Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Unfair Bias

If you stumbled upon this blog because of a search looking for political bias, boy are you in the wrong place.

I want to discuss a different bias. Actually I want to discuss the bias against bias edges. Fabric bias edges.

Several posts ago (pre-wedding festivities) I posted a photo of a small braided sample that I made for Timeless Treasures using their new batiks that will be introduced at Quilt Market.

I just completed the larger version with scrambled colors and a nice wide border. The smaller piece was shipped off to New York for photography. Almost everyone that has seen the projects has commented about the fact that the edges of the quilt are bias and that is going to scare people. Some of the people that made those comments don’t even sew! They just “know” that bias edges are “hard” to work with.

I think it is time to stamp out the bias against bias edges.

Those of you that are reading this most likely own, and are obviously capable of, operating a computer. If you can handle that, I feel pretty confident that you can manage a piece (or multiple pieces) of fabric cut on a 45 degree angle.

People believe that bias edges are “scary” or “hard” or “too difficult” because someone told you that they were. Or perhaps nobody has ever taken the time to explain or give you suggestions on how to deal with them so you may have had a bad experience.

Here are a few of my favorite tips:

1. Spray sizing is your friend. It doesn’t matter if you pre-wash or not, adding some spray sizing (I prefer to use Mary Ellen’s Best Press or sizing to starch) to your fabrics will help to keep them stable. I generously size my fabrics before I cut out the pieces.

2. Bias edges stretch. That is a fact. Act accordingly. Do your best to sew and press with minimal distortion. NEVER sew with one hand behind your machine. You’ve probably seen people do this, one hand in front guiding the fabric and the other around the back pulling the fabric through. Pulling = Stretching. Your machine knows how to sew, allow it to do its job. If you are having problems with seams that pucker, change your needle, buy a good quality thread and try again. If they still pucker, take your machine for service. A good cleaning and some minor adjustments may be all that are needed.

3. The same advice applies to pressing, press without pulling. A large, flat, not too soft pressing surface will help you to have crisp seams and more accurate piecing.

4. If you are not adding a border to your bias edge project, heed the advice of your High School Home Economics teacher and “stay-stitch”. Mark the cutting line along the edge of your quilt and run a line of basting stitches just inside that line before trimming the edge. The stitching will keep the edge from stretching while the piece is being quilted.

5. If you are adding a border to your quilt it is especially important to follow good border principles when dealing with a bias edge. Measure and cut your border lengths to the exact size needed (Do NOT be tempted to use an extra long length, sew and then whack of the extra! Those bias edges will have your border waving in the breeze!)
Fold both the border and quilt in half and then in quarters and mark the segments so that you can align the marks to space the border evenly (mark eighths if it is a large quilt). Pin the border in place. Sew the border to the quilt, having the bias edge of the quilt on the bottom and the border strip on top. I know you like to watch all of those seams go under your presser foot so that they don’t flip in funny directions, but having the border strip on top is actually a help. Your machine is designed to ease things to fit by taking up more fabric with the feed dogs than the presser foot (that is why they invented the Even Feed Foot and if you have one, by all means use it.) In this case your machine will ease the bias edges to the border without stretching them.
By the way, take the pins out as you go, don’t stitch over them, your machine will thank you for it and your seam will have less wiggles or tiny puckers.

I totally agree with planning your project with as few bias edges as possible, but I don’t agree with limiting the patterns or projects that you select because you don’t think you can handle a little bit of stretch. For heavens sake, we are talking about fabric not nuclear waste!

You can do it, I have faith in you!

Any other questions?


Lynne in Hawaii said...

Thanks for the tutorial! That may just help the fear of bias edges for me. Great tips!

Anonymous said...

Its nice you have acknowledged Home- Ec teachers.....and the importance of "stay stitching"! May I also suggest if you have a block or strip that is all (or mostly) bias edges(especially large ones) and you are not sure whether or not you are going to sash them, do your temporary (or stay) stitching to a piece of tear away stabilizer (plain white tissue paper will work) cut 1" by the EXACT size of your finished block, with seam allowances. (16.5 for example).This way they wont stretch while you are doing your stay stitching,(use Karens border principles to attach the tissue) and you can handle or press as much as you need without them losing shape. This also works for garments. By the way, I learned this from a Korean nun in a garment construction class in college....she could sew like nobody's business!

quilterpolly said...

great tips...It is funny because I do have a tendency to stay away from the bias but now I know I can do it! You gave me strength:)