Saturday, January 7, 2017

Don't Fear Bias: Day 7

Yesterday's post, Bustin' the Scrap Piles with Easy HST, brought up a good comment. The comment mentioned that the HST method I had used would produce HST's with 4 bias edges. True! So many quilters hear the word 'bias', and they go into a sort of panicked frenzy--not everyone, of course, but particularly new quilters that have been warned about the dire dangers. Let's talk about this to bust the myth.

Fabric has grain.

'Grain of fabric' means the direction of the woven fibers.

The weave gives stability to the fibers as they are interlocked side by side and top to bottom. I imagine them as standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder like soldiers in a front line.

But cut the fabric on the bias, and the strength is gone. Now imagine soldiers all standing alone. One in front to the right, and another behind to the left. A staggered front has no strength.

Lengthwise grain is the most stable of all. If you are dealing with a quilt edge with bias pieced blocks, make your borders or binding from fabric cut on the lengthwise grain. Crosswise cut borders or binding are more frugal as you can purchase less fabric, and function nearly as well. 

These type of cuts create bias edges, and you will often find pieces in bags of scraps. If you aren't sure whether the fabric has a bias edge, flip it over to look at the grain from the back. It's much easier to tell if the fabric is printed.

Not All Bias Is Bad

When do we like a bias cut? Binding a quilt with a rounded corner is a cinch with bias cut binding. Also, any kind of curved piecing is more forgiving using bias cuts, and the fabric will give and stretch just enough to ease the seam without tucks appearing in your stitching.

In the worst case scenario, you will wind up with a saggy quilt, but there are several things you can do to keep it from happening in the first place.

1. Starch is your best friend. Don't be afraid to starch while you're pressing. I use Faultless Heavy Spray Starch, and spray the back of my fabric. Allow it to soak in about 30 seconds, flip and press. Always be vigilant not to scorch your fabric while using starch.

2. Speaking of pressing, do not move your iron back and forth over the fabric. You should be using an up and down motion. Lift up and press down. Up and down. 

3. Everyone I know says don't use steam, but I do. My iron has two options for steam, and I use the lightest. 

4. The other thing that I have done when a design leaves me with a bias edge before quilting is to press the quilt top well with starch, allow it to cool, then stitch the entire top with a 1/4" seam around the perimeter. Be gentle when handling the quilt top, and as you are stitching. 

Again, sewing with bias is not the big, bad wolf it's made out to be. You just have to know how to treat it to make it behave.

More tomorrow on the current blocks at the top. They're coming together nicely, I think.

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Stitchin At Home said...

Spray starch can be your best friend, I like Flautless spray starch but sadly it is not available in Canada.

The Colorful Fabriholic said...

If you're making blocks that will be set on point, it's good to use your 4-at-time method of making HSTs with bias edges. The grain will end up going vertical & horizontal once the blocks are set into the quilt, giving the quilt more stability.

Kate said...

Thank you for the great tips, I knew about the grain lines and using starch, but not the other stuff.