Trace and Make: Shorts Pattern

I’ve taught a number of trace and make classes over the years, including my Trace and Make Tee and Leggings class for kids over on Creativebug, so I think it’s a pretty useful thing to know how to do. Tracing existing garments to create a pattern really helps you understand the architecture of garments, how clothes are built. It’s also handy when you want a pattern for something but can’t find the right one, or have a well-fitting garment you want to replicate.

In this post, I’ll show you how to make a simple shorts pattern — just one pattern piece — from an existing pair of shorts. You can also use this method for other types of garments, and since it’s based on something that already fits, there’s no guessing on the size you need.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

There are a few caveats to tracing clothes to make patterns that I’d like to mention before we start. First, be aware of the ethical pitfalls: don’t use a traced pattern to create a pattern or product you intend to sell. That is using someone else’s work for profit, and unless you have permission to do this, it’s not OK. Do the work, my dudes. I’ve traced and recreated plenty of garments over the years for myself or my kids, but when I create new patterns to sell, I don’t use tracings; I draft new patterns from scratch or base them on my own existing blocks. Also, be aware that the “it’s OK to trace as long as it is for personal use” philosophy may still be viewed by some as too lax; there are some who believe that tracing is under NO circumstances acceptable.

Another thing: tracing is fairly time-consuming and detailed work, requiring a fair amount of fiddling/adjustment, so if there’s already a sewing pattern for the thing you’re tracing, consider supporting the artist who already put time into creating that pattern for you. Tracing is great, but it’s not perfect; sometimes a sewing pattern that’s been tested is even better.

Since I first posted this tutorial (as part of the upcycle men’s shirts into kid shorts tutorial, Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree Shorts), I created the Parsley Pants sewing pattern for kids, along with an easy tutorial for making Parsley shorts, so you might want to give that one a try if you’re in market for a simple pants/shorts pattern!

OK, let’s get started!

Tools you’ll need:
clear quilter’s ruler
white butcher paper or large-sheet packing paper
marker

Step 1: Find a pair of shorts
Find a pair of shorts that fit your child. The shorts should have elastic either halfway or all the way around the waist. Flat-front shorts with elastic in the back are fine.

Step 2: Trace the back of the shorts
Fold the shorts in half down the center so that the back side of the shorts is facing out. Place the shorts on a large piece of butcher or packing paper, and overlap the halves of the shorts as evenly as possible, lining up edges carefully and flattening the shorts as best you can. Take a marker and trace as closely around the bottom, inseam, crotch curves, and top edge of the shorts as possible.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Stretch out the elastic as much as you can to get the true shape of the shorts along the top, and make marks at the side so you’ll know where to place the shorts on the paper when you trace the other side.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Step 3: Trace the front of the shorts
Now fold the shorts down the center so that the front side is facing out. Line the sides of the shorts up with the marks you just made. Repeat the tracing steps for the back.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Step 4: Check that the pattern is wide enough at the waist
Before we move on, we’re going to do a little size-check. Measure across the top of the shorts, double that number, and make sure that it’s at least 2” bigger than the hip measurement of your child (measure with a flexible measuring tape around the widest part of their bum). If the waist width is too close to their hip measurement, it’s going to be a squeeze to pull it on, so if it’s too small, draw the pattern wider at the center front or center back until it’s large enough.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Example (above): I measured the waist edge on the pattern to be about 13” wide, so the finished shorts will measure twice that, or 26” around the waist before the elastic goes in. Since my son’s hip measurement is 24,” there will be 2” of extra room.

Step 5: Make sure the inseam is the same length on both front and back
The shorts have to match up along the inside of the leg (inseam), so measure that distance on both sides and make sure it’s the same. If it’s not, lengthen one of the sides to match the length of the other.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

When you’re finished you should have something similar to the outline below. The taller side is the back of the shorts.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Step 6. Add seam allowances to the pattern
Take your ruler and add ½” around the outside of the center and inseam edges of the pattern. Add 1 1/2” to the top for the waistband casing, then add 1″ or more for the hem allowance along the bottom edge.

