Saturday, August 20, 2011

Racerback Summer Dress Part 2 - Binding with Knit

We're continuing with Part 2 of sewing the racerback sundress.

See pictures of the finished dress here.
See Part 1 -Seam Allowances and the printable pattern - here.

Today we're going to bind the openings (neckline and armscyes) of the sundress, using strips of knit fabric.

Now that you've printed out the pattern, follow its pictorial instructions to lay out on and cut out the fabric. You will need approximately a yard of 45" knit fabric, or less, depending on the size of your child. As long as the fabric has a good sideways stretch to it, it will work. It does not have to be super stretchy in all four directions; in fact those might be harder to handle with this dress. Good examples are Tshirt knits, jersey knits, even rib knits. 

When you are ready to sew, you should have:
  • A front bodice piece, with necessary seam allowances, cut on the fold.
  • A back bodice piece, with necessary seam allowances, cut on the fold.
  • A rectangle for the shoulder strap, of appropriate dimensions.
  • A rectangle for the skirt, of appropriate dimensions.
  • Strips of knit fabric 1.25" wide, cut so that they stretch most from end to end i.e. you can lengthen the strip easily by pulling it along its ends. If using knit fabric with a ribbed weave, have the ribs perpendicular to the long edge. These strips have to be long enough to bind the neckline and armscyes.
  • 1/4" clear elastic long enough, unstretched, to go around the chest of your child, plus 2".
  • Ball-point needle and regular polyester sewing thread.

Step 1
If you have worked with bias tape before, this will be very familiar.
Press/iron the knit strips in half to get the center line. You may press a second fold on each side of that line to get it to look like single-fold bias tape, but it isn't necessary. Mentally divide the entire width of that strip into four, and use that width as your seam allowance for sewing. This should be about 1/4".

We're now going to whizz through the attachment process for the neckline, just for an overview, and then share some tips when we repeat the whole thing for the armscye.

Step 2
Position one knit strip along one end of the neckline so that the right side of the knit strip lies on the wrong side of the front bodice neckline. Line up their edges and sew to attach this strip to the wrong side of the neckline, just the way you would with bias tape.

Step 3
Flip over to the right side and fold in the free edge of the knit strip to meet the edge of the neckline.

Step 4
Fold over a second time to enclose the raw edges, just like single-fold bias tape. Overlap the first stitching line (the one visible in the photo below) just enough to conceal it.

Step 5
Lay this under the presser foot and top-stitch close to the edge of the binding. You don't need to stretch anything as you sew. 

Here's the finished neckline.

Step 6
We'll now repeat that for the armscye, with some additional commentary. First, sew the front and back bodice pieces together at ONE side seam. To do this, just lay the bodice pieces, right sides together, and sew along the stitching line. Finish the raw edges (I used a serger).

Step 7
Position one knit strip along one end of the armscye so that the right side of the knit strip (labeled "edging" in the photos) lies on the wrong side of the bodice. Line up their edges and sew to attach this strip to the wrong side of the armscye, the way you did with the neckline in Step 2.

The only tip worth mentioning is that as you sew a straight (but stretchy) edging to a curved armscye, gently straighten the curved armscye AND stretch the edging slightly (just enough to keep it taut) to compensate for this manipulation.  Like this: 
Remember that the edging needs to only be slightly stretched. If you overstretch it, your armscye/neckline will pucker. If you have a walking foot, you don't even need to stretch the edging - the walking foot does it for you.

Step 8
Repeat steps 3-5 to top-stitch the knit strip/edging onto the right side of the armscye.

Here's the finished armscye:

This is what the bodice looks like with the neckline and one armscye done.

Repeat Steps 6-8 to bind the other armscye. 

Trim of the excess edging. Now get ready to put the dress together in Part 3!


  1. mamma mia mamma i needed this today...i am sewing my first dress with knit after i read and reread and reread your posts on sewing with knits and plucked up the courage (thanks), then when it came to binding...oh i just plowed along and to be honest i chose a knit for the binding that was same colour front and back and it made it easier(you could say i cheated!!!). BUT the end result is not bad at all for a first try. so thanks again for the push to try knits.
    bpbajona at maltanet dot net

  2. I too have started recently sewing knits. I was just wondering do I need to use a stretch stitch when stitching on the bias binding?

  3. You make it look so simple! Now to be brave and give it a go... Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  4. Very useful, thank you for writing this up!

  5. @Mrs D Mrs D, no you don't. I have a stretch stitch function on my sewing machine and I've never used it for sewing knits; only for sewing the ends of elastic together to make waistbands. And that only when I remember I have a stretch stitch. Use your regular straight stitch and use a walking foot to eliminate having to manually stretch (gently and very minimally!) the fabric when sewing. Don't use the zig zag stitch for the binding (it isn't cut on the bias, incidentally - it's cut on the cross-grain so it stretches sideways) - it won't secure it because you won't be able to sew as close to the edge as you could with a straight stitch. Seems to go against all that is said on the internet and sewing blogs about working with knits, I know. But there you go- yet another way to sew knits, I guess!.

  6. Thanks for the help. I seemed to remember being told that I had to use stretch stitch when ever the area being stitched was going to be stretched. Anyway, I have been using a normal straight stitch without stretching as I go, seems to be working ok. I am loving sewing with knits. This is such a sweet little dress, it will definitely go on my to do list. Thanks for the tutorial.

  7. Oh this is great. Thank you so much!

  8. What was the seam allowance when you sewed the binding on? When I folded it over and topstitched, it exposed the seam on the wrong side; I think I folded over too much?
    It would be nice if you could include the length measurements for the binding...I wasn't sure and didn't read far enough ahead to see that it goes right around the casing, so mine ended up too short and I had to cut a new one LOL.

  9. Tracy - there is no seam allowance. There is never a seam allowance for binding - you bind exactly on the actual edge of the fabric. See Part 1 of this tutorial. I did, however, sew a stitching line about 1/4" to 3/8" away from the actual edge of the neckline/armscye.

    Length of the binding strips: Just measure (use measuring tape) to measure the total armscyes x2, and add the total neckline. It is different for the three different sizes of bodices in the patterns.

  10. I knew there wasn't a seam allowance for the binded areas, I sewed it about 1/4" (that's tricky--at least on my machine as nothing lines up with that LOL), but it just seems narrower than your pictures. I thought I was doing great with measuring the armholes and neck, but I just didn't realize how it went together and didn't include the part of the casing that gets folded over. That's typical for me though as I don't like to read to far ahead and get scared, LOL. It's coming along nicely though and I'd love to try an adult version. On the inside, does the top stitching for the binding end up looking almost like "stitch in the ditch"?

  11. See, I said I didn't like to read ahead--I went to part 3 and saw the inside pictures and see that I'm doing okay! :)

  12. This is fab - love the little dress too! I'm about to make a top for myself and am going to try this out :)

  13. I just used this on a onesie for my next baby and it turned out AWESOME! Just much better looking than ribbing in this usage!

  14. How do you jeep the fabric from stretching or looking all wonky when finished?

  15. What type of thread did you use? Was it serger thread or regular cotton polyester thread?

  16. Thank you very much! You have just convinced me not to buy an expensive bias tape attachement.

  17. Thank you. That was very helpful tip


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