Hong Kong and bias bound seams tutorial // Closet Case Files
Tutorials

HOW TO SEW HONG KONG AND BIAS BOUND SEAMS

This is a tutorial I’ve been meaning to post for a while, since I had some requests after instagramming the in-progress guts of my Sophia dress. Bias bound seams are a beautiful, couture quality finish you can easily achieve on garments with exposed seams (think jackets or unlined skirts and dresses). They protect the raw edge of the seam and also give a little pop of colour in an unexpected place. Obviously they’re a little more time intensive then just serging those suckers, but the secret beauty is totally worth it! If you need more convincing, peep the pretty guts of any number of Oonaballoona’s inspired makes. Write a love letter to yourself with some seam witchcraft.

There are a few methods for sewing these seams; I’m going to show you three. Your choice will be determined by whether you’re using regular or double fold bias tape. See this tutorial if you need help making your own.

HONG KONG SEAMS

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

Hong Kong seams use regular bias tape and wrap around the raw edges of your seam before being “stitched in the ditch” into place. Since there is no visible stitching, they’re an elegant and pretty finish. Your seams should be moderately straight – a curved seam that needs to be notched will not be bound nicely. If you’re feeling extra fancy, use silk fabric for your bias tape.

To get started, make long strips of continuous bias 1 – 1 1/4″ wide. The wider tape is a little easier to sew since it gives you more wiggle room on the wrong side of the seam, but you may need to trim it down later.

Press your seam open and line up your bias tape with the seam on the side that will be visible when the garment is finished, right sides together. Pin into place.

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

Sew the bias to your seam using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

Fold the bias over and press flat.

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

Fold the bias around the raw edge of the seam and press again.

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

From the right side of the seam, stitch in the ditch along the bias seam (with your needle hitting precisely between bias tape and garment fabric) to stitch the underside of the bias tape into place. You shouldn’t really see your stitches.

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

On the wrong side of the seam the bias edge will be raw. You can trim down the bias tape to 1/8″ if necessary.

How to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

Hong Kong seams are fairly easy to sew although they do take some time. However, they add a lot of polish to your makes and it’s a good technique to refine and practice your precision sewing skills.

Looking for something a little less fussy? Try…..

SIMPLE BIAS BOUND SEAMS WITH DOUBLE FOLD BIAS TAPE (OPTION 1)

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

A shortcut version of Hong Kong seams, you can also use double fold bias tape to wrap around the raw edge of your seam, sewing it all together in one step. I think this works best for straight, non-fraying seams. It can be tricky to sew really precisely, but it’s probably the fastest option of the bunch.

To start, wrap the bias tape around the seam and pin into place.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

If you’re using commercially available tape, one side of it will be slightly narrower than the other. The narrow edge should go on the right side of the seam to ensure you’re catching the bottom layer of the tape while you’re sewing.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

On the right side of the seam, sew along the length of the tape, about 1/16″ from the edge, ensuring the folded edge of the bias is hugging the raw edge of the fabric.

HowHow to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files to sew a Hong Kong seam tutorial // Closet Case Files

I’m not super fond of this method because it can be hard to evenly capture the seam below, but it works in a pinch.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

Since you’re trying to capture all the layers in one swoop, the final results may not be as OCD perfect as you’d like. If you’re not getting perfectly even seams, try the following method.

BIAS BOUND SEAMS WITH DOUBLE FOLD BIAS TAPE (OPTION #2)

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

While the finished product looks remarkably similar to the above method, I find it easier to sew. You’re sewing two lines of stitching instead of one, guaranteeing that all the bias tape edges are caught in the stitch. It’s closer to a Hong Kong seam but it’s a good option if you’re using double fold instead of regular bias tape.

To start, press your seam open. Unfold the double folded bias tape and align the edge with the wrong side of the seam. Pin into place.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

Sew the bias tape to the seam along the first folded line.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

Fold the bias tape over so that the center crease of the tape is hugging the raw seam edge, and press into place.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

Sew along the right side of the seam, 1/16″ from the edge.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

In the end, your method will vary depending on the bias tape you’re using. Each of these technqiues have their time and place.

