What in the World is Bias Binding?

What in the World is Bias Binding?

 

Earlier this year, we made multiple mini tutorials about the binding technique and bias binding. They received such good feedback from our followers on social media that we decided to make longer, more in-depth tutorials on them.

What is Bias Binding?

Just in case you haven’t seen our mini tutorials on bias binding (or you just need a bit of a refresher), bias binding is a strip of fabric that is cut on what’s called the bias and is used to finish off raw edges. The bias on any woven fabric is at a 45-degree angle to the grainline. That 45-degree angle gives it a little bit of stretch even if you’re using fabric with no stretch to it, making it easier to maneuver than straight binding (binding that’s cut along the grainline).

Bias binding is often used on curved edges like armholes, although you can use it on pretty much any raw edge. You can make the binding decorative by having it show, or you can use it the same way that you would a facing by turning it under so that it’s hidden from view.


Table of Contents

If you want to skip to a specific step, and don't want to scroll through the whole blog post, simply click on any heading in the table of contents to go straight there.



Part 1: Introducing the Binding Technique

Want a little more guidance? You can watch the tutorial video on YouTube for a more visual reference:

Part 1: Video Tutorial

Materials Used:

  • Binding (strip of fabric cut along the grain)

  • Base fabric (fabric for binding)

  • Sewing pins

  • Fabric shears

  • Sewing machine

  • General-purpose presser foot/zigzag presser foot

  • Thread (100% spun polyester is recommended)

  • Iron

  • Ironing board

  • Seam ripper (in case you make a mistake)

  • Thread clippers (optional)

The binding method uses what’s called straight binding to finish a raw edge while also adding a decorative effect. When it’s finished, it looks a lot like a narrow cuff. How do you achieve that? Simple! You take a strip of fabric (either in the same color as your garment or in a contrasting color) and sandwich the raw edge between it. You can sew the binding on with topstitching for more decoration or stitch in the ditch for a seamless look.

Although there are a ton of applications for binding, some common uses of this method are:

  • Finishing off the armholes of sleeveless shirts,

  • On the bottom edges of pants or shorts as a faux cuff, and

  • On baby blankets as a soft silky trim.

For this tutorial, we decided to go with binding that will be 1/2" wide when it's finished. This is to make it easier for you to see everything clearly in the photos and videos. We also used a contrasting color fabric for the binding and finished it off with topstitching using the same color thread.

Straight binding on a piece of fabric.

Straight binding on a piece of fabric.

First, you want to take the strip of binding and place it on the base fabric. Make sure that the right sides (the side of the fabric that will be seen after you’re done sewing) are facing each other and that the raw edges match. Then pin the two layers together.

The base fabric (blue) and the straight binding (yellow).

The base fabric (blue) and the straight binding (yellow).

Place the binding onto the base fabric, right side to right side.

Place the binding onto the base fabric, right side to right side.

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Pin the binding to the base fabric.

Pin the binding to the base fabric.

Next, sew the two pieces together using whatever seam allowance you want. Note that whatever seam allowance you choose to use will also be the width of the binding when you finish. Since our binding will be 1/2" wide at the end, we’re sewing at 1/2" seam allowance.

Sew the binding at 1/2" seam allowance.

Sew the binding at 1/2" seam allowance.

After you remove the pins, fold the binding at the seam, facing towards the raw edges of the seam allowance, and iron it down.

Fold the binding at the seam towards the seam allowance.

Fold the binding at the seam towards the seam allowance.

Iron the seam flat.

Iron the seam flat.

Turn the fabric over and fold the visible part of the binding in half so that the unsewn edge of the binding and the raw edge of the seam allowance match. Then, iron the fold to form a crease.

Fold the unsewn edge of the binding to the raw edge of the seam allowance.

Fold the unsewn edge of the binding to the raw edge of the seam allowance.

Iron the fold to make a crease.

Iron the fold to make a crease.

The binding after you’ve ironed in the crease.

The binding after you’ve ironed in the crease.

