As part of my Learn to Sew tutorials for beginners I have updated my Joining Elastic 3 Ways post. Now it matches the new formatting and should be a lot easier to read and use. So if you need a little help with joining elastic, then check out the updated post!
Do you want to learn to sew? Think it is too difficult? I have been told by so many people that sewing is just too hard…well I thought I would start addressing that by making tutorials for the absolute beginner. I will be bringing out a series of very basic and easy to follow tutorials to get you started on your learn to sew journey.
I remember when I first started sewing how frustrated I used to get at finishing seams. This was before I had an overlocker/serger and I really really really wanted one! I didn’t know much about finishing seams and wish I had known more of the techniques below. So, here they are specially for the new or beginner sewists! I love some of these techniques so much that I prefer them to an overlocked finish!
There are many ways to finish a seam without an overlocker (serger) and here are the two most basic methods and my three favourites! My favourites are French Seams, Flat Felled Seams and Hong Kong Seams. You will only need a sewing machine and an iron to be able to sew all of these seams. If you do have an overlocker you can definitely use it in place of the zigzag stitch on the two basic seams.
I have used fabric off cuts for this tutorial with different colour/patterns for each side of the seam so that it is easier to see what’s going on. I also used black thread with really doesn’t give the best finish on these light fabrics but is much easier for you all to see!
What You Will Need
A seam in what ever you might be sewing
Matching Thread (or near enough)
Iron – This is really important, it will give you a much better finish than not using one
Double Fold Bias Binding for Hong Kong Seams
Seam 1 – Basic Seam with zigzag
This is the simplest of them all. You sew a straight seam using whatever seam allowance that your project has specified. Standard is 3/8 inch (1cm) but a little bigger is fine too.
Here are my two off cuts.
Lay one on top of the other with the right sides of the fabric facing each other (inside out). Pin the two raw edges you are joining together.
Sew your seam using a regular straight stitch.
Sew a zigzag stitch on the outside of the straight seam you sewed just before. Once that is done you can trim off the excess of the raw edge. The fabric may fray a little but only as far as the zigzagged seam. Press flat with the seam to one side and you are finished!
Seam 2 – Basic Seam Opened Out
This seam is very handy for keeping the bulk down and when there is a wide seam allowance. The first part is sewn in the same way as the first seam.
Make sure that you leave a wider seam allowance, I sewed this one with a 5/8” (15mm) allowance. Straight stitch with the raw edges lined up, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other.
Instead of pressing the seam to one side you press it open one piece to each side.
Now zigzag down each side of the seam as you did before. Take care to only sew one layer of fabric at a time. The other pieces should fold out of the way easily.
And after you have trimmed of the excess raw edges it should look like this!
Seam 3 – French Seams
French seams have been one of my favourites for quite a while now! You can check out the Skirt and Diaper (Nappy) Cover I made using french seams. They look way more complicated then they are, they are really simple, easy and look great! I think they would make the perfect seam for a beginner wanting to branch out a little.
Pin your seam together with the WRONG sides of the fabrics facing each other (right way around) and sew with a narrow seam allowance, I am using the side of my presser foot. Depending on the seam allowance your project has you may need to add a little to allow for this type of seam. You can sew with a wider seam allowance if you like as we will be trimming it anyway.
Time to press! I find the easiest way to do this is to press the raw edges over in one direction.
Then fold one side on top of the other.
Until the seam is at the edge like in the photo above.
Then press again making sure the seam stays at the edge of the fold.
You should be left with an edge that looks like this.
Sew a second straight seam 3/8” (1cm) in from the folded edge. This encases the raw edges inside and gives you the sleek look of the french seam. All that is left to do is press the seam over to one side.
Seam 4 – Flat Felled Seams
Flat felled seams are another great seam that is nice and simple to sew. You will have the seam and one line of stitching on the right side, and two lines of stitching on the wrong side. This is one of those seams that I like the wrong side of as much as the right side. There would be no harm in doing this wrong side facing out if that is the look you’re going for!
You will need a larger 5/8” (15mm) seam allowance for this oen too. Sew a straight seam with the right sides of the fabric facing each other.
Trim one side of the seam allowance down to half of what is was.
Fold and press the longer side over top of the newly cut side.
Flatten out your seam and press the folded seam over again to hide the raw edge.
It should look like above, that is the original black seam.
Sew on top of this fold as close to the edge as you can. You will need to be careful to catch the edge though! And that’s it, pretty simple really!
Seam 5 – Hong Kong Seams
These seams are super neat and tidy and very gorgeous! The bias does add a bit of bulk so I wouldn’t be doing these on any lightweight floaty fabrics.
