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Cali sewalong: finishing the armholes

Welcome back to the Cali sewalong! Today we're going to finish the armholes of the bodice with a strip of bias binding. This will act as a small facing, strengthening the armhole, and making it neat and tidy!

Bias binding: to make or buy?

Before we start sewing, a little more about bias binding. Fabric that is cut "on the bias" is cut at a 45 degree angle to the selvedge. (You'll remember that the pattern piece for the bias strip was placed diagonally across your fabric when we cut out.) This means that bias-cut fabric has more stretch, which makes it possible to guide around round shapes like the armhole!

The Cali dress pattern calls for you to make your own bias binding. Although this may seem intimidating, it's quite quick and simple. You've even cut the pattern piece for the bias binding strip already! Using your iron on a low heat setting (don't burn your fingers, it's a little finicky), iron your strip in half longways. This is just to mark the middle of the strip. Unfold. Fold each long edge in to meet the middle and press. Et voilà! You did it.

Bought bias binding will produce just the same effect. I am using shop bought binding – the fabric I'm working with is very busy and it's much easier to see the detail of the binding without the print.

Pinning the binding

With the right side of the binding facing the right side of the armhole, pin the binding all the way around the edge of the armhole, with the edges neatly matching each other. I know it feels like we are attaching the binding to the outside of the dress – that's okay, we kind of are, but we'll hide it inside a bit later.

Pin the binding to the armhole

Pinch the ends of the binding and pin them together where the underarm seam meets.

Pinch the ends together

Stitch the binding together and trim the ends if need be. You will notice that the far edge of the binding is still folded in.

Stitch and trim the bias tape

Sewing your binding

Many machines allow you to slide the tool box off the machine which frees up space around the base. If you can, this is very useful for "sewing in the round" as we are about to do. Stitch all the way around the armhole in the first fold of the bias binding.

Remove the tool box from your machine

Sew the binding in place

Turn the bias binding to the inside of the garment and press lightly with the iron.

Flip the binding to the inside

Slip stitching

Now thread up that needle, because we're going to do some hand sewing! It's slower, but it produces a much cleaner finished product!

Thread a hand sewing needle

Using a slip stitch, secure the binding to the inside of the armhole. Catch the fabric of the garment with a tiny, tiny stitch, then catch the binding repeatedly until you've made your way all the way around. The stitch has to be very small so that you don't see it from the outside!

Slip stitch 1

Slip stitch 2

Slip stitch from the inside of the work

The slip stitch is invisible from the outside


Nicely done! Now you have a fabulous, finished bodice to show off. Try it on, twirl around the house in your half-made finery and have a celebratory drink.

Finished Cali dress bodice

See you back here soon for more! We'll be making up our skirt pieces next. If you want to go back and catch up on what you might have missed, see what we did last time when we sewed the bodice.

It would be awesome to see your progress! Share with us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook using the hashtags #calisewalong #calidress and #afternoonpatterns