Understanding Trims and Bindings
There are so many types of bindings, ribbons, and tapes available that it can seem confusing. You'll get to know them gradually, but understanding the purposes of the most common kinds will help you find exactly what you need to get started.
Bias binding, sometimes called bias tape, is a narrow strip of fabric cut on the bias. Bias binding is used to finish edges as an alternative to hemming on anything from pot holders to quilts to skirts. It can be used for decorative finishes and can cover cord for piping. Because it's cut on the bias, it stretches slightly. This makes it possible to stitch it around curves either flat on a surface or as edging.
With bias binding, the edges of the fabric have been pressed under. While both edges have been pressed under, it is still called single fold. “Double fold” means it has been folded again down the center and pressed. Bias binding is sold in packages usually containing three yards. It comes in a wide range of colors.
It also comes in several widths, and this is where it becomes confusing. Narrow or ¼″ double-fold bias binding is the same actual width of regular of ½″ single fold, except it has been folded in half, making it look half as wide. The measurements on the package indicate the folded width. Extra-wide double fold looks like it's the same width as single fold, except the package is fatter. Both packages will say ½″, but the double fold is really twice as wide and folded in half.
Quilt binding is usually displayed at the same place with bias binding. It is ⅞″ wide and double folded. You may also find blanket binding, which is usually satin and not cut on the bias at all. Be sure to read the package to see that you are getting the type and width you need.
There are a variety of bonding and tacking tapes used to hold fabrics together permanently or temporarily to make stitching easier. Some are paper backed, and others iron on. These are especially useful for projects with tiny pieces.
Seam binding, sometimes called hem tape, is a tightly woven, narrow ribbon ½″ wide. It comes in a wide variety of colors and is packaged like bias binding. It is used to add support to certain seams. For example, if you are sewing with a stretchy fabric, seam binding sewn along the seam will keep the garment from losing its shape. It can be used to clean-finish hems when you want to avoid having an extra layer of folded fabric. One edge is sewn along the raw hem edge, and the other is hemmed to the garment.
Lace seam binding, sometimes called flexi-lace, is a lighter weight version of the same thing and is used the same way.
Twill tape is a sturdy cotton tape. It is generally available only in black or white in widths from ¼″ to ¾″. It is indispensable behind snaps or other fasteners that might pull and tear away from the fabric.
Decorative lace, ruffles, and fringes come in a wide array of styles and colors. They are generally sold by the inch off oblong spools. Some of these, especially the cotton fringes, will shrink. Buy a few inches extra and wash it by hand before you sew it to anything you intend to machine wash and dry.
Decorative lace comes either flat or ruffled. Notice the bound edge of the ruffled lace. Sometimes it is finished appropriately to sew externally on a garment. Other times it's designed to be hidden inside a seam. Consider your purpose when making your choice.
Rickrack is a zigzag-shaped trim usually used for decoration. Because it is so tightly woven and stiff, a straight row of stitches down the center will generally hold even the widest rickrack without the tips folding with wear or washing.