My Favorite Trick for Cutting Bias Strips

Jan 4, 2012

I am a huge fan of slipcovers, mostly because I own two massive golden retrievers who think they are lap dogs. Not only can you wash slipcovers--you can also change the look of a room in just a few minutes. As a result, I have become pretty good friends with John the Slipcover Guy. John has been making slipcovers since the 1960s heyday of plastic slipcovers, when the demand on Long Island was huge, to put it mildly.

Naturally, every time he makes me a slipcover, I grill him incessantly on his technique. One of these days, I am going to do a story on how he cuts a slipcover, because he has a method that is amazingly simple and fast.


                           Step 2


Step 3

                         Step 4 and 5

But for now I want to share his brilliant method for cutting bias strips lickety-split:

1. Cut a square of the fabric you want to use to make bias strips. >I use the entire width of the fabric.

2. Fold the fabric in half, matching two opposite corners, like a napkin.

3. Bring each lower corner to the center, so that they are overlapping, and your fabric now resembles an envelope. 

 4. Fold the fabric in half again, bringing the right side to the left. Your fabric now looks like half of a house.

 5. Cut perpendicular to the last fold, cutting across in strips. When you unfold the strips, they will be on the bias. Tada!

John has this monstrous scissor machine that can cut through the thickest of home dec fabric. For home sewists, this technique works best with a rotary cutter.  

I prefer to make my own bias strips, because when I use them as bindings or seam finishes they add a nice couture touch to a garment or project and often aren't as bulky as the storebought version. Do you have a preference for a handmade sewing technique? Let us know below.

Happy stitching!

FYI, you can find plenty of great sewing tips, plus projects and tutorials. in the latest Stitch WorkshopTM video, Secrets of Home Decor Sewing: Pillows, Cording, and Simple Patchwork Slipcovers, featuring frequent Stitch contributor Kevin Kosbab.  You'll find find plenty of great sewing projects to practice your new bias strip trick. Watch along as Kevin offers accessible sewing techniques and home accessory projects that promise to create a big design punch!


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Comments

KathyAnneW wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 12:19 PM

THIS is VERY cool! I can see that the important thing is really to start with the largest square possible or one will be sewing "a million" bias strips together! I have sewn for years and, as a young mother when my (former) husband did not want me going out to work (imagine that!), I sewed slipcovers at my home for 2 ladies who went out to do the fittings. At that time, I learned the technique of creating a sewn tube, then cutting round & round for my bias strips. This could be easier yet! Thank you!

karenchrist wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 1:43 PM

So cutting perpendicular to the last fold means I will be cutting from the "basement to the roof", correct? If I do this my longest strip, which is in the middle of the house,  would have to be half as wide as the subsequent strips to accommodate the dimensions of the fold? Is this correct?

CynthiaS@33 wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 3:10 PM

To karenchrist: cut along where the floors would be in the house (perpendicular or 90 degrees to the last fold), not from the basement to roof (which would be parallel to the last fold).

saroja50 wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 5:09 PM

Thanks for publishing this quick bias strip technique- I will definitely try it. Also I am looking forward to your post on John's method of pattern making for slip covers. Hopefully that will come out shortly!

saroja50 wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 5:11 PM

Thanks for publishing this quick bias strip technique- I will definitely try it. Also I am looking forward to your post on John's method of pattern making for slip covers. Hopefully that will come out shortly!

ralac071 wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 6:47 PM

How far from the edge do you stop?  Do you get a continuous strip that way?

ralac071 wrote
on Jan 4, 2012 6:47 PM

How far from the edge do you stop?  Do you get a continuous strip that way?

on Jan 7, 2012 1:56 PM

Why does it make a difference which way I cut it?  Won't they be the same?

morrismj38 wrote
on Jan 7, 2012 2:51 PM

Very neat!

I would really be interested in his quick method of cutting slipcovers.  I measure and doublecheck and triplecheck.   FAST and accurate would be wonderful.

on Jan 7, 2012 3:18 PM

Sometimes directions challenge me when I do not see a technique in person or in a video.  So, with the article and comments in hand, I am going to cut out a small square - probably in muslin or a remnant.  Then, I will practice the instructions.  That way I will not waste any good material.  After I have the technique down, I will try it on a real project.  I am considering keeping the instructions in a loose-leaf binder with my own handwritten notes so that I will not forget the proper technique.  Happy sewing/quilting!!!

bobandsalt wrote
on Jan 7, 2012 7:30 PM

I am anxious to try this technique .

Hope you will share John's slipcover knowledge very soon. I have had several disasters and would like to know how to make a nice one.

eluvgrannie wrote
on Jan 10, 2012 9:36 AM

This is great never could figure out how to do this can't wait to try it. Thanks

Excalibur wrote
on Jan 16, 2012 8:51 AM

I am so glad you included directions to make your own bias tape.  All the sewing shows lately shows the bias tape machine.  I do not need another machine if I can make my own.  Your diagrams and directions are so clear.  I will practice using newspaper first and then material next.  Thanks because the machines are too pricey.

Jo Ann Ely wrote
on Feb 6, 2012 9:33 AM

If you don't cut off the folded edge first before you start measuring 1 inch slices, it will be twice the width of the rest of the strips.

AmberStitch wrote
on Feb 27, 2012 1:59 PM

Hi: I have been checking all the comments on this (it has been by far one of the most popular posts!). To ralac071: You do cut all the way through both edges and this does not create continuous strips, but strips that get smaller as they go to the top (from basement to roof). You stitch the strips right sides together, perpendicular to each other, to create a longer bias strip. There is another method for continuous bias strips that I have seen in commercial patterns. Also, as mentioned below, you do need to cut the bottom piece in half. I do it after cutting the strip.

Would love to hear any other tips anyone has!

Amber

lovemom wrote
on Mar 6, 2012 12:32 PM

This is just a terrific tip!  Maybe I will tackle all those pillows I have been planning to make for the master bedroom sitting room.  But then, I will  have to use up the down saved from old pillows and that will be a mess for sure.  Oh dear!

lovemom

Sew Daily wrote
on Aug 26, 2013 11:23 AM

There's nothing I like better than to take a commercial pattern and add couture touches. It's