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Video: How to clean finish a lined armhole

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Version 1 of the Moneta dress features a bodice that is fully lined.

If you’ve struggled before with lining sleeveless tops or dresses, we have a little trick to show you today to get a perfectly lined, clean-finished armhole, all by machine.

The secret is not sewing the armholes all in one go. You sew the front armhole, then the back armhole separately. The video and photos below show this with the Moneta dress, which is made from a knit fabric and sewn with a serger, but you can also use this trick on a woven garment with your standard sewing machine.

Watch the video above and follow these steps to try it out.

01-seam

1. With right sides together, start by stitching the shoulder seams and side seams together on both the bodice shell and bodice lining.

03-insert

2. Turn the shell right side out.

3. Place the lining inside the shell, with wrong sides together.

Note: For Moneta, the neckline is left open because a collar is sewn to it later. If you also want to clean finish the neckline at the same time, you can do that before step 3. Place the shell inside the lining with right sides together. Stitch the lining to the shell around the neckline. Turn the lining inside the shell, with wrong sides together, then continue to step 4.

04-turn-SA

4. Turn the seam allowance under at the front armhole. Press if you find it necessary. You only really need to turn the seam allowance under on part of the armhole.

05-reach

5. Reach between the lining and shell layers and grasp the two seam allowances of the front armhole. Pull them out through the waist.

06-stitch

6. With right sides together, stitch the shell to the lining along the front armhole. Stitch from the side seam to the shoulder only, don’t try to sew the entire armhole.

06b-front-armhole-complete

The armhole is now finished along the front. Let’s move on to the back.

07-grasp-back

7. Just as before, reach between the lining and shell layers and grasp the two seam allowances of the back armhole. Pull them out through the waist again.

08-stitch-back

8. With right sides together, stitch the shell to the lining along the back armhole. Stitch from the side seam to the shoulder only, meeting the stitching of the front armhole.

09-second-armhole

9. Complete the second armhole in exactly the same way, and you are done!

10-finished

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On , sewlittletime said: | somanypatternssewlittletime.blogspot.com

this is genius! very clever.

On , Natacha said:

Great tip! I was wondering if the Moneta could be lined (I have a beautiful piece of cream jersey with lace that I wanted to use but with the sun was afraid some of my anatomy would show…), now I have my answer :-) Thanks

On , Samantha said: | agatheringofstitches.com

Love the music…. Also love the very smart, very clever technique. Thank You!

On , Amber Hunter said:

So I guess my question is why? What happens if you just sew it all together in one go? Does the fabric twist or warp or something? I have never lined knits before…

On , Alyson Clair said: | alysonclair.com

Hi Amber! If you are clean finishing the neck as well, it becomes a twisted mess. (I know this from tearing out a lot of serging while in college.)

On , Sophie-Lee said: | tworandomwords.wordpress.com

Mainly because you wont be able to get the bodice back the right way around! The fabric will be twisted around the seams weirdly. Hard to explain, but if you’re making one try pinning or basting all the way around and try and pull it out the right way – impossible!

On , kc said: | theactofmaking.tumblr.com

This is so timely! I was just about to try making a reversible knit dress, and this trick for finishing the sleeves/neckline is going to come in handy for sure.

Thanks!

On , Amy said:

Thank you. You make sewing look so easy! I like to sew reversible garments but struggle because I can’t figure out the mechanics of things. I was wondering if you next have a tip for sewing the neckline with a nice clean finish as well if I wanted to turn this into a reversible top? Usually instructions make you pull one side through the open shoulders of sleeveless top… Thank you.

On , Alyson Clair said: | alysonclair.com

Hi Amy! If you are sewing the neckline clean finished as well, I like to do the neck seam first. It’s simple to just sew the entire neck opening, and then do the above technique to the armholes. I like doing it this way so my pieces are already attached. I’m a huge fan of clean finishing, both from sewing ease, to how it looks on the finished garment.

On , Amy said:

Thank you so much. I printed out this tutorial and will be trying it for sure.

On , Patrice said:

This is one of the best video tutorials I have seen. Every step easy to see and follow. Thank you!

On , elizabeth rehmer said: | sewrunningcrazy.blogspot.com

Wow! you make this seem so simple! I was just struggling with this. Thank you!! :)

On , Amanda said: | symondezyn.wordpress.com

Very cool trick!! :) I’m dying to get my bundle – really looking forward to elevating my knitwear sewing!! :D

On , Sandra said:

Fantastic!! I sew needed that! Thanks so much for posting this, am totally amazed and can’t wait to try it.