Fold the binding in half again so that it encases all raw edges of the seam allowance. The crease that you ironed into the binding should line up exactly with the seamline.

Fold the binding in half again.

Fold the binding in half again.

Use the seamline as a guide.

Use the seamline as a guide.

Finally, pin the binding in place. Use as many pins as you need and place them however you feel most comfortable.

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Pin the binding in place.

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After you finish pinning, sew the binding down. You can stitch in the ditch (sewing directly in the seam) if you want that seamless look or edgestitch (sewing as close to the edge of the seam as possible) for some nice topstitching.

If you placed the pins parallel to the seamline, be sure to pull each pin out while you sew, removing them just before you get to the presser foot. This is because the pin heads won’t fit underneath the sewing machine’s presser foot. Even if they do, there’s a really good chance that they’ll get in the way of the sewing needle—and trust us when we say that you don’t want to know what happens when your sewing machine tries to sew through a pin head. (Hint: Things don’t end well for the pin, the needle, or your fabric.)

However, if you placed the pins perpendicular to the seamline, feel free to leave them in while you sew.

Edgestitching (sew next to the seam) vs stitching in the ditch (hiding the stitches inside the seam).

Edgestitching (sew next to the seam) vs stitching in the ditch (hiding the stitches inside the seam).

We chose to edgestitch, but which method you use is entirely up to you.

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Lastly, iron the binding, and you’re done! And that is the binding technique!

Iron the binding one last time.

Iron the binding one last time.

The binding encases the raw edges of the seam allowance.

The binding encases the raw edges of the seam allowance.

The finished product.

The finished product.

There’s topstitching because we edgestitched.

There’s topstitching because we edgestitched.


Part 2: Make Your Own Bias Binding

Want a little more guidance? You can watch the tutorial video on YouTube for a more visual reference:

Part 2: Video Tutorial

Materials Used:

  • Large square of fabric

  • Sewing pins

  • Ruler (clear beveled plastic ruler is recommended)

  • Something to mark the fabric (fabric marker/pencil/chalk)

  • Fabric shears

Now that we’ve covered the binding technique, let’s move on to bias binding. But first, we’re going to show how you can make bias binding yourself. Although some sewing supply stores offer bias binding you can buy, the color selection can be limited and the bias binding isn’t always made from the best fabric. Being able to make bias binding yourself, however, makes available an array of colors and fabric that you can use.

The easiest way to make bias binding and not waste too much fabric is by folding a corner of the fabric diagonal to the selvage and then cutting multiple strips starting at that fold. Not quite sure you understand what we mean? Read on to find out in more detail!

Lay your fabric out flat.

Lay your fabric out flat.

Fold one corner diagonally to create a right triangle.

Fold one corner diagonally to create a right triangle.

Before you start marking the fabric, you need to decide how wide you need your bias binding to be. Yes, this requires some math. But we promise it’s very simple.

For example, say you want your bias binding to be 3/4" in width after you’ve sewn it on. This means you need to add another 3/4" to take into account seam allowance, since the seam allowance you use to sew on the bias binding will also be how wide the binding will be at the end. 3/4" + 3/4" gives you a 1 1/2" of fabric.

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But wait! You also need to account for both sides of the binding! So, you need to double that 1 1/2" to get 3” total.

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Since our bias binding will be 1/2" wide when we’re finished sewing it, we’re going to make strips that are 2” wide.

Now that we’ve got the math over with, it’s time to mark your fabric. Start at the fold and use your ruler to draw parallel lines the width you need for your bias binding. The only exception, though, is the very first line you draw.

When you mark a pattern on the fold, you only want to measure half its width because of all the fabric that’s on the other side of the fold. Otherwise, your strip will come out twice its intended width (i.e., 1” on the fold turns into 2” when you unfold it).

Use your ruler to mark parallel lines for your bias binding.

Use your ruler to mark parallel lines for your bias binding.

The first line we drew at the fold is 1” wide vs the second line, which is 2”.

