Monday, 29 March 2010

Bias binding difficulties - Design Wall Monday

Sheesh! The trouble I've had.... It's all looking good now, but it took a month!  How hard can it be to bind 3 pieces of cloth?  This week it's the design ironing board as the handsewn paper pieced stars from last week are still up on the wall being looked at, and everything else is still in the In Progress Box, still at least I've got somewhere on this one!

It all started in early March when I went to see friends living in a converted barn and a gorgeous Jack Russell in deepest darkest rural Kent.  They've spent a lot of money on furniture & refurbishment, including recovering a chesterfield sofa in cream fabric woven with poppies that cost £40 per metre (how much!!!).  They'd been using the 3 leftover pieces to protect the sofa from the dog who likes running along the back, but these had got very grubby as boys being boys, they don't sew, the fabric frays horribly and so they'd not been able to wash them.  Being a firm believer in my ability to do anything I set my mind to (eventually) I offered to do some sort of hem.  I thought it would be good practice ahead of putting together my Block Lotto winnings and scary liberated log cabin (see previous posts) into quilts and my prototype textile products into production and selling them online/ at craft fairs.

A stright turned over hem, of course, would look really nasty on fabric that thick, so I decided to bind it.  I've got lots of bias binding at home, but went to look in a few shops and finally settled on the 1/2" wide chocolate brown commercial bias binding I already possessed as I couldn't find a cream one that matched the background.  The boys approved the colour choice. 

So I did the binding using the usual method of ironing out one edge, sewing it to the front right sides together, then turning over and carefully pinning the back, then sewing on the front not in the ditch as the fabric's quite thick and there wasn't space, but on the front of the binding itself to ensure it all caught.  Checked it, washed it, and howled in frustration as there were about 10 areas that had come adrift because the fabric really really frays ridiculously easy.

Sigh.  I cut it all off, stay stitched the edges this time and rebound it again using same method as before, checked it had all caught and washed it.  And howled louder and longer, as each of the three pieces had come adrift in at least one area.

Double sigh.  I had a look on the net, and decided to go foraging for a binding foot.  Bernina sell two sorts, one an industrial quality one that they make to order for around £200 (huh!) and another domestic funnel type one they sell with an adapter shank for around £30.  So I walked down the High Street to my local sewing machine shop.  Who confirmed that it's not a good idea to buy an industrial foot off the net that claims to work with my machine, but sold me a domestic funnely type one with adapter shank for £19.  Marvellous.

I had a little play on scrap fabric to make sure I understood how to use it, and failed, so went on the net to find out because it wasn't as easy as I hoped (I found this site by a guy who makes kites with all sorts of useful info on Seams of different sorts), and eventually worked out that you
  • don't need to iron your commercially ready folded binding out flat, in fact if you do, for some reason it won't always fold it down nicely and you'll have missed bits.  So first question - how do I get the funnel foot to operate well with unfolded tape?  Does it have to never have been folded in the first place?
  • need to hold the top edge of the tape right up at the highest point of the funnel, but even then with the foot/funnel angle adjusted as far as it can go one way or the other or in the middle, I didn't seem to be able to get the sewing line as close to the inner edge of the binding as I'd hoped.  Second question - do I need to hold the tape a bit lower down the funnel?
  • can't do a neat folded over finish using the binding foot, you have to finish using a normal foot. Third question - how on earth does one get a neat finish?  Pics of my finishes below - not neat but best I could do....

This one is a bit parlous, the staystitching is showing underneath, but seems to be holding...  If it doesn't last, I'll handstitch an extra bit of binding over it later for them.
This one's better, but a bit lumpy.

And my binding foot looks like this...

All help and tips gratefully received!

I've bought two job lots of 1" bias binding, one ready folded, one not, and whilst I anticipate being able to successfully bind those sizes without using the foot, I'll need to use the foot for thinner binding, and I really need to know how as I'm not getting very far with just practising!

Check out what everyone else is doing (hopefully with fewer difficulties than me) at Judy's Patchwork Times


  1. Holy moley! Can't help you at all with this one, but it made me hurt just reading about all you have gone through!

    Hope you get the tips you need!


  2. I've never seen a foot like that!

  3. Two suggestions:

    1. Use a seam stabilizer (like this one at and sew it on or over the edge before applying the bias binding. That would support or encase the ravely edges and hopefully reinforce the edge to better hold the binding. Even better use a fusible stabilizer like this one ( and apply it under (and at the same time as) the first seam of the binding. The glue of the fusible will help hold the ravely edges together as well as reinforce the binding. Finish the binding as normally done.

    2. Do you have a serger machine? If so try serging the edge first before applying the binding. If not the same thing can be done with a tight zigzag stitch with the "zag" going over the edge of the fabric. Even better: serge/zigzag it with the above mentioned non-fusible stabilizer (if using a serger, disengage your cutting blade for this one). This will again strengthen and finish the edge and then you can encase it with the binding for a neat look.

    Hope this might be of help!


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