Simple Sewing Trick for Neckbands and Cuffs - It’s All in the Fold!

Simple Sewing Trick for Neckbands and Cuffs - It’s All in the Fold!

A while back when I was browsing on Facebook I came across this really cool trick that makes sewing bands so much easier. I can’t remember exactly where I came across this trick although it must have been through one, or several, of my sewing or fabric groups. Since I tried this trick out I’ve had been meaning to share it with you but I hadn’t gotten a chance… yet. This last Christmas, when sewing up a Magnolia dress for either girl, I knew now was the time to take photos of the process since together with the neckband and sleeve cuffs I was making and sewing on six different bands!

Pinterest-geared image showing six images, found below, along with my blog post title and the main URL. The top image shows the top portion of two dresses. Below the title is a collage of five images showing the process of making the neck and sleeve band.

Most sewing instructions I’ve followed have me making my bands in a slightly longer way that’s just a bit more troublesome. For this default way I start out with a long rectangle of my fabric and fold it in half lengthwise so the short ends meet up and the right side of the fabric is facing each other. I then clip it into place and sew along that short end using the proper seam allowance width. Once I’m done I press the seam over to one side, or if using a sewing machine I can press it open, before folding the band in half the other way so I’m left with a loop of fabric. This loop shows the proper fabric on either side as the wrong sides are facing, is folded along the top, and has two layers of fabric at the bottom. I then find the quarter points, clip them, find the quarter points for the main garment, match up those quarter points, stretch the layers so they match, clip a lot, and then sew them together.

Image shows a longer white band and two taller bands that you can tell are darker on the reverse side. All three are folded in half lengthwise and clipped, with three sewing clips, to keep them in place.
I started folding over the neckbands and sleeve cuffs according to the instructions before remembering this quicker method. I snapped a quick photo for you before removing the clips and instead using the trick on them.

This trick doesn’t replace the whole process described above but it does simplify folding the band in half. As this is just one part within several different steps of sewing a band onto a garment I figured I’d go over all the steps. Also, in case you’re wondering, you can do this with both knit and woven fabrics. I used this trick on the girls’ knit Magnolia dresses along with their woven nightgowns and took photos of all the cuff-related steps as I progressed. As such some steps might have two different cuff-related photos to explain it.

To use this trick I start out by folding the long rectangle of fabric in half twice rather than the one time above. The first fold is set lengthwise, same as before, so the short ends match up and the wrong sides are facing each other. I then fold it in half the other way so the new fold goes along the length of the fabric on the top or bottom side. The short ends that met up, with the first fold, are now halved by that second fold. I clip that end in place so the four layers don’t shift and bring it to my machine to sew it closed with the proper seam allowance for that garment.

Image shows three bands on the chair. The lower two, a neckband and sleeve cuff, are folded in half lengthwise and clipped on the raw short edges to keep the two layers together. Above them is the other sleeve cuff open and not folded yet.
I start out by taking the long rectangular strip of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise so the short ends meet and the wrong side of the fabric is facing me. The two clipped fabrics in this photo shows the fold I’m talking about although you don’t need to clip it yet as there’s still one more fold to go before sewing it.
Image shows that cuff from before folded twice creating a four layered rectangle. My finger rests on the corner where both raw edges meet while the folds sit on the top and right side. Beyond it sits the other two bands waiting to be folded a second time.
After folding in half lengthwise I fold it once again the other way. This results in a four layer rectangle with a fold along the top, from the second fold, and another fold along the left side. Here the raw edges are on the right side and my finger is holding it down so it doesn’t pop up and unfold.
Image shows the properly folded cuff with a pink and blue clip holding it tightly together. In the background are two bands that haven't been folded enough yet.
I then clip all four layers together along the folded short ends of the rectangle. In this photo I’m going to sew between the pink and blue sewing clips. The two cuffs in the back were only folded once so I still need to remove their clips, fold it again, and reattach the clips.