MORE TIPS FOR SEWING BIAS BOUND SEAMS

  • Store bought double sided bias tape is easier to sew in since it’s more precisely made.
  • If you’re making homemade double fold bias tape, try to minimize your seams by using a longer piece of fabric to make your bias tape.
  • When using commercial available tape, the narrow side of the tape should go on the right side of the seam.
  • If the beginning of your stitch lines gets pulled down into the machine as you start sewing, use a seam ripper behind the foot to stabilize and “pull”the seam through.

How to sew a bias bound seam // Closet Case Files

  • Use an edge stitch foot to make your stitch line as even as possible.
  • Use lightweight fabrics for your bias tape to reduce seam bulk.

Hopefully you’ll find this info helpful if you’d like to make some pretty guts in your next make. Have you experimented with bias bound seams in the past? Any more tips for making them work?

  • Very informative! I always thought Hong Kong and bias bound seams were the same thing, so I’m glad to know the difference! Also, it explains why I had an issue with my Papercut Sway dress after I washed it…I used the first bias bound method you illustrated, but my linen frayed pretty badly and I had some areas slip out of the bias tape and get all frayed! 🙁 Do you think I would have had less of an issue using either Hong Kong or your second bias bound method? Or what seam finish do you recommend for really fray-y fabrics? And any tips for repairing a dress that’s already frayed?

    • Definitely less issues,,,, it’s being sewed twice so it’s extra secure and you’re guaranteeing a 1/4″ seam allowance, which may be harder to achieve consistently with the first method. When stuff frays, I like using my serger. Kind of fool proof even if it is less pretty…. And can you just serge those fraying seams now?

  • Maria Shell

    Great informative post! Thank you. I have a couple of tips for working with these complicated seams. If you can get a straight stitch needle plate for your machine it will really cut down on the chances that your feed dogs will chew up your fabric and bury it in the hole of your throat plate. I also find that using a jean stitch (Bernina #8) foot is great for sewing bulky narrow seams. I just feel like I get maximum control and visibility. Great post Heather!

    • Thanks Maria! I desperately need that needle plate for my Bernie…. and I resisted the Jeans foot but maybe I should give it a whirl….

      • Maria Shell

        Heather- You are jeans maker and designer! You’ve got to get on that foot. Speaking of jeans, I bought both kits the last time you sold them. Now I just need to do it. I really appreciate your blog and your patterns. Thank you!

  • SaSa

    Thank you for those good explications! I always wondered wether the hidden bias edge was rough and now I can see- it is! Doesn’t it fray by the wash? It is less bulky like this, though. 🙂

    • It will fray a little but the stitch line *should* keep it from unravelling and you won’t really see it anyway. Also, I imagine the types of garments you’d make with bias seams isn’t something you’d probably throw in the washer all that often…..

    • I thought things cut on the bias didn’t fray.

  • Danielle Malloy

    Love this!! I recently used Hong Kong seams for the first time on my Morris Blazer and they make it look a bajillion times fancier. I don’t own a serger (yet) so my innards never looked great unless I Frenched my seams. Thanks for the tip about using the seam ripper to “pull” it through! #biasboundforever

    • The morris would be a perfect bias project! I bet it looks amazing.

  • Can’t wait to sew something with the Hong Kong seam finish!

  • Tracy

    This might be a dumb question ~ but is there any reason why one couldn’t finish/bind the edges (using any of these methods) before actually sewing the seam? (It seems like it’d be less fiddly…)

    • You totally could! Obviously you’d want to have already fit it so the seam lines aren’t changing….

  • I love the seam finish! I usually do the finish before the seams, so much easier! And I love making up a lot of bias tape using a fat quarter. I found a pinterest link that showed me how to get a load of bias tape out of a single fat quarter. I can usually do a skirt with one fat, but I’ve taken to buying two or three (or a single yard of coordinating fabric) so I can do matching facings and hem binding as well. It all looks so pretty on the inside, I almost feel like I should wear them inside out. Almost. 🙂

  • I love these special seam finishes. I recently saw a pair of jeans that had bound seams so when they were cuffed you saw this really cute fabric at the seams.