Biased Edges FAQ

Last week I asked for advise on how to stabilize a bias edge so I could sew something else onto it and still have it lie flat. I got a bunch of great suggestions, tried one and was very happy with the results!

What I ended up trying was using a tear-away interfacing. I layered my pieces with the border (cut on the straight-of-grain) on top, the block (with bias edges) in the middle and the tear-away interfacing on the bottom next to the feed dogs. I pinned the piece before sewing, matching seams where I needed - I think I pinned every 2-3 inches. That made the difference! The border I added lies flat! Thanks for all your help.

I've done a couple of quilts where I sewed a number of strips together and then sliced them into triangles(creating lots of bias edges) Then you mix and match different triangles back into squares-it's easy and fun. If I'm going to let the cut triangles sit around for awhile, or if I'm going to be handing them a lot, I spray them with spray starch. I haven't done this a lot because I don't like the sticky feel. But I think it does reduce the stretchiness a bit.

Aren't there iron on stabilizers for applique that can be torn off later? Or how about the thinnest stabilizer that stays on after sewing?

I have had success with using my steam iron to steam the edge back into shape. I draw a line for the known measurement, i.e. the 12" block, then place and/or pin the stretched fabric edge to the paper and steam the fabric back within the known measurement parameters.

The only tips I have for keeping the bias from stretching, short of adding a stabilizer which adds bulk, is to put as little stress as possible on the piece while sewing/handling/pressing, steam back into shape each time you press, and try to sew the piece without an exposed bias edge as in the Half-square triangle piecing method. I also use freezer paper templates on pieces that won't fit into any of the previous categories. The freezer paper will hold the edge nicely while you sew.

I've gotten slightly better results by:
1. place 1/4" quilter's tape along the edge, stitch next to the tape.
2. Use freezerpaper cut to the finished size &ironed to the pieces, stitch next to the edge of the paper.
Both add a little stability to the bias. But there ought to be a better way.

I don't know how to get you out of the situation with the wavy borders; perhaps you could try using the iron to either stretch or shrink your current blocks.

I avoid stitching on the bias if at all possible. I do this sometimes by wasting fabric or sometimes with careful planning. For instance, to not waste any fabric, you can put two squares together, mark the center diagonal line, and then sew 1/4" seam on each side of the line, then cut along the line. You have two sets of right triangles that each open up to a square.

|      |   Mark from A to B and sew 1/4" on each side of the line. 
|      | 

The math is such that you consider the finished distance from A to C and then add 7/8" to get the size of the square. Certainly if you have lots of two triangle=1 square combinations to sew, then you only mark a set of squares that are connected and then cut them apart after you have sewn the diagonal seams.

For two triangles sewn together to get you another triangle, you mark this way:

|     |     Mark an X (A to B and C to D).  Then when you sew four
| | seams. This time you don't sew on EACH side of the marked
C_____B line, but you have to alternate. So if you sew on the
left side of the cut line on the upper left branch of the
X, when you get to the middle. you switch over and sew
on the right side of the cut line on the bottom right
branch of the X. And then you do the same thing on the
other side of the X. Draw it out.

The math for this set of cuts is A to D + 1.25" and you end up with four sets of triangles sewn together and when you open up a set, you get a triangle.

For other shapes, I have to waste a little fabric:

For trapezoid + triangle = rectangle,

A----------+         +                 +------------+ 
|         /         /|                 |            | 
|        /   +     / |   =             |            | 
C_______/         /__|                 +____________+ 

what I do is first cut the trapezoid piece as a rectangle of the finished size. Then I cut a square of the size A-C and align it. Then I mark the diagonal line on the square and SEW ON THE DIAGONAL. Then I cut a 1/4" seam along the sewn line, open up, and I have the finished shape. The bias gets sewn before the cutting.

It's a little sneaky but it can work for many shape combinations. You need to compute the math for the different combinations but it's not so hard to sew up a couple and measure them to see what works.

It is easier for me to stitch bias seams BEFORE cutting. For squares which are made of 2 triangles, use one of the methods discussed earlier. (My favorite is the method of layering the 2 colors of fabric, drawing squares a bit larger than needed on the top layer, drawing the diagonal, and stitching 1/4 inch on each side of that diagonal before cutting apart.

When you've already cut the fabric, if you are sewing one bias edge to one edge which is cut with the grain, put the straight grain edge on top if using the sewing machine. Mark centers, and pin carefully before sewing.

If sewing two bias edges together, you'll probably have better luck to mark the center of each seamline, and the end of each seamline, and pin the two fabrics together matching centers--then sew by hand. Hand sewing lets you gently ease if one fabric was more stretched. And a hand-sewn seam has more "give."

If the bias edges you are talking about are at the outer edge of the quilt, and you are trying to add a final border or binding, cut a final border on the straight, mark off on the straight fabric (in the seam allowance) the lengths that each bias chunk should be (before stretching), and carefully pin the bias edge to the straight-cut border. Again, it may be easier to sew by hand or to hand baste the seam before machine stitching.

Bias edges are trying to one's patience! (Been there.) Fortunately, some heavy quilting in the troubled areas will camouflage (sp??) a multitude of sins.

I just finished the top for a Roman Stripe quilt (small for guild challenge) and had the same problem. Next time I will cut the triangles the other way. Luckily, I only had to restitch it twice. You might try some fusible interfacing - or maybe a tear-away facing to keep the blocks stable while you stitch.

I don't have any suggestions for taking the waves out but when I am working with pieces that will have a lot of bias, I spray starch the fabric and iron it before I cut. The extra stability seems to help.

The tips already mentioned are good. Also, you can try sewing your pieces to a foundation, like a lightweight interfacing or paper that you can tear away afterwards.

To salvage the border you already have, you may be able to run a line of machine stay stitching along the outside edge, to keep it from stretching anymore. Then get a long straight edge and measure and cut until that border is square, even if you have to cut the points off of some of the pieces. A bit of rippling will "quilt out", but if your border isn't square you'll end up with a quilt that isn't square. It's easier to measure and cut before you quilt it, when you can get it to lie really flat on your cutting board.

I have successfully used the following technique to help "shorten" bias edges:
1. Unthread your sewing machine.
2. "pretend" sew the bias edge with a finger or thumb at the *back* of the presser foot, so that tiny wrinkles or gathers are made in the quilt piece.

This doesn't really shorten the edge, but it does seem to help temporarily gather the edge so that it can be eased in without puckers.

Also, for a more permanent solution, especially if you have a lot more to do with the pieces, you might try using a semi-long basting stitch (not really long) to actually sew the pieces. I have used this technique in gathering an outside edge that has grown due to a lot of quilting in the center (and not so much on the border).

And I always assume that everyone knows that if you put the longer piece on the bottom, that your presser foot will do a little bit of easing as you send it through the machine. (But at our Sunday Bee last weekend, it was mentioned and a couple people had never heard this...)

If you don't feel like taking it off----
- -I had a wavy border on my Irish chain and it has flattened out over time and with quilting.

If you do feel like taking it out---

Carefully press the edge back in shape (go slow) then run some hand basting along the edge so it won't stretch again.

 World Wide Quilting Page * FAQ's Page