In Fitting Fashion

  • French Binding Tutorial

    French binding is a versatile bias binding technique that is used to enclose the raw edges of light weight and sheer fabrics.  The finish is quite beautiful around necklines and armholes when neatly and meticulously done in either matching or contrast colours or fabrics.


    The recently released Chelsea blouse neckline is finished using this technique so I wanted to pass along some tips and techniques for achieving a really beautiful ready to wear finish using this pattern.

    For this tutorial, I am using the Front, Back and Neckband from the Chelsea blouse pattern. I'm using partial Front and Back Patterns for the sake of clarity and to focus on the French binding technique.  You'll also notice that I've used a very sheer georgette fabric to show how this technique can be used on the finest fabrics.

    Cutting on the Bias

    Cutting on true bias can be a bit tricky in really sheer and light weight fabrics. To help control the fabric while cutting, I place a bed sheet on my cutting table first then lay the fabric on top of it.  The slight texture of the sheet grabs the fabric and prevents if from slipping about. Just be sure your fabric is laid in such a way that the lengthwise and crosswise grain lines are perpendicular to each other (at 90 degrees) so that you are sure you are cutting on true bias.  If the neckband is cut off bias grain, the finish won't be as neat and attaching it to the neckline will be more challenging so take your time here.

    For the most accurate cutting, I place my grid ruler on top of the pattern and trace around the edges of the pattern using a chalk wheel.  The ruler acts as a weight and gives me a straight edge to run the chalk along.  Applying pressure to the ruler stabilizes the yarns and prevents them from shifting while I trace.  Once I have the piece traced, I remove the pattern and cut along the chalk lines.  This technique gives me the most control over my cut edges.

    Stitching Seams on Sheer Fabrics

    Neckline and Neckband Prep

    Prepare the neckline by stitching 1/4" (0.6 cm) away from the raw edge to reinforce the corner of the V neckline.  I use a regular 2.5mm stitch length and start and stop about 1" from the center front  on each side.  To keep the machine from "eating" this delicate fabric, I place some one-ply facial tissue under the seam as I stitch.  It is also really helpful if your machine has a "walking foot".  (If your machine isn't equipped with one, see if you can get an attachment, it is so helpful on many projects.)  Clip into the center of the V to meet the stitch line.  This step will keep your neckline free on any puckering at the center front neckline when you attach the Neckband or binding.

    Stitch the shoulder and side seams together.  The pattern instructions give direction for a regular serge finished seam but for sheer fabrics, use a French seam.  It pairs beautifully with the French binding and looks pretty inside and out.  Since the seam allowances on the Chelsea pattern are 3/8" (1 cm), stitch a seam using 1/8" seam allowance with wrong sides together then again using 1/4" seam allowance with right sides together.  I used the tissue paper trick when sewing the tiny 1/8" seam.  Tear away the tissue and press the seam allowance open, it makes the final 1/4" seam fall into place naturally.

    To prepare the Neckband for attachment to the neckline, fold it in half lengthwise with the wrong sides facing each other.  This creates a folded crease line which will help us later in the process.  You will find that when you do this, the neckband will stretch and get narrower.  Since I have drafted the Neckband to fit on the neckline of the pattern perfectly, please resist the urge to cut off the extra length. Instead, bring your Neckband pattern piece to the pressing station and reshape and press the neckband to match the length of the Neckband pattern piece.  The width of the folded Neckband will be 1 1/16" which is exactly what we'll need for a beautiful finish.

    Now I know all the other tutorials you've read say to cut the binding wider and stretch press it, but please don't do this if you are using the Neckband pattern piece included in the Chelsea pattern.  If you want to make your own bias binding strip instead of using the pattern piece provided, go right ahead, but you will need to determine the cutting width of the binding in a trial and error fashion based on your chosen fabric.  You want your folded bias piece to be at least 1" wide for this technique to work.

     The Neckband Seam

    Using a 1/4" seam allowance, join the Neckband seam to create a circle.  I used the tissue paper trick again to keep the seam from stretching while I sewed the seam.  Remove the tissue, press the seam allowance open and fold the Neckband in half again.  


    Attaching the Neckband

    Matching the Neckband seam to the left shoulder seam, pin the Neckband to the neckline on the right side of the garment. This takes a very gentle hand to ensure that the neckline and the Neckband don't get stretched out.  You want the neckline and the Neckband to remain the same length. (The photo below shows the garment wrong side out.)

    With the body section facing up, stitch the Neckband to the neckline using 1/4" seam allowance.  When you get to the center front V be sure to include the reinforcement stitching in the seam.  If you can't catch it, don't worry, you can remove the reinforcement stitch later.

    Binding the Seam

    Press the seam allowance up, toward the Neckband then wrap the seam allowance with the Neckband so that the folded edge just covers the stitch line.  I like to pin along the seam line to ensure the folded edge will be caught neatly and evenly in the next step.

    With the right side of the garment facing up, crack stitch (stitch in the ditch) along the seam line of the Neckband.  Control the bound edge with a gentle hand to ensure you don't stretch the neckline.  The goal here is to hide or bury the machine stitches in the seam line so that they are not visible on the outside of the garment and catch the folded edge of the binding on the inside of the garment.  


    In this final step we give the neckline a defined V shape with a few stitches across the center front Neckband.  With the inside of the garment facing out, fold the front neckline in half by stacking the shoulder seams directly on top of each other.  At center front, stitch the binding together at a 45 degree angle from the edge of the Neckband. This stitching line will be in line with the center front of the body.  Turn the garment right side out and press neatly.

    The French bound neckline is complete!

    Crack stitching takes practice and patience so if you aren't up to the challenge you can easily eliminate the machine stitching and hand stitch the binding on the inside instead. Finishing it by hand is quite beautiful as well and actually will create a softer more supple neckline.  Either way you now have a very beautiful finish on the neckline.

    Feel free to share your tips and tricks for working with delicate fabrics in the comments!


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