On , Kimber said:

This is WONDERFUL!!! I have always wondered how to do this. I have been holding off on so many dresses because I could not wrap my head around how to do this easily. Written instructions and illustrations with the Big4 often leave much to be desired…

On , Alyson Clair said: | alysonclair.com

It’s not an easy one to explain for sure! I think I was making guttural noises and hand motions while trying to explain it more than once.

Video tutorial: Clean finish lined bodice with no hand sewing | Sewing | CraftGossip.com

[…] Believe it or not, you can create a lined sleeveless bodice with no raw edges and a clean finish on the neck and arm holes, without having to resort to any hand sewing.  Colette Patterns shares a video tutorial on their blog, the Coletterie, showing how.  It’s actually a fairly easy technique though it’s complicated to show in photos.  They include a video with the tutorial because, though it’s a fairly easy technique, it’s difficult to show in still photos.  This is the technique I used when creating a lined sleeveless bodice, though I generally add a few notches so I can be sure that everything is lining up correctly as I sew. Go to The Coletterie for the tutorial. […]

On , paige @ LPD said: | luxperdiem.com

What is the benefit of sewing the armhole in two sections versus just sewing it in the round? I’m attempting this as my first knit pattern this weekend and am curious. Although I’m terrible with linings so I’m a bit nervous!

On , Kristen said:

If you attempted to sew the armholes in the round all at once you wouldn’t be able to turn the garment right side out and it would be a huge mess! Trust me, I tried.

On , Diane said: | vintagezest.com

I was skeptical watching the first 30 seconds thinking, “How would this be any different than doing it all in one go?” And I was proven wrong! So much easier than twisting, turning, pinning to make sure it doesn’t budge over the seam, etc. Thank you so much! :)

On , kelly said:

thank you! having the video along with the text/photos is wonderful! (love the music by the way!) :)

On , Alice Elliot said:

What a great technique. I’ve done it a different way, getting the same results, that is, without having the shoulders of the lining as the last part as they always direct you to do in the major pattern companies’ instructions. My way is much more difficult, so now I have your way….woohoo!

On , Shelley said:

Is this technique shown in the book too?

On , Kristen said:

It isn’t – but it is covered in the Moneta pattern.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Just to elaborate a little on what Kristen said, this isn’t in the book beause it’s not really specific to knits. You can do it on wovens too!

On , MarrieB said: | purlsandpleats.wordpress.com

Thank you for this! Can’t wait to give it a try.

On , Sophie-Lee said: | tworandomwords.wordpress.com

When making my sleeveless version I was really confused at first, and then “a-ha! brilliant”. I’ve previously used the technique in the Rooibos dress for sleeveless dresses but I usually forget and sew up the side seams first, and then have to do some unpicking.

For anyoe who forgets to sew the neck up first – I used this same technique (one side then the other) for the neckline after doing the sleeves. And I didn’t press the seams down first, though I would recommend doing it if you can’t quite wrap your head around what you’re doing

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Totally agree, pressing the seams is really optional but it helps you figure out what’s going on. :)

On , francesca said:

brilliant! I just received my pattern and love it. I am making a sleeved version first with some gorgeous liberty jersey I ordered with it from Susan (sewbox) but I will try this for sure when I make a sleeveless one later on. Just need to find fine jersey for the lining…. hopefully!

Love the book too, BTW.

On , Carol Henderson said:

I can’t get my brain around this. Why do you need to put the two pieces together as they will be when they are finished and then turn them the wrong way round to sew? Can you not just press the seam allowances, put them right sides together then sew the front seam followed by the back seam?

On , Lizzy said:

I was also having a rough time putting it together in my head. So I grabbed a muslin bodice that I had in my sewing room, cut a piece to act as the lining, and then followed along with my hands while watching the video. I think the reason you do it this way, instead of just piecing rightsides together like normal, is to avoid having to turn things rightside out again, which you can’t really do, because there is no opening to pull through.

At least my not-so-good-at-spatial-relations-brain could not figure out how I’d turn it rightside out!

It would really have helped if the video used fabrics that are obviously different inside and out, too.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Well, the polka dot is printed, so it does look pretty different on the wrong side, but not the outer fabric. Unfortunately, I think the only knits that would look noticeably different on each side would be printed. I thought using two printed fabrics would be visually pretty confusing.

Maybe french terry would have worked though, now that I think about it!

