Reported by Susie Ziegler
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I’ve enjoyed the ease of using packaged binding on my embroidered tea towels and baby blankets, but it occurred to me that it would be fun to make binding out of my own fabric collection using a bias tape maker. I had another brand of this tool and my experience with that one was mixed so I decided to seek out a Clover brand bias tape maker after seeing several tutorials on the internet using this brand of tool. I wanted to see if it is as easy as it looks to make bias tape.
First however, I had to find a Clover brand bias tape maker. They come in 5 sizes: 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch, and 2 inches. The tiny 1/4 inch is suitable for applique and stained glass quilts. I wanted the wide one inch kind to make a wide folded over binding for a tea towel. Craft stores carried the other small sizes, but not the one I wanted. Eventually I ordered one online and got a second 1/2 inch tape maker just in case.
It so happens that since I was going to bind a tea towel with straight edges, I decided not to use fabric strips cut on the stretchy diagonal bias. Instead I thought the jelly roll fabrics given to me by my children as a Mother’s Day gift would make great binding. (Those sweet kids knew just what I wanted!) Jelly roll strips are 2 1/2 inches wide, cut across the width of fabric selvage to selvage and are carried at many specialty quilt and fabric stores.
I can say confidently that the packaging of the tape maker I found pretty much summarizes the process. Except… how wide do my initial fabric strips have to be? The answer is on a tiny chart on the paper insert tucked inside the package For one-inch tape, you need a cotton strip 1 7/8 inches wide. Okay, I might not remember that exact measurement the next time I need to use this tool, so I guess I better not lose this important little slip of paper:
To get that sort of precise cut I need my rotary cutter, self healing mat, and clear plastic ruler. 1 7/8 would be kind of hard to do with scissors and a pencil or chalk line.
And I’ll need to sew 2 strips together to get one long strip that will go all the way around my tea towel.
Now it’s time to thread the strip into the magic gadget. The advantage of this Clover brand tool is that it has that plastic guide to keep the fabric from slipping and sliding. The disadvantage is that it was hard to get the fabric threaded inside there.
I re-cut the fabric so that it had an angled edge and it went right through. Crafty readers, don’t iron the strip the way I photographed it here. Use the side of the iron instead. Ironing it this way separates the folds a bit so that the tape will be wider than it should be. Use the handy handle to keep from burning your hands as you guide the fabric through. The package directions should have stated that, but I noticed pretty quickly to switch the position of my iron.
It wasn’t necessary to stretch or pull the fabric. I just needed to go slowly enough to get the fabric nicely creased. It worked like a charm! None of the slipping and uneven fold overs I experienced with my last bias tape maker. If I wanted to make yards and yards of this stuff it would only take minutes once I got the strip trimmed to the correct width.
When the tape was done, it sure looked like it was a consistent one inch but I thought I should check. It turns out that it varies from a scant one inch and up to 1/8 inch less in other places. Not totally accurate, unfortunately. I don’t think the naked eye can see the difference, but still…
Next I sewed just inside the folded seam to the edge of my tea towel fabric:
And I folded it over and stitched it down on the opposite front side of the fabric, mitering at the corners:
Now my plain white towel has a cute apple green custom binding! It’s ready for some embroidery too, I’ll have to get to that this summer.
- Color coded plastic readily identifies the size of each tape maker
- Plastic guides fabric easily without slipping and catching
- Size is engraved on the metal of the tape maker
- Super fast and easy to use. Making fabric tape using this method is more economical than buying prepackaged bias tape. It is also much easier than burning my fingertips next to the iron and doing this by hand.
- Difficult to find all sizes in stores
- Size is engraved in millimeters not inches. I know… this is not a problem for many of our readers!
- I have to save the instructions so that in the future I’ll know how wide to cut my fabric strips
- Finished tape is only close to but not precisely the correct size
Prices range from about $6 to $12 for these tape makers depending on the size. Each size is color coded for easier identification. I can’t imagine that this gadget will wear out in my lifetime, so I think that is a good value.
Available online at Amazon and other fabric notion outlets. Often regular craft and fabric stores carry these, but the selection varies widely.
I hope to make tons of little bound napkins and towels with my Clover bias tape maker. I’m absolutely going to ditch the other crummy one I tried before discovering Clover. Let us know what other fun things we can embellish with bias tape!
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