Not So Cold Shoulder Hack - Banded Hem

Using bands instead of hemming is a great way to finish the Not So Cold Shoulder (NSCS) top. Initially my plan for my 3/4 sleeve Navy Waffle NSCS was to hem the bottom and band the sleeves in the print I used for the shelf bra to get a little more color. But I decided that wasn't enough and the bottom needed a band as well. It adds a fun pop of color to the solid shirt. Plus, no hemming! I feel like hemming takes me forever and it really throws off my groove if I need to stop sewing to measure and pin or clip to get an even hem.

Getting Started

Adding bands is a really quick and easy process. Construct your NSCS according to the pattern and then take measurements to calculate band lengths. Sleeves and bottom bands are generally a little looser than neckbands because they don't stretch as much while wearing. I normally make my sleeve and bottom bands at about 90% of the opening.

To calculate the length you need measure your opening, multiply by .9 (or subtract 10%) and add your seam allowance. I lay mine flat on my cutting mat after sewing and multiply by 2. So if my sewn sleeve opening is 5 inches on my mat it is 10 inches total. Use the same process for the bottom of your top. If your cutting mat isn't long enough or you don't have one, you can use your soft tape. My sleeve opening was a smidgen over 5", as you can see in the picture below, but I rounded down to show the math in the next step. I used a number for the bottom bodice that was easy to show the math (whole numbers until the seam allowance was added).

The Math

Examples: For a sleeve opening measuring 5" laid flat after sewing and bottom measuring 20" laid flat after sewing and using 1/4" seam allowance. The sleeves show multiplying by .9 and the bottom shows subtracting 10% (usually done on a scientific calculator).

Sleeve: 5 x 2 = 10. 10 x .9 = 9. 9 + (.25 x 2) = 9.5

Bottom: 20 x 2 = 40. 40 - 10% = 36. 36 + (.25 x) = 36.5

How wide you cut your bands is entirely up to you. The figure out how wide you need to cut your bands multiply how wide you want it by 2 and add your seam allowances. For my bottom band I let the print determine my width. I cut it 11", for a finished width of 5.5". My sleeve bands I cut at 3" for a finished width of 1.25".

Attaching the Bands

Cut out your bands with the length going in the direction of the most stretch (perpendicular to the grain). Fold bands right sides together, matching short ends, and sew or serge together. Fold up, wrong sides together along the length. Find the quarter points of your bands, sleeves, and bottom openings. Pin your bands in place along cut edges, with right sides together, matching up quarter points. If desired, stretch the band and pin between the quarter points. I prefer to do this for longer bands so everything sews together better for me. Pull bands down, iron, and topstitch if desired. Stand back and tack a look at your work! Note: My self bra is lined with ATY for a little added support.

The collage below shows 3 images my top while attaching the bottom band. The top images shows the bottom of the bodice and band sitting right sides out, with quarter points marked. Setting your project out like this is a great way to visualize how it will look after attaching. The bottom left image shows a closeup of the band and bodice pinned together with one pin parallel to the raw edges: a trick that I use to keep all of my layers together while putting thicker or shifty projects under my presser foot. The bottom left picture shows the project under my presser foot, with the parallel pin far enough out that I can remove it before I start serging. This also works with a sewing machine. Just pull the pin out after you lower your presser foot. This prevents the feed dogs from snagging and shifting the bottom layer. I like to put the seam of my bottom bands at a side seam instead of

Important Notes:

Technically, the correct way to sew bands is to put the bands down against your feed dogs. This ensures that you don't overstretch your main fabric because you can see better.. I sewed with the band up because, for waffle and other loose knits, I find that I get a better result when the bands are a different type of fabric.

I also did not shorten my bodice, so my finished length is longer. If you want your banded NSCS to have the finished length remain the same you will need to shorten the pattern before cutting. The nice thing about not shortening the bodice is that you can adjust where the band sits to get different looks with the same top like I did in the collage below.