Tutorial: Topstitched Self-fabric bias binding

Achieve a clean neckline or armhole finish

One of my childhood hang-up’s is to see clothing which looks “home made”.  That is, as opposed to “well made”.  Before I go any further, please don’t fear, this won’t be a psychology lesson and I don’t plan to dump on you about my childhood.   Coming from a family of sewists/seamsters, it won’t surprise you that my mother sewed my clothing until I became old enough to do so myself.  Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate the work my mother put into these garments and feared that others would know my clothing wasn’t purchased from a store.

For me, one of the signs of well made clothing is to see a clean  finish on a neckline or for a sleeveless armhole.   When not well done, if it’s hand made, it looks home made.  Of course if it’s mass produced, it’s just a poorly made garment and there are probably thousands like it. Please know that even after many years of sewing, there are countless times when my clothing turns out with this look.

Having just completed a tank top with a self-fabric bias binding, I took a few photos and put together the steps for you.


1.  Start with the end in mind.  These instructions will give you a fairly narrow binding which folds over nicely and lays flat, even on underarm curves.

2. Cut 1-1/4″ bias strips which are long enough for the entire neckline or armhole you are binding.  If you don’t have enough fabric, you may want to use a different finish as piecing seams would be create bulk and would destroy the look.

Caution:  The bias must be exactly on a 45 degree angle.  If not, the strips will wrinkle and not sew evenly.

Cut exactly 1-1/4" wide

3. Fold the bias strip in half lengthwise and iron press carefully.  While there are lots of other times when sewing doesn’t need to be accurate, this is a time for being exact.

4.  Pin the binding to the edge of the garment, stretching slightly, especially on the curves.  Then sew into place – 1/4″ from the edge.  A quilting foot works well for this as the edge of the foot is usually 1/4″.

5. Check your sewing to make sure it is accurate.  If not, it’s time for a do-over.

6.  Cut the seam allowance 1/16″ from the stitch line.  Applique scissors work well for this.  In this example you can see that the fabric is linen and a narrow seam allowance worked quite well.

7.  Fold the facing to the inside.  Even if you dislike basting, this is a good time to do it.  Press the binding in place.

8.  Using a short stitch, top stitch very close to the edge.  If you have a foot such as the one in this photo, it works well to guide you in keeping the stitching line straight.

9.  Stitch a second line approximately 1/8 to 3/16″ from the first.  Again, if you place the guide on top of the first line of stitching, it will be a great help.

Congratulations, you have a beautiful edge that you can be proud of.

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