Binding That Hairpin Turn

The holidays are coming with giant steps. In between the preparations (boo!) and the gift sewing (yay!), I want to share a mini-tutorial on how to bind narrow hairpin turns. Perhaps some of you are planning to make 18th-century pockets or stays with tabs over the holidays. :)

When it comes down to binding them, the narrow curves are definitely not the most fun part to sew. And in the sewing groups, requests for binding advice are very popular. So I hope these tips will come in useful. They are based off Cathy Hay’s wonderful binding article. It also covers other binding issues, such as corners, and is definitively worth a read.

Now I will show you how it is done on the center opening of my Georgian pockets. Once you know how it is done, it goes pretty quickly.

The first thing to do is to mark three points with chalk or a fabric pen, one at the beginning and end of your hairpin curve and a third one at the center of the curve. They should be as far away from the edge as the portion of your binding that will be folded over. For example, I used 1″ bias tape, so I placed the marks 1/4″ from the edge. If you like, you can connect your marks with a curvy line. It can help you to shape the curve later on.

In the next step, pin on your unfolded binding tape and sew up to the points where your curve starts, as you normally would. I used a regular running stitch for this bit.

Sew the straight edges, then fold up the binding, attach and sew around the curve.

Now, fold up your tape. Find the center of the piece that is still hanging free. Place this center point against your center mark as shown in the photo above. The fold should be against it. Pin down. Then mold the rest of the binding around the curve in the same way, until it lies pucker-free and even. Pin everything down.

The “ladder stitch”.

To sew down the binding, we will be using the “ladder stitch”. For this technique, take the needle through small bits of the tape and the fabric, alternating between the two. Your new stitch should always go in parallel to where your previous stitch came out. Hopefully this makes sense. Also see the photo for a visual! :)

When you have attached one side of the binding, bring it around to the other side. Repeat the previous steps. Only this time, you will sew on the folded edges. This is done with a slip stitch. Around the curve, you can stick with the slip stitch or opt for the ladder stitch again. I choose this method when the hairpin turn is very narrow. Otherwise, slip stitching works fine.

Slip-stich the folded edges to the opposite side, and done.

And that is all there is to binding hairpin turns. For a look at the finished pair of pockets, go here.

I learned that most binding jobs look somewhat scary at first, but the more often you do it, the better it goes. I sewed the pockets after tackling the gazillion curves and whatnots on my stays. After that, the pockets felt easy. And the binding came together almost without swearing. Almost…

Hopefully these tips have encouraged you to go forth and work on some binding. If you have any more questions, please let me know! I will do my best to answer them. :)

Nessa

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