With the edge clipped in place I now take it to my machine and sew along that edge using the pattern’s required seam allowance. With the old way I’d leave my serger tails alone as they’d be later trimmed and serged over when sewing the band to the garment. With this trick one of those tails is now along the folded edge so it won’t be sewn over. To make sure the stitches are secured in place I next unravel that tail using a lint brush, I received with my machines, to help ease the stitches apart so I can then tie a knot to secure that seam end. If you’re using a sewing machine you wouldn’t need to secure the end as you can easily backstitch to lock in place; although, if you used a larger seam allowance you may want to trim the excess fabric at this point.

Image shows the short raw end of the band being serged to secure it.
I serged along the folded short ends to lock the four layers in place and make my band into a loop.
Image shows the serged sleeve cuff as the un-serged end is unfolded.
Once I finished serging the end and cut it from the machine I’m left with this.
Image shows the serged ends of two different bands. Either one has a serger tail coming from the raw end while the top side, folded edge, has an unraveled tail with a knot at the base.
I used a pointed tool to get into the downward loop on the serger tail to untangle the ends working my way from closer to the end of the tail to the fabric. Once there I tied a knot and trimmed the loose threads. If you want more information I posted previously about this method here.
Image shows four arm cuffs, or bands, spread out on the floor with their one serger tail on and the other tied and trimmed off.
I find it easiest to group all the bands I need to sew together into a batch. I then do each step on all the bands before going onto the next step. At this point I had folded, sewn, and tied off each of these four bands.

And now it’s time for this trick’s magic! To do it I take one of the outer layers of fabric and flip it around the fold so I’m essentially unfolding it. This unfolding will travel around the band to the other side of my seam and suddenly I’m left with a properly folded band without having to line up the seam or worry about either layer shifting. If there’s any bulging or overlapping around the seam I can gently grasp the fabric on either side of that seam and lightly tug it so the seam flattens out and the band looks perfectly folded without even needing to press it. Although you can still press it at this step if you want to.

Image shows the 'rectangle' with the outer layer on either side flipped open showing the dark fabric.
I take the outer layer and carefully unfold it. This unfolding travels along the band until it reaches the other side of the seam. This turns the fabric from a flat rectangle to a perfect round band with the right side of the fabric facing out.
Image shows a band with a single seam on the top.
Although the side opposite from the cuff still flops open at this point the seam makes it’s side stay properly folded into a band with only a single seam adding any bumps rather than the two from before.
Image shows four woven cuffs. The bottom left one is still folded although sewn and tied off. The top right one shows a perfectly folded band with the right side of the fabric facing out. In between the two images are two other bands showing the unfolding process so you're left with the sequence of unfolding.
I hoped this image would show the progression from the sewn rectangle of folded fabric to a perfectly made cuff.

Now I follow the rest of the instructions, like before, to sew my band onto the garment. This trick; however, does slightly speed up quartering my band as I automatically know the first point, the seam, and I didn’t have to trim it, line it up, or clip it into place first. From there I need to find the second point. I’ve found, especially when using the cotton Lycra from Whimsy Baby Customs, that there may still be a crease in the fabric from when it was folded in half and, if so, I can easily clip the second point together. If not, or if I want to confirm it, I then put my finger inside the band’s loop and, while holding onto the seam, stretch out the band so my finger automatically slides into the halfway point. During this I make sure the band is properly folded in half and then I can easily and immediately clip that second point when that halfway point is found. Next I adjust where the band is folded so the two clips, or clip and seam, meet up and the last two points are naturally found by where the band folds. I clip those points making my band finally quartered.

