Nothing complements a handmade knit garment more than clean, functional arm and neck finishings. It can seem intimidating, but attaching knit bands is easier than you think!
We’ll show you 3 simple band application techniques using a serger and a regular sewing machine along with 3 optional top stitch techniques for beautiful, professional results.
For all the techniques below, I used 1 ¼” wide crosswise grain strips of coordinating cotton lycra jersey knit fabric, with black thread in order to visually show the stitching better. The strips are all folded in half, wrong sides together.
To apply, I used a zig zag stitch with a sewing machine, or a 4-thread overlock stitch with a serger. Always practice on a scrap first.
1. Measured Knit Band:
This technique takes the longest, but yields the greatest reward! You can opt to use this standard formula (opening measurement X .09) to determine the length of the band, or you can simply take the knit band strip, and physically measure it against the opening it will be sewn onto. I prefer the latter, since every fabric stretches differently, and I can visually determine the performance of the fabric. Gently tug the strip along the opening, add room for seam allowance, and cut. When joining the knit band, angle the seam so that the band will lay flat against the body when worn. Pin the folded band along the opening, and sew.
2. Seamed Knit Band:
This technique is very popular because there’s no measuring involved, and it’s preferred when binding edges that are too small to do a measured knit band easily, like kid’s clothes. Attach the folded strip by gently stretching the band as you attach it to the garment. If you stretch too much, it will create puckers in the garment, fit poorly, and it could bend your needle from pulling the fabric too hard as it’s being sewn. Gently stretching the band is very beneficial for a proper fit on the garment. If the band isn’t applied this way, gaping arm holes and neck holes are a risk. Once the band is applied, simply trim the excess to match the angles of the side seam or shoulder seam, and sew closed. Bartack the seam allowance to finish so it lays flat.
3. Overlap Knit Band:
This technique gives the finish of a measured knit band, without the measuring. This one requires a bit more sewing experience, because the band has to be manipulated as it’s being sewn. Before applying the band to the opening, clip a graduated angle on one end. Pin the band to the opening, to where the full length of the folded band lands on the seam of the garment. Serge or zig zag while gently stretching the band. When you reach the point of the start of the angled knit band, begin tapering off the band to overlap another angle. If you’re using a serger, the serger will trim the excess to create the angle. When using a sewing machine, pull the knit band off, so that the zig zag stitch stays in line, then trim the excess fabric.
Top Stitching (Optional):
Top stitching for these knit band techniques is optional. The decision to topstitch is based on how the fabric will perform, how the garment will be cared for, and sewing skill level. Top stitching does require a high level of control in order to get that perfect line. It can be easier than you think, especially with a little practice. For this stretchy cotton knit fabric, I used a 14/90 stretch needle (stretch needles are best for avoiding skipped stitches on stretchy fabric), and a basic straight stitch. No stretch-stitch required, since the stability comes from stitching 4 or more layers of fabric. Practice a few of these options:
Top Stitch Knit Band:
Simply top stitch to secure the seam allowance. This will allow the neck and arm openings to lay flat consistently.
Clean Finish and Seam-Covered Binding:
My personal favorite. Depending on whether the knit band is sewn to the right side of the fabric or the wrong side of the fabric, determines what part of the band will show. If sewn to the right side, no band will show. If applied to the wrong side, the band will show. Either way, the seam allowance for applying the band initially is totally concealed. To do this, wrap the knit band around the seam allowance, and edge stitch to secure.
Narrow Seam Covered Band:
Similar to the clean finish band, this one plays off the natural fold of the knit band, making it a little easier to top stitch. Fold the knit band inward about ¼” and topstitch. A small portion of the seam allowance may be visible from the inside only.