The first line we drew at the fold is 1” wide vs the second line, which is 2”.

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Pin the fabric in between the marked lines to ensure the layers of fabric don’t shift when you cut out the strips.

Pin the fabric in between the marked lines to ensure the layers of fabric don’t shift when you cut out the strips.

After you’re done marking your strips of bias binding, it’s time to cut them out.

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Separating the extra fabric and setting it aside makes it easier to cut out the strips of bias binding.

Cut out the strips and remove the pins only from the strip that’s folded in half.

Carefully cut out the strips of bias binding.

Carefully cut out the strips of bias binding.

Remove the pins from the folded strip.

Remove the pins from the folded strip.

We recommend trimming the edges of the bias binding. This makes it easier to work with the bias binding later, especially if you plan on sewing multiple strips together. The strips don’t have to be the same length, but they do have to be the same width and have square edges. Use your ruler to mark a straight line before trimming off the extra fabric.

Use your ruler to draw a straight line.

Use your ruler to draw a straight line.

Cut off the extra fabric with your fabric shears.

Cut off the extra fabric with your fabric shears.

Finally, remove the pins from the rest of the strips, separate the pieces, and you’re done! You just made your own custom bias binding.

The finished strips of bias binding.

The finished strips of bias binding.


Part 3: Sew Two Strips of Bias Binding Together

Want a little more guidance? You can watch the tutorial video on YouTube for a more visual reference:

Part 3: Video Tutorial

Materials Used:

  • Strips of bias binding

  • Ruler or a straight edge

  • Something to mark the fabric

  • Sewing pins

  • Fabric shears

  • Sewing machine

  • General-purpose presser foot/zigzag presser foot

  • Thread in the same color as the bias binding (100% spun polyester is recommended)

  • Iron

  • Ironing board

  • Seam ripper (in case you make a mistake)

  • Thread clippers (optional)

Another way to expand the possibilities for you to use bias binding is knowing how to sew multiple strips of it together. Making bias binding can require a lot of fabric. And even if you do find the right color and fabric, most of the time it’s sadly not in the amount you need.

Sewing shorter strips of bias binding together to make one giant piece isn’t hard or tedious at all. Plus, it has the added bonus of eliminating the need to use a ton of fabric! However, if you don’t know how to do it properly, the bias binding won’t lay right. That’s why, in this section, we’re going to show you how.

First, start with two strips of bias binding. Lay one strip on top of the other, one horizontally and the other vertically, so that they form a 90-degree angle.

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Overlap one end of each strip to form a 90-degree angle

Mark your seamline by drawing a line to connect corners A and B (see the picture below). This is where you’re going to sew the strips together. Then, pin the two pieces together along the that line.

Note how the little strip of fabric showing at the end of the horizontal strip makes it easier to see where B is. Point A is just the corner of the vertical strip of bias binding.

Draw a line connecting A and B to mark your seamline.

Draw a line connecting A and B to mark your seamline.

Pin along your seamline.

Pin along your seamline.

Sew along the line you marked.

Sew the pieces together.

Sew the pieces together.

Cut away any extra fabric. Be careful not to accidentally cut through any of the stitches at the corner!

Trim the extra fabric.

Trim the extra fabric.

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Mark 1/8” from the seam using your ruler.

Mark 1/8” from the seam using your ruler.

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Cut away the extra corner.

Cut away the extra corner.

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Leaving the extra corner of fabric vs trimming it.

Iron the seam open on both sides, and you’re finished! Now you have a single long strip of bias binding! You can also sew more strips together if you need a piece that’s even longer.

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Iron the seam open on both sides.

The finished, now single, long strip of bias binding.

The finished, now single, long strip of bias binding.


