and sweet, so including three different ways to bind the arms and necklines in the pattern seemed like too much. BUT…I also wanted to emphasize that you don’t have to do it the way the pattern suggests…it’s nice to have options, right? It probably comes as no surprise that experienced garment makers have their personal preferences when it comes to binding; I know I definitely do!

This first tutorial shows my preferred and default method for binding an edge with bias strips. I’m calling it the “traditional method,” because it’s a classic binding technique. This method involves attaching the bias to the outside of the garment, flipping it to the inside, and stitching in the ditch from the outside to finish it. If that made no sense whatsoever, don’t worry, the step-by-step is coming right up…

You will need: 
1.25″ wide bias binding* (see my handy tutorial to make your own)
a garment with an unfinished neckline and/or armholes
iron + ironing surface
(optional) clear quilter’s ruler
your sewing machine

*also called bias tape or bias strips

Step 1. Press 1/4″ under along one edge of your binding
Using your iron, carefully press 1/4″ towards the wrong side along one long edge of your bias binding. If you’re new to using bias binding, you may want to have a clear ruler handy to help you figure out how wide 1/4″ is. This is something that goes slow at first, but will go faster and faster once you get the hang of it. You can see the bias binding in the photo below has one edge folded under by 1/4.”

Step 2. Make sure you have enough
Take your garment and make sure you have enough length to go all the way around your neckline and/or armholes. (Note: for this tutorial, I will use the neckline.) Notice that I’m also checking to see where the seams in my bias will land on the neckline. This is important; since this binding is visible from the outside, you want to try to position your bias binding so that the seams don’t land in the very middle of the neckline. I often trim the binding before I begin so the seams will land where I want them to.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 3. Staystitch
If you haven’t already, staystitch the neckline and armholes. Use a regular stitch to sew around the openings 1/8″ away from the edge. This will prevent the edges from stretching out when you add the binding.

Step 4. Fold under the starting end
Take your binding and fold the end of the bias binding 1/4″ toward the wrong side, and place it at one of the shoulder seams. Note that the folded edge you pressed in Step 1 is on the left side, and the unfolded edge is on the right. If you are binding an armhole, use the side seam as a starting point.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 5. Sew!
Keeping the edge of the garment lined up with the edge of the bias binding, sew them, right sides together, together using a scant (that means just a hair under) 1/4″ seam allowance. For my machine, this is not the same as where the edge of my presser foot is, so I have to keep a close eye on the marks on the throatplate to make sure I don’t go over 1/4.” It’s really important to go slow, keep the edges even, and not go over 1/4.” I don’t pin, and I don’t try to stretch the bias out as I sew; maybe just a tiny bit to get the bias nice and even with the curve of the neckline. If you feel more comfortable pinning, that’s fine…I just haven’t found pinning to work any better than just going for it.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Continue sewing around the entire neckline or armhole.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 6. Overlap the ends and trim
When you get to the point you started at, continue sewing until your stitches overlap the folded portion you began with by about 1/4″. Backstitch to secure your stitches…

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Then trim the end so that it’s even with the edge of the folded portion.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 7. Press binding away from garment
Press the binding and seam allowances upward, away from the garment. Be careful not to un-press (is that even a word??) the folded edge. Notice that there are two lines of stitches; the top one is the staystitching, and the bottom one is the binding seam.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 8. Pin binding to inside of garment
Fold the binding into the garment so that it just covers the seam you just sewed. Pinning from the outside of the garment, secure the folded edge of the binding by catching it with the pins just below the edge of the binding seam. Tip: Pin with the pins pointing clockwise when viewed from the outside; this will make it easy to pull them out as you sew!

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Tuck the overlapped ends together at the shoulder to reduce bulk.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Add a tag to the back of your neckline if you want. Aren’t these little logo tags cute?? Beth at Custom Labels 4U made these for me; their woven tags are fantastic quality and the colors are spot-on!

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 9. Stitch in the ditch
Stitching from the outside of the garment and removing the pins carefully as you sew, stitch in the ditch of the neckline seam, catching the folded edge of the bias binding underneath. This step takes some practice and patience! I sometimes gently push the binding just a tiny bit to the right before it goes under the presser foot so that when the binding relaxes back, the stitches will barely be visible.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

Step 10. Press
Give your binding a final press, step back, and admire!

