Finishing Armholes with Bias Tape

Hey, everyone! In the comments of this post (Bird-print Peplum Top: Burda 6977) Angela wanted to see how the armholes were finished. So I thought I’d demonstrate it. Like most things in sewing, it’s easier to explain in photographs rather than just with words. I did deviate from the instructions a little so I’ll show you what I did.

burda 6977 peplum top 4

This is one way to finish the armhole of a lined or unlined garment and it’s relatively easy to do. The advantage of sewing bias tape to a lined garment at the end is that you can smooth out the lining with all other edges sewn, and know that your armhole edge will be flat and smooth with no lining bubbling up. And, you can do it at the end of the construction steps when the blouse is nearly complete, in case you want to make minor adjustments.

Here’s what it looks like:

bias binding around armholes

Very nice! The trim won’t show on the right side of the garment, and the stitching is invisible if you sew the binding by hand.

bias binding around armholes from inside

Here is what it looks like from the inside, which might give you more insight on how it all goes together!

Now here’s how to sew it. First, you’ll need to have your top sewn with everything else completed. This is the last step. The zipper has been inserted, the neckline edge is finished with the lining, and all that’s left is the raw edges of the armholes.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 1

The photo above shows the completed top but for this demo, imagine that the armholes are not finished. Instead, the raw edges of the lining and main fabric are meeting along the opening.

If your fabric is quite slippery, you might want to baste the raw edges together before attaching the bias tape. This is a good time to smooth out the layers, making sure there are no bumps. Both of my fabrics are cotton so they tend to ‘grab’ onto each other, smoothing them out was quite important.

Now I’ll use scraps of fabric to demonstrate. It’s really quite easy but since you asked, I thought I’d show how it was sewn. Here’s my little fake-armhole to show you:

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 2

You can see that even though this is just a tiny sample, it’s easy for the lining and main fabric not to line up once the other edges are finished. One fabric might have more give, or one layer might be cut slightly bigger. Or if you’ve rolled the lining to the inside around the neck edge, then it might be a little off once it reaches the armhole.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 3

Either way now is our chance to adjust as needed, and baste the edges together to keep them in place. If we were sewing these edges together, and then turning them, there’s a possibility that the lining would be just a bit big and have the tendency to roll out. (I hope this makes sense! Imagine lining up those two uneven raw edges, sewing them right sides together and then turning it right side out.)

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 4

Next, we’ll cut a length of bias tape to fit. Add a little extra as it’s hard to pin with the bias tape still attached to the package, but you might use up more than expected going around the curves. I’m using blue for this demo so it’s easier to see.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 5

In the instructions, they have you using a piece of bias-cut lining as the binding. I didn’t do that, as I felt both my lining and main fabric were too stiff for binding. I used purchased bias tape which was much narrower than their piece. Instead of folding the bias strip in half and sewing it to the armholes, I unfolded one folded edge of the bias tape and aligned the fold on the seamline. A little fiddly, but it works! For a dressier blouse, I’d use the strips of lining instead.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 6

Now, working from the right side of the armhole, line up the bias tape along the seamline. You could either trim down your seam allowance of the blouse to match the unfolded edge of the bias tape, or you could draw in the seamline 5/8″ (1.5cm) from the raw edge and use that as your guide. (To clarify, you are lining up the unfolded edge of the bias tape, the groove of the fold, with the 5/8″ (1.5cm) seamline. Not the raw edge of the bias tape.) I chose the latter for the blouse and for this demonstration.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 7

The trickiest part is working around the curve under the arm. In this case, try not to stretch the binding too much, but ease it around the corner evenly. Better to use lots of pins than to get puckers in the bias tape.

Now, sew along the seamline. It’s easy to use the unfolded-fold as the guide.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 8

Trim and clip the seam allowances. You’ll want to be able to stretch the seam allowance straight.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 9

Now if you like, you can understitch the bias tape so it stays on the inside of your garment. It’s a nice extra step for a cleaner finish.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 10

When understitching, make sure the tape is flat and you’re not sewing puckers into the edge. On the demo I could stretch my binding out straight to make it easier, it’s probably a little more challenging on the actual armhole.

Press the bias tape flat.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 11

To finish off, you can either hand-stitch the binding to the lining or topstitch by machine. I wanted an invisible finish on this blouse so I slipstitched the bias tape in place.

sewing the bias tape to armholes step 12

For this demo, I edgestitched close to the edge of the bias tape and it looks pretty nice too.

So that’s how to sew bias tape around the armholes of a lined garment! Any questions, let me know and I’ll try to help. What do you think of this method?

