Sewing Basics # 11 – The Hong Kong Seam

Another seam finish we tried at college this week was the Hong Kong seam. This is slightly different to the bias bound seams over on the Colette Patterns blog recently. I really like this one, but it is a little trickier than other seam finishes I’ve tried. I had to slow my machine right down for this and really concentrate on the sewing part. But well worth it as it’s a truly classy finish. As ever(!), press the stitching line

then press seams open…

Cut a strip of very lightweight silky fabric on the bias. This is a lining type fabric. Opaque but floaty like silk (not very technical that, ha ha! Sorry. I just nabbed it out of the remnants bin at college so don’t know the exact fabric content)….

Lay one edge of this bias strip along the raw edge of your seam allowance. If your bias strip has a definite RS  (mine doesn’t) then lay it RS down…..

Straight stitch along the edge a few mm in from the edge…

“Roll” the bias strip to the back creating a kind of narrow tube around the raw edge. Do not press….

Stitch “in the ditch” gently pulling the bias to one side as you go so you don’t catch it with the needle (this is where I had to slow my machine right down as I still find stitching in the ditch really tricky!)….

This is where the stitching should end up, without catching any of the bias strip….

Trim the excess bias strip close to the stitching on the WS….

So you now have this narrow little silky tube around the raw edge of your seam allowance…

which when you press it flat, totally covers the row of “in the ditch” stitching…

This shows the RS and WS of the seam allowance. The WS would ultimately be tacked down so you wouldn’t see it anyway. But still pretty neat, huh?

Not sure why this is called a Hong Kong seam. (It may in fact have other names) but I’m guessing it either originated there or was very widely used on tailoring in that area. Anyone know?

I’m very much enjoying “playing” with different seam finishes. Do you have a favourite? Is it ease and speed that dictates this or is it the aesthetic? Or maybe durability?
Would love to hear your views!

NB: For anyone not familiar with the term “stitch in the ditch” it’s used alot in quilting. But it basically means stitching in the crease of a seam. In this case the seam crease created by the bias strip and the raw edge of the seam allowance, once the bias had been rolled back on itself.

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  1. Miss Creativity April 10, 2011

    Trust the people of Hong Kong to come up with such a seam…. I trust it did originate from Hong Kong. I have never heard of it but will have a go following your instructions. Have you thought of writing a book 🙂 Seams from around the world.
    Take care, keep safe, be happy
    Beverley x

  2. didyoumakethat April 10, 2011

    Wow, this is amazing. Thank you SO much. Really clear instructions and I love the photos. Stitching in the ditch – I’d never heard of this before. Ooh, want to try it now. I love seam finishes for aesthetic – that’s why I love a French seam. It’s just so neat.

  3. Annabelle April 10, 2011

    Hong Kong seams are my favorite. I used them a bit on my swing dress (although I don’t think I chose the best fabric for the binding) But it worked mostly. Stitching in the ditch does require slowing things down a lot – but the end result is so lovely!

  4. A.J.A. April 11, 2011

    I am still learning seam finishes. I started with the pinking, and I do use my serger now. I have never done a Hong Kong finish- it always seemed to me that it would be way too tedious, but, as usual, you have made it seem pretty straightforward with your instructions, so maybe I will try some samples out. I have used French seams in the past in baby slings I sewed, and this past winter I used them in a couple sweaters I brought in. It seemed like a good idea because it enclosed the part that might ravel. I just made them really small to avoid bulk. It worked pretty well.

  5. Miss P April 11, 2011

    Hey Miss C, lol! We could call it “Around the World in 80 Seams” or something 😉
    Hey Karen, You’re very welcome. I like the French seam too. As you say, just so neat!
    Hey Annabelle, you’re right about the end result. Lovely!
    Hey Abi!! Definately play around with samples. I made a couple of mistakes on this before I got this sample right. But it didn’t bother me because I was only using scraps. I’d probably have cried If I’d made the mistake on a real garment! That’s where college is brilliant because it makes me follow steps I might otherwise skip, at my cost!!

  6. Annabelle April 12, 2011

    Portia – I nominated your blog for two awards (I have been delinquent in passing the first along). Anyway, I see Katja also gave you the Liebster Award – but I don’t think you have yet been nominated for the Stylish Blogger, until now!

  7. Sofia April 19, 2011

    this is such a good tutorial! i haven’t started experimenting with seams yet but will keep this in mind!

  8. Miss P April 20, 2011

    Hi Sofia, nice to meet you! Thanks. I really like this finish too and hope to incorporate it in one of my future projects for sure.

  9. Anonymous April 29, 2011

    does anyone really know where the hong kong seam came from? who invented it, where did it originate from? anything would help?

    this question is for my school project.

    thank you for your help!

  10. Anonymous March 27, 2012

    Love it!! A wee tip for “Stitch in the ditch” if you use a blind hemming foot, you have a perfect guide for doing it.

  11. Henna August 29, 2012

    I’m thinking the Hong Kong got its name from its use in such parts of dress like the mandarin collar, which is edged in a similar way to the one you have shown here.
    I had a dark red kurta (tunic top) that had a mandarin styled collar and used a kind of black synthetic material to edge the collar at the top.
    Its a brilliant and simple way of edging fabric/clothing.
    Oh I’ve pinned your tutorial here:


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