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

by Dana on July 7, 2008

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. Of course you still need to cut and sew the strips together. But it eliminates 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 for review, but I have done my best to provide an unbiased evaluation.
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 (though you can buy it for less 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 make 9 yards of your own tape!

So let’s do it, using the handy Simplicity Bias Tape Maker. Follow all the same steps in our tutorial HERE (for cutting strips and sewing them together).
Then with a long strip of bias-cut fabric, we’re ready to make Bias Tape!
(Polka Dot fabric is from Joanns, on the wall with the quilting fabrics)
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 in my work space and pull out when I’m ready to use it.

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 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 was hot and had no problems. Just make sure you don’t touch the hot areas of the iron with your fingers.
And you’re pretty much ready to go!
Of course you need to 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 are two slight CONs 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, which is a bummer since most of us use double-fold tape far more often than single 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, and then sandwiched it under the iron.
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 went into the iron. So, I had to stand there and feed it with my hands to keep it all in place. I had to periodically stop the machine to adjust the fabric and then start it up again. It was still easier than doing it the other way, with my standard iron. But I sort of envisioned that I would 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.

Also, even after running the double fold tape through the machine, the ironing wasn’t as firm as I would like. I found that the tape came unfolded in spots (back to single fold tape), whereas bias tape made with my standard iron holds together better. This is likely due to the speed of the machine. There is only one speed and when using it for single fold tape, there is plenty of heat running through the iron and onto the tape. When running double fold, however, the tape really needs to sit under the iron for longer to get enough heat through both layers of fabric. I’m hoping that with the tape now wound around cardboard and sitting in my drawer, it may hold shape better for when I’m ready to use it.
But regardless, the tape was still easy to make and in little time I had 9 yards of double fold bias tape!
Hooray again! I cut the 9 yards of tape in half and 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) up 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)
* Ironing on double-fold tape could be more firm (tape seems to come unfolded at times)
* 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 one of my favorite widths for blanket bindings.

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!

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ann February 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I just recently got this machine and I have no problems making the single fold (Thank you, tutorial) But I have no idea how the double sided tips work. Do you think you can make a tutorial of that one as well? Its a little more difficult to understand then the single and I cannot for the life of me find a tutorial for it. Please and thank you!

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2 Dana February 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

the instructions for double-fold is in the info above as well.
But basically, you just make the single fold wider, then fold it in half, and pass it through the machine again.
Hope that helps!

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3 Emily February 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I’m on my way to making my first bias tape! Around Christmas time they were on sale for $45 on Amazon and this is the first time I have been able to do it! Thanks for the tutorial! :)

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4 Casey February 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Thank you for the review. I was wondering if it was worth the money and I do believe for me it will be. Thanks for great instructions!

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5 Cassandra February 13, 2012 at 12:05 am

OMG! I bought my bias tape machine back in Dec 2010. I had the hardest time trying to get the double fold working, because it did what you said it did. At least I know it wasn’t just me. I haven’t attempted it again since. There are tons of projects I’d love to use bias tape for, but I don’t want to pay for bias tape, and I’ve been discouraged to try to make it again. :-( Like I said, at least I know now it wasn’t just me, maybe I’ll attempt it again and not be so frustrated by it. Thanks. :-)

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6 Kathy w March 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm

You can quickly hand iron single fold in to double fold ,then run through machine. Feed tape through a narrower tip, over top half of tip only. also slightly dampening tape will help.

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7 Neil jameson June 3, 2012 at 12:56 am

I have purchased the other tips for this machine as i am so impressed with it.
I always keep the box that the machine comes in. I have cut off the top of all the tip boxes with the english instructions and tied them together like car keys. I keep then with the machine so when I select a tip I know what size strip of fabric to cut.

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8 Stephanie K. June 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Several Amazon.com reviews have indicated that tips other than the 1″ size don’t work well. Is anyone able to comment on that from your own experience? Also, I see that a next generation machine has come out with a speed control, etc. Has anyone tried that one? Thanks!!!

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9 Barbara August 12, 2012 at 6:24 am

Hi, I have the original model cost £90 here in the UK with the one inch tip . Which worked brilliantly , so went on to buy the tips as they became available . All the big tips work well, however the smaller ones do not work at all on it . Hence the new machine !! It is supposed to have rectified the problem with the small tips . I do not know anyone with the new machine in my sewing circle . However it is £120 there abouts here . We do not get the bargins as offered by Joanns or Walmart from stores in the UK . Hope this helps .

