Sewing from Start to Finish

Outside and inside views of a couture waistband (technique below). A couture waistband conforms to the figure without adding bulk.
Spacer 10x10 pixels
Spacer 10x10 pixels Spacer 10x10 pixels

Remember when you first started sewing and all you cared about was how something looked on the outside? The seams could be a bit wonky, and the zipper could be a little jacked up, and the hem was definitely uneven, but you walked down the street in your early creations feeling fabulous because you made it.

But if like me, you had a mother and grandmother that were expert seamstresses, then they would look at your newest project and turn it inside out to see the quality of the construction. Oh, boy. My mom would look closely at my finishing and shake her head. Sigh. Not so pretty on the inside, right?

Then as you learn more techniques and make more complicated projects, proper finishing is the number-one element that makes all the difference.

Admittedly, I have become obsessed with finishing. Other people may say "Why bother? No one is going to see that stuff." But I know it's there. A beautiful hong kong finished seam. A skirt properly lined in a lovely contrast fabric. A carefully handstitched hem. I will spend hours doing little tricks like these because in the end that's what takes something from homemade to professionally handcrafted. Your clothes will hang better, fit better, look better, and last longer. At the risk of sounding like my mother (impossible at my age), if you are going to take the time to make something, then you should do it right.

Now some of you are already converts to this way of thinking. But I know some of you (you know who you are) are thinking about how annoyingly painstaking and time-consuming finishing is. Yeah, I used to think like that, too, but trust me-it is soooooo worth it. The first time you take the time to do it you will be amazed at the difference.

Still not convinced? Then try this technique from a fabulous book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. I'm not going to lie-I love this book. I want to try every technique in it. It shows you all those little technique tricks that give a garment an impeccably polished look.

Step 1: Supplies: Project fabric, silk organza, and tailor's canvas.

Steps 2 and 3: Channel stitch the canvas to the organza, then baste the organza to the wasitband.

Step 4: Add Petersham ribbon for a polished interior finish.

Step 5: Stitch, trim, and press.

Step 6: Sew down the Petersham by hand. Done!

Spacer 10x10 pixels

I'm using this simple technique below on a pencil skirt I'm working on made in a medium-weight upholstery fabric. It's really easy to do with great results.

Couture Waistband

The couture method of constructing a waistband results in a superior product. The band does not roll, yet it is comfortable, and lies flat. There is no extra bulk, so it is particularly compatible with thicker woolens where a double layer of face fabric would simply not work. This technique is time-consuming but worth all the effort.


– Silk organza
– Tailor's canvas or other stiff interfacing
– Petersham ribbon (or grosgrain ribbon)

1. Cutting out
Cut a waistband to the finished length and width you need, plus seam allowances. Cut one in fabric and one in silk organza. Then cut a third band in tailor's canvas and remove the seam allowances.

2. Stitching the seams
Mark the seamlines on the organza. Place the tailor's canvas between the seamlines. Channel stitch the canvas to the organza. Aim for 1⁄8" (3mm) spacing in order to add stability without bulk. Press.

3. Basting
Place the stabilized organza on the wrong side of the waistband and machine-baste in place. Press.

4. Stitching Petersham
Cut a strip of Petersham ribbon the length of the waistband. It should be ¼" (6mm) wider than the finished band. Working on the right side of the waistband, place one long edge of the Petersham along the fold line of the band. Make sure it is a scant 1⁄8" (3mm) away from the fold line, so it will not show when the garment is completed. Stitch it in place. Press to embed the stitches. Press the band along the fold line.

5. Stitching and pressing
With the right sides together, pin the waistband to the garment. Stitch, trim, and press.

6. Finishing
On the reverse side of the garment, sew the Petersham ribbon down by hand.


Have fun trying this technique. Go on, make your mother proud.


Happy Sewing,



Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Sewing for Beginners

One thought on “Sewing from Start to Finish

  1. I have this book and I LOVE it! I want to try all of the techniques eventually. I adore a beautifully finished garment – if you don’t make your clothing different than what you can purchase in a department store, why bother to sew at all?