Friday, October 30, 2009

Technique and Product Review: Using the Simplicity Bias Tape Maker Machine

Last month we talked about Understanding Bias Tape, how to make your own tape, and most importantly...how to sew on bias tape (both the cheating method and the proper method).
Today we're going to talk about the Simplicity Bias Tape Maker machine. It's a machine that folds and irons bias strips for you, eliminating the need for you to stand next to the iron for a 1/2 hour, trying not to burn your fingers as you make bias tape. Hooray!

This Product Review includes:
* my personal review of the machine
* the pros and cons

* step-by-step photo instructions on how to use the machine.

As the brand states...it's simple.
Please Note: this machine was given to me by Simplicity, but I will do my best to provide an unbiased review.
The Bias Tape Maker is made by Simplicity, the same company that makes all those patterns you see in the fabric shop. I've wondered about this machine for about a year now.
Is it worth the money?
Does it really save time when making bias tape?
Will I really use it all that much?
Let's find out!

In my opinion (and probably yours), machines are only worth buying if you'll actually use them....especially if they cost about $100 (you can buy it for less though on Amazon).
* If you think you're only going to make bias tape once in your life, the $4 cheapy bias tape maker from the store is sufficient.
* If you think you'll make bias tape more frequently for quilt binding, clothing, home decor...then this machine is actually pretty cool.
* If you're still not sure what to use bias tape for, check out the pics in our tutorial HERE. You might surprise yourself at how often you use it!

Machine costs and discounts:
* You can often find the machine on sale at Joann Fabrics (sometimes packaged along with the Simplicity Rotary cutter and/or winder, in a buy-on-get-one-free deal).
* buy it on Amazon for only $65. Best deal I've seen yet!
Why make your own Bias Tape?
You'll find detailed info on that in our previous tutorial HERE. But basically...the beauty of making your own bias tape (vs. buying the stuff at the store) is that you can make it from any fabric, especially fabrics with a cute pattern. Most pre-packaged bias tape is sold in 3 yard bundles, in SOLID colors. But with a 1/2 yard of fabric you can easily 9 yards of your own tape!

So let's make some using the handy Simplicity Bias Tape Maker. Follow all the same steps in our tutorial HERE (cutting strips and sewing them together).
Then with a long strip of bias-cut fabric, we're ready to make Bias Tape!
Enter the Bias Tape Maker.
Here's what the machine box looks like when closed:
It's actually smaller than I thought (from the online pictures I'd seen). It's about the size of a box of wet wipes. And it's pretty light too! I love that. Makes it easy to store on in my work space and pull out when I'm ready to use.

When you open it, it looks like this:
The winding wheel is on the right. And the ironing machine and tip are on the left. It's a very simple machine and nothing to be intimidated by.

There are various machine tips that attach to the machine
, for making different bias tape widths. Keep in mind that bias tape maker widths always refer to single fold tape. If you're making double fold tape (which is what I use most often), your finished tape will actually be half of the size stated on the package. So....If you want 1/2 inch double fold tape, you need a 1 inch bias tape maker tip. Good news: the machine comes with the 1 inch-wide tip! And you can buy the other widths separately. Check Amazon for the best prices.
The tip I'll probably use the most is the 1 1/4 inch wide tip on the left (the 1 inch tip is on the right):
It makes about 2/3 inch wide double fold bias tape, which is very similar to 1/2 inch wide. But I like having that little extra bit of wiggle room; it helps when wrapping the tape around the edge of a quilt or bulky fleece fabric.

Okay, let's set-up the machine.

Decide which tip you're using (make sure you decide this BEFORE cutting your fabric strips, so you know how wide to cut your fabric!) The tip snaps right into place on the machine. Like this:
Next, set up the winding wheel and bar.
This is the wheel:
Place the end of your long bias strip into the clip and start rolling the fabric around the wheel. It winds faster if you put the wheel into the machine and roll it (by hand). And if you have the Simplicity Winder (a separate machine), it goes ever faster! When you're done winding you'll have a big ole roll, ready to be folded and ironed by the machine (not you!)
NOTE: I wound a 1/2 yard of fabric strips around the wheel and it was a little tight, but still worked. If you plan to make very long strips of bias tape, you might start winding in the middle of your strip, run it through the machine, and when you get to the end...roll the other end around the wheel and start the process again.

Okay, now for the bar. Just pick it up out of the box, and position it down in the little groove. Done.
The bar helps the fabric flow smoothly into the machine tip.