Note: In this photo you don’t see the hem allowance along the bottom edge of the pattern. I originally created this pattern as part of my Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree shorts tutorial, which upcycles men’s shirts, so it uses the finished edges from the shirts for the hem. If you want to use this pattern to make additional pairs of shorts or you are using new fabric for this tutorial, definitely add at least 1” for hem allowance to the bottom of the pattern.

DIY trace and make shorts / made by rae

Now you’re finished making your pattern! You’re ready to cut out your fabric and sew some awesome shorts woot woot!!!

Want to see how to sew them together? Check out this post for a how-to:

HOW TO SEW SHORTS LINK

How to sew shorts

It’s summertime — hurrah!!! — and that means it’s shorts time. Shorts are fun and easy to sew, both for kids and grownups alike. When I stumbled across this little infographic I made a few years back for a different post, I thought it was worth a repost for those of you who might be interested in getting into the shorts sewing game!

To make shorts like these, you’ll need a shorts pattern (see pattern notes below), fabric, and some waistband elastic (I like 1″ wide for kid shorts; 1.25″ wide for adult shorts), as well as basic sewing supplies like a sewing machine, pins, scissors, and a safety pin.

how to sew shorts / made by rae

First, cut out two mirror-image pieces from your fabric using your shorts pattern — each piece will become the left and right sides. The pics below are from when I made a couple pairs of Parsley Shorts for Clementine a few years ago.

how to sew shorts

Step 1: First, you need to sew the center (“crotch”) seams, for both the front and back. This is done by placing the two pieces of the shorts together and sewing the front and back curved edges.

how to sew shorts / made by rae

Step 2: Sew the legs together: open up the pant, pin the center seams together, and sew up one leg and down the other. This seam is also called the “inseam.”

how to sew shorts / made by rae

Step 3: For basic pants or shorts, an elastic waistband can be made by folding and pressing the top edge 1/4″ towards the inside of the shorts, folding another 1-1.5″ down, and then stitching along the lower fold to form a casing for the elastic. Then you thread the elastic through the waistband, stitch the ends together, and close the hole. I always put a little piece of folded ribbon in the hole before I sew it shut so my kids can tell front from back when they’re getting dressed.

how to sew shorts / made by raehow to sew shorts / made by raehow to sew shorts / made by raehow to sew shorts / made by rae

Step 4: Hem the bottom of the shorts by folding and pressing 1/4″ twice towards the inside of the shorts and then stitching that second fold down. You can make a wider hem by folding 1/4″ and then 1,” or replace the 1″ with whatever width you want!

how to sew shorts / made by rae

how to sew shorts / made by rae

Pattern notes
To make shorts that are this quick and easy, it helps if you’re working with shorts that are made of just two pieces of fabric (so: a single pattern piece). Here a couple of options if you’re looking for a simple shorts pattern:

double gauze shorts

I made this cute pair of double gauze shorts for Hugo using the Parsley pattern and he loves them. They’re white, so they attract a lot of dirt, but the double gauze is soft and has held up surprisingly well over two summers.

PS. You might also like my Super Seams post, to make shorts that will last!

How to add a ruffle to the Gemma Tank

How to add a ruffle to the Gemma Tank

One of my favorite mods for the Gemma Tank has been adding a ruffle to the hem. It’s super easy to do, and it doesn’t even take any extra yardage!
How to add a ruffle to the Gemma Tank

Step 1: Crop the back bodice pattern
You’ll need to shorten the bodice and straighten the hem to add the ruffle. Measure 8″ down the side seam of your bodice pattern piece, beginning at the armhole, and draw a horizontal line perpendicular to Center Back at that spot. Discard the rest of the pattern or fold it up if you want to keep it intact. 8″ is my preferred crop length, but you may want to experiment. Every torso and body is different, and a slightly longer or shorter crop may look better on you!

Step 2. Crop the front bodice pattern
Repeat for the front bodice. VERY IMPORTANT: Remember to skip the dart when measuring along the front side seam!

Now cut out your front and back pieces using your modified pattern.

