Baptism of Fire... in Bias Binding

Now, I'm a gal who enjoys a challenge... No! Scrap that - I seek them out! YES - I am a gal who seeks out challenges; anything to make me feel I'm learning, growing, testing my own limits - I'm there... (*unless it's something that my Mum says is on 'The List', then I can't do it. Long story.)

SEW! When talented stylist JP, of Effort Made, asked if I had time to assist on a styling project for The Tootsie Rollers, I was there in a shot.

The remit was to add extra 'punch' to six red boleros - make them stand out, give them a cartoony rockabilly feel... and the reason? These boleros were to be worn for a photo shoot, by gorgeous all-gal singing troupe The Tootsie Rollers, in fact - clicking on their homepage link will also provide today's blog post soundtrack for you! The gals were to take part in a high profile campaign, in line with their imminent involvement in the Walk the Walk Moonwalk. Can you see why I was feeling the pressure?! They had to be perfect! Perfect under close inspection! And identical! No cutting corners here...

And sew begins the story of my first encounter, working with bias binding on a clothing project... 

This is the bolero in question; 

All I had to do was edge the fabric with white bias binding... For those of you that don't know what it is, bias binding is so called because it's cut on the bias (the diagonal of a length of fabric) - meaning it has lots of stretch, and is perfect for giving a neat trim to things that need stretch - like armholes. Up to now, my only experience of it has been in making my bibsand that's quite a straight-forward process... How hard could it be, applying the same process to an item of clothing?!

I planned to buy a few metres of white stretch cotton, similar material to the boleros', and then make the bias binding myself. But after giving it some thought, I realised that would take me a few hours, at the very least, and that was time I didn't have to spare. I had less than a week to finish all six, to be delivered to the stylist on the Monday morning... No, I'd have to buy some in, thereby meaning I could get to the sewing part straight away.

Here's a step-by-step pictorial to explain how I attached the binding; starting with pinning, then sewing, the right side of the binding to the inside (or 'wrong side') of the garment, so it's ready to fold back over the edge of the fabric, and sew again...

I ordered 20 metres of a high stretch lycra-content shiny bias binding, which I worked out would be plenty for all six tops, including the short sleeves... Imagine my surprise when it ran out, and I still had another couple to finish..! My first thought was I'd calculated all wrong, and then I set about measuring all the areas I'd already bound - and realised the binding must have run out at the 15 metre mark. The manufacturer says it's 20 metres long (I've looked in all sorts of different places online, including the makers' themselves - they all state 20 metres...). Suffice to say, at 6:20pm on the Thursday evening, when it's too late to have something delivered for the Friday morning - and, even paying Special Delivery, no-one will promise they'll arrive on the Saturday, my palms were sweaty. I even offered 'any amount within reason' to one lady to send me another roll ASAP (!), her response was (read the following quote out loud in a monotone way for full effect) "We have a minimum order spend of £100 for postal orders, even on Special Delivery... would you like four rolls?" Indeed I would NOT! Even if I bought that many, she still couldn't deliver before the weekend - the binding would arrive the same day I was due to hand them over!! My options were growing increasingly smaller.. at least I'd worked out I needed to unpick the binding that was already part of the top, before the new binding could be applied... cue hours of unpicking in preparation;

With only a couple of hours to spare before my shift started on the Friday, having called five different shops in the UK stocking this particular type of binding (well I couldn't change half-way through the project, could I?!) I finally located a shop called Tatters in Staines, and they had ONE ROLL IN... I high-tailed it over to buy them out of stock! (they confirmed my suspicions, only 14.5 metres on a roll stating 20..!)

I am wholly grateful for their expertise. Sometimes teaching yourself a technique (in anything) can be a little tricky - how do you know if you're doing it right? I flicked through my reference books, and also watched a fair few Youtube videos for instruction - but none of them shed any light on why the binding was puckering up on one side.

It turns out, as you work with stretch material, you have to be careful it doesn't stretch whilst it's running through the sewing maching... otherwise that can make the garment pull (in other words, revert to it's normal shape after sewing). I also needed a round-tipped needle for the job (hey, you're not born with the knowledge!)

I thought I'd share a few pics I took while I was in Tatters in Staines, they've got a massive wide range of stock... I highly recommend popping in there, if you're nearby - they've got an incredibly large selection of fabric, trims, findings, and much more... aside from the fact they were so chatty, and helpful, in my hour of need! Lovely ladies!!

And sew to the finished garment...

I won't say the project was smooth sailing. And I won't say there weren't times when I felt I wasn't technically good enough for the task in hand. But at no point did I feel like it wasn't my duty to finish them PERFECTLY (or at least, to the best of my ability) - and the main sentiment I felt was wholly grateful; grateful to be asked, to be involved, and to be thanked for the end product! Here's one of the tops, as worn by my ever-helpful assistant, Dolly;

And.... Here are a couple of pics from behind the scenes of their photoshoot; 

Gorgeous, eh?! I mean the Tootsies, not the tops... 


In other news;

  • I've been asked to appear in a new TV show as the in-house crafty seamstress expert! I can't even tell you how EXCITED I am... apart from the fact I'll get to talk about something I'm passionate about, I'm also being given a lot of freedom over what the content is, in other words, I can present whatever I like (within reason, of-course..!). The airing date is March 16th, and as soon as it's all completely confirmed, I'll share the rest of the details here... Honestly, I was so thrilled to be contacted by the producer, I may have sounded a LITTLE over eager. No matter, all I need to do now is come up with the goods. (Oh, is that all?) If you're reading this, you are part of the reason why I was contacted in the first place. You, Dear Reader, are what keeps this blog going, and why I aim to deliver entertaining, informative posts - which led to the producer calling me, so THANK-YOU! More info to follow soon............


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