Using the Clover Bias Tape Maker
The following tutorial was taken from Nancy Chong's class "Stress-free Celtic Knot tablerunner" so you can learn just one of the valuable tips she has to offer. Celtic knots are just amazing and once you have learned the technique you can apply this to any celtic knot design you try.
Using the Clover Bias Tape Maker the Nancy Chong's way
There are several options for purchasing or making bias tape. If you are not interested in making your own, you can buy Wright’s Mini Fold Bias Tape online or from a local fabric store that carries laces, rickrack, and tapes; or you can buy Clover’s Bias Tape that comes on a roll and has an adhesive fusible backing already attached. I have tried both of these options and they work just fine; however, I did not like being limited to only solid color bias tape, I did not like the expense, nor did I use the iron to fuse the tape in place (if you do, then this project gets very complicated with managing the overs and unders).
I explored various options for making my own bias tape. I have used the metal and plastic bias bars, and a pin on the ironing board cover, and various brands of bias tape makers. I will be honest with you, I hated those methods for various reasons, and nearly abandoned making Celtic Knotwork quilts. Then I found a pattern that stole my heart. I knew I was going to have to find an easy and successful method so I could make miles of bias tape to complete that project. That is when I made two minor adjustments to the instructions that came with my Clover 1/4" Bias Tape Maker, and I was successful.
The method I describe below provides bias tape in whatever fabric you want, is very quick, and is very inexpensive. It does require the purchase of a special notion, the Clover 1/4" Bias Tape Maker. If you have tried to use it before, give it another try using my instructions, and I think you will agree it makes this process fun, quick, and stress-free.
If the design you are making includes any curved lines, you will need to cut your strips on the bias of the fabric.
The instructions that follow differ slightly from those included with your BTM. I think these few adjustments make the process much easier. First, cut 2-3 test strips 1/2" wide along the bias line. Be very accurate with your cuts, paying attention to how you align your ruler on the edge of the fabric. If you need to make adjustments to the width of your strips after doing the tests, you will be prepared to make accurate adjustments.
Go to your ironing board with these four supplies: the test strips, the BTM, enough straight pins so you have at least one per test strip, and an empty toilet paper roll or paper towel roll. If you do not have access to a soft cardboard roll of some type, then a paper cup or a piece of flat cardboard that is approximately 4" x 6" will be fine. You can be creative with substituting for this supply once you see how it is used below.
Turn your iron to the cotton or linen setting, and turn the steam on. When the iron is hot, begin to make your bias tape. (Adjust the setting of your iron if you are using any fabric other than cotton.)
Slip the end of the fabric into the large end of the BTM as far as it will go. Due to the fabric’s flexibility, it will not slip all the way through the narrow end. Using a straight pin, poke the fabric that shows in the slot, then scrape the pin toward the BTM’s narrow end or mouth.
This will push the fabric toward the mouth. When the fabric emerges, pull out at least 1" with your fingers. If you are too skimpy with this leading edge, the ironing process becomes more difficult.
The instructions that come with the BTM indicate that you should hold the BTM by the handle, with your iron near the mouth of the BTM, as shown in the photo below.
This is where I found the difficulties began. So, I turned the BTM over and discovered that it was very easy to make the bias tape holding it with the slot facing up, as shown below.
Notice that I am holding the BTM at a slight angle, so the mouth of the BTM is resting on the ironing board surface. That is important to remember. While you are holding the BTM in place, your fabric should be flat and straight along the ironing board and you should not be hanging on to the fabric. It will feed into the BTM on its own. If, however, it is turned or twisted, it may not feed properly into the BTM and will become distorted.
With the BTM held in place, bring the tip of the iron up to the mouth of the BTM. It is very important to keep the tip of the iron touching the mouth of the BTM during the entire process. If the iron lingers behind even as much as 1/8", the fabric will begin to open up and not be accurately pressed.
With the tip of the iron touching the mouth of the BTM, move the BTM back and the iron along with it. The fabric should begin to feed into the BTM and become pressed as the iron holds it onto the ironing board. Do not press hard on the iron. In fact, you are merely moving it along at the same rate as the BTM, letting the weight and heat of the iron do the work. I generally move the BTM and iron along easily until I think I have the length of the iron resting on the bias tape. Part of the testing process is for you to learn how long to leave the iron in place to get a good ironed crisp edge on the bias tape, but not burn the ironing board.
Continue to move the BTM and iron along until the entire length of the fabric strip has made its way through the process. As you lift up the BTM at the end of the strip, be sure not to lift up the iron at the same time. That last couple of inches of fabric still needs to be pressed.
On your test strips, when the ironing is finished, turn the strip over and examine what it looks like. If the seam allowances meet down the middle, you have a successful product and you can continue to cut more strips at that exact width.
If you see seam allowances that do not meet, but appear to be off-center, or if you see one seam allowance that is turned under and one that it not, these are signs that your fabric strip is cut too thin, or you may be pressing down too hard on your iron. Try another test strip before adjusting the strip width. To make the adjustment on future strips, cut another strip that is slightly wider. Sometimes an adjustment of only two or three threads is all that is needed.
If you see seam allowances that do not meet, it could mean your strips are too thin or it could indicate your iron was too cool or you did not leave it on your fabric long enough. Try another test strip, leaving the iron in place longer to see if that corrects the problem. If not, cut another strip a little wider and test it.
If you see seam allowances on the back that look fine, but there is a pleat that runs down the center of the right side of the fabric, that is a sign that the fabric strip was cut too wide. Cut another test strip that is slightly narrower and try this test process again to confirm you have an accurate measurement.
My experience has been that trying to fix a strip by re-ironing it never works. Just toss it out and use a new bias strip.
When you have an accurate test strip, while you are looking at the underneath side, those seam allowances are already beginning to unfold. You want to stop that unfolding process as soon as possible, and show you in class the best way to do that.
I hope your next Celtic project will be as stress-free as mine. Happy Quilting!
About Stress-free Celtic Knot Tablerunner: Celtic knotwork designs are captivating because of their intricacy and symmetry. You will learn Nancy's stress-free methods and discover how easy it is to make a tablerunner. Learn about marking fabrics and a wonderfully easy method to hand appliqué the Celtic bias strips in place. Explore options for inserting fabric, stained-glass-style, to create your own unique tablerunner. Master the technique in this small project and you will be able to use it in other quilting projects. This class is suitable for beginners, but experienced appliquérs will learn new skills too. Find out more...