Step 3. Cut the ruffle pieces
Cut two rectangles out of your fabric for the ruffle. These should be about 10″ tall (again, you may want to experiment with this). The width will depend on your size. I like to use my waist measurement (if you want a nice even number, use the “waist” measurement from the size chart: look under “body measurements” and use the number under “waist” for your size). I like the proportion that this width lends to the ruffle, but if you want a fuller ruffle, you could also use the “hip” number for your size.

Step 4. Assemble the tank
Using the pattern instructions, sew the darts, shoulders, and side seams of the bodice and finish the armholes and neckline with bias binding.

Step 5. Assemble the ruffle
Next, sew the two ruffle rectangles together at the sides with a 1/2″ seam. Then add two lines of gathering stitches along the top of the ruffle, 3/8″ and 5/8″ away from the top edge. I use the longest stitch length and highest tension on my machine for gathering.

Step 6. Attach the ruffle to the tank
With right sides together, pin the ruffle to the tank, matching side seams and pulling on the gathering threads until the top of the ruffle is the same size as the bottom of the bodice. Distribute the ruffles evenly and pin like your life depends on it. No such thing as too many pins here!!! Then sew together with a 1/2″ seam, remove pins, and press seam toward bodice.

Step 7. Hem ruffle
Press under 1/4″ and then 3/4″ along bottom edge of ruffle (or desired amount — I like to try it on and mark the finished length I want before I do this). Press and pin around entire hem, then edgestitch to finish.

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

Voila! Finished ruffle tank!

Liberty Gemma Tank with ruffle

You can see more pics of this Gemma tank in action over at this post. All of the Gemma tutorials and mods can be found on the Gemma page, and you can buy the Gemma sewing pattern in my shop!

How to crop the Gemma tank

How to make a cropped Gemma Tank / made by rae sewing patterns

As promised, and just in time for some fun weekend sewing, here’s a tutorial to show you how to turn your Gemma tank into a cropped tank, as seen in Jess’ fantastically popular Cleo / Gemma outfit in this post. I’ve included an original Gemma tank in the pic above at right so you can see the difference between the original tank and the cropped version. If you need the pattern, you can buy it in my shop.

The best way to figure out how much to crop off the bottom of the pattern is to make an original Gemma (or at the very least, a muslin) first, so you can make sure you have the right size and bust size. Gemma comes with both an A/B and C/D front bodice piece for each of its nine women’s sizes. Once you’re happy you have the right size, you can use your pattern tracings to make new modified pattern pieces (Not sure how to trace a pattern? Check out this great tutorial where we show you how to trace a pattern!) . Try your Gemma on and determine how long you would like the cropped version to be.

You will need:

  • The Gemma tank sewing pattern, traced in your size
  • Straight edge and pencil (clear quilter’s ruler is helpful)
  • Additional Swedish tracing paper (see this post for sourcing STP)

How to crop the Gemma pattern

Step 1. Decide how long you want your cropped version to be
Try your Gemma (or Gemma muslin) on and determine how long you would like the cropped version to be. Measure down the side seam from the armpit to where you’d like your cropped hem to land. You may find it helpful to fold under the hem of your Gemma to visualize what it would look like cropped, mark this distance at the side seam with chalk, and then measure the distance.

Step 2. Draw the new hemline on your pattern
Measure this distance from the armpit along the side seam of the BACK BODICE pattern piece and make a mark. Then use your straight edge to draw a line perpendicular to the fold line (“finished hem,” shown in red). We measured down 7 1/2″ inches from the armpit for this version. This is quite short, so you may want to start with 8-1o inches instead just to be on the safe side, especially if you have a long torso. Remember that you can always trim it shorter, but you can’t add length once you’ve cut it.

Step 3. Add a hem allowance
Draw a cutting line parallel to the finished hem and label it “cut here.” The distance between your two lines will be your hem allowance. In this case, I added 2 1/2″ so that I could fold the bottom edge up 1/2″ first, and then another 2″ for a nice wide hem. A wider hem allowance also gives you a little more flexibility to try it on and get the length just right!  This will be where you cut your fabric when cutting your cropped tank (see tank in photo, left).

Step 4. Straighten the side seam along the hem allowance
Draw a vertical line between your two horizontal lines at the side seam. Cutting your fabric along this line will straighten the side seam and make it easier to fold up the hem allowance when you’re hemming the tank. Bonus points if you can get your line to mirror the angle above the hemline.

