One of the most important techniques in sewing lies in the finishing of edges. Some finishes are purely functional, while others add to the appearance of the garment. If you want your garments to resemble real clothing, you may need to add some edging details.
Raw edges of a garment that are singular, meaning they aren’t sewn to another piece, must be hemmed, bound, lined or faced.
Hemming is the process of turning the fabric under and sewing it in place. There are different types of hems and some are very decorative.
Today, most hems are sewn from the top and the stitching is visible, referred to as topstitching. In high-end garments, hems are sewn with a blind stitch, so you can’t see it at all. Hems add visual weight to the edge of a garment piece.
Before you designate a hem, make sure you take construction into consideration. If you are going to finish the raw edge of the fabric with a serger or other method, then your hem depth will be all you need. However, if you need to fold over the raw edge, you need to add that fold distance to your hem. If you want a 1”/25mm hem with a fold over raw edge, you will want to add that fold distance, let’s say 1/4” or 6mm. Your total hem needs to be 1.25” / 31mm.
Bindings & Bandings
Rather than turning the fabric back on itself, you may want to use binding or banding.
Binding is a separate piece that is twice the finished width needed. The edges of the binding are finished themselves and then the piece is folded in half and put over the edge of the fabric and sewn catching the top and bottom of the binding with the fabric sandwiched between. The apron below has green binding on the edge.
Banding is a separate piece of fabric, lace or trim that is sewn to the edge with a regular seam.
Bindings and bandings are used primarily for decoration and can be quite elaborate.
Bindings add substantial thickness to the edge where they are sewn.
Ruffles & Flounces
Ruffles are a separate pattern piece that is gathered. If the ruffle is made from standard fabric, it is cut double width, folded in half and sewn to the edge. If the ruffle is made out of lace or other fabric that is already finished on the one edge, it is just sewn to the edge without folding.
Ruffles are similar to banding, but the ruffle piece is longer than the edge it is sewn to so it gathers.
The image above is a flounce. A flounce is essentially a wide ruffle that is sewn on the edge of a skirt or sleeve. Notice that the edge of the flounce is not sewn to the sleeve edge. The flounce was gathered and sewn a distance from the edge. This provides a nice little ruffle at the flounce edge.
The term Flounce is used extensively in my sewing books from the early 1900s. You may encounter it when working with historical patterns.
Piping is made with fabric and cording. A piece of fabric is folded in half (casing) with a cord encased inside. Then the casing is sewn from the outside very close to where the cord is laid.
Piping is usually sandwiched between two other patterns in a seam, rather than on an edge.
If you look at most upholstered cushions, you’ll see piping inserted at the seams. You can use piping on a free edge to simulate welting or just for decoration.
Welting looks very similar to piping. The pocket in the image below is welted.
There are many other ways to finish an edge. I’ll discuss them briefly so you know what they are when you encounter them in your work.
Tassels & Fringe
Tassels and fringe are very similar. Fringe is an edge made of thick threads, ribbons or fabric. Many times the threads are twisted.
A tassel is fringe that is gathered into sections and tied.
Pom-poms are little balls attached to an edging piece. The balls are often made of short yarns tied in the middle and then fluffed out.