Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hong Kong or Bound Seams

Good quality metallic fabrics have a quality like peau de soie that is as light as a feather. Their wrinkles are part of their elegance. They both crunch and dance in the light. They are perfectly suited for making a gown.

They do not slip and slide. They are not difficult to sew. You do want to carefully finish all edges. The metallic fibers can shred, poke and itch if left loose.

In her "Fabric Sewing Guide", Claire Shaeffer recommends binding the edges of all pieces with a tricot seam binding. I can understand the logic, the stretch in the tricot makes it easy to keep the binding smooth. Traditionally, Hong Kong seams are made using a 1" bias strip of matching lining fabric. (More on making a continuous bias strip later.)

At Fine Fabrics we carry dressmaker quality rayon seam binding by Mokuba. It doesn't stretch, but it is soft so it does not change the quality of the fabric. It worked just fine for the task of binding the seams for my gown and will work just as well for binding the seam, facing and hem edges of any woven fabric.

I followed Claire Shaeffer's advice and bound all the seams on this gown before constructing. The gown is is also lined with silk charmeuse. Bound seams are my favorite finish. They are clean, elegant, tailored. They are one of those details that give a couture touch and make you smile when putting on the garment.

Bound seams take a little extra time. With seams that are pressed open you are stitching each seam 5 times, but the time is meditative: Sew the seam..... seam the binding to the seam edge..... press the binding out..... press the seam rolled over..... sew the binding in place.... repeat on the other side.....

With a bit more specificity a bound seam is made as follows:

Meet edge of seam binding to unfinished edge of seam, right sides together. Stitch as close to the edge as you can. I use an edge stitch foot, number 5 for my Bernina Sewing Machine, with needle set to the far left and tab running along fabric and binding edge to hold a perfectly straight line, while creating a very small seam. Press seam binding out, then roll around and under seam edge. Stitch again just inside the seam ditch. If the fabric is particularly at risk of shredding, I might use a zig zag stitch, which I did with the metallic fabric in this gown and I might also do with matka or tweed.


  1. you are amazing...but a zig zag stitch may be too much...meditate on it, and i'm sure you will make the classiest decision.

  2. Thank you. The zig zag worked with the metallic gown because the purpose of the binding was to capture and contain the little metallic threads that might otherwise poke and itch.... The dress was lined in silk charmeuse also, so the binding did not show.