Summer is coming, thank goodness, and that means sleeveless tops–yay! Personally, I have a very picky attitude when it comes to the strappy top: I don’t like the armhole to be too low or too loose. I like good coverage so there is never any lingerie hanging out the side, and so I can feel cool without feeling exposed.
There are, of course, a number of ways to go about achieving that: lining (which doesn’t make sense in the summer, as it defeats the purpose of lightweight fabrics like linen), facings (which I generally abhor, as they are the dickie of the sewing world and when done poorly almost always show), and bias binding (my preference, almost always). So below, a quick tutorial for applying bias tape to an underarm on a sleeveless top; this can be adapted to most patterns, so long as they have a bodice with a strap.
For this example, I’m using a Pretty Jane design (and this fabulous Lecien Japanese import print). The square-necked bodice is lined and finished, and I’m ready to attach the bodice to the dress front and back, which have been stitched at the side seams. You’ll notice the underarm curve at the left and right; this is what we’re aiming to finish with the bias binding here.
Single-fold bias tape works perfectly well for this process, but I never use the stuff in the store: it’s so easy to make your own, and I vastly prefer to work with 100% cotton any time I can. I’ve cut a length of unbleached cotton (the same fabric as my lining) on the bias, and have pressed under one edge 1/4″:
At the machine, I’ve lined up the raw edges of the bias tape along the raw edge of the first underarm, right sides together. I’ll stitch these together with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Note that the pressed edge is NOT the edge I’m stitching here–we’ve pressed that under for later.
Press the seam allowance toward the bias tape, as you’ll be encasing the seam allowances when we stitch the bias tape down. If you need to trim some of your seam allowance to get a nice, smooth finish, now’s the time to do it:
I’ve pinned the pressed bias tape down to illustrate the next step: fold the bias tape back over the seam allowances, so that the original edge you pressed under is now on the wrong side of your dress. We’re NOT stitching yet, but this is where we’re headed:
BEFORE you stitch down the bias underarm, we’re going to attach the skirt to the bodice. This way, when we finish that underarm, we can complete a bunch of tasks in a single step. For this little jumper, we’ll need to gather the front and backs first, leaving the bias tape UNgathered:
Now we attach the bodice. With right sides together, place the bodice front over the gathered front skirt. At the finished edge of the bodice, tuck the corner inside the bias tape, right up against the seam:
We’ll do the same with the backs. At the underarm, tuck the edge of the bodice inside the bias tape; at the back opening, fold the skirt fabric back over the bodice to encase it and create a button placket (I’ve already pressed under the back opening edge 1/4″–I also recommend interfacing that placket before this step):
After removing the pins, I serge my gathered seams at this point. You totally don’t have to, though. If you wanna get super fancy, you can always bind these in bias tape for a super clean finish, or leave them as-is:
Clip the corners where the bodice and skirt have been attached, at a 45-ish degree angle. This removes some bulk and gives you a nice, crisp corner when we turn it all right side out:
At the machine, stitch a very narrow seam, riiiight along the pressed edge of that bias facing. Be sure to stitch a curve here, NOT a straight line, so that the underarm fabric remains flat beneath the needle: