How to clean finish a waistband without hand stitching

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Let me be honest with you. I do not enjoy hand stitching.

Wait, let me qualify that. I like it just fine in the right context. Stitching things by hand can be soothing, just like any other form of hand needlework. There’s nothing wrong with sitting in front of my laptop with the latest season of Sherlock, a cup of tea, and a bit of hand sewing. Occasionally.

The issue for me is that hand stitching often comes at the tail end of a sewing project. You need to hem something, or attach something, or hide a seam.

By that point, I’m usually ready to be done. I’ve worked hard putting the thing together and having to do some laborious last step in order to wear it is just a little bit crazy-making.

So it was with my modified Lonsdale. The bodice on this pattern is self lined, and one of the last steps is to slipstitch the lining to the bodice at the waist. I was kinda-sorta dreading it.

And then I stumbled on a way to do it by machine, using my trusty Bernina #5 foot.

What’s the slipstitch for?

First, let’s talk about the slipstitch.

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Slipstitching by hand is fairly common in home sewing. The slipstitch is a way to invisibly sew a fold in place, like a hem or the edge of a waistband. It’s called a slipstitch because you literally slip the needle in and out of the fold of the fabric to hide most of the thread. It’s designed to secure something down while leaving very little evidence.

Like all hand sewing, it’s not fast. And not all things need to be fast.

I tend to think that the ability to do things the slow way is actually an advantage home sewing has over factory made ready-to-wear. Sometimes the slow way produces the best result. Slipstitching can create beautiful results.

But I also think sewing should ultimately be enjoyable for you. If you’re in the mood for hand sewing, go to town. If not, there’s nothing wrong with trying an alternative.

Back to the slipstitch. There really is no way to do it by machine, because it requires the dexterity of real human hands. The result is a fold of fabric that’s held in place, with almost no evidence of stitching on the outside.

But as I was sewing my Lonsdale, I realized that I sew invisibly by machine all the time. I do it every time I create my favorite type of hem, the blind hem.

If you’re not familiar with a blind hem, it’s a type of hem that is sewn so that the stitching is almost invisible from the outside. Sound familiar?

It’s folded in a special way, and the sewing machine uses a blind hem stitch and blind hem foot. The stitch just barely bites into the fabric, creating tiny stitches that are spaced far apart. They’re very hard to see on fabric that isn’t perfectly smooth.

If you aren’t familiar with how a blind hem is sewn, visit our previous post on how to sew the bind hem to understand the mechanics of it.

I thought, if I can use a blind stitch on hems, why not a waistband?

And what do you know? It worked.

The Bernina #5 foot is my jam

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Let me take a moment to praise the #5 foot, because this is the foot that convinced me that the money I’d spent on my Bernina was well worth it.

I talked a little about this foot before in my post on my 3 favorite presser feet, and it remains the foot that impresses me the most.

This is mostly because I’ve found working with other presser feet to be a little troublesome and fiddly. The Bernina foot is engineered so well, I never skip a stitch, even in a bulky seam or hem.

Of course, this is a general technique you can do with any blind hem foot, but the Bernina just makes it really easy.

How to blind stitch a waistband by machine

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This is my inner bodice before stitching. The pattern instructions have you hand slipstitching that fold in place along the waistband seam, so that the stitches won’t be visible from the outside of the garment.

You can use this if your pattern tells you to hand slipstitch, or even if it says to “stitch in the ditch” on the outside and catch the under side (which isn’t always easy).

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1) On the wrong side, pinch the waistband seam to create a fold. The stitching of the seam should be right at the center of the fold.

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2) Place this fold on top of the lining edge you are stitching down. Place it on the wrong side of the lining edge, and allow the lining to peek out slightly, about 1/4″.

So in the photo above, the fold that I pinched is on top, and the folded-under edge that I want to secure is on the bottom and sticking out a little.

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3) Using a blind hem foot (#5 foot for Bernina users) and the blind stitch on your machine, begin stitching along the lining, allowing the needle to take tiny bites into the waistband fold as you stitch. This is exactly the same as sewing a blind hem.

You may not be able to stitch all the way into the very corners, but you can get really close. And since the blind stitch has securing stitches that are spaced far apart anyway, it makes no difference in the end. If it really bugs you, you could add a few hand stitches there.

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Here’s what the newly blind stitched lining looks like on the inside of the garment. Note that the stitching is not invisible on the inside of the garment. For total invisibility, you really are better off doing it by hand. But the stitching is neat and tidy and not at all obvious.

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Here’s what it looks on the outside of the garment. Pretty much invisible on this textured fabric.

Conclusion

If you hate hand sewing, or just hate doing it at the end of a project, this technique gives you an easy out.

By using a blind hem foot, you’ll have a tidy, secure, clean finish on the inside and almost no evidence of stitching on the outside.

Bookmark this (or pin it, as one does these days, I think) and try it on your next waistband! And don’t forget to check out the blind hem tutorial for a refresher if you need it, and the video on the Bernina blog for more on the #5 blind hem foot.


