Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Overview of Hong Kong Seam Finishes

I'm not usually much for technique tutorials on this blog, largely because, as a relatively new seamstress, I don't know what I'm doing and make a lot of it up as I go along.  But given how much I've been talking about Hong Kong seam finishes recently, I thought I'd write up a quick overview of how they're done.  There are scads of great tutorials out there, if you'd like more detailed instructions.

I've used Hong Kong finishes twice now, once on my green dress and again on my jean skirt knock-off.  When I began that project, I was in the throes of an all-out Hong Kong finish obsession, but finishing all 10 raw edges inside that skirt has cooled my ardor somewhat.  I love the effect, and I think it was well worth the effort, but after this I'll be taking a break from Hong Kong finishes for a while.

A few quick notes about the advantages--and disadvantages--of Hong Kong finishes.  These finishes look very polished, and definitely take your garment to the next level.  They're ideally suited to heavier-weight fabrics, which would be too bulky to finish with other methods such as french seams.  Because you use a bias strip of a lightweight fabric, Hong Kong finishes also let you introduce some color contrast into your design, which I did to great effect on my jean skirt.

On the downside, Hong Kong finishes are quite time-consuming, since you have to finish each raw edge separately, which results in two finishes for every seam.  They also require extra fabric to do the binding, and because they add some bulk, they wouldn't be appropriate for use on lightweight fabrics.

Overview of a Hong Kong Finish:

First, sew your seam as you would normally, and press it open.  Cut a 1-inch wide bias strip, and pin it right sides together to one of the raw edges inside the seam.  Sew the bias strip to the seam allowance, sewing 1/4 inch from the edge.  Just to be clear, you are sewing through only the seam allowance, holding it apart from the rest of the garment.

At this point, I trim the seam I just sewed down to 1/8 inch, although none of the tutorials I've read so far mention doing this.  I think it makes the next step easier.

Then, fold the long edge of the bias strip around to the back, enclosing the raw edge of the seam allowance.  Pin and stitch in the ditch.  On my denim fabric, with navy thread, this stitching is almost invisible.

Since it will be concealed between the seam allowance and the garment, and since fabric cut on the bias is disinclined to fray, the raw edge of the bias strip doesn't need to be finished.  This is what the finished seam looks like from the back (ie. with the seam allowance flipped up):

And this is what it looks like with the seam pressed open.  (Now, of course, you need repeat for the other raw edge.)

There you have it: Hong Kong finishes in a nutshell!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including your steps with pictures. I definitely have to give this a try! The skirt looks wonderful, too.