Part 4: Use Bias Binding to Finish a Raw Edge

Want a little more guidance? You can watch the tutorial video on YouTube for a more visual reference:

Part 4: Video Tutorial

Materials Used:

  • Strip of bias binding

  • Base fabric (fabric for binding)

  • Sewing pins

  • Fabric shears

  • Sewing machine

  • General-purpose presser foot/zigzag presser foot

  • Thread (100% spun polyester is recommended)

  • Iron

  • Ironing board

  • Seam ripper (in case you make a mistake)

  • Thread clippers (optional)

Because bias binding is cut on the bias, it’s much easier to work with than straight binding (binding that’s cut along the grainline). Fabric cut on a bias grainline is flexible; you can maneuver and manipulate the bias binding with ease. That flexibility allows it to stretch and move a lot better with the fabric, making it ideal for sewing along curves without puckering. And we’ve got great news for you: adding bias binding to a curve on a garment isn’t as tough as it sounds!

First, pin the bias binding to the base fabric along the raw edge, right side to right side.

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Pin the bias binding to the base fabric, right side to right side.

Bias binding has a little bit of stretch because it’s cut on the bias. This makes it especially good for curved seams because it shifts to match the curved edge. When you reach the end, trim away any excess bias binding.

Trim away the extra bias binding when you finish pinning.

Trim away the extra bias binding when you finish pinning.

Sew the bias binding to the base using whatever seam allowance you want. As we mentioned earlier, whatever seam allowance you choose to use will also be the width of the binding when you finish. Our binding will be 1/2" wide at the end, which is why we’re sewing at 1/2" seam allowance on the right side (the side that shows).

Sew the bias binding to the base at 1/2” seam allowance.

Sew the bias binding to the base at 1/2” seam allowance.

After you sew the two pieces together, fold the bias binding at the seam, towards the raw edge, and iron it flat.

Fold the bias binding at the seam and iron it flat.

Fold the bias binding at the seam and iron it flat.

The ironed bias binding.

The ironed bias binding.

Next, fold the bias binding again so that it encases the raw edge of the base fabric. Lightly iron the fold over the raw edge to form a crease, which will help the bias binding stay in place for the next step.

Fold the bias binding over the raw edge.

Fold the bias binding over the raw edge.

Lightly iron the fold to form a crease.

Lightly iron the fold to form a crease.

Fold the bias binding under itself so that it lines up exactly with the seamline and pin the bias binding in place.

Fold the bias binding underneath itself, using the seamline as a guide.

Fold the bias binding underneath itself, using the seamline as a guide.

Pin the bias binding in place as you go.

Pin the bias binding in place as you go.

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Lightly iron the pinned fabric.

Lightly iron the pinned fabric.

Turn the fabric over so that the pinned section is on the bottom and sew the bias binding down. Just like with straight binding (see Part 1), you can either edgestitch or stitch in the ditch. In this tutorial, we decided to edgestitch along the seamline. We even got a little creative and used blue thread on the top so that we would have some nice topstitching in a contrasting color.

Turn the fabric over and sew the bias binding down.

Turn the fabric over and sew the bias binding down.

Finally, iron one last time and you just finished off a raw edge using bias binding!

Iron one last time.

Iron one last time.

The finished project, with blue topstitching.

The finished project, with blue topstitching.

One last thing to note: If you look carefully at the finished project in the picture on the right (above), you can see how some of the blue base fabric shows through part of the yellow binding on the back (the part that’s folded up). That part normally won’t show on a garment. However, if, for any reason, you want a consistent color on both sides of the binding, simply add 50% of your seam allowance to the total width of the bias binding.

For example, we worked with bias binding that was 2” wide and sewed at a 1/2” seam allowance. All we would have needed to do was add an extra 1/4” to make our bias binding 2 1/4” wide.


Part 5: Bias Binding as a Facing

Want a little more guidance? You can watch the tutorial video on YouTube for a more visual reference:

Part 5: Video Tutorial

Materials Used:

  • Strip of bias binding

  • Base fabric (fabric for binding)

  • Sewing pins

  • Fabric shears

  • Sewing machine

  • General-purpose presser foot/zigzag presser foot

  • Thread (100% spun polyester is recommended)

  • Iron

  • Ironing board

  • Seam ripper (in case you make a mistake)

  • Thread clippers (optional)

At this point, we’ve already talked about the binding technique, as well as how to make and use bias binding. Now, it’s time to introduce another great part about bias binding—using it as a facing! Rather than folding the bias binding at the raw edge, you fold it under at the seam just like you would with a regular facing. This hides the bias binding inside the garment, allowing you to give it a nice, hemmed look (as opposed to it looking like a narrow cuff).

