Perfect Bindings in a Flash: How to Use a Bias Binding Foot

how to use a bias binding foot

Imagine you have to add binding to your project using a regular sewing foot: You have to pin, sew, fold and sew again to get the binding in place. If you aren’t perfectly precise, you might end up with a look you’re less than proud of. In this case, the right tools — namely, a bias binding foot — can make all the difference.

Learn how to use a bias binding foot for quick, professional bindings.

Plus, read on for a quick project to practice using your binding foot.

Don’t have a bias binding foot? This foot will soon become a staple in your sewing arsenal. You should go and gift yourself one right now!

What is a binding foot for?

A binding foot is a specialty sewing machine foot used to add a bias binding, a ribbon binding or even a straight-grain binding to finish the edges of any project. Unlike other sewing machine feet, the bias binding foot leaves you with a consistent, professional look, all in just one seam.

The universal adjustable binding foot I’m using here can be used to attach the binding to a straight hem, to outside corners and to relatively wide curves.

If your project has inside corner or steep curves, or if it’s a particularly bulky project (like a quilt with batting), you’re best off using an all-metal binder foot, like the Bernina one pictured below to reduce the risk of getting stuck.

How to use a bias binding foot

Before you start

I would suggest you finish off the raw edges that will go into the binding with either trim and zigzag or serging with a two- or three-thread stitch. This is to keep them aligned and less bulky.

Step 1:

Slide the binding through the presser foot guides and turn the screw on the front of the foot until it barely touches the binding center fold. The left ends should sit perfectly in their guides (upper and lower), so it will feed straight.

feed the binding through the bias binding foot

This bias binding foot can be used with different widths of binding, as the small red markings labeled with numbers shows. You can ignore those numbers — they won’t match with binding measurements.

Step 2:

Snap the foot on and lower the needle. Adjust the second screw until the needle hits the binding tape in the right place.

If your sewing machine can move the needle left to right, you can further fine-tune the place mat.

adjust the needle position on a bias binding foot

Step 3:

Next, imagine a sandwich where the binding is the bread and the fabric you want to finish is the filling. Slide your to-be-finished fabric between the folded binding “bread.” (You can gently open the plastic portion of the foot so you have more room for it.)

Wrap the binding around the fabric so the center fold of the tape sits just along the edge and the two folded edges are on top of one another.

If you’re using a store-bought double-fold bias tape, place the wider half on the bottom of the fabric, toward the feed dogs, to make sure you’re catching the underside while stitching on top.

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As you go, make sure that:

1. The serged edge is touching the center fold of the binding! (The picture below shows where it has to go. I moved the presser foot out of the way just to show you more clearly.)

wrap the binding around the edge of the fabric

2. The binding’s left edges are sitting in both guides — one on top and the other on the bottom of the foot. Here’s how: For the top side, gently pull the binding up with your right hand, keeping your left index finger on the foot, where the black arrows point in the photos below.

slide the fabric into the guides of an adjustable binding foot

For the bottom side, use a stiletto or a seam ripper to better guide the fabric in place. 

sewing a binding with a binding foot

Once everything is in place, you can start sewing, but don’t forget to hold the threads with your left hand so they don’t get tangled toward the throat plate.

Mitered corners with a bias binding foot 

Step 1:

When you’re approaching a corner, sew the bias binding in place right up to the raw edge of the fabric, but not through. Backstitch just one stitch, take the fabric out of the sewing machine, cut the threads and go to your sewing board.

mitering the corner step 1

Step 2: 

Align the center fold of the binding with the next side edge of your project, just past the corner. Make sure the backside fold is 45 degrees. Steam press (or finger press, if you prefer).

mitering the corner step 2

Step 3:

Create the front fold at 45 degrees, steam press (or finger press) again and pin to keep in place until you reach the sewing machine.

mitering the corner step 3

Step 4:

Working far from the corner, slip the fabric under the presser foot, then take the pins out and pull the fabric toward you so the needle is just on top the previous seam. Lower the needle so your fabulous 45-degree mitered corners won’t go anywhere. 

mitering the corner step 4

Step 5:

Holding the threads with your left hand (so they don’t get tangled on the back side of your work), start the seam using a very short stitch length (<1) for the first two or three stitches to seal the seam. Then revert back to your favorite stitch length.

Step 6:

Lift the foot and adjust the binding fabric inside both guides. Use a stiletto for help — it’s like a tiny third hand that can guide the fabric right where it has to go.

mitering the corner step 5

Step 7:

Once you’re done, lower the bias binding foot again and go on sewing until you reach the next corner. I find it’s easier to start at the middle of one of the longer straight sides, so the other end of the binding will simply overlap.

How to finish off with a bias binding foot

A nice way to finish off a binding is to overlap the ends. To do so, when you reach the start point, cut the binding 1/2″ longer, then fold it 1/4″ to the inside. 

finish off a binding with a mitered corner

Swap the binding foot with a regular sewing foot or with a stitch guide foot (like I did) so you’re able to sew through the bulk created by the folds of fabric. Backstitch and you’re done!

last touch with a stitch guide foot

How to easily sew double-sided place mats

Now that you’ve learned the basics, you need a practical yet stylish project to practice. What’s better than double-sided place mats, perfectly edged on both sides, so they can be used (and stained) twice as much? Let’s go!

What you need:

To make these easy double-sided place mats, you need three different fabrics (I have repurposed some old bed sheets, but you can buy any quilting cotton you like).

  • Fabric 1: 18.5″ x 13.5″ (50 cm x 35 cm) for one side of the place mat
  • Fabric 2: 18.5″ x 13.5″ (50 cm x 35 cm) for the opposite side of the place mat
  • Fabric 3: A length of 65″ (170 cm) of a 1″ (2.5 cm) wide tape for the binding (or you can purchase pre-made bias tape)

About my binding choice

Since I’m sewing rectangular place mats, I cut on the straight of grain the fabric for the binding. If you’re adding a binding to anything with curves or you’re adding it to something that’s going to be heavily used, go for a bias binding — it’s more flexible and resistant.

three steps to make a place mat with mitered corners

Step 1:

Spray starch on the wrong side of both place mat fabrics. Place them with wrong sides together and press with a steam iron. Pin together in several places to keep fabrics aligned. 

Step 2:

Finish together the edges with either:

  • Trim (if needed) and zigzag stitches
  • Serge with a two or three-thread stitch

This is to keep edges together when adding the tape.

Step 3:

Attach the binding following the instructions above.

4 bonus tips for binding feet

  1. Use a zigzag or decorative stitch to help keep things together and add even more fun.
  2. Double check that your bobbin is full of thread before you start. It’s awful when you think you are done attaching all of the binding, just to discover the bobbin was empty and you have to start again!
  3. Don’t cut the binding if you need to stop sewing (like if your bobbin ran out of thread). Just slide the whole thing out from the back of the foot, leaving the needle all the way up. When you’re ready to start sewing again, slip the fabric sandwich into the foot and play with the binding until it goes back in place inside both guides.
  4. When attaching the bias binding, there’s no need to use pins. Just go on sewing, making sure the serged edge sits next to the center fold of the binding and the binding’s folded edges stay inside the guides. It’s like magic!

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