Okay, feed the end of the fabric into the machine. If the end of the fabric is cut on an angle it goes in easily. Otherwise, use a seam ripper or something skinny to help pull it the fabric through the hole.
Next you're going to feed it through the "iron". The machine iron is a hot plate on the bottom and a hot iron on top. As the fabric passes through, it's ironed on both sides!

First take the iron off by shifting it to the right, then pull the fabric over the plate, and place the iron back on. I've done this even when the machine was turned on and hot and had no problems. Just make sure you don't touch the hot areas of the iron.
And you're pretty much ready to go!
Of course you need plug the machine in and turn it ON.
Then turn the black knob to the proper setting for your fabric. Just like a standard iron, the cotton/linen setting is going to be the hottest...while synthetic/manufactured fabrics will be very low heat. It's important to use the proper heat or you may melt your fabric.
When the machine is heated to the proper temperature, the green light pops on "ready!".
Then comes the really exciting part....
Hit the button that says "RUN".
And watch as your fabric feeds through the machine...and turns into bias tape! If you ever need to stop, just hit the RUN button again and it quickly stops.
Seriously ,I know it sounds dumb...but it's really cool.
You definitely know you're a sewing nerd when you get excited about yards and yards of freshly pressed bias tape!
Picture my face standing really close to this pile and just smiling!...happy that I'm not spending 30 minutes pulling yards of fabric through my own iron.
And in a few minutes, I have 9 yards of single fold bias tape!! Yipee!
By let's not stop there. What I really want is double fold tape.

Now I may be missing something but here's a slight CON with the machine. It's not very obvious how to re-feed the single fold tape in the machine in order to make double fold tape. I've searched online for more info but no one spells it out for you. Yes, I may be the idiot here. So if anyone has info, please relay!
In the mean time, here's what I did....

I folded the end of my strip in half, took the iron off, laid the folded tape on the plate, and put the iron back on top.
I hit run and watched it come back through, ironed in half.
BUT....it wasn't as easy as it sounds. The "folded" tape seemed to shift on the feeding end as it goes into the iron. So, I had to stand there and feed it with my hands to keep it all in place. I periodically stopped the machine to adjust the fabric and started it up again. It was still easier than doing it the other way, with my standard iron. But I envisioned a way I could wind the tape, hit run, and (sort of) walk away--of course you should always supervise what's going on with the machine, but you know what I mean. So I may be missing something, but I sort of see this as a slight flaw with the machine.
But regardless, it was still a breeze to make and soon I had 9 yards of double fold bias tape!
Hooray again! I cut the 9 yards of tape in half, wound it around two pieces of cardboard.
Now I have plenty of boyish bias tape ready for my next project AND to give away as a gift!
Okay, to sum it all up...

It's the Simplicity Bias Tape Maker
* sells for $65 (Amazon) to $99 (Simplicity site and in most fabric shops)

PROS:
* Lightweight, small, and easy to store
* Saves time when ironing/folding bias tape (but not when cutting and sewing)
* Folds/irons fabric quickly
* Makes precise Single fold bias tape (not as precise when making double-fold tape)
* Very easy to use
* Comes with a 1-inch wide tip

CONS:
* Cost (when compared to the cheapy manual makers, which are about $4)
* Doesn't have a real double-fold feeder (unless I'm missing something)
* Tips must be purchased separately (though it comes with the 1 inch wide tip!)
* The widest tip is 1 1/4 inches, which means you can't make 1 inch wide double-fold bias tape...which is great for quilt binding as well.

Overall, am I happy with the machine and is it worth the money?
YES, for me.
I use bias tape all the time.

Is it right for you?
Ask yourself the questions at the top of this review again to determine how much you'll use the machine. But don't cut yourself short. Look around at your projects and see how often you really do use (or could use) bias tape. It's such a fun trim for all types of sewing projects!

If you're interested in my other product reviews, you'll find them here:
Tamron AF 18-270 Camera Zoom Lens
Silhouette SD Cutter
Valspar Paints

And if you'd like a chance to WIN YOUR OWN MACHINE...Click over to our Bias Tape Maker Giveaway HERE!

1 comment:

Patti said...

Wow! That is really nifty! I use a fair share of bias tape when I make bags (to cover inside seams)and it so time consuming to make my own. I'm going to have to investigate this further. Thanks for the great review! I hope you find a sure fire way to do the double fold.