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

A note about thread color: I used white thread for this tutorial so that you can see the progress of each step. Choose a thread that matches the garment to make this method’s stitches virtually invisible.

A note about those ends: In this case, the ends of the bias binding are simply overlapped and stitched down. In a later tutorial, I’ll show you how to join the ends before attaching the binding so you’ll get an even smoother finish.

Made By Rae Standard Bias Binding

bias binding tutorials made by rae

CRAFT-ish podcast guest

Hi hi!! Happy Friday! I just wanted to let you know that I’m a guest today on Vickie Howell’s CRAFT-ish podcast. Vickie has had a successful career as an author, teacher, and blogger (among other things) in the DIY and knitting world, and her podcast explores many aspects of the creative industry with guests who are artists, entertainers, and authors, so I was honored when she asked me to be a guest. Our conversation focused on my journey from physics teacher to blogger and pattern designer, with topics such as the role of feminism in my career choices, working with a team, and how the internet is still the “Wild West” when it comes to sewing patterns, free stuff, and etiquette. I had so much fun talking with Vickie that we kept talking after the show was finished recording — she just had so many interesting questions and issues that she kept bringing up! Like many of you (and me), Vickie has been working as a creative entrepreneur online for a long time, and it’s so interesting to reflect on how things have changed over the years in the online craft space. I hope you’ll listen to the episode and let me know if you have any additional thoughts or questions. Thanks for having me, Vickie!


It’s also my birthday today, woot woot big thirty NIIIINE! Usually Mr Rae and I go out for dinner on my birthday and this year I want Elliot and Clementine to come along too. I’ve always enjoyed my kids, but now that they’re getting older, it’s fun that they’re getting old enough to hang out and talk, so I think it will be fun; we don’t normally take them to nice restaurants. Steak and Shake is their favorite place on earth, so an elevated gastronomic experience is usually not worth it. Hugo is staying home with a babysitter (he’s kindof a nightmare at restaurants right now), but someday I’m sure he’ll be invited along too!

Have a great weekend!!

How to make bias binding

how to make bias binding

Making your own bias binding is something that is so easy to do! A number of my sewing patterns, including Washi, Ruby, Josephine, and my most recent pattern, Gemma, use bias binding to finish the armholes or neckline. It’s very common to find bias binding used in sewing patterns for garments. Bias binding also comes in handy when it comes to making your own piping, for instance if you want to make a little backpack!

While you can definitely buy pre-made binding at the store (more on that later), I think bias binding looks so much nicer when you make your own. Here’s how!

You will need:
fabric scraps or a fat quarter of fabric
rotary cutter and mat
2″-wide quilter’s ruler (or wider!)

Step 1. Press your fabric
I find it easiest just to use the leftover scraps after I’ve cut out a pattern. After cutting out the pattern pieces for a given garment, select the biggest scraps and press them flat. If you have a fat quarter of fabric designated for your bias binding, press it flat.

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

Step 2. Cut your bias strips
Place your ruler diagonal to the fabric grain at a 45 degree angle. Most cutting mats have diagonal lines to help you with this, but it’s ok to eyeball it too! Cut a straight diagonal line down the center of the scrap/piece of fabric at its widest point. This will give you the longest possible strips from your scrap of fabric. Then line up one of the diagonal edges with the 1.25″ mark on your ruler, and cut again, to create a 1.25″ wide strip:

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

Then repeat…

bias strip cutting

Continue cutting the strips until they get too short to be useful; I usually prefer to use strips that are at least a foot (12″) long; you can see below that I stopped cutting when my strips measured about 11.” Then I repeat with the other half of the scrap.

binding tutorials

Because you are cutting diagonally, these strips are called “bias strips,” and they are stretchy and flexible for putting a nice finish on curved areas like necklines and armholes. Finally, trim the ends of your strips so they’re all square.

Step 3. Connect the strips together
Overlap the ends of two strips at a 90-degree angle and sew from corner to corner of the overlapping section. The pink line is the stitching line. Remember to sew all your strips right sides together. This is especially important if you’re connecting more than two strips — make sure all the seams are on the same side!

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

If the ends of your strips are angled (this happens when you use a perfectly rectangular scrap of fabric, such as a fat quarter), you can overlap the pieces as pictured below, so that you have a 1/4″ seam allowance, instead. The pink line is the stitching line.

