Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The good old days of bias tape

In the course of making lots and lots of face masks I had occasion to delve into my stash of sewing notions from the previous century, all of which have been carefully saved because you never know when you might need them.  Indeed, for 30 years I have found no use for inch-wide bias binding, or "quilt binding" as some of it was labeled, because if I wanted to put binding on a quilt I would use actual fabric, and if I wanted to face a hem (as the wider bias was labeled) I would use nylon seam binding (of which I also have a boatload).  But who knew it would be perfect for the ties on face masks!

As I surveyed the whole box full, I noted how the price has gone up over the years, while the quantity in the packet has gone down.  Not all the packets have dates, but the pink one is 1966, the second from the left is 1969 and the yellow one at the right is 1986.  Meanwhile the quality has changed too -- from 100% cotton to 50/50 poly/cotton.   

Surprisingly enough, there has been a whole lot less price inflation in the last 34 years than in the 20 years between the four packs in the photo.

Between 1966 and 1986 the price went up from 6 cents a yard to 63 cents -- a 950% increase!  But from 1986 till today, it's only gone up 57%.  Today the fabric is 55% polyester, which I wouldn't worry about, since poly blends are much more wrinkle resistant than 100% cotton.

As the price was going up, the width of the binding was going down.  The pink stuff from 1966 was a full inch wide, the yellow looked to be about 1/16" narrower, and according to the JoAnn Fabrics website, today's binding, which costs $2.99 for three yards, is only 7/8" wide.

Probably today's bias tape would work just as well for face masks as my wonderful stuff from the past.  But it wouldn't give me the immense satisfaction of using things I bought more than 50 years ago and are still the perfect solution.

And some of it was even on sale!!


  1. This is a great post. So glad you saved it all these years and fought off those who wanted you to just ditch it. My stuff is only 30 years old and my helper is forever saying ditch it!

  2. That tiny decrease in width over the years reminds me of a story (or maybe it was even a commercial) about how the minds at an olive company were brainstorming how to essentially make more money per jar without actually raising the price. So this fine young male employee (not sure if gender is pertinent here but what the hey), staring at a jar of the company's olives, face all scrunched in thought, suddenly brightens up, finger pointed in the air, because he's hit upon the solution. By reducing the jar's content by just one olive, the company would save a small amount that in the grand scheme of things over time would save the company a substantial amount. And the customer would not be that affected (and we all know how often companies do this as if customers are too stupid to notice a change in content if the price point hasn't changed). And I think we who were watching were supposed to applaud this young man for this brilliant solution. Ha! I never could figure out why any company would want to reveal something like this to the general public. It certainly only increased my ire.

    I too have a bulging shoebox full of various widths of bindings, most only partial from the days when I sewed a lot of clothes (60's & 70's mostly), a few unbroken into packages passed on to me from my mil when she gave up sewing altogether, and I have held onto them for the same reason as you, you just never know when you might be able to utilize them. So it was with a bit of glee that I read the directions for different masks and found that they required the very thing I had tucked away in a drawer.These moments don't come often, but when they do, I feel vindicated for holding on to so much.

  3. I, too, dug into my old old stash of bias tape of various widths, some of it well over 50 years old. This must be the occasion I was saving it for -- masks! I did debate breaking into these vintage packages, but then decided that heck, you can't save everything. Just use it

  4. I was so excited to be able to use the bias tape that I inherited from my aunt's sewing room. It was fun to have some good memories in the midst of mask making!