Ladies and gentlemen: In this corner, the middleweight champion of the world, bias bindings! And in this corner, the other middleweight champion of the world, facings! Let's get ready to rumble!
Okay, deciding the best way to finish garment edges doesn't have to turn into a boxing match. We could try to resolve this the diplomatic way, and say the choice entirely depends on the garment and fabric you're working with. But some sewers are very opinionated and will always swear by one method or the other.
So let's take a look at the pros and cons of facings and bias bindings. Then you be the judge.
The 411 on Facings
Facings are designed to be sewn to the garment edge and turned inside, to create smooth edges with no visible stitching. You'd normally sew facings with the fashion fabric or a coordinating color. And because they're often interfaced, facings allow for more structure in a garment and can support the outer layers. They let you create shapes that aren't possible with bound edges.
Check out the example above: This sewing pattern came with all the pattern pieces for a fully faced and lined dress, something you'd usually find on high-end, ready-to-wear garments. In the version on the right, the self fabric is used at the neckline facing . The sleeve facings are made with a neutral gray lining fabric.
Some sewers don't like facings because they tend to flip out of the garment. Here are two ways to tame a flippy facing:
Understitching the facing guides the fabric so it turns under at the garment edge, and adds to the crisp edge you want. It also helps the facing to stay inside the garment. A few thread tacks at the shoulder and underarm can keep the facing where it belongs: on the inside.
For a smooth facing that gives you a nice edge but stays smoothly tucked inside the garment, try all-in-one facing.
Some patterns, especially vintage ones, have separate facing pieces for the neckline and armholes. But these pieces can get a bit bulky or messy-looking inside the garment. Do this instead: On a sleeveless dress or top, combine the neckline facing with the armhole facing to create one continuous facing piece. The all-in-one facing will be quicker to sew, and will get you the clean finish you're looking for on the inside.
To make an all-in-one facing, trace the facing for the front and back using the dress or top pattern pieces. Sew up the shoulder and side seams of your garment and facing, but leave the center back and side seams open. Then apply the facings, trim your seams, and pull the back pieces through the shoulder openings to the front. Your garment will be right side out with fully faced edges. Press and sew up the side seams, including the facings.
The Intel on Bias Bindings
Facings have their superfans, but so do bias bindings. Depending on the fabric and design you're working with, bias binding might be the winning choice for you. You can also use it to add an accent of fabric or color to a sewing project.
Some tips on how to use it: You can buy bias tape or make your own. When you apply the bias binding to your garment edges, make sure they don't stretch or get distorted. Proper trimming and pressing are also key if you want a smooth bias finish. Since the bias binding can end up looking rippled — or not laying flat — you'll probably need to practice applying it, and plan for a little trial and error at first.
Here are cases when bias binding may be the way to go:
Lace and Sheer Fabrics
Bias bindings go perfectly with lace or sheer fabrics. They allow you to finish the edge without changing the texture or sheerness of the fabric, and they enclose what might otherwise be a scratchy lace edge.
Because bias binding can be formed around curves, it's especially useful for finishing woven fabrics.
Some designs use the bias binding not as a hidden edge finish, but as a visible detail. For example, you might come across a vintage pattern with actual pattern pieces for the bias bindings, including markings for distributing the gathers over the bustline.
Fast Seam Finishes
You can create a bias binding at the neckline or armholes quickly and easily, using the same fabric as the garment. This method also gets you a polished, matching look inside and out.
Bias Bindings or Facings: The Final Round
We know, many of you will still pick the same side nearly every time. But if you're still trying to choose which one you like best, the good news is you don't have to make a decision once and for all. You can take it one project at a time, and consider a few questions before you start.
How Much Structure Does Your Garment Have?
For example, outerwear usually has more structure (plus linings), so facings may be your best bet — although some jackets use a combination of both facings and bias bindings.
How Formal Is Your Garment?
Some sewers think of facings as more formal since they give dresses a crisper finish. But sometimes a bias binding works great for formal wear, especially if you're working with sheers, silks or lace.
What Fabric Are You Using?
Woven fabrics can benefit from bias bindings, as can other fabrics we've discussed like sheers and lace. Cottons work well with either method.
The bottom line is, it makes sense to play around with edge finishes and explore how well they work for different projects — and how well they work for you. Because ultimately, after all is said and done, it's your call!