You will need some double fold bias binding which you can buy from any sewing store or you can even make you own. Check out my making bias binding tutorial. To start with sew your seam with a straight stitch using a 5/8” (15mm) seam allowance, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Press the seam open just like for Seam 2 – Basic Seam Opened Out.
Fold out your bias, I like to press mine lightly so that is stays open nicely. Don’t press so much that you remove the creases!
The bias will have one side that is a little wider than the other, you can see above that it sticks out from underneath the top layer. Make sure in the next step that you pin the smaller side. If your bias doesn’t don’t worry sew either side and I will explain how to sort it below!
Pin the smaller side of the bias to the raw edge on one side of the seam. For more information on sewing with bias binding here is the link for my Struggling with Bias Tutorial.
Sew in place using a straight stitch in the crease closest to the raw edge.
It should look like above.
Fold the bias back up and it will completely encase the raw edges. Since you used the smaller side first, once folded back up the longer side should line up perfectly with where the stitching will go (see photo below). Press the bias folded so it stays nicely in place. If your bias didn’t have a wide side, fold it over a little past the original fold and press in place, to create one. If this isn’t making sense…my Banadana-ish Bib Tutorial shows all the steps and there is even a video!
Now you can pin for this next step if you like but since I have pressed it well I didn’t bother. Sew a straight seam right in close next to your bias ‘stitch in the ditch’. Checking to make sure you are catching the underneath layer.
Here is what the underside of the bias will look like, the stitching just catches the edge to hold it in place.
Repeat on the other side of the seam and you have a Hong Kong seam! Nice and neat on the right and wrong sides.
I hope you’ve found this tutorial useful! I would have loved to have known about these options at the start of my sewing journey, so hopefully you will appreciate them too!
Happy Sewing x
I have always wanted to make my own bias binding but it just seemed so difficult to get it straight. Then I discovered that you use a bias making tool for that!
I bought mine online from fishpond.
Monkeybrother Fabric Sewing Quilting Bias Binding Maker Tape Maker Tool Set – 4 Different Sizes. Updated 8 October 2016 – These are no longer available but they now have Estone Set of 4 Bias Makers which are the same,
This is an affiliate link it costs you nothing but if you use it to make a purchase I earn a commission for sending you to their online store. Working towards the dream of blogging for a living…one day!
Now for making the bias!
What you will need,
Fabric (woven fabric) I am using an off cut but fat quarters work well too
Bias Maker Tool
Roller Cutter, Ruler & Cutting Mat. You can use scissors but it will be a little more time consuming to get the pieces even.
Regular Sewing machine.
Step 1 – Cut Your Strips
I find it easier to use a square piece of fabric so have cut my piece into a square. Then I folded it into a triangle, taking care to make sure it was folded accurately. The ruler shows the grainline of the fabric.
The black grid shows the direction of the woven fabric (grainline & weft). The bias is the red line and is cut at a 45° angle.
By folding your square in half into a triangle you have a crease marking the bias line!
Cut down the fold line to make it into two triangles. Work out how wide you want your bias to be. I am doing 1” (2.5cm) and cut your strips on a 45° angle from the grain line. You will need to check what size your bias makers are! I am going to make my strips 2” wide, this will make a 1” single fold bias or a 1/2” double fold bias.
Cut your strips parallel to the cut you made on the crease earlier. Measure the first one carefully and cut it.
Do a quick test to make sure it is the right size for your bias maker!
You can then use your strip as a pattern piece for all the rest. Saves you measuring it out every time. If you have a special fabric ruler (on my wish list!) then you can just use the measurement guides on that!
Cut as many strips as you can fit. You can see I have left the top triangle out as it is getting pretty narrow and would mean a lot of joins in a small area. Carry on with the other half of your fabric until it is all cut.
Step 2 – Joining your strips
Pin your strips with the right sides facing, overlap the points as shown in the photo. Check out the next photo to see where you sew!
Sew from where that two layers meet in the corner to the same place on the other side.
Check that when folded out it looks like this!
Press the fold open from the wrong side of the fabric. If you fold them both over in one direction it will create a small piece that is 3 layers thick which won’t sit as nicely. By folding it open it will only ever by 2 layers thick in one place. Once the bias is folded the angle of the join will stop the seam folding up on top of itself, and also retains the ‘give’ the bias has. This give is what allows it to go around corners.
Trim off the pointy edges and you are done! Now to join all the other pieces. I find it much quicker to sew all the joins then press.
There you have a long flat pieces of soon to be bias binding!
Step 3 – Bias Maker Tool
Time to use the bias maker tool. Feed the corner into the widest end of your bias maker, and pull through. If you are having trouble there is a hole on the top that you can use a pin in to help pull it through.
Here you have it pulled through a bit.
