Our new Rome Collection was designed to be beginner friendly. No fancy finishes, tricky zippers or fiddly construction to stress out new stitchers. The Cielo top includes a neckline facing that we encourage beginners to try first, as it provides a professional-looking clean finish with no special skills required. However, we also include instructions and a pattern piece for bias binding. Bias binding gives a lovely, minimal looking seam finish along a neckline (you can use it along armholes as well!) without the fuss of a facing flapping around. It's one of those "basic" skills you should really have down pat, since you can choose to sew a bias bound neckline just about any time you see a facing in a pattern.
In this post we are going to show you two methods for installing a bias bound neckline. The first is the one we use in our instructions, and has quite a bit of steps but gives a super smooth, flat neckline just about every time. Sometimes bias necklines fail to lay flat against the body but we've always gotten good results with our technique. The second method is somewhat new to us; one of our pattern testers mentioned preferring the "French method" for inserting bias binding at the neckline (I have no idea why it's called French, any ideas?), so we gave it a try in this tutorial: spoiler alert, it's great! We recommend the traditional method for thicker fabrics, but would love you to try the French method for lighter weight fabrics since it's faster to sew.
One fun variable to play with is whether or not you want to use the same fabric or add a contrast binding. The final binding shouldn't be visible from the outside, but if you see a fun pop of colour on the inside it can be a cute detail, especially for more casual garments. In the first method I'll show you matching and in the second contrast, so you can get an idea of how they look.
TRADITIONAL METHOD FOR SEWING A BIAS BOUND NECKLINE
If you are making the Cielo Top or Dress we included a pattern piece (H) with the correct width and length of bias you need. Howeve, you can use a bias tape finish on just about any neckline. If the pattern you're using doesn't have a bias pattern piece, you'll want to cut a strip of bias that is a few inches longer than your neckline seam. The width is up to you; the rule is it should be four times wider than the finished width of the tape. For example, for a finished width of 1/4" you'll start with a 1" wide strip of bias tape. You can go a bit wider if you'd like a wider topstitched seam at the neckline, but keep in mind it may be a bit tricker to go around curves if it's too wide, and too narrow can be tricky to sew.
First up, cut that bias tape. Here's an easy and fast tutorial for making oodles of it. Once you have your bias tape cut, get your garment assembled so the neckline is ready for sewing.
One thing that is important to pay attention to is the seam allowances of your garment. If the pattern calls for bias tape, it may have a narrower seam allowance. Cielo has a 5/8" seam allowance to accommodate the facing, so we'll need to trim it down a bit. Start by stay stitching the entire neckline at 5/8" (all necklines should be staystitched for this method, regardless of what the seam allowance is). To avoid distorting the neckline, start at the middle back of the neck and stitch around to the front. Repeat for the other side, sewing back to center front.
Now trim the neckline to 1/4" wide. We like using chalk and a seam gauge to draw in where we need to cut it down - try to be as consistent as possible here.
Fold one short end of the bias tape in 1/2" and pin to the neckline all the way around, right sides together. Pinning is an option. Heather prefers to not pin it and sew it by hand for a bit more control. Either way, the key to getting a flat neckline is adding the slightest bit of tension to the bias tape as you're sewing it. Not so much that you're making the bias tape narrower, just enough that it will hug the neckline a bit. If you're pinning, once you get back around to the beginning, match up the short ends of your bias tape and mark the seam joint by finger pressing a line in the bias tape.
Unpin as needed so the edges are free, and then sew the ends of the bias tape together. Trim and press the seam flat.
Finish pinning the bias into place and then sew the entire neckline at 1/4". Sew with your stay stitching on the neckline facing up so that you can sew carefully on top of it. You'll have to be mindful that the bias underneath is being sewn at the same width as the neckline.
Note: An alternative method for this is to sew the bias tape to the neckline without pinning in place first. You just add a touch of tension to the tape as you're sewing it in, constantly adjusting it as you're turning the curves. To finish the ends of the tape, simply leave an inch or so of the bias tape free at center back when you start. As you approach center back on the other side, stop sewing about two inches from where you started. Join the bias tape ends, finger press a crease and then sew the short sides together, pressing open. You can then finish sewing the bais to the neckline without pins. Whether you choose to use pins or not is really up to you!
Using a tailor's ham, press both the binding and neckline up, away from the neck opening.
Grade the bias tape by 1/8" and clip notches around the curves neckline so the whole thing will lay flat.
Next, understitch the seam allowance to the binding by sewing 1/8" from the seam. This ensures the bias will roll to the inside and help everything lay flat.
Fold the binding under so it wraps around the raw seam. Try and press this under as consistently as possible. If you're using 1" wide bias tape, the final width should be about 1/4". If your stitching or trimming wasn't 100% accurate, you may need to trim the neckline seam allowance in a few areas so you have a consistently wide seam allowance to wrap the tape around.
Pin into place and topstitch the finished edge of the binding in place from the wrong side so you make sure you're catching the edge of the binding as you go. It's very important that your tension is good and your bobbin stitches look good since those are the stitches you'll see from the right side. If your bobbin stitches aren't as even as the top thread, you can sew from the right side - just be mindful of catching that binding all the way around.
Give everything a really good press, especially around the shoulders. A good amount of steam should help the neckline lay flat.
FRENCH METHOD FOR BIAS BOUND NECKLINES
Once again, sew the garment so the shoulders are assembled and neckline is ready. You will need the same length of bias tape (a few inches longer than the opening), this time a bit wider. For our 1/4" neckline, we cut a 1 1/4" wide piece of bias.
Stay stitch the neckline; in our case we are sewing at 5/8" and trimming to 1/4".
Press your bias tape in half with wrong sides together. Pin the folded binding to your neck opening, aligning raw edges. Again, use a slight amount of tension to help the bias lay flat. The key is slight - just enough that the bias hugs the seam without pulling or becoming too narrow.
When you've pinned back around to the end, open the bias tape and pin ends right sides together.
Sew the ends together, trim and press the seam flat. Pin in place along the neckline.
Sew from the wrong side at 1/4" so you can sew directly on top of your stay stitching.
Press the seam up and away from the neckline. Trim the seam allowance and clip into the curves if necessary.
Fold the binding over and pin into place on the inside. Press in place. If you're using contrast binding, try to roll the bias ever so slightly in so that is not visible from the right side.
Topstitch in place from the wrong side making sure your bobbin thread tension looks good from the outside.
Give everything a good press and you're good to go!
As you can see, the French method is a bit faster and simpler and has a cleaner edge on the inside. However, because you're sewing three layers at the neckline seam instead of two, we recommend it for finer fabrics since it might get too bulky with thicker fabrics.
Which method do you prefer when sewing bias necklines?