Also like with a regular facing, using bias binding as a facing is especially ideal when you want to finish off the raw edges of a curved opening (i.e., neckline, open armhole, or skirt/shorts/pants without a waistband) in a way that will stabilize the fabric and won’t shift around.

Similar to Part 4, pin the bias binding to the base fabric along the raw edge, right side to right side.

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Pin the bias binding to the base fabric.

Next, sew at 1/2" seam allowance. Remember that whatever seam allowance you choose to use will also be the width of the bias binding when you finish. We’re sewing at 1/2" seam allowance because we want our binding to be 1/2" wide at the end.

Sew at 1/2" seam allowance.

Sew at 1/2" seam allowance.

Now, fold the bias binding at the seam so that it lays towards the seam allowance and iron it down.

Fold the bias binding at the seam, towards the seam allowance.

Fold the bias binding at the seam, towards the seam allowance.

Iron the seam.

Iron the seam.

We chose to understitch along the seam allowance, just like we would with a regular facing. However, understitching isn’t necessary when using bias binding as a facing because you’re going to be encasing the raw edge and sewing everything down (unlike with a regular facing).

We understitched because we find doing so makes it a little easier to work with the fabric later, plus we also like the way it looks in the end.

We chose to understitch (left), although this is optional. On the right is a close-up angle from another example we did for understitching.

We chose to understitch (left), although this is optional. On the right is a close-up angle from another example we did for understitching.

Fold the binding to just below the seamline and lightly iron in a crease at the fold. If you understitched, you can also use the understitching as a guide.

The seamline is the row of stitches on the top. The understitching is on the bottom.

The seamline is the row of stitches on the top. The understitching is on the bottom.

Fold the bias finding to just below the seamline (or to the understitching).

Fold the bias finding to just below the seamline (or to the understitching).

Lightly iron in a crease at the fold.

Lightly iron in a crease at the fold.

Then, fold the bias binding over again at the seam, iron it in place, and pin.

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Fold the bias binding again at the seam and iron.

Pin the bias binding in place.

Pin the bias binding in place.

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After you’re finished pinning, sew the bias binding in place by edge stitching along the pinned edge. As always when it comes to edge stitching, the closer you can stitch to the edge, the better!

Sew the bias binding down by stitching along the pinned edge.

Sew the bias binding down by stitching along the pinned edge.

Finally, iron one last time, and you’re done!

Iron the finished project one last time.

Iron the finished project one last time.

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The finished bias binding as a facing! On the left is the top (the outside if this were a garment). On the right is the bottom (the inside) of the fabric.

Normally, when you use bias binding as a facing, you would want your bias binding and garment fabric to be the same color. However, we used yellow bias binding and thread in this tutorial to make it easier for you to see against the purple base fabric.

A normal facing (left) compared to bias binding as a facing (right).

A normal facing (left) compared to bias binding as a facing (right).


Part 6: Bias Binding as a Facing with a Slip Stitch

Want a little more guidance? You can watch the tutorial video on YouTube for a more visual reference:

Part 6: Video Tutorial

Materials used:

  • Strip of bias binding

  • Sewing pins

  • Fabric shears

  • Sewing machine

  • General-purpose presser foot/zigzag presser foot

  • Thread (100% spun polyester is recommended)

  • Hand sewing needle

  • Iron

  • Ironing board

  • Ruler (optional)

  • Something to mark the fabric (optional)

We just showed you how to use bias binding as a facing. But did you know that there’s a way you can sew it on so that there aren’t any stitches showing when you’re done? You do it by using what’s called a slip stitch, which is a stitch sewn by hand that literally gives your seam a seamless look.