Head over to your iron and press the iron down onto the little end you pulled through. Then slowly slide the bias maker down the length of your fabric strip, following it with your iron. To keep it even make sure you stay the same distance from the bias maker tool with the iron.
Keep going until the bias maker comes off the end of the strip. The joins in your strip shouldn’t effect the way it folds, but can sometimes need a little extra pressing to make them sit flat.
And there you have it single fold bias!
It always amazes me how much you get out of such a small square of fabric!
Step 4 – Double Fold Bias
To turn your single fold into double fold bias binding you need exactly that…another fold!
So back to the iron we go. Fold your bias in half so that the raw edges are hidden inside. Press and carry on till it is all folded.
And now we have piles of double fold bias!
And a close up just in case!
Step 5 – Storing Your Bias
I like to keep the pieces of cardboard from store bought bias and re-use those. You could use any card you like (cut up a cereal box etc) to fit where ever you store your bias.
I also like to trim the pointed ends straight before winding it onto the card. You can always do this before you use it but I like it to be ready when I want it later!
Just wrap it around and around your card. This will keep the folds in place so it will store well and be ready for use when you need it.
Get ready for a whole new world of decorative bias!
There is nothing quite as frustrating as attaching your bias binding to turn it over and see it hasn’t been caught on both sides! Out comes the quick unpick and after the joy of unpicking you get to try to sew it again. This is a risk more on the corners and even though I pin them extra it still happens sometimes. I have a cute solution!
Here are the different methods I have used previously on the blog to attached bias binding!
Place the binding on and sew both layers at once. This is OK for small straight pieces of bias binding, like on my Expandable Pockets. If you are putting bias around corners I’d recommend using the second or third method, or a combo of the first and second!
Unfold the bias and pin open onto the right side of the fabric, sew down the first fold. Then fold over the edge and pin. Sew right next to the bias to catch the back layer. Get more details on my Bandana-ish Bib Tutorial there is also a great video link there!
Here is another cute way to attach it without the risk of missing it on one side! Above you can see the two ways I already attached bias binding, and for this method you start off the same way as the second method. See the instructions in Bandana-ish Bib Tutorial.
Instead of stitching right next to the binding zigzag over it! I chose a fluoro green (which I bought to make a ‘Fluoro Dance Party themed costume, here are the supplies on Instagram!) as a nice contrast and to make a feature of it. The photos are not doing the colour justice it is very Flouro! I love it!
I think it gives a great effect on this Bandana-ish Baby Bib, a nice feature and way to add a bit colour. Of course you can always use a matching colour if you don’t want it to stand out, but why???
Let me know if you have any other ingenious methods of attaching bias binding!
Hello again as promised in the Contrast Baby Pants Tutorial here is a tutorial on joining elastic 3 different ways.
There are so many ways to join elastic. These are the three I use most often. I have used white elastic with blue thread so you can clearly see what I have done. Obviously a matching thread would give a much neater looking finish!
1. Overlapping Elastic Join
With this method you overlap the ends of the elastic by a couple of centimeters (almost an inch) and zigzag up and down a few times over the double layer to secure it. I like to do this twice to be sure it’s caught well.
Pros: Very easy to do, nice and secure, easy to adjust the size later and even has a little room to let it out if need be.
Cons: The doubled up area is a little bulky, not the neatest finish if your elastic band is visible.
2. Exposed Elastic Join
This method works great for creating a tidy looking join if the elastic will be visible in your garment. As it is in circle skirts or some boxer shorts.
Stack the two ends on top of each other lining up the cut edges and sides carefully. Sew a straight line across, I have used a 1/2″ seam allowance (use the guides on your machine – See this Learn to Sew Tutorial). Remember to reverse over a couple of stitches at the start and end to prevent it coming undone.
It should look like my example above. Go ahead and trim off any excess thread.
Fold the seam open as shown above.
Sew down the folded sides about 1/4″ from the middle. Don’t forget to do a little reverse or use your lock stitch at the beginning and the end.
You can trim off any extra overlap to reduce the bulk a little if you like.
Pros: The finish is very tidy on one side great for when the elastic is exposed.
Cons: A little more time consuming, and still a double layer but it doesn’t feel as bulky as the overlapping option.
3. Flat Joined Elastic
To start the flat join just butt the two ends of elastic together (double check that they are cut straight!) and place them together under you presser foot.
Making sure the cut is in the center. I like to use the biggest zigzag stitch I have to ensure that both sides are caught. I go over this two or three times to be sure all edges are caught securely. This method is a really good option for items where the elastic will be sewn to the fabric also, like leggings waistbands.
Pros: Very flat join, quick and easy.
Cons: Doesn’t feel as secure.
Happy Elastic Joining!
Updated – 22.09.2016