Get the Designer Edge on Your Garments

There's nothing I like better than to take a commercial pattern and add couture touches. It's amazing what few tricks of the trade will do for a garment. Here's one of my favorites for cleaning up seam allowances, the Hong Kong Finish! What a cosmopolitan name, right? Well, when you see what the Hong Kong Finish can do to elevate your handmade garments, you'll see that it lives up to its elegant title.

Hong Kong Finish

While lining a garment, such as a blazer or skirt, is always nice, you may not want to go to the trouble. By finishing your seams with a Hong Kong Finish, the inside of your garment as nice as the outside, without going to the trouble of installing a lining. And if you do have an open lining on pants or a skirt, finished seams will keep it all neat and pretty. Here's how:

The blue bias strips strike a pretty
contrast with the fashion fabric.

When you sew the seams of your garment, the allowances are left as raw edges. While this is unsightly, it's also a threat to the longevity of the garment, as raw seam allowances can unravel. The usual solution is to zig-zag stitch or serge the raw edges, but enclosing them is so much prettier and protective of the garment, especially with bias strips, which don't ravel. A Hong Kong Finish is a seam allowance that is enclosed with bias strips, usually silk, a material whose fluidity keeps the seams from becoming too bulky. (See my recent post for a super-easy way to cut bias strips.)

Hand stitch the wrapped bias strip to the
underside of the seam allowance, being
careful not to catch the top part of the strip.

To  make a Hong Kong Finish:

  • Cut 1" bias strips from a soft, fluid material, preferably silk. You can add a bit of style by choosing a color that complements the garment.
  • Press open your seam allowances and lay your bias strip right side down along the length of the seam allowance, matching the raw edges.
  • Pin, then hand-baste the bias strip to the seam allowance. Then stitch a 1/4" seam.
  • Open the bias strip out so that the right side is showing; press. Remove basting.
  • Turn the bias strip under the seam allowance so that it is wrapping and enclosing it.
  • Finish and enclose the underside of the seam allowance by either hand stitching the underside in place, as shown, or stitching in the ditch that is formed where the seam allowance and bias strip meet on the top of the seam allowance, catching the part of the bias strip that is wrapped underneath the seam allowance. Press. (Note: The part of the bias strip that folds under is left raw and will not ravel because it's cut on the bias.)
  • Repeat on the other side of the seam allowance.
  • Tip: If it's too hard to stitch in the ditch, topstitch right next to it on the bias strip. For hand stitching, be careful not to catch the upper part of bias strip and you'll get a stunning finish.
1) Match raw edges of bias strip and seam allowance, right sides together
and machine stitch a 1/4" seam.
2) Open out and wrap the bias strip over
the top edge of the seam allowance.
3) Fold down 1/4" of bias strip.
4) Fold 1/4" again and baste to wrong side of seam allowance. 

For more tricks, like making your own seam binding, check out the Stitch DVD "How to Sew Like a Pro" in the Sew Daily Shop

Do you have any special touches you like to add to your projects? Talk about it below.

Happy Stitching!

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Couture Sewing & Tailoring Techniques, Garment Details, Hand Sewing

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

4 thoughts on “Get the Designer Edge on Your Garments

  1. Sorry, but these instructions are useless. There should have been line drawing diagrams or much better stage by stage photographs.

    The photos are so fuzzy and small, all I can see is the tape and basting stitches.

    Where does the 1/4″ seam go? Did you lay the strip down with what sides facing? Arggh. I’m sorry I even wasted 5 minutes trying to figure this one out.