Like with Parts 4 and 5, start by pinning the bias binding to the base fabric along the raw edge, right side to right side.

Pin the bias binding to the base fabric.

Pin the bias binding to the base fabric.

Next, sew at 1/2" seam allowance. As mentioned previously, keep in mind that the width of the binding when you finish is the same as the seam allowance you choose to use in this step. Since our binding will be 1/2" wide at the end, we’re sewing at 1/2" seam allowance.

Sew at 1/2" seam allowance.

Sew at 1/2" seam allowance.

Fold the bias binding at the seam so that it lays towards the seam allowance and iron it down.

Fold the bias binding at the seam, towards the seam allowance.

Fold the bias binding at the seam, towards the seam allowance.

Iron the seam flat.

Iron the seam flat.

Fold the bias binding over the raw edges of the seam allowance to just above the seamline (the stitches of the seamline should barely be visible).

Fold the bias binding over the raw edges of the seam allowance.

Fold the bias binding over the raw edges of the seam allowance.

The stitches of the seamline should barely be visible.

The stitches of the seamline should barely be visible.

Fold the bias binding over again at the seam and pin.

Fold the bias binding over at the seam.

Fold the bias binding over at the seam.

Fold the bias binding over at the seam.

Fold the bias binding over at the seam.

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For this part, use a hand sewing needle and a single thread tied off at the end. Start the stitch inside the fold of the binding, about 1/8” from the edge.

Position the needle inside the fold, about 1/8” from the opening.

Position the needle inside the fold, about 1/8” from the opening.

Use your needle to catch one or two threads from the fabric behind the fold (the blue fabric).

Catch one or two threads of the blue fabric with your needle.

Catch one or two threads of the blue fabric with your needle.

Re-enter the fold of the binding directly next to where you started and feed the needle through about 1/2".

Re-enter the fold of the binding with your needle.

Re-enter the fold of the binding with your needle.

We just chose to use 1/2" as the width of our stitches for demonstration purposes. But it’s entirely up to you how much spacing there is between the stitches. You just want to make sure the stitches aren’t so long that they don’t hold the bias binding flush against the base fabric.

Remember, it’s okay to mark the fabric at every 1/2" (or whatever stitch length you choose) if you need to. You can use chalk or even use the sewing pins as markers. If you’re new to hand sewing, sometimes it’s a little difficult to keep your stitches consistent.

Repeat this process until you reach the end.

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Continue sewing the slip stitch, removing the pins as you go.

Once you get to the end, tie a tight knot and clip off any extra thread.

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Tie off the thread when you reach the end.

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Tie multiple knots to ensure the thread doesn’t come undone later.

Tie multiple knots to ensure the thread doesn’t come undone later.

Always remember to clip your extra thread.

Always remember to clip your extra thread.

Although ironing is optional, we strongly recommend it because it helps set the thread and fabric in place. It also gives the binding a crisper appearance.

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Iron the finished project one last time and you’re done!

As you can see from the pictures, feeding the thread through the binding hides it from view, and the tiny stitches on the outside are nearly invisible.

The stitches are nearly invisible from the top (outside) of the finished project.

The stitches are nearly invisible from the top (outside) of the finished project.

You can see the bias binding on the bottom (the inside).

You can see the bias binding on the bottom (the inside).

Normally, you would want to use fabric, bias binding, and thread that are all the same color. We chose to use blue base fabric with yellow bias binding and thread to make it easier for you to follow along. With yellow thread on blue fabric, you can just barely see the stitches. But if you were to use blue bias binding and thread, though, the stitches would completely disappear.

And that’s how to sew bias binding as a facing using a slip stitch!

We hope this tutorial helped provide you with some new skills you can use for your next sewing project. Bias binding and the binding technique is so versatile—we especially love using bias binding on cosplays!

Have you ever used bias binding before? Did you give it a try after reading this tutorial? Or is there something else you’d like us to make a tutorial about in the future? Let us know!

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