A lot of focus goes into one perspective of our hand-made clothing: the way others see it on us. But a well-made garment is a masterpiece from all angles. Front, back, inside and out.
While it may seem pointless to invest effort into the inward aspects of our garments, such care achieves a higher level of sewing mastery. Clean finishes are one method to climbing that step (check out our list for basic finishing methods). And for a truly couture style touch, look no further than a chic Hong Kong seam finish.
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What is a Hong Kong Finish?
The Hong Kong seam finish is a type of bias bound finish designed for unlined or partially lined garments such as jackets, coats and pants. This technique first came into existence back in the early 19th century as a method of securing the seams of silk corsets from unraveling. Later on, as the demand for light unlined garments increased, it became an efficient solution for ready to wear production lines struggling to keep up and reduce costs.
In practice, the Hong Kong finish secures a seams raw edge between a bias strip which covers all visible stitching, extends the life of garments by preventing unraveling edges, and adds a boutique charm to the inside of garments. The Hong Kong seam finish is luxurious by nature. It speaks to the wearer that “this is a high quality garment of fashion”. Though very simple and easy to execute, it can be rather time consuming. Regardless, it is a worthwhile step as it adds refinement to any piece applied to.
When to use a Hong Kong Finish?
The Hong Kong method works ideally for straight seams or minimal curves. While certainly not impossible on curves, the binding is unlikely to wrap without pulling or gathering and and sit awkwardly depending on the depth of the curve. As mentioned earlier, it is a perfect choice for woven jackets, coats, and pants; and can also be used as a hemming method. (Scared to sew with woven’s? Don’t be and here’s why.)
Similar to traditional bias binds, the Hong Kong method uses a bias tape or strip to finish the raw edge and from the right side they look almost identical. However, it differs in the fact that the edge on the underside/wrong side of the seam allowance, is not turned under and left raw. This is done intentionally to reduce bulk and stiffness in the binding. It is also the preferred method for seams which are pressed open verses those who have both seam allowances pushed to one side.
What materials do I need?
A major perk to a Hong Kong finish is how little it materialistically requires. You will need:
- (2) 1″ bias strips
- Sewing machine
- Pressing cloth for heat sensitive fabrics
- Matching thread
- Seam you intend to apply it to. (Learn more about seam allowance here.)
For couture or tailored sewing, a 1” bias strip cut out of lightweight fabric such as cotton lawn, silk, or organza is preferable, while home sewing requires only a store bought bias tape. For a really chic finish, select a bias strip with a contrasting color or pattern to make it stand out from the main fabric.
How to do the Hong Kong Finish
Before you start, you’ll want to decide when you want to apply your finish. Most sewists apply the finish as each new seam is created. However, you have the option to apply it the raw edges of your panels prior to construction. This scenario is preferred when working with bulky fabrics which are difficult to pass under a machine as the layers build up. For the purpose of our demonstration below, we will be showing you how to do it after the seams are made.
Turn the wrong side of your seam face up and open. Press.
With right sides together, pin one bias strip to one of your seam allowances. Stitch together with a 1/4” seam allowance.
Press the bias strip away from the seam.
Wrap your bias strip around the raw edge of the seam allowance onto the wrong side and press.
NOTE: Do not turn the raw edge of the binding under. This edge will stay raw to reduce bulk.
Arrange your panels out of the way to ensure you aren’t topstitching your seam down onto the garment.
On the right side of the seam allowance, stitch in the ditch of the strip making sure to catch the it on the other side.
Trim down the excess bias strip to an 1/8”. Repeat on the other seam.
Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci once said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Proof to his sentiment, the Hong Kong finish is an incredibly simple technique which delivers impressive results. While the Hong Kong finish will certainly demand your time, I can guarantee it will be well worth your extra care.