Tailor's Straps

The next lesson from Woman’s Institute Library of Dressmaking is how to make Tailor’s Straps. Now, tailor’s straps are basically a form of self trim, using your garment fabric to create decorative edging or trim. This is a sewing skill that’s been used for centuries and was hugely popular in the 18th and 19th century. While WILD shows flat straps, the 18th and 19th centuries went wild with ruffles.

While I haven’t found (but also have not actively looked for) documentation behind the trend, I think self fabric trim became popular as a result of how labor intensive it was to make fabric. Because of this, fabric expensive and a valuable commodity. And so one would use every scrap, every spare inch or centimeter of it, rather than let anything go to waste. The result is in the early 20th century, we learn how to make tailor’s straps.

Now, tailor’s straps can be cut on the straight grain or on the bias, and in the video, I demonstrate both. For the straight grain, I just snipped in a little bit and tore it straight across. Straight grain tailor’s straps would be used where there is NOT a curve, like along a hem on a straight skirt or parallel to seam lines. The reason for this is that there is little to no stretch for woven fabric on a straight or cross grain cut.

No stretch here.

No stretch here.

A bias cut tailor’s strap is cut at a 45 degree angle to the selvage.

Bias cut

Bias cut

Now, bias cut tailors straps are, well, bias strips. Just like commercially available bias binding, this works well around anything that curves, like neck lines or arm openings. That is because bias will S T R E T C H.

stretchy bias will curve around openings

stretchy bias will curve around openings

Once you have your strips cut, press in 1/2” along the edges and press closed. Alternatively, if you want the tailor’s straps to have a little more body, you can whip stitch them closed. For this demonstration, I went with the iron It was much faster for video than whip stitching.