Image shows a bent figure eight out of pink cotton Lycra fabric. The top cross-over piece is folded in half and clipped in place.
While quartering one of the neckbands I noticed I could still see where the fabric had been folded in half. As such I quickly matched either end of the fold up and clipped it in place.
Image shows the pink band laid flat so the seam is on the one side and the clipped halfway point is on the other.
If there is no crease you can find the second point in one of two ways. In this way I laid my band flat with the seam on one corner and, since it was laying flat, found the other side quickly. Technically, I had already found the halfway point before this photo, see above, so the band should be adjusted a bit as the seam is off center to the fold.
Image shows my hand holding a section with a red clip in place. Further down the band a green clip and the seam are resting against each other from their side of the band. The rest of the band is off-photo.
The second method is used whenever I need to quarter my band. In this case I line up the clip with the seam, the halfway points, and then use my finger within the band to find the quarter point. I do this by stretching my finger out, while holding the halfway points in place, so my finger automatically slides to the halfway point. I then pinch that point so it bubbles and I can insert the sewing clip to mark it.
Image shows a small black cuff with three sewing clips on it. Technically, it's quartered as the seam, underneath, marks the fourth point.
Once you’re found all four equally distanced points and marked them the band is now quartered. If, for some reason, you have a much longer band you could always add four more clips as long as you eighth the garment too.

After quartering my band I next quarter the garment. You need to do this so you can easily match the two together, hence the quartering, as a band is typically smaller than the garment and needs to be stretched to fit. In this example, below, I’m showing the neckline being quartered which is a bit more complicated than a sleeve. If you were quartering a sleeve, normally, there is only one seam on the opening, the side seam, so, like the band above, you would use that seam to find the halfway point and use both to find the last two points. If there are two seams you should confirm they’re equidistant away from each other before assuming they’re the first two points. In the case of the neckline you can’t assume that the front and back of the neck are the same length. For instance, you can change the neckline style by adjusting the front so, while the back stays the same, you can have a variety of different lengths for the front between a crew, a square, and a scoop neckline. In the case of this garment the neckline is symmetrical so I can line up the shoulder seams to find the center of both the front and back. I’m assuming you can do the same for an asymmetrical neckline but as I’ve never had to add a band to one before I’m not quite sure. Once you find the center of both the back and front you still need to find the last two points. As the front and back are, probably, different lengths you can’t assume the shoulder seam is the center point. To find these last two points I line up the front clip with the back clip and, like before, use my finger to find the point between the two. In this case I can confirm I did the quartering right by having the clips match up when I lay the garment flat.

Image shows a closeup of the dress's neckline with a clip at the center of the back and front along with the mid-way point on either side. These midway points are closer to the front than the back.
This dress, still inside out, has been quartered by using the shoulder seams to find the center of both the back and front before using those two points to find the last two points.

I then lay the band against the right side of the garment and, starting with the band’s seam, match up the points and clip them together. I start with the seam as I traditionally, for neckbands and waistbands, put the seam at the center-back of the garment. For sleeves I make them match each other but, from garment to garment, may change where the seam lays. Once each of the band’s quartered points are clipped to the matching point on the garment it’s time add more clips, depending on the length of the band, to make it truly secure. To do this I take each of the sections, one at a time, and stretch them so the fabric on either side is the same length and I can clip them together. Once I add enough clips I release the garment and it automatically shrinks to it’s natural state allowing one side to be equally gathered between the clips without me needing to use a gathering stitch. I continue working section by section until the entire band is securely clipped in place.

Image shows a closeup of the garment's neckline with the stretched neckband underneath. My hand is over it with one thumb keeping the right side in place and my fingers keeping the left in place. There's a clip at either end and, after this photo, I add more clips to this length of fabric.
I work on one section at a time stretching the fabric so I can easily clip the layers together and keep the gathering, if they’re two different lengths, equally distributed.

Once all the bands are clipped in place I bring the garment to my machine and, using the proper seam allowance, sew them together. If it’s handy, or I’m feeling proper, I then grab my iron to press the seam down. And with that you’re done with the bands!

Image shows the top of both dresses laid out on the floor. The dinosaur one slightly overlaps the bottom superheroine-themed dress.
My final Magnolia dresses with three bands each (two sleeve cuffs and one neckband) making for a total of six.
Image shows the upper half of two nightgowns. with matching fabric. The top one shows the back while the bottom one, slightly overlapping, shows the front.
With the woven nightgowns I attached bands at the end of either sleeve.

Have you tried this trick before or is it the first time you’ve come across it? Do you have any other tricks to sewing bands to garments? I’d love to hear all about it so feel free to share any related thoughts in the comments below. I hope your week is going well.

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