Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Patterns

Continuously Hung up In Bias (aka Failing Forward)

Not that kind of bias. I had to teach that subject when I was an English teacher, and it was a struggle getting the ideas of Preferences vs. Bias into college Freshmen Heads, as well as why they should avoid bias if they can help it.

So you know I’m working on this new pattern, and in one section it calls for a lot of self-made bias, kind of like a self-made woman, but less flashy. I knew I needed about 1044 inches, so I thought–sure, I’ll do it all in one swoop.


If I put this into the pattern like this you would all get out your seam rippers and come after me. Thinking about this, I wound it on a large envelope (above), winding and winding and winding.

So the basic drill is cut a giant piece of fabric after doing math that involves square roots (!), then slice off a chunk on a 45-degree angle and sew it to the other side. NOT like the arrangement in the first photo, but more like the arrangement in the second photo. Two bias edges on either side and cross-grainy bits on the top and bottom.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. (Samuel Beckett)

Usually, then you draw lines parallel to the bias edges the width you want your continuous bias. I looked at several websites, but Ann of Obsessive Quilter had the best explanations I’ve seen. Thank you! I was swimming in a sea of geometry and square root equations. She has three versions of the next steps, and I liked (and tested out more than once) her method of cutting strips:

Using rotary cutter was the selling point. None of that 1000 inches of using scissors for me!

So lovely, I hung it on the wall <cough>. Then proceeded to get it all tangled.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

Untangled and getting ready for the next steps, which are a hybrid of Ann’s. I tried this two more times to make sure I could do this and write it up so you can do this. Instructions will be in the pattern. Which is coming. [Because of recent events, November was obliterated.]

One fails forward toward success. ~ C. S. Lewis

This Quilt Is A Mess, from ages and ages ago — a real genuine failure

Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward, a quote attributed to John Maxwell, was ringing in my head as I cut and cut and tried and tried to master continuous bias. I only seemed to get stuck — not really a failure — but I tried to learn from each of my stuck places. Trying to make all the quilt’s continuous bias all at once? Not a good idea. Figuring out how long the bias needed to be? Thank heavens for scientific calculators (an iPhone tipped on its side while in Calculator mode).

But over and over it’s the user of this pattern I think about. I love the design, although it didn’t come easily. I try to write detailed patterns with clear directions and probably too many illustrations, some drawn in Affinity Designer, and when my skills fail (there’s that word again), I turn to photography. I keep trying to fail forward.

A circle made of my bias tape, then machine appliquéd

Sara Blakely, the woman who invented Spanx, had a question asked of her (and her brother) every night when she was growing up: “What did you fail at today?” When there was no failure to report, Blakely’s father would express disappointment. “What he did was redefine failure for my brother and me,” Blakely said. “And instead of failure being the outcome, failure became not trying. And it forced me at a young age to want to push myself so much further out of my comfort zone.” However, Ron Friedman notes that “Failure, per se, is not enough. The important thing is to analyze the failure for insight that can improve your next attempt.”

I fail a lot in regular life, but after hanging around a sewing machine for the better part of my teenage and adult life, the sewing failures are fewer. However they do arrive in new ways.

Like continuous bias.

P.S. If you want my 1044 inches of 1-1/8″ bias tape (using high quality quilting fabric), please leave a comment. If there are more than one of you who want this, I’ll draw a name from a hat. Bias tape has been distributed.

P.P.S. There is a sneak peek of the quilt in my PayHip shop; the quilt is currently at the quilter and will be revealed soon. It went up because the people at PayHip offered some new designs and I jumped, redesigning my site.
Above is one of the photos. (And no, we didn’t carry the quilts to Italy, Berlin and Spain. I inserted them with my Affinity Photo software…but it is kind of fun to see them like this!)

19 thoughts on “Continuously Hung up In Bias (aka Failing Forward)

  1. I certainly admire your tenacious spirit with continuous bias cutting!!!! The quilt looks stellar so am thinking all the calculations were worth it. I would rather work with bias cuts for tape than bias cuts for triangles, but then have never even considered cutting 1044″ – you’re the champ!!!!

  2. I am only laughing because my not actually continuous bias is thrown in a corner of the sewing room. I always cut and sew each piece individually, but went for the tutorial and disregarded the part that said “offset”. So I have bias circles. Onward, ever onward.

  3. I would just be thinking-do I really need it bias? Maybe I could stretch it…. Love the 🐝 bees! The quilt with the star is awesome! I hope your Dad’s birthday went well and you are enjoying happiness when it comes 😻

  4. Oh my gosh Elizabeth, you had me laughing and entertained and then inspired and introspective all in one great post. Thank you so much for all your contributions. I had to laugh extra hard at that first post of your bias on the wall. It looked like my saggy old uterus before I had it removed. 😂 Thank you again for a good lesson in sewing and in life.

  5. So much bias!😆 I always do the continuous bias but cutting with the scissors gets harder and harder (that darn arthritis) so I definitely am going g to try this trick! You seem to bring so many new thoughts to the forefront, thank you!
    Merry Merry Christmas to you and yours!🎄❤️🎄

  6. I love the idea of asking at the end of each day, What did you fail at today? Always good to redirect thinking and redefine a concept! (But I don’t want that long strip of bias. LOL)

  7. not made bias binding yet. have avoided it like the plague. nice to know experienced quilters still make “mistakes” and experience the learning curve i embrace with each new project!

  8. Brilliant idea to ask what one failed at for the day. I will have to remember that. How did you kappa all those strings from tangling? I just made bias tape yesterday, but did not do it that way.

  9. I love when I get to use a square root in a calculation, but then math has always been a source of joy for me. The mysteries of the universe distilled down and expressed in fascinating equations… It sounds like you have been learning a lot, and I’m sure that your pattern will be all the better for it!

  10. WOW! That’s a lot of binding. But I love how it looks on your new pattern! I make my bias in a similar way, but sew the parallelogram shape into a tube and cut around and around….. Do you know that method? Not sure if it is any easier but maybe one where you have more control. Good for you for trying something new and embracing your failures. Don’t we all wish we had been to Berlin, Spain OR Italy this year!

  11. What an experience (my way of expressing failure 😉) you had with your bias tape. Love the fabric and it would be fun to play with. What a great idea to have our children learn to express and experience failure in a more positive way. Your posts always make me think and this one also makes me realize that I’d never want to make that much continuous bias binding. 😉
    Now I’m off to enjoy the sneak peek at your new pattern. Merry Merry Christmas to you and yours 🤶🏻🎄☃️❄️

  12. I’ve tried the method you used before. I used the formula for how big my triangles should be, but it never comes out right. Either the last piece is too wide (which can be fixed) or too narrow (fail!). Since it is fiddley, I finally gave up and just cut each strip then sewed my strips together individually. I make bias frequently as I love bias binding. I almost never make straight binding, it is not very forgiving. I really need the forgiveness…..LOL!

  13. Oh, please, do NOT sent me your bias! I have enough “failures” here already 😀 I have tried the “continuous bias” trick and find I prefer to take 1/2 yard of fabric at a time, cut my strips, and then join them. That way there are fewer naughty words involved!

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