This post was written in partnership with Bernina, who I’m a dedicated customer and fan of. Be sure to check out their blog WeAllSew if you want to learn more about their awesome feet, attachments, and machines.

Like what you read here? Subscribe to our blog via email so you don’t skip a stitch! And sign up for our weekly Snippets email for even more sewing tips and tricks.

White-hot Lonsdale

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Long-time readers may remember my first modified Sewaholic Lonsdale, which I made in Italian cotton 3 years ago (!!!). I have always adored that dress.

This one was actually something of a stash-busting project. I had the pattern, and I had a couple yards of white cotton pique. Bam!

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Something about bare white summer dresses always reminds me of one of my favorite icons, Sophia Loren. I adore Sophia’s mix of sex appeal and classic taste. To me, she has always seemed sexy and strong at the same time. She was and is a goddess.

My favorite Sohphia quote: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”

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I made all the same modifications as my original Lonsdale, adding bust and waist darts, using the same narrow skirt instead of a full one, raising the waistline for my short-waisted self, and clean finishing the back zipper.

My favorite thing about the Lonsdale, apart from the awesome neckline and bare shoulders of course, is the pockets. I kept them just as they are in the original pattern, even though I changed the shape of the skirt.

So deep and nice to put your hands in, and I think they make the dress look a touch more casual. The wrinkles maybe take the casual thing a little too far, but hey, it was the end of the day.

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I adore this dress and can’t imagine it in a more suitable fabric for summer.

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Plus I learned a nifty new trick for finishing the inner waistline without hand stitching! I’ve got a tutorial for that lined up on Wednesday, so check back soon.

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Pattern: Sewaholic Lonsdale, with modifications
Fabric: Cotton pique
Shoes: Sven clogs
Lipstick: MAC Lady Danger

Announcing the Myrtle sewalong!

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Just a quick note to let you know that we’re starting up the Myrtle sewalong!

This is sure to be another amazing free class taught by Devon. When you join by entering your email, you’ll get each lesson delivered straight to your inbox as they’re published.

Devon has taught sewing for years and you’ll see how well those skills transfer to a virtual class too! She explains everything clearly and in great detail.

She has published the full schedule today, and will be covering everything you need to know to make this dress. It also offers two places to ask questions as you sew – in the comments, or on our very supportive sewalongs facebook group.

We try to make our sewalongs the best out there, so take advantage of the free support! Head on over and enter your email to get started.

Weekend Reading: “effortless” beauty, infinite lists, and the Myrtle sewalong

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Every summer, I wonder how it is I got so busy.

One of my not-so-secret dreams is to be able to afford to work shorter weeks in the summer, maybe taking fridays off to enjoy the sunshine, go hiking, and sit on my patio. Instead, I always seem to find myself buried under a pile of projects, unable to find the time to do simple things like make dinner before 10pm.

So I’ve been scheduling in time for happy summer things, like watching Hitchcock’s Notorious from a rooftop. Summer has a way of reminding you when you’re missing out on things, doesn’t it?

Weekend Reading

For more links every week, you can follow me on Twitter, where I’m always posting interesting tidbits I find.

image above via colettepatterns on instagram

Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z: Free class from Craftsy


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When I bought my first sewing machine, it came with a bag full of presser feet. To me, they might as well have been spare parts from a rocket ship, that’s how foreign they seemed.

There they sat, hidden in their little case while I tried to eyeball edgestitches and sew most hems by hand.

I was a newbie, but I also didn’t have anyone around to show me what was what. Little by little, I started experimenting and over the years came to love all those specialty feet.

Lucky for today’s sewists, you don’t need an experienced seamstress by your side to avoid the years of guessing and shrugging and hoping for the best that taught me to sew.

When I saw this free class all about presser feet that’s available over at Craftsy, I actually felt a little jealous! It’s so much easier to learn now, and a class just about sewing machine feet would have saved me a heck of a lot of time and trial and error when I was 16.

If you’re not familiar with Craftsy, they provide online interactive classes. So in a way, you do have an experienced seamstress by your side.

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This class is called Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z and is taught by Steffani Lincecum, who has over 25 years professional experience.

What’s covered

Steffani goes over 11 of the most common sewing machine feet.

It starts with feet that you’d use for closures, such as the all-important zipper foot, the invisible zipper foot (a personal favorite), and the buttonhole foot.

She then goes on to talk hems, and you’ll learn all about the blind hem foot and the rolled hem foot, both of which can make it easier to get a professional finish without a lot of hand stitching.

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She also covers specialty feet like the quarter-inch foot and roller foot, and fun feet like the free-motion foot, couching foot, and ruffler.

If any of these feet are unfamiliar to you, you’ll learn something in this class that you can take with you to future projects, that’s pretty much guaranteed.

Take the free class – Sewing Machine Feet from A to Z >

[This post about this free class was sponsored by Craftsy, one of our partners this month. They have some amazing free classes and resources for sewists that I'm excited to share. Thanks Craftsy!]

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