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How to bind knit edges: the ultimate guide

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how to bind knit edges

Binding has a special place in my heart. I find that binding is often the neatest, tidiest, most professional looking finish on openings like necklines and armholes. I’ll always swap a facing for a binding when I can.

Having grown up sewing almost entirely with wovens, it wasn’t until I really got into knits a few years back that I discovered the many binding options out there when working with these special fabrics. Now I use knit bindings all the time.

In honor of Moneta Month, I wanted to show you several methods you could use to substitute bound edges on your Moneta.

Straight out of the envelope, Moneta is finished with either a lining for the sleeveless version (we have a video to show you how), or a simple hemmed finish.

Both of these are great finishes that work well with the design, but binding gives you a few more options. You might prefer the look of binding, you might find it helps if your fabric is a little saggy, or you might want to use it to add a little contrasting color to your edges.

In this article, I will detail 4 different ways you can use strips of knit fabric to finish edges on knit garments, including 1 band method and 3 different binding methods.

Bands vs. Binding

how to bind knit edges

how to bind knit edges

First, let’s clear up a little terminology.

A band is a length of fabric that’s folded in half and stitched into an opening. The seam allowance is turned to the wrong side. If you look at any t-shirt you own, it will probably have a band around the neck. It is usually sewn in the round. The grey bodice above has a band.

A binding has a similar function, but looks more like the bias binding you’d find on a woven garment. All the seam allowances are tucked inside and hidden. In knitwear, it is usually not sewn in the round. Instead, one seam is left open (such as a shoulder seam), the binding is sewn to the edge, then the remaining seam and binding are closed at the same time. The brown bodice below has binding.

Both of these finishes serve the same purpose. They cover up the raw edge of a circular opening and give you a neat finish. We’re going to cover both of these methods, since they are usually interchangeable.

Bands

A knit band is a pretty common treatment. You’ll see it on almost any t-shirt neckline, but it can also be used on other types of garments or in armholes.

Because armhole curves tend to be deep curves, I like to keep bands in this area narrow, perhaps 3/8″ or less when finished. This will help to prevent gaping.

how to bind knit edges

Again, bands are sewn in the round. That means that the opening is already sewn into a complete circle, the band is also sewn in a circle, and then the band is sewn into the neckline in a continuous line of stitching.

The downside to this is that the band must be cut and constructed at a specific width before sewing it into the opening. It usually needs to be a little smaller than the opening to prevent gaping, but if it’s too small, you get puckering.

The challenging thing is that it’s hard to know exactly how much smaller to cut it because every knit fabric is a little different. My rules of thumb are these: (1) Cut the band about 10% smaller than the opening to start, and (2) pin it to the opening and check the fit before you sew.

The worst case scenario is that you have to take it out and sew it again.

Self Fabric Band

How to:

05-binding

1) Measure the opening, such as the neckline or armhole. Use the following formula to determine the length of your neckband piece: Length of neckband = length of opening x 0.9

06-binding

2) Decide on a finished width for your band. For tight curves or small bands, choose 3/8 inch. For wider neckbands, choose 1/2 or 5/8 inch. Use the following formula to calculate the size of the neckband piece you will cut. Neckband piece width = (finished width + 3/8″ seam allowance) x 2. Draw a rectangle using the two measurements you calculated above.

07-binding

4) Find the lengthwise center of this piece. Draw a point 3/8 inches from each widthwise edge along this line.

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5) Connect this point to the corners of your rectangle. This divet in the pattern piece will help the band conform to the shape of your neck a bit more. Cut this piece from your fabric.

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7) With right sides together, stitch the short ends of the band together.

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8) Fold the band in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together.

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9) With right sides together and raw edges aligned, pin the band to the opening, aligning the seam with a shoulder seam or center back seam. Check the fit of the band (see the troubleshooting section below) before stitching the band to the opening using an overlock.

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10) Turn the seam allowance of the band to the inside.

Troubleshooting

Before you sew, always carefully pin the band into the neckline. Use plenty of pins to get the band seated in the neckline as much as possible.

14a-binding

Does your neckband gape at the shoulders and seem to stand straight up? That means your band is too large. Trim it down and try again before sewing it in.

14b-binding

Is it making the garment pucker and pull towards the neck? That means it’s too small. Cut a new band that’s a little larger.

Binding

Binding is basically just like a bias tape binding on a woven garment, at least in terms of the various ways it can be applied.

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15-seam-covering-binding

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It can be sewn and turned to the inside like a facing (clean finish binding); turned to the outside (seam covering binding); or wrapped around the raw edge (wrapped binding).

18-binding

Binding is usually sewn into an opening before it’s fully closed. For example, if you’re sewing a neckline, leave one shoulder seam open, apply the binding, then close up the shoulder seam. The binding will be enclosed at the same time.

18a-binding

19-binding

Use a bar tack to hold the seam allowance of the binding down. This makes it less conspicuous from the outside.