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

Continue piecing the strips you cut together until you have the length that you need for your pattern or project.

bias binding

After you’ve sewn the strips together, open the strips up so they look like this:

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

Step 4. Clip seam allowances
Trim the seam allowances so they are not wider than the strip itself, and clip corners to 1/4″.

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

Step 5. Press seams open.

Made By Rae | how to cut bias strips

Now you’re ready to fold, press, and sew according to your pattern’s instructions!

Finally, a note about pre-packaged bias binding: if you prefer, you can purchase pre-made bias binding already cut, pieced, and folded at most fabric stores. Most of the time the bias binding is either single- or double-fold, which means it’s been pre-folded and pressed before it’s packaged. If you prefer to go this route, you’ll want to find either 1/2″-wide single fold, or 1/4″-wide double fold bias; either can be substituted for 1.25″-wide (unfolded) bias binding used in my sewing patterns (and shown in this tutorial).

I definitely prefer making my own bias binding because I don’t tend to like the colors or quality of store-bought bias binding as much as my own, but I definitely understand the appeal. Sometimes it’s nice just to have it made for you!

Linen Gemma with Yellow Binding

made by rae gemma tank

Check out this lovely linen Gemma with a contrast binding that we whipped up while Jess was in the studio last week! Using a different fabric for armhole and neckline bindings is a great way to jazz Gemma up. I think a solid tank with a printed bias binding would also be really cute.

UPDATE: We’ve now posted three bias binding tutorials and saved them under “Resources” on the Gemma page. We used the topstitching method for this tank.

This tank was a made with a linen from J0Ann (same linen as this Geranium, actually) that I’ve had for awhile, and a lovely muted yellow double gauze from Pink Castle Fabrics here in Ann Arbor. I think it’s Lecien? Not sure…

made by rae gemma tank

I love how linen is both crisp and flowy. It does have the tendency to wrinkle and crease, but it’s comfy and lightweight. Jess had already stuffed this tank into her suitcase before I got a chance to take photos, so she pulled it out and gave it a quick press before snapping these. It hardly seems worth it to fully iron linen, though. Embrace the wrinkle!

made by rae gemma tank

made by rae gemma tank

made by rae gemma tank

It’s been great to see your Gemma tanks popping up all over the place online!!  You can share your photos in my photo pool, on Instagram (use the #gemmatank tag so others can find it) and on Facebook (hey did you know there’s a new Made by Rae Facebook group? Request a join to share photos and get ideas and advice from the rest of the group!).

Posted in gemma


I love Mondays so much!!! Monday is a fresh start, with a brand new set of days stretched out before you that are going to be really awesome. I don’t get the “I hate Mondays” thing. Personally, I like Mondays even more than weekends. Isn’t that crazy? Yay for crazy! UPDATE: Now it’s Tuesday because I didn’t get this posted yesterday because I got distracted, big surprise there (I like Tuesdays slightly less than Tuesday, Monday has usually disappointed me a bit).

Jess in studio

Last week was really busy and fun because Jess (there she is, above!) came to Ann Arbor to work with me at the studio, so I worked more than usual. 2.5 days is about my usual. Jess and I did lots of sewing, worked on a new pattern, and took lots of photos. We had a sewing night on Wednesday at the studio that was jam packed and totally fun. Mr. Rae ended up being out of town again so I was also pretty exhausted from also keeping three children fed and clothed, so I didn’t really find any time to post on the blog (oops…still need to figure out that whole “editorial calendar” concept…or not…whatever), but I’m really excited to show you all of the things we worked on!

And then, the weekend…Jess flew home on Friday. We dropped Elliot off at camp for a WEEK (ack!! we miss him!). We drove to West Michigan to hang out with my in-laws. We went to the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids for lunch one day. We swam in the pool (except for Hugo, who still won’t get more than his feet wet). Mr Rae and I had a date night. We went out to the lake to see a sunset. We went to a birthday party for my niece. And then we drove home. I probably need to relax a little or something. Sometimes I feel like life is pretty crazy. But at least it’s not boring, right?

Here’s some other random stuff and linkadoos for you to enjoy today:

Thank you to everyone who has purchased my newest pattern, Gemma!! I’m thrilled so many of you love it! I’m excited to post some tutorials for Gemma techniques, tips for fitting Gemma, and some ideas for variations soon.

Posted in updates