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35 Responses to Finishing Armholes with Bias Tape

  1. maddie October 6, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Even though I didn’t make this blouse, it’s a wonderful tutorial, and I’ll refer to it when I need it. Thank you! It is my preferred method!

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      That’s great! Yes, I figured this was a pretty specific tutorial but it’s always good to see bias tape in action. :)

  2. Annette October 6, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    Thank you for posting this tutorial. It is a good one!

  3. Leigh October 6, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    What a great idea! I’ll definitely be using this in the future.

  4. Jo October 6, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Whenever I use this technique I never get it 100%, but I improve by using new strategies. I don’t understand it, but tutorials I’ve read say to make the bias tape 6mm or so shorter and stretch to fit. That confuses me since the bias tape is folding inwards to a greater circumference at the inner armhole! I wish I knew why it works!

    Last night I attached some to my armhole and made the mistake of using too-stiff of a fabric so it didn’t go as well. It was passable though.
    I’ll do better next time.

    Thanks for the tutorial. It is a lovely finish when you get it to cooperate! The first time I learned it was with the Pendrell blouse actually! :)

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Yes, this is similar to the Pendrell Blouse finishing. I may be biased (ha! sewing pun..) but I like the finish on the Pendrell Blouse better than the way I did this one.
      Maybe the tips on stretching the bias tape to fit refer to bias binding, where it covers the edge but doesn’t have to be turned to the inside? Could also be a different shaped curve. Because of the cap sleeve on this top it’s quite a tight curve under the armhole!

      • Jo from Making it Well October 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

        The tutorials I referenced were for neckline and armholes, and they both were for facings, not binding. And they both say to stretch it, which is the bit I don’t understand. I guess if it works it works, but I like to know why!

        http://lladybird.com/2014/06/23/oal-sewing-sleeves-or-bias-facing/
        http://grainlinestudio.com/2012/02/15/sewing-tutorial-getting-flat-bias-necklines/

        Here’s a thought- perhaps by stretching the bias facing it eases in the curved edge of the garment a little, thus cupping it to your body? That would make sense for a neckline or armhole….
        And then I guess the bias strip has enough give in it that it can stretch to accomodate the larger inner curve of the garment.

        Oops, my sewing nerdyness is showing :)

        • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

          Interesting, thanks for the links! My experience has been if I pull it too tight around an inner curve, then it won’t ‘spread’ over the wider area inside the armhole, on the wider side of the curve. It would probably do what you suggest, ‘cupping’ it to your body, but that might not be what you want under your armpit! It also tends to thin out the binding, as it’s stretching to fit the curve, but then the bias facing itself narrows to fit. Which is fine overall unless you want it to be an even width all around.
          It’s not nerdy at all, I find it easier to remember how to do something, if I know the ‘why’ about each particular trick.

          • Jo from Making it Well October 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

            Yes! That’s the issue I had last night~ around the curviest part of the armhole the bias strip just couldn’t spread enough when I turned it under. So I had to let it roll out towards the front of the garment a little bit.
            Fascinating stuff and thanks for all your thoughts on it! I’ll conquer the bias facing yet! :)

            • Tasia October 7, 2014 at 8:48 am #

              Oh yes, rolling to the outside is not ideal. Especially if you’ve used a contrast bias tape or if your purchased tape doesn’t match your garment fabric. Try not stretching it next time, if anything, working a little extra tape into the curves so it can spread comfortably when you turn it to the inside. Good luck! Also, don’t be afraid to rip it out and re-distribute the tape if you think you’ve stretched it too much. Leave a little extra length on both ends of the bias tape, just in case.

              • Bet October 20, 2015 at 11:11 am #

                Hi!!
                I’ve been trying to make my bias fit nice and flat around the armhole but I find it quiet hard.. once i attach the bias to the armhole, i trim the excess fabric, cut notches all around it and understitch; but as soon as i fold it inwards it’s like i dont have enough fabric anymore or like if the bias might have shrunken or something.. which i find it all so weird because i pay a lot of attention on sewing the bias almost as pushing it to the needle (it sounds odd haha but meaning i try to give more bias to the fabric).. I’m quite desperate trying to figure out the way of sewing it right..
                I saw the other links as well but i can’t figure out how to solve my exact problem, I’ll be forever grateful if you could answer my major problem!
                Thank you!

  5. Anne October 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m glad you mentioned not only trimming, but clipping the seam allowances. Most instructions seem to forget to including that!

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

      Yes, it’s pretty hard to turn it completely on a tight curve like an armhole, if you don’t clip into the curved areas! Perhaps the instructions just expect that we know that already. It really does make a difference, same with understitching.

