HELPFUL TOOLS FOR WORKING WITH BIAS
Here’s a quick visual reference on tools that will make your work with cutting and sewing bias garments a lot easier. Some of these you’ve seen on my Instagram account or my Youtube channel, but I decided to start gathering this information in one place.
First thing first: the tissue paper. One of the best and easiest ways to cut slippery fabrics is to sandwich it between two layers of paper. Using tissue paper will be very easy on your scissors, and a roll will last you a very long time.
I purchase a lot of my supplies right here in NYC’s garment district in specialized shops, and most of them have websites you can order from. This particular roll was from Midtown Paper Inc, who also carry rolls of different weight muslin, pattern and oaktag paper, and other pattern making supplies.
The tissue paper comes with glossy and matte finish, and I can’t say that I have a preference.
Pins and needles. When working with lightweight fabrics, it’s a good idea to have appropriate silk pins on hand. Here you can see different types of silk pins in my arsenal, all purchased at Sil Thread Inc in New York’s garment district. I tend to use these pins more while draping as well unless I’m working with heavy muslin or fabrics. Unfortunately, this store doesn’t have online shopping, just an informational website.
For hand needles, I prefer Sharps #7. I was introduced to this size by an old Italian tailor at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) during my menswear tailoring course, and I’ve been using these ever since.
For lightweight fabrics, my machine needles are 65/9 or 70/10 in size, and I have a Bohin pin cushion attached to my hand while working.
Hand and machine needles you can find at Panda International, which is next door to Silk Thread. If you visit the shop in person, make a list: it’s not a store where you can just browse, but they seem to carry almost everything and have very good prices. For those of you who aren’t local, they have a website.
My third Bohin pin cushion was purchased online, but the first 2 I bought in Paris: in red and blue. Now they have different designations: one for silk pins, one for regular pins, one for safety pins when doing fittings.
My regular silk pins that were a gift from my coworker about 8-9 years ago. I still have about half a box.
My coworker turned me on to silk pins with small glass heads: they are much easier to find if they fall between lining and self, and don’t fall through if you’re working with chiffon.
These are the actual tools for cutting and working with bias: regular scissors for cutting fabric, small scissors for trimming thread and doing small cutting jobs while sewing, loop turner for spaghetti straps, ban roll for baby hem, and oak tag strips for ironing.
Let’s look at these closer.
There seem to be 2 teams on cutting: scissors and rotary cutter, and I belong to the first team for various reasons.
Scissors are more portable, and my job takes me to different locations at times. Plus, I’m very comfortable working with scissors.
I’ve tried many pairs in the last decade, and I am loving this recent present to myself. It’s Shizaburo Slim Light 240 and I bought these on eBay from a Japanese retailer.
I’ve heard people loving Gingher regular cutting scissors, but I found them impossible to work with for a long time. When I cut at work, it’s usually for a prolonged amount of time, and my hand starts to hurt almost right away using these.
Having said that, this small variety is great. Most of the time it’s around my neck during fittings, or next to me on the machine while sewing.
Ban roll tape is my hands down favorite tool. I remember discovering it for the first time: it changed my sewing forever.
I mostly use it to make tiny, uniform baby hems, but it’s also great for shirting hems in 1/4″ width, facilitating flat fell seams on curves or slippery fabrics, or for making “chiffon” seams where you basically making a baby hem on a double layer.
As you can see, I have a pretty big roll in case I have very wide sweeps to hem. It’s rolled and held by a rubber band, and I only unroll the amount needed for the job.
Loop turner: it’s an inexpensive and very useful tool for turning out those tiny spaghetti straps. You can purchase it at Panda International or Wawak Sewing Supplies.
Oaktag paper or Manila pattern making paper. If I recommended getting a roll of tissue paper, it’s not the case here. Unless you’re making patterns out of this paper, just several yards will last you a while.
It’s great for making templates, and the strips you see here are used to prevent seams from leaving imprints when ironing.
I’ve seen small rolls sold at Mood Fabrics and Pacific Trimming in the garment district.
You will be using fusible when working with bias, and below I’m attaching a video that shows how I make my bias tape from a very lightweight knit fusible.
You can also purchase these Japanese thermo tapes from Pacific Trimming in the garment district.
Honorable mention: a cutting mat and rotary cutter.
Setting up a huge cutting mat would be on par with having an industrial cutting table for me: impossible at the moment. Aligning 2 or more cuttings mats together does not work for cuttin large bias pieces: rotary cutter will not cut the fabric at the joining edges of the mats, it has to be one continuous surface. But cutting bias strips and fusible tape is very comfortable and fast on a larger mat, and mine is 36″ by 48″.
Did I miss anything? Are there tools you prefer to work with that I didn’t mention here?
I know many of you are International, and this list of shops is limited to locals, as online stores don’t carry as much inventory as their shops, but with everyone’s help we can create a section of suppliers around the world.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!