How to make a cropped Gemma

Note that both of your horizontal lines should hit the center of the pattern at 90 degrees; it helps to use a clear quilter’s ruler when drawing them to insure that this is the case.

How to make a cropped Gemma

Step 5. Transfer hem and cutting lines to front bodice
Now put your front and back bodice together, matching them up at the bottom and sides (not at the top! the front bodice has a dart that adds extra length to the side seam above the lines you drew), and transfer your lines to the front bodice just as you did for the back bodice.

How to make a cropped Gemma

And again, make sure they intersect center front at a 90 degree angle:

How to make a cropped Gemma

Step 6. Cut out your tank 
Now you’re ready to use your pattern pieces to cut out a front and a back from your fabric as shown in the instructions. I find it works well the first time to fold under the pattern piece at the “cut here” lines to try them out. Once you are happy that you’ve gotten the right cropped length, make a new tracing of the pattern with crop lines so that you can use that one for your cropped versions moving forward.

Step 7. Sew it together
You’ll sew the tank together as instructed in the pattern, but note that to hem this version of Gemma, you’ll fold and press 1/2″ and then another 2″ (or whatever hem allowance you chose) toward the wrong side along the bottom of the tank, and then stitch along the first fold.

I can’t wait to see your cropped Gemma tanks! Please use the #gemmatank and #raemademedoit tags on social media to share your creations. Happy sewing, everyone!

Staystitching is Important

staystitching

Attention, everyone, this is a sewing PSA. Staystitching is a garment-sewing technique that is really important. I am sharing this with you because when I started sewing, many years ago, I did not know what staystitching was, but even if I had, I probably would have skipped it. Now that I am older and wiser, I want to share this nugget of wisdom with you.

If you’ve ever sewn one of my women’s patterns (specifically for woven fabrics, such as Ruby, Beatrix, or Gemma), you may have noticed a step that instructs you to staystitch, followed by the words “IMPORTANT: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.” I’m guessing most people ignore this, mostly because if I didn’t know better, I probably would.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom taught me how to sew, but knowing how stubborn and headstrong I was as a child,* I doubt once she communicated the fundamentals to me that I spent much time listening to any further details. Details like: be careful about skipping steps that might initially seem unnecessary, because you may regret it.

In addition, my younger sister Elli took a 4-H sewing class from a very strict and anal retentive seamstress, and her experience left a strong impression on me. I remember the jumper she was working on taking her the better part of a year to complete, which seemed like utter torture to me. It made sewing seem so un-fun. As a result, I took an alternate approach with a more carefree sewing attitude: skip all but the most essential steps, and see what happens. In some cases, I discovered it didn’t really matter that much (three rows of gathering stitches vs. two or even in some cases — GASP — ONE.), but in other cases, I’ve discovered that taking a little extra time to add a seam finish or in this case, staystitch, can make a big difference.

*I can picture my mom thinking, “Just as a child…?” as she reads this.

So…what IS staystitching?
Staystitching is a line of stitching added to the edge of a piece of fabric (often along a curved edge such as a neckline or an armhole, but not always) that stabilizes the fabric so that it won’t stretch out while it’s being sewn. Additionally, if you’re making a piece of clothing, staystitching prevents the edges from stretching out if you try it on to check fit. The staystitching lines in the photo below are around the armholes and neckline of my chambray Gemma tank.

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How and when do you staystitch?
To staystitch an edge, sew along the edge of the fabric, about 1/8″ away from the edge, using a normal straight stitch. Earlier patterns of mine said “using a regular length or slightly shorter than normal length stitch,” but I’ve since decided that a shorter stitch actually stretches out the fabric too much, so I now recommend a regular length stitch such as 2.5-3 mm.

