Secrets to Successful Sewing on the Bias

When you cut a piece of fabric against the grain, you create a bias. The cut is done at a 45-degree angle most of the time, although it may be done at pretty much any angle.

It is incredible how many different suggestions and short cuts there are for the many processes involved in the production of a quilt. But perhaps we shouldn’t be finding it so astonishing.

After all, the majority of quilters exhibit a high degree of ingenuity and resourcefulness. And despite the fact that they might have the advantage of having someone show them a technique, we are still continually looking for a better solution – one that would save us time or enable us to make a quilt that is more flawless.

Whether you are a beginning quilter or an intermediate or advanced quilter, sewing bias edges can be challenging.

It’s always a challenge for me. I can’t even begin to count the number of seams I have ripped out because when I got to the end of the strip, either the bias strip was longer than the straight edge strip or the whole piece was longer than the rest of the quilt I was going to sew it on to. Akkk!

Then, every time I rip, it stretches even more.

Oh, what to do? So, I started collecting tips, and thought I’d share a few with you:

  • A few years ago, a friend of mine told me that if you sew a straight running stitch on the bias edges BEFORE you do any piecing, it would prevent the bias sides from stretching. I tried it, and it was pretty slick. But I’m pretty lazy and cheap, and all of that extra sewing and thread didn’t seem worth it. After all, it wasn’t EVERY seam that got messed up!
  • When I have just a few small pieces, I do a lot of pinning – so I don’t need to do all of that extra stitching. I pin each end, and several places along the side, lining up the center and all parts between. Then when I sew, I watch pretty carefully and gently pull and line up the fabric between the pins. That method seems to help keep the bias from stretching too much, and making puckers.
  • Just the other day, I ran across another possibility. A quilter in Missouri said that she places the bias fabric on the bottom when she sews, next to the feed dogs. The feed dogs help pull the fabric in and keep it even. I haven’t had a chance to try that one yet, but it sounds pretty good.

Then, I got interested in finding all the different ways to keep bias fabric ‘in line,’ and sure enough, I ran across one more. Freezer paper. Yup, the freezer paper we all use (or at least used to) to wrap meat and other food items in before we pop them into the freezer.

I don’t know about you, but quilting is the only reason I have freezer paper in my house. I love it when I can buy quilting stuff at the grocery store. Somehow the expense doesn’t get revealed as a quilting expenditure when it’s mixed in with all of the groceries.

Freezer paper can help keep your bias fabric in line.

In any case, this quilter irons freezer paper on her bias pieces (especially easy if you are using freezer paper as a template for cutting your fabric) and sews the pieces together through the freezer paper.

Works for me. I have actually done that with appliqué pieces, and it didn’t really occur to me to do it with bias cuts. But I’m sure that would be cool. Then after the pieces (or strips) are sewn together, just rip the freezer paper off and throw it away. (It’s really good for only one time use anyway.)

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