A Stretchy Hong Kong Finish for Sweater Knits

This is an updated version!

"Is it possible to finish seams neatly on a sweater knit without a serger?" That's a question I get asked frequently. The answer to that question is yes!

You're probably familiar with the Hong Kong finish when used with woven fabrics. The steps for creating this finish on a sweater knit are similar. For the binding fabric I use micro mesh from Spandex World in NYC's garment district. This mesh is also available online. I've also used very thin (a.k.a. flyweight) cotton or linen rib fabrics from Mood Fabrics. I've purchased both of these at Mood's New York store. They may be available online, though I haven't found them.

I've never seen or heard of a stretchy Hong Kong binding on a ready-to-wear sweater. I do love the finish, however, and think it's perfect for your handmade cut and sew sweaters.

How to Sew a Stretchy Hong Kong Finish for Sweater Knits

Step 1. Cut the binding strips.

I cut the mesh one and a half inches wide and as long as the sweater knit edge I'm finishing. No need to cut on the bias; the micro mesh is already nice and stretchy and doesn't run or fray. Pictured on the left is the beige mesh strip I'm using for this demonstration. In my hands is a sample of flyweight cotton rib cut into a strip. The public side of the sweater fabric is shown below.

Step 2. Sew the seam with right sides together using appropriate settings for the sweater knit.

For this fabric I used a regular zigzag at 0.5 mm wide by 2.75 mm long, sewing with polyester thread and a ball point needle, as I usually do with sweater knits. There's a 5/8 inch seam allowance for this demo.

Step 3. Sew the binding strip to the edge.

Line up raw edges and sew 1/8 inch to the right of the seam line, at the half-inch mark in this example. Right side of the binding is facing down, if there's an obvious right side of the binding fabric. I stayed with the plain, narrow zigzag (0.5 mm wide x 2.75 mm long). Stretch the binding fabric just a little as you sew. This will help keep the sweater knit fabric edge from stretching out when completed. (Note: Theoretically, if you have an overlocker, you could complete Step 3 with the overlocker and then skip Step 4, though I've never done it that way.)

Step 4. Trim the seam allowance close to the zigzag you've just sewn.

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

Step 6. Stitch the binding down.

Keep it stretchy. In this case I used the 3-step zigzag (3.0 mm wide x 3.0 mm long) right on the binding since the cut sweater fabric edge is now protected from stretching. I'm sure most any stretch stitch would work well.

Step 7. Trim the excess binding width on the back close to the stitches.

Also trim extra binding length.

Steam the seam allowance to the side. Steam the right side too. And that's it!


You may be wondering why I cut the the binding strip so wide when I was going to trim it in the end. There are 2 reasons: First, the trim becomes narrower as it's stretched along its length. Also, I like to be sure I have enough binding width to comfortably stretch around the sweater edge and to sew that final pass.

A stretchy Hong Kong finish will work with many sweater knits, as long as the binding fabric is thin enough. If using this finish with a very bulky sweater knit, I'd sew the sweater seam, steam it open, then attach the binding onto each edge separately, instead of both edges together as demonstrated above.

This seam allowance finish is a favorite of mine, and it can be accomplished with just a sewing machine. I think it's prettier than many edges that are overlocked or zigzagged and trimmed, if you've got the time!

Learning the Skills

The stretchy Hong Kong finish is just one of the techniques I teach in my online workshop How to Cut and Sew a Sweater. I also teach students to sew professional looking necklines, achieve smooth seams, and several other essential techniques. Sign up to receive information about my online course.



  1. Thank you. This is very clear.

  2. My pleasure! Hope it will be helpful for future sweater sewing. :)


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