As for when to staystitch, I think there are two schools of thought. The stricter approach is to staystitch edges after you cut out your fabric pieces, but before you do any sewing. I feel this is only necessary when sewing with a really unstable or slippery fabric. The other approach, which I prefer, is to staystitch any curved edges such as necklines or armholes after shoulder or side seams are sewn, but before facings or bindings or sleeves are attached. I take this more moderate/less strict approach because in most cases, woven fabrics are stable enough to sew some of the seams before staystitching without stretching out the garment significantly. Additionally, staystitching goes much faster when you can do a whole armhole in one go, instead of, say, having to staystitch the front armhole separately from the back armhole due to the shoulder seams having not yet been sewn.

That said, I can appreciate that some sewists would disagree and say that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I almost always favor the quick and easy sew, as long as it doesn’t sacrifice good construction technique.

I’ve probably utterly confused some of you, and if that’s the case, my recommendation would be just to try staystitching the next time you sew a piece of clothing. It definitely make more sense if you’ve got the garment in front of you, to be sure.

So, what say ye? Are you a Die-hard Staystitch-er? Or do you play it fast and loose and skip it? Have I convinced anyone to change your short-cutting ways?

Bias Binding Tutorials

bias binding tutorials

There are lots of ways to sew a bias binding to finish a garment, so I’ve put together a series of tutorials to walk you through three of my favorite options! You’ll see these demonstrated on my Gemma sewing pattern, but you can use these techniques for any necklines, armholes, or hems that you please! Click on the photos below for each tutorial.

bias binding traditional

bias binding topstitch

bias binding tutorial, french method - Made by Rae blog

And here’s a bonus if you need some hints for making your own bias binding:

how to make bias binding

(click for the tutorial)

http://www.made-by-rae.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/bias-binding-tutorials-made-by-rae.png
bias binding tutorials | made by rae blog

Bias Binding Tutorial (french method)

bias binding french

This is the third and final tutorial in my bias binding series. Many of my women’s sewing patterns, including the Gemma tank shown in this post, use bias binding to finish the neckline and armholes. There are so many ways to attach bias binding! Here are the methods I have shared so far:

  • Traditional Method – my preferred technique and found in the sewing instructions for Gemma, Ruby, and Josephine
  • Topstitch Method – another great technique, easier than traditional, and the reverse of traditional

This third tutorial will show you another fantastic bias binding technique called the “french method,” which creates a lovely invisible finish. This involves folding the bias binding in half, attaching it to the outside of the garment, flipping it completely to the inside, and stitching it down from the inside. This method is wonderful because you won’t see the binding at all when it’s finished, which can look very sharp and professional!

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

Before you begin:
Since this method involves folding the seam allowance and bias binding all the way to the inside of the garment, the armholes and neckline will end up 1/4″ wider, and the shoulders 1/2″ narrower than they would using the other binding methods. If you’re ok with those changes, proceed to Step 1. If you’d rather preserve the same proportions, add 1/4″ seam allowance to your pattern pieces along all the neck and armhole lines. Do this by marking dots 1/4″ away from the pattern piece edges, then connecting the dots to make a new cutting line. This is shown in red on the front and back pattern pieces of Gemma here:

add seam allowance

Step 1. Press binding in half lengthwise
Using your iron, press the bias binding in half lengthwise with wrong sides facing.

Step 2. Make sure you have enough
Place binding loosely around the neckline and armholes before pinning. Since the binding will not be visible from the outside, it is not essential to make sure the seams in the binding are strategically placed.

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. Pin binding to neckline/armhole.
Instead of overlapping the ends of the bias binding as in the other tutorials, I’m going to show you how to sew the two ends of the bias binding together before sewing it to the neckline. This results in an even smoother finish. With garment right side out, pin binding to neckline with raw edges aligned. Begin 1/2″ before one shoulder seam.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Pin all the way around, and allow the end of the bias binding to extend past the starting shoulder seam. With chalk or disappearing fabric marker, mark both ends of the bias binding at the shoulder seam line.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Trim the end of the bias binding 1/2″ past the shoulder seam. If necessary, remove the pins on either side of the shoulder seam. Unfold the ends of the bias binding and pin them with right sides together and seam marks facing.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Stitch the two ends together with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Open up the seam you just made and finger press to smooth.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Fold the binding back in half and pin to neckline. See how the seam lines right up with the shoulder?