On , Lisa said: | workingmumy.blogspot.com

Great post. Very helpful.
L x

On , Faby said:

Wondering if you will post a tutorial about the Mabel skirt I’m struggling with the back slit opening.:(

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

We’ll be doing a sewalong on the Mabel soon. In the meantime, you may be able to find some tutorials online for doing a kickpleat like that. But we’ll be covering it too!

On , Kat said: | coutureacademic.com

That’s brilliant. Also love the use of a patterned lining – bookmarked for summer sewing :)

On , Sonicka said: | sonickamade.weebly.com

I tried this on last week on my first Moneta and it is brilliant. It made me feel so clever!!! Thank you soooo much for the video. It really helped! The extra support you give us seamstresses is one of the many reasons I love Colette Patterns! Thank you!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Yay, glad it helped!

On , Rebecca said:

Wow! That is no “little” trick as you say. That’s a big trick, and the answer to a problem I’ve struggled with for years! Thank you so much!!! And just in time for summer dresses! Hooray!

On , Paula said:

This combination of a photo tutorial with the video tutorial is perfect! I’m sure that the video took a lot more time but it is so helpful. Thank you for putting this together. Your tutorials allow me to be more adventurous in my sewing.

On , SunGold said:

Great vid; thank you!

On , Lia said:

Hi! Thanks so much for sharing this tip. I’m still confused about one thing, though.

The lining for Moneta was trimmed back 1/8 inch around the neck and armholes. This means that the seam allowance for the shell is 3/8, but the lining is 2/8. So I’m wondering…how do I match those up? Do I match them on the seam allowance fold? Or match them by their respective edges? Or do I (for some reason) still apply a 3/8 seam allowance to the lining, rendering all my spatial gymnastics moot?

Thanks again!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

You are trimming for what is called “turn of cloth.” This means that you want the lining piece to be slightly smaller than the outer piece, so that the seam turns to the inside.

You do not need to change the seam allowances, because then the lining would no longer be smaller.

All you have to do after trimming is match up the raw edges and sew the 3/8″ seam as usual. So no gymnastics needed!

On , Lucienne Jackson said:

As a novice sewer I tried altering a dress with a lining last evening.
This lead to wondering about a time I might start a garment that required a lining. You make lining a top look incredibly easy. Not yet for me, but I will give it a try the next opportunity. The video was really helpful, thanks.

On , Lyndsey said:

The moneta booklet says try adding sleeves to version 1. I’m trying to wrap my head around that. Would you sew the sleeve flat to the shell and then use this technique? Or can you not line the bodice if you add sleeves?

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

If you’re adding sleeves, there’s no need to clean finish the armholes like this.

You can just put the lining inside the bodice (wrongs ides together) and sew the sleeve in as if the bodice and lining are one unit. Easy peasy!

On , Lyndsey said:

Thanks!

My first Moneta | The Adventures Of Little Teapot

[…] fully lined in the same fabric and the sleeveholes are finished using the clever technique shown in this video on colette’s site. The collar is just made using the reverse side of the fabric so it has a […]

On , Amelia said:

Hello, I was wondering whether I need to stabilise the shoulder seams with clear elastic?
Thanks!

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

It’s optional, but a good idea if you are using fabric with a tendency to stretch out, such as 100% cotton or bamboo.

Completed: Border Print Emery | Purls and Pleats

[…] did try a new technique this time.   Since I made this sleeveless, I tried the method of clean finishing the armholes that was recently demonstrated by Sarai at Colette Patterns.  (The video shows knit fabric being […]

On , claire mackaness said: | clairemackaness.com

I find pressing seam allowance on jersey really tricky, could you use a fusible stay tape on the edges before turning them to help stabilise the knit and fold/press?

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

You could, definitely. You really don’t need to fully press them or even have the pressing hold for very long, since it’s really just to help you fold the edges under so you can grasp and turn.

Greenstyle Amy and Laurel | Sew Starly

[…] It would have been fine unlined but also not too heavy to line so I went that way. I used this handy video from Colette to do the lining. I decided to try a little gathering instead of pleats this time since I have […]

Sewing with knits and indie patterns | No Idle hands here

[…] to line the bodice with knit lining. I like the result of the clean armhole. There is a link to a how to video on how this is done. Another good tip is using clear elastic to gather knit fabric for the skirt. […]

Indie Pattern Month – Andie L in GoldMoneta | The Monthly Stitch

[…] I did have trouble understand the sleeve finishing with this version. However, I found a very simple tutorial on the Coletterie on how to finish the armhole and the link is very nicely listed in the pdf of the pattern. There is […]

Sixty six sewing techniques | sixty six stitches

[…] Lining a sleeveless bodice without a neck opening […]

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