  6. Angela October 6, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Thank you! Such a fast response! I am the one that originally asked if you would show us the technique on a sample, and this is just perfect! I am looking forward to trying this soon.

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      So glad this is helpful to you! It was a good question and worth showing in detail.

  7. Olivia October 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks for this! I *may* have been a little embarrassed to ask about basic techniques but this definitely fills a gap. Certainly going to try this now. Thanks!

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      Happy to help! If there’s something on a project I’ve posted that you want to know more about, feel free to ask! I might not always put together a demo in response but I may be able to point you to a similar tutorial or past post that might help.

  8. Lucy October 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Hold on. So how come the edge of the bias tape is along the seamline, and not the fold that you’re sewing? Wouldn’t you then have your armhole a few mm larger, because you’re effectively stitching and turning outside the seamline?

    Or am I confused? I’m pretty new to bias binding – it was only a few projects ago I discovered that it almost completely did away with the need for facings (and the peasants rejoiced).

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      Sorry, I probably haven’t worded it clearly! Let me re-read what I’ve written and make it clearer.

      You are right, it’s the fold that goes along the seamline. I wrote: I unfolded one folded edge of the bias tape and aligned the fold on the seamline. That part makes sense, it’s probably the next part that is misleading, where I talk about trimming the seam allowances. But yes, the goal is to line up the FOLD line with the seamline, so you have a tiny seam allowance on the bias tape, the unfolded edge, and a regular seam allowance on the garment.

      This is why I’ve mentioned you could trim the armhole seam allowance to match the seam allowance on the bias tape, so it’s easier to follow! Hope this helps. You have the right idea all along.

      • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        Also – thanks for pointing out that it was confusing! I’ve edited the post a little to hopefully make it clearer.

        • Lucy October 8, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

          Thanks for the clarification! That’s how I’ve been doing it anyway :-) I find it’s tricky to get the fold to match the seamline so I usually trim that centimetre off the seam allowance and just use the raw edge of the bias tape.

  9. Noelle October 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Thankyou! This is very timely as I’m just about to sew a sleeveless dress and want to finish the edges this way.

    • Tasia October 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      Oh good! It’s a good finish for unlined garments, too.

  10. Barbara J October 7, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    If the bodice was lined and I decided to hand stitch the bias binding down, would it be sturdy enough to stitch only through the lining and avoid the fashion fabric? Or should you stitch through both?

    • Tasia October 7, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      Hi Barbara! Yes, that’s what I did on the white blouse. I slipstitched the binding JUST to the lining fabric. That way nothing shows through on the right side!

  11. Caitlin October 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    This is a really cool technique! I’ll definitely have to try it out; it looks so clean and professional. Your tips and technique posts are the greatest (just like your book!). I’m finally getting to the point where I can try things like this that are a little more advanced!

  12. Sarah October 9, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Hi there!
    That surely is a beautiful top! Where did you find the fabric? (if you don’t mind sharing)
    Thanks so much.

    • Tasia October 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      I bought the fabric wholesale, but at one point it was available at Blackbird Fabrics http://blackbirdfabrics.com/ I think she’s sold out though, so I’m not sure where it might still be for sale! Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

  13. Katy November 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Thanks for your wonderful tutorials and detailed demos. They seriously do help a lot, I’ve learnt so much from you!

    Just wondering – when it comes to doing this technique on an actual armhole, or some other enclosed “ring” of fabric rather than a flat piece as you’ve shown here, a) how do you know how much bias tape to cut, and b) how do you enclose the bias tape where it meets at the ends, to give it a nice clean finish?

    • Tasia November 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      Ah – good question! I usually measure the armhole, then cut extra, at least 1″ more. That way I have a little room to adjust as I sew. If I’m really unsure I’ll not cut the long end, sew with a long length of bias tape attached, and cut the extra tail off after sewing.
      For the ends, I usually overlap the ends, and turn under about 1/4″ along the edge of the top tape. Then I’ll either slipstitch that folded edge in place, or use my topstitching to hold it in place.

  14. Catherine August 10, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

    Hi Tasia – I did this at the weekend for the first time, following your instructions! Thank you, thank you, thank you – you have taught me so much about sewing since I started back in 2013. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try the things I’ve tried without your tutorials. I have so little free time to sew and you help me learn in double-quick time.

  15. Catherine August 10, 2015 at 11:53 pm #

    PS: My armholes looked GREAT when they were done. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to achieve such a professional finish.

    • Tasia August 12, 2015 at 8:42 am #

      I’m so glad to hear that! Thanks for coming back to leave a comment. :)

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