The great thing about binding is that it doesn’t need to be cut to a specific size before you sew.

For each of these methods, we’ll create binding with a finished width of 3/8 inch and seam allowances of 3/8 inch.

Clean finish binding

20-binding

1) Cut a strip of fabric 1 1/2 inches wide. It should be longer than the opening you are sewing it to.

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2) Fold the binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.

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3) With right sides together, stitch the binding to the edge.

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4) With right sides together, stitch the remaining seam closed, also closing the binding. Reinforce with a bar tack.

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5) Turn the binding to the inside of the garment, folding along the seamline.

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6) Edgestitch the band in place (see below for options).

Seam covering binding

27-binding

1) Cut a strip of fabric 1 1/2 inches wide. It should be longer than the opening you are sewing it to.

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2) Fold the binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.

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3) With right side of the binding facing the wrong side of the garment, stitch the binding to the edge.

how to bind knit edges

4) Turn the binding to the right side of the garment, folding along the seamline. Press lightly.

how to bind knit edges

5) Edgestitch the binding in place (see below for options).

how to bind knit edges

6) With right sides together, stitch the remaining seam closed, also closing the binding. Reinforce with a bar tack.

Wrapped binding

how to bind knit edges

1) Cut a strip of fabric 1 1/2 inches wide. It should be longer than the opening you are sewing it to.

how to bind knit edges

2) Fold the binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press to form a crease.

how to bind knit edges

3) Fold the lengthwise edges toward the center and press to form two more creases. If you have sewn with bias tape, this should look familiar.

how to bind knit edges

4) Open up the binding. With the right side of the binding facing the wrong side of the garment, stitch the binding to the edge using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.

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5) Wrap the binding along the raw edge, tucking the raw edge of the binding beneath.

how to bind knit edges

6) On the right side, edgestitch the remaining fold of the binding in place. Edgestitching on the right side of the garment means you do not have to worry about catching the edge perfectly on the underside. (see below for edgestitching options).

37a-binding

With right sides together, stitch the remaining seam closed, also closing the binding.

Edgestitching

38-binding

If you have a coverstitch machine, edgestitching is no big deal. You can just use the chainstitch feature to edgestitch your binding in place.

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If you don’t, try edgestitching with a twin needle. It will allow your binding to stretch and imiitates the look of a coverstitch.

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Or, use a single needle and stitch in place with a straight stitch (for openings that don’t require a lot of stretch) or a very narrow (0.2mm wide) zigzag stitch. If you like the look of a straight stitch but are worried about your thread breaking, try stretch thread, which has built in elasticity.

Discussion time!

So now we’ve covered 4 ways to finish: a band, a clean finish binding, a seam covering binding, and a wrapped binding. We’ve also talked about troubleshooting band necklines, and how to edgestitch your knits.

What’s your favorite way to finish knit edges? Do you like bindings, bands, linings, or another method?

You might also be interested in:

  • The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits: Written by our friend Alsyon Clair, our book on knits covers a wide range of techniques for sewing knit fabrics – with a serger or without.

  • Moneta pattern: Shown above is the bodice for Moneta, one of our all-time best-selling patterns.

  • Mabel pattern: Want something even simpler to try out knit techniques? Mabel is fast, simple, and fun.

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 41

Trisha

Hey, great techniques! I’ve been struggling with this a little lately. Very timely! I’m going to use this on my next knit project. Thank you for solving a little mystery for me- how to finish my necklines a little neater.

Nancy K

It seems that the photos for the last two didn’t make it up. This is a great post, with the addition of the photos, perfect. I use another method most often from Lynda Maynard. Both shoulders are sewn, interfacing double the width of the sas is applied to the wrong side. I stay stitch at the seamline. Depending on the thickness of the knit I use 1 1/2 to 1 5/8″ wide by the length of the neckline plus 4″ leaving 2″ loose I start sewing at 1″ from cb, stopping 1″ from cb with the edge of the binding on the stay stitching using the width of the presser foot as my guide. Lining up the cb with the loose ends of the binding, I sew and trim to 1/4″ press open, then finish the seam. Trim off the seam allowance, making sure to cut the stitching off. Fold to the wrong side and stitch in the ditch. You can serge the edge if you want to make it look more like rtw. This comes out perfect every time and looks dressier than a neckband.

Sandra

Thanks for this! I’ve tried the methods in the best, and for some reason my sons’ clothes come out fine, but my necklines gape a bit… I’m thinking the interfacing and stay stitching will do the trick, plus I prefer the finish of sewing in the round, which it seems is what you get here. Can’t wait to try this :)

Nancy K

Sorry the pictures just took longer to post.

Stephanie sewingbelle.wordpress.com

Great post! I’ve always struggled with binding but this is a handy guide, I’ll be following it next time I create a clean finish bind! Thank you,

Steph
SewingBelle.wordpress.com

Maimu

What would the formula be for Metric?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

The formula is the same, you just need to change the 3/8 inch seam allowance to 1cm (or whatever seam allowance you happen to be using).