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 5. Press in place
It helps to give your bindings a quick press after pinning to encourage them to curve along the neck or armhole opening.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 6. Sew!
Sew the binding to the neckline 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″.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Continue sewing around the entire neckline or armhole.

made by rae french binding

Step 7. Press binding to inside of garment.
Press binding up, away from garment (not shown). Flip binding all the way to the inside of the garment and press, allowing the the outer fabric to roll slightly to the inside for a nice clean look. With the 1.25″-wide bias tape folded in half as shown, the binding should be sufficiently wide to cover the seam allowance. If you’re using narrower bias tape, or have trouble hiding the seam allowance, you may need to grade the seam allowances to 1/8″ before pressing.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 8. Pin binding to inside of garment
Turn the garment inside out and pin the binding all the way around. If you’d like to add a tag to the back of your neckline, now is the time to pin it into place.

Tip: Pin with the pins pointing clockwise; this will make it easy to pull them out as you sew!

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

Step 9. Edgestitch
Stitching from the inside of the garment and removing the pins carefully as you sew, sew along the folded edge of the binding.

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

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

Made By Rae | French Binding Tutorial

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.

made by rae | french bias binding

Want to see another example of this method in action? Check out Jess’ Rayon Gemma top; it looks amazing!

bias binding tutorials made by rae

Bias Binding Tutorial (topstitch method)

bias binding topstitch

This is the second tutorial in my bias binding series. Many of my women’s sewing patterns, including the Gemma tank shown in this post, use bias binding to finish the neckline and armholes. There are so many ways to attach bias binding, so I thought it would be great to share a few of my favorites! The first tutorial outlined my preferred technique, the “traditional method,” which is used in the sewing pattern instructions for Gemma, Ruby, and Josephine.

This second method I’m calling the “topstitch method,” and it involves attaching the bias to the inside of the garment, flipping it to the outside, and topstitching along the folded edge to finish it (so basically the reverse of the traditional method). This method is great because it’s a bit easier than the traditional method, so it’s nice if you’re a beginner just learning to sew with bias. You have more control over your folded edge as you sew it down because it’s on top, so you don’t have to worry whether you’ve managed the catch the edge of the binding on the inside or not.

So why isn’t this one my favorite? I have a few reasons: I don’t love that the stitches are visible (just a personal preference), I find it a bit harder to get this one to look smooth (with careful pinning and pressing, though, this is hardly noticeable), and I just love how the traditional method looks with rayon and lightweight fabrics. But don’t worry, this one is still great!! Many people prefer this one, and you may too!

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.

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

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. Turn your garment inside-out, and place the folded end of the binding at one of the shoulder seams. Make sure the right side of the binding is facing the wrong side of the garment. 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.

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Step 5. Sew!
Keeping the edge of the garment lined up with the edge of the bias binding, sew them 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.

Note: if you’d like to add a tag to the back of a neckline, you need to put it in now (not pictured)! Pin it in place before you start sewing, then remove the pin and sew it to the neckline along with the binding when you get to it.

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Continue sewing around the entire neckline or armhole.

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

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

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Step 7. Press binding away from garment
Press the binding and seam allowances upward, away from the garment. Be careful not to un-press 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.

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Step 8. Pin binding to outside of garment
Turn the garment right side out and fold the binding to the outside of the garment so that it just covers the seam you just sewed. Pin all the way around, and tuck the overlapped ends together at the shoulder to reduce bulk.

Tip: Pin with the pins pointing clockwise when viewed from the outside; this will make it easy to pull them out as you sew!

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Step 9. Topstitch
Stitching from the outside of the garment and removing the pins carefully as you sew, sew along the folded edge of the binding. 

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

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

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

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 binding to make this method’s stitches blend in.

Bias Binding Tutorial | part 3

A note about those ends: In this case, the ends of the bias binding are simply overlapped and stitched down. In the next tutorial, I’ll show you how to join the ends before attaching the binding so you’ll get an even smoother finish. Ready to sew up a level? You can try it with this technique, too!

made by rae | topstitch bias binding

Want to see another example of this topstitch method in action? Check out Jess’s linen Gemma with yellow binding; it looks fantastic!

bias binding tutorials made by rae

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