This "cheater" French binding technique for knit necklines is perfect for you if your knit neckbands often stand away from the body; you're sewing with a lightweight knit; or you want a more open neckline. Personally, I think it's easier than sewing a traditional knit neckband.

Hallo, sewing friends! The following neckline treatment for knit garments is perfect for you if:

  • Your knit neckbands often stand away from your body. (This technique pulls the neck opening close.)
  • You are sewing a lightweight knit. (This technique gives thin fabric more mass.)
  • You want a more open (wider, lower) neckline. (If you like where the neck opening is, this technique finishes the neckline in that location.)

I’m calling it a French binding knit neckline, and I first saw it (or something like it) at Camp Workroom Social. One of the instructors had sample knit garments finished with this technique, and I reverse engineered it for myself once I got home.

What makes it French? It’s a riff on the French binding technique used by quilters. In French binding for quilting, a strip of bias binding, folded in half the long way, is sewn to the raw edge. Then the binding folded edge is turned over the raw edge and stitched in place on the opposite side of the quilt.

The French binding knit neckline treatment is pretty much the same idea: Finish the raw edge by sewing binding to it and wrapping the binding over it. With this knit neckline finish, you never sew through more than two layers of fabric at a time. And the bulkiest bit has four layers.

To compare, the bulkiest bit of a quilt with French binding has seven fabric layers (not including batting).

OK, that’s enough quilt talk. This is a garment-sewing blog, HELLO. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of how to execute this stretch fabric neckline finish.

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RELATED: How Do I Choose a Knit Fabric?


How Sew a French Binding Knit Neckline

This practice "neckline" is about 15 inches square with a 7-inch-diameter neck opening.

0.) Sew the garment so that its neckline is closed.

  • Most of the time this means sewing the front and back together at the shoulders. With the pictured example, I cut a freehand oval/circle (approximately 7 inches in diameter) out of a rectangle (approximately 15 inches square).

1.) Measure the neck opening length at the seam (not edge of fabric).

  • EXAMPLE: My seam measured 24.75 inches. (In the above photo you can kinda see the yellow chalk marks of the seam.)

2.) Multiply the neck opening length by 80 percent (0.8).

  • If your fabric is particularly stretchy — e.g., you plan to cut the knit binding on the bias, it has a lot of stretch on the cross grain, it’s knit ribbing — you might consider multiplying by 0.7-0.75. Test!
  • EXAMPLE: 24.75 x 0.8 = 19.8 inches (For ease I rounded to 19.75 inches.)

3.) Take the number calculated in Step 2 and add the length of the seam allowance multiplied by 2 (you’re adding the seam allowance twice).

  • This is the length of the binding to be cut.
  • EXAMPLE: 19.75 + (2 x 0.5) = 20.75 inches

4.) Take the length of the seam allowance and multiply it by 3. Then add 0.5 inches/1.3 centimeters.

  • This is the width of the binding to be cut. The extra 0.5 inches/1.3 centimeters accommodates the turn of cloth (the fabric in a fold) when the binding is turned to the inside of the garment.
  • EXAMPLE: [0.5 x 3 = 1.5 inches] + 0.5 = 2 inches

5.) Cut out the binding strip, using your calculated length and width.

  • To create binding that will stretch over your head, cut the long, skinny rectangle on the cross grain or bias. (A rectangle that’s not cut on the 45-degree true bias will work just fine.)
  • You may create a pattern piece for the binding and cut around it, or you may draw the length and width on the fabric and cut the marking lines.
  • EXAMPLE: My binding dimensions are 20.75 inches by 2 inches.

6.) Sew the short (width) ends of the binding, right sides together, at the length of the seam allowance.

  • Gently press open.
Divide the knit binding strip and neck opening into quarters.

7.) Divide the binding loop into quarters.

  • I like to mark the quarters with pins. You can use the seam as a quarter mark.

8.) Divide the neck opening into quarters.

  • I also like to use pins here to mark quarters. Note: The shoulder seams probably aren’t quarter marks!
  • I also try to place one quarter mark near or on the center back; that’s where the binding loop seam will live.
Pin the binding and neck opening right sides together at the quarter markings.

9.) Right sides together and raw edges aligned, match the quarter marks of the binding to the quarter marks of the neck opening. Pin together.

  • I like being able to pinch together the pin quarter marks of the binding and neck opening. While pinching, I remove one of the pins, use it to pin the binding and neck opening together, and remove the leftover quarter-marker pin.
  • The binding loop should be smaller than the neck opening.

10.) Sew the binding to the neck opening (right sides together) using a stretch stitch, gently stretching the loop to be the same length as the neck opening. Do not stretch the neck opening.

Turn up the knit binding so it points away from the body of the garment.

11.) Turn up the binding up so it points away from the body of the garment.

12.) Using your sense of touch, wrap the binding OVER the seam allowance and to the inside (wrong side) of the garment.

  • The seam allowance remains its full width; it is not folded as you turn the binding over it. Use your fingers to make sure you’re not turning the seam allowance.
Turn the knit binding over the seam allowance to the wrong side. Pin in place through the seam ditch.

13.) From the right side, pin in the ditch of the seam to secure the turned-over binding on the wrong side.

Sew the binding in place from the right side using a stretch stitch.

14.) From the right side, sew the turned-over binding in place. Gently stretch the fabric layers to make them flat as they pass under the needle.

You have two options:

  • Stitch in the ditch for a more “invisible” look. Use a straight stretch stitch (usually that’s two/three stitches forward and one backward) to stay inside the seam. A stitch-in-the-ditch foot is helpful here.
  • Using a stretch stitch, sew just below the seam. The pictured stitch is 2.0 mm wide, 2.5 long. 
The finished French binding knit neckline sample.
A jersey neckline with a French knit binding.
There are wrinkles radiating from the neck are mostly because this is a sample rectangle and not a garment. A garment would pull out most of those wrinkles with its mass.

15.) Press the newly finished neck opening.

  • A tailor’s ham helps you respect the curve as your press. Highly recommend.

16.) Optional: On the inside of the garment, trim away excess binding below the stitching from Step 14.

  • The excess fabric is part of the 0.5 inches/1.3 centimeters you added in Step 4 to accommodate the turn of cloth. Without the excess fabric, the binding turned to the inside would have stopped before the seam. You wouldn’t have been able to stitch in the ditch OR stitch below the seam to hold the binding in place.

Final Thoughts on Sewing a French Binding to a Knit Neckline

The No. 1 thing to remember when sewing this style of knit neckline is to avoid folding the seam allowance as you wrap it with the binding. Trust your fingers here.

A folded-over seam allowance will make the top of the neckline look puffy or bulky. Leverage that extra binding width (0.5 inches/1.3 centimeters) to let the seam allowance stand tall.

Cass T-shirt call to action

This finish for a knit neckline works just swell on Sie Macht’s Cass T-shirt. Grab this easy, breezy relaxed knit top for yourself to practice binding a jersey neckline.

This T has only three pattern pieces (so it sews up fast) and accommodates busts up to 66 inches and hips up to 70 inches (so all the beautiful bodies can rock it).

Here are more articles related to sewing T-shirts (Cass or otherwise), should you be interested:

Over to you: Have you tried this knit neck opening treatment before? How did it go? Was it called something else? And… how likely are you to give this neck-finishing technique a try? Please sound off in comments!