Jenny at cashmerette cashmerette.com

I love all of these and use them regularly!

My favourite approach is using the neckband technique on wrap dress necklines – it avoids the need for a facing or lining and looks really RTW. I did a full tutorial on it here:

http://www.cashmerette.com/2014/10/tutorial-how-to-finish-wrap-dress.html

knitmo

My first knit garments used the binding process. Then I moved on to banding. I much prefer the look of a bound neckline in knits — mainly because I don’t have to get the perfect amount of stretch in it. I still prefer bands for sleeves.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I agree, I think I like wrapped binding the best, unless the fabric is bulky. It definitely adds more layers into the seam allowance, but it looks lovely in the right circumstances.

Gretchen Potts

Ive been making a bunch of Laurels in knit and just love the ease and elegance of the clean finish binding.

Love the bands for finishing a sleeve and playing with different widths to add a unique touch. Bands are also great if I cut a neckline “too deep,” I can add back fabric if needed to bring the neckline back to where I want it.

Emma

I have a question. If you are cutting a strip of knit fabric for binding, do you have to cut it on the bias as you would with woven fabric, or can you just cut it so that the length of the band has the stretch of the knit fabric? Thanks for a great tutorial!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, you want to cut it so the length of the strip is cut on the degree of most stretch (usually crosswise). You should see the wales of the knit going up and down on the finished band.

Sarah fabrictragic.blogspot.com

Thanks for the summary. Do you apply the various types of binding with a little stretch in the binding, to stop gaping, or do you find it automatically gets stretched a little when you flip it and top stitch it down?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I do not stretch while sewing binding. I don’t find gaping to be much of a problem with binding, unless the binding is wide.

justine sewcountrychick.com

Thank you for this guide! I’m curious if there is a reason why the clean finish is sewn with the undone shoulder seam vs in the round. I made one in the round yesterday and am curious why it’s done the other way . Less seams to go over with a cover stitcher maybe?

French Toast Tasha tashamillergriffith.com

I do variations on bands/binding in the round too. I like to sew the shoulders together first, especially if I’m trying the top on during construction to check fit, and I like the look of the round-finished neck better. As Sarai says in the post, finishing in the round means you need to figure out the length of the binding first, but I don’t find that too troublesome.

Justine sewcountrychick.com

Thank you Tasha! That makes a lot of sense.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

As Tasha says, you can definitely do it in the round. The versions shown are the most common in RTW, but that’s the joy of sewing, you can do it the way you like best!

Becky

Thank you for this comprehensive and clear guide for knit neckline finishes. I have saved it in my Sewing Hints file. Thank you for allowing it to be downloaded for future use.

Patricia

Thanks for these tips! What about vee necklines? Can you do a tutorial on those as well?

Betty

Thank you for the clear tutorial. I have trouble seeing the photos when everything is white as you did in sewing the band together…all I can see is the contrast thread. Please consider this in future photography.

laura G

This is an excellent article and timely too because I am about to sew with the Moneta pattern for the first time. Thank you!

Cherie

Thank you for this tutorial. I also would love to see one on V-necks, please!

Izy izywritesaboutthings.wordpress.com

I literally just got back from fabric shopping with a couple of metres of a thick, double-sided knit and saw this on my Reeder! Perfect timing!!

Are there any particular hints or tips when doing this with a thicker knit?

Thanks for the tutorial and keep up the good work guys!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

For thicker knits, I definitely would choose the finish that has the fewest layers. A band will be the least bulky, followed by the clean finish or seam covering binding. The wrapped binding has the most layers and would be hard to work with thick knits, but you could also use a different knit fabric for the binding to reduce bulk! If you can find a thinner knit that coordinates, that can look great.

Janice

Does anyone know if there is a tutorial that shows how to apply the twisted look neck edge binding that you see often now on a purchased knit top.
Thank you
Janice

Patricia Moore

Try Marcy Tilton, she had a example sometime in the past couple of years of the twisted type of neckband.
Good luck!

Anne

Love you ! What a great post. I know I will return to it !

Elizabeth Farr emadethis.wordpress.com

All of these are beautiful options. I usually prefer bands, but I like the clean finish of the others…must practice. :) The little divot on the band is a great idea–I will definitely try that.

Barbara

I just started sewing with knits this past year, so this article is most appreciated! Thank you.

Lucy

Great tutorial! Thanks!!

Michelle sewplaysew.wordpress.com

I have your sewing with knits book and I was looking for a tutorial like this in there. So glad you did this. It was VERY helpful! Thanks!!!

Sandra

I add clear elastic inside a neckline binding to prevent gaping.

Barbara Cutter

Thank you so very much for posting this information – I am not new to sewing but am new to working with knits and my necklines are horrible – this will be a big help. Awesome

Janice

Thank you for these great tips. I have not done a lot lately but you really make me want to get something out and give it a try.

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