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10 Fran June 28, 2012 at 11:07 am

All I’ve seen so far is using the wide tip. Is there anything on using the 1/8″ or 1/4″ tips? I do a lot of applique with skinny vines, which is the primary reason I got the machine.

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11 Joanne Taylor July 1, 2012 at 7:43 am

Hi.
If you use the 1″ tip for your bias.Chang the tip to half inch. Fold bias tape in half feed through 1/2″tip It irons your fabric for double fold.
Your tip always has to be half the size of the one you start with for double fold.
Hope this is useful.
Joanne.

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12 Fiona Holmes @Imogens Angels July 20, 2012 at 12:54 am

Love this, have seen them for sale here in Australia at our major craft shop Spotlight and umm’ed and ahhed over how much I would use it. Now after seeing your post I think I NEED one : ).
x Fiona

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13 paula l July 20, 2012 at 8:49 pm

i really want this machine but i cant seem to get it to work right the folds it makes are not even one side is just great the other is not even half the size of the other and it bunches up on me , i have it rolled right so what am i doing wrong?

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14 Rosi August 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm

love the part about an unbiased evaluations…cracked me up!

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15 Bunnie August 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I have been watching the price of this go down at my local walmart for a few weeks. Today I bought it for $30. got additional tips for $3-$4 each. I came home and used it to make single fold and double fold bias. Amazing. No more burned fingertips or hours at the ironing board!!1

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16 Patricia September 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I just found this little machine at Walmart in their clearance isle. It was marked $25.00 but the cashier marked it down to $20.00. I mainly use double fold which seems to be a hassel so we shall see whether or not it’s a keeper… but for $20.00 it’s worth a try.

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17 Jill Flory October 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Just came across your blog when searching to see if this machine will make double fold bias tape! I’m off to buy one now because of your great turorial! AND I will be following you now – I used to follow you and then I moved from blogger to wordpress and some of the blogs I followed fell through the cracks!

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18 Cortney October 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Hi there,
They have a 1 inch quilt binding tip, according to the back you are supposed to use the other tips to make the single fold bias tape then feed it thru this tip and it will fold it in half making double bias tape… Was pretty cheap too so that may help ya!

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19 David Willett November 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I love your review/tutorial and this machine! On first operating the machine I have three observations. 1). If you need more room on the roll, you can take the foam out of the cover and give yourself ~.5″ space under the roll. 2). For making double fold, treat this machine as if it were your iron. If you are adding layers you either need to hold the heat longer (which you cannot do) or increase the temperature (which you can do). Just turning the temp up a little worked great for me. You also need to guide the tape by hand to keep it from skewing as it goes through the plates. 3). The upper plate is not powered, it is a ceramic plate. Whenever changing the temperature settings it will take more time to heat this up than the bottom.

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20 Kate November 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

I just got this and I am having a problem with the bias tape not folding properly where there are seams in my bias tape. It wants to push my seams back (I start with them pressed open and am careful to put them on the roll open) and it doesn’t fold in as far, so my bias tape turns our wider around the seams. And I’m not talking just a tiny bit… =P Any ideas? I’m surprised I haven’t found others with this problem online.

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21 Carmen Zapata February 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I love using the Bias Tap Maker for the wide binding but the other small attachements do not work as well. I am Interested in using the 1/4″ and 1/8″ attachements. Do you have tips on the use of the smaller attachements?

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22 meg May 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

I ran the tape back through the tip before I put it through the iron thingy it was a lot easier to get a straight fold…thanks for the tutorial

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23 Kalimah Yusuf July 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I just got the bias/piping machine and I cannot figure out how to set up the machine to make the piping. It is amazing that there are not instructions for this in the box, that are step by step :(

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24 Michelle November 23, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Can you use other tips from other companies? Eg clover?

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26 Laurie May 17, 2014 at 8:00 pm

You have just inspired me to get mine out and use it. You wont believe this but I got my bias take maker at Walmart in the clearance bin for $11.00!!!!! I questioned the woman in the fabric section and her mouth fell open. She said they had marked it wrong but since the price was already on it she had to let me have it for the price (11.00) I hardly ever use it but I just found a few of your videos. Off I go……thanks!!!!!!

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27 Pam May 31, 2014 at 9:02 pm

I have had my Simplicity Bias Tape Maker for several years and have used it a lot. Today it started dragging and I had to pull the fabric through manually. Are there any replacement parts or do I just need to buy a new machine?

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