#100dayproject: Make your own bias tape for handmade masks

Checking in on my #100dayproject and wanted to share this handy trick I learned for making 1/2″ double fold bias tape, which works well for mask ties. I’m following instructions for three sizes of masks using this tutorial, which calls for a tie about the width and length of a shoelace. For me, that has meant I need a finished tie about 1/4″ wide and 36″-50″ long (longer for men’s masks, shorter for women’s and children’s.) Most elastic and cording is sold out online, and now even pre-packaged bias tape is getting hard to find. So, I’ve had to get resourceful and teach myself a new skill.

Here’s a quick tutorial of sorts for making your own bias tape with a DIY bias tape maker. All you need is a straight pin and an iron. My photos aren’t pretty but hopefully they’re useful.

Step 1: Cut 1″ strips of fabric from a section between 36″-50″ long. For true bias tape, you would cut these strips diagonally (on the bias) to give the tape more stretch. Bias tape is usually used to cover hems and edges, so it needs flexibility. For this purpose, stretch isn’t as important, so I’ve gotten more use from my fabric by cutting with the grain. I use a cutting mat, straight edge, and rotary cutter to make my strips.

Step 2: Preheat your iron. I got mine for $3 at Goodwill seven years ago. A little steam and some starch are helpful for holding shape. I used a tiny bit of corn starch, because, $3 iron. Press a short section of the 1″ strip in half lengthwise, so that the width is now 1/2″. (Tiny hand of my 2-year-old “helper” sneaking into the frame.)

Step 3: Open this section and then fold each side in to meet the center crease. Iron this down again. Your fabric strip is now 1/2″ wide, with each side folded inward measuring 1/4″.

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Step 4: Here is the cool part. Get a straight pin and work it into your ironing board fabric so that it comes out just beside the top of your bias tape. Insert it again as close to the bottom edge of the bias tape as possible, and thread it through your ironing board fabric again. You want to create a little “buckle” with the pin, and you want it to hold the bias tape as near to each edge as possible. If that makes no sense, have a look at the picture.

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Step 5: You’ve just created a DIY bias tape maker. Now you can run your tape through the “buckle” you’ve created with the pin, ironing it down on one side as you pull it through. Use one hand to iron and the other to guide the fabric through the buckle. You will have to work it a little with your fingers to make sure each side stays even. You’ll also want to pick the iron up every so often so that you don’t burn a hole in your ironing board!

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Step 6: To turn your finished bias tape into a 1/4″ tie for your handmade mask, fold the ends of your bias tape under before you fold it in half lengthwise, and stitch straight up the side, close to the edge. Reinforce the ends to keep from fraying. You’re done!

#100dayproject + Sewing

Sewing is something I’ve been drawn to since I was little, when my mom often sewed clothing and Halloween costumes for my sister and me, and even for our dolls. I was always in awe (and still am) of her patience, creativity, and polish as a seamstress, and in hindsight I wish I had been able to learn more from her when I was younger. We have been making up for lost time each time she visits. In September we finished a shift dress in an ice cream cone fabric (called Social from Ruby Star) for my daughter that I’d been working on for months. As you can see, I felt pretty triumphant.

Though I enjoy sewing and have always had dreams of sewing for my own kids,  I’ve struggled to make time to do it. Mothering, writing, and studying have combined to make for a full life, and that hasn’t changed during the pandemic. If anything, my days feel even fuller, with both kids home with me full-time, instead of at preschool or with a babysitter a few days a week.

So when I heard about the 100 Day Project, I decided to join in. It felt good to think about doing a little bit of sewing each day, as a way to practice being present and feeling joyful during an anxious time. It gave me the energy I needed to go through my stack of projects, clean up my sewing table, and think about what small steps I could take each day to make progress. It’s been a lot of fun so far, and I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve been able to make in just two weeks.

Since I’m no longer on Instagram, I thought I’d share a little of what I work on here. Here’s my first project.

Baby Bonnet Project + Extra Steps

I found this simple baby bonnet pattern on Pinterest and wanted to make one for my friend’s sister, Amy, who is expecting her third baby girl any day now. I chose a lavender Robert Kaufmann “Blueberry Park” cotton with coordinating white lining from Cool Cottons, my favorite small fabric store in Portland. (They are offering online ordering and porch pickup, and also ship within the U.S.)

I loved the simplicity of the pattern and tutorial. As a sewing beginner, though, I also felt that many steps were left out. So I decided to take pictures of those steps as I went along, crossing my fingers the bonnet would turn out.

Visit the original tutorial over at Simple Simon and Co., and if you feel confused (like I did) I hope these additional steps will help:

Pin two of the ribbons to the lower two corners, then scoot them out of the way before pinning the lining piece to the outside fabric. You’re just trying to catch the two ribbons at the corners when you sew around the two pieces. These two ribbons will become the ties that go under baby’s chin (a little hard to see in the tutorial photos.)

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When you turn the bonnet inside out, it should look like this. The lower part is left open, and there is a straight seam around the other three sides. I also clipped the corners before turning it out to help it lay flat.

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Next the tutorial says to turn the open side toward the lining and stitch across the edges (looks like they use a Serger, but you could use a zig zag stitch on a regular sewing machine) to form a casing for the ribbon. This is going to form the back of the bonnet, when you insert ribbon and cinch it into a half circle. Though you’re not going to see the hem when baby is wearing the bonnet, I thought the raw edge looked sloppy and worried about unraveling. So, I took out about 1/2″ of the side seams at the opening, turned under each edge 1/4″ and pressed before turning both edges to the lining side. I then used a straight stitch to form the casing. I just thought it looked a bit more polished and only took a few extra minutes.

Finally, the tutorial says to insert your ribbon into the casing with a safety pin, and cinch to create the back of the bonnet (so cute!). I ended up cutting a much longer piece for this third ribbon, at about 32″ rather than 18″. I used 7/8″ white grosgrain ribbon, and found that after threading the 18″ ribbon through, the safety pin made noticeable holes in the ribbon. I also didn’t have enough ribbon on either side to form a cute bow. At 32″ I had enough extra to cut off the safety-pin-holes and tie a sweet bow. I also elected to use a bit of Stop Fraying glue at all four raw edges of ribbon.

Here’s the final project! I love it and I hope Amy does, too.

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