A Stretchy Hong Kong Finish for Sweater Knits

In case you were wondering, I finished altering last week's very bright sweater. Those drop shoulder sleeves are now set in sleeves. The sweater looks much better, and I hope to get some photos this week!

Last week's post brought an email inquiry about my neck finish. "What is it? Did you sneak a fully fashioned neckline in there?" asked the writer of the email.

No, I didn't. That's the quick answer.  But you know I've got to give the long answer!

The neckline looks rounder than it actually is, because I pulled the neck open to show off the inside bound edge. The sweater actually has a boat neck, made by hemming the edge. The edge of the hem is bound with a Stretchy Hong Kong finish.

You're probably familiar with the Hong Kong finish when used with woven fabrics. The Stretchy Hong Kong finish I used is also a bound edge, but it's different from the bindings that I make for outside edges of a neck or for cuffs or hems. The first obvious difference is that I use a very thin, factory made, fabric for this stretchy finish. For last week's sweater and the example below, I used a patterned mesh (burnout) from stash with four-way stretch. Previously I've used a lightweight rayon/spandex jersey, but I think I'm liking the thinner mesh more for this application. (Update: I've learned that cotton flyweight rib works very well also.)

Step 1. Cut the mesh binding strip.
I cut the mesh as long as the edge that I was finishing and made it one and a half inches wide. No need to cut on the bias; this mesh is already nice and stretchy and doesn't run or fray.
Fabric swatch and binding fabric strip

Step 2. Sew the binding strip to the edge right sides together.
Sewing with polyester thread and a ball point needle, as I usually do with sweater knits, I used the edge of my walking foot as a guide to make a 3/8 inch seam. I used a 3-step zigzag (3 mm wide x 1 mm long) to help "darn" the raw edges of the sweater knit fabric and to keep the edge stretchy when I made the very bright sweater. On this sample I used a plain zigzag (1 mm wide x 3mm long). I now know that I prefer the first settings with the wider 3-step zigzag.  Each setting produced a stretchy edge, but the settings I used with the wider 3-step produced a stretchier finish.

And speaking of stretch, I stretched the binding fabric just a little as I sewed. That helps keep the sweater knit fabric edge from stretching out when sewing so close to the edge.

Step 3. Trim the seam allowance close to the zigzag you've just sewn. Trim away the excess length of binding fabric.

Step 4. Steam the binding up toward the seam allowance.
Use the lowest steam setting on your iron. Hold the iron just above your fabric. Don't press down. It will look like this.

Step 5. Fold the binding edge over the sweater knit fabric and pin.

Step 6. Stitch the binding down.
No stitching in the ditch here; I used the 3-step zigzag (3 mm wide x 1 mm long), though I'm sure any stretch stitch would work well.

Step 7. Trim the excess back of binding close to the stitches. Steam well.

And that's it!

You may be wondering why I cut the the binding so wide when I was going to trim it in the end. It's because the trim becomes narrower as it's stretched along its length. Also, I feel I need enough fabric for that final pass of stitching. This is why I think a product like Seams Great (See video on Threads Magazine site.), might be difficult to use with a sweater knit.

A Stretchy Hong Kong finish will work for many inside raw edges of sweater knits, so long as the binding fabric is thin enough. If using this finish it to encase seam allowances, you can use one binding to encase both edges at the same time, so long as the sweater knit fabric isn't too heavy. It worked well for my sample fabric.
Both sweater knit fabric seam allowances are encased and then steamed to one side.
This is becoming a favorite inside edge finish for me, and it can be accomplished with just a sewing machine. I think it's prettier than many edges that are serged or zigzagged and trimmed, if you've got the time!


Free download -- Five Tips for Using Commercial Sewing Patterns with Sweater Knits

Last edit 5Nov2018


  1. I'm so glad Carolyn linked your blog as I would have never found your wonderful site. I am planning on making my first sweater knit cardigan and your information here has been so comforting. I love Hong Kong finishes on my woven garments and now I know I can finish my cardigan with a stretchy Hong Kong finish, perfect!

    1. I'm glad Carolyn linked too. Welcome, Sharon! Glad this info is reassuring, and I hope you enjoy the sewing of your cardigan!

  2. Thanks for showing your stretchy version of a Hong Kong finish! I never made a complete cut & sew garment because I didn't like the look of the overlocked seams. I just used it for necklines that would be completely covered by a band. But I will definitely try this technique as I think that it looks really neat! I love your blog and all the information in it. As I am a seamstress and machine knitter myself I know many of the tricks but every now and then you you show something that is new to me, too. Thanks for continuously experimenting and finding new ways to perfect knit items.

    1. Thanks for your kind words!

      I too prefer this finish to an overlocked edge. It's possible that Steps 2 and 3 could be done with one pass through the overlocker and then the edge completed on the sewing machine. I haven't tried it yet and don't know if it's worth doing that way! I do enjoy experimenting.


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