Shell Edge Finish for Knits Tutorial

Shell Edge Tutorial by kzjostudio

I have had this tutorial on the agenda since I got a new sewing machine for my birthday back in November. The sewing center where I purchased my machine had a series of “Getting to know your machine” classes and even though I am an experienced sewist, I gained a lot of insight into my machine and some of it’s capabilities. (I would highly recommend going to these classes if your local sewing machine dealer offers them. It was really helpful.) Last weekend, I finally got around to making some time to work on this project.

The Shell Edge finish was one that we made a sample of in the aforementioned class and I instantly thought it would be a wonderful finishing technique for “Ashlin”. Before I get started with the tutorial, I wanted to talk about “Ashlin” briefly and clear up a couple of things. First of all, it will show your bra at the sides. It was designed with deep armscyes and yes, it was intentional. I style it with a colored or lace bandeau bra. If that’s not your thing there are couple of things you can do to change it: re-draw the armscye to make it higher and take it up at the shoulders if needed. Also lightweight, less stable knits will make the armscye drape even deeper. Ponte knits or a mid to heavier weight knit will hold the shape and armscye better. Second, it makes a fantastic nightgown especially in the knee-length version.

The Shell Edge Finish is commonly seen on intimate apparel, but rules are meant for breaking sometimes 😉 I recommend using a least an 8″ -10″ length of scrap fabric to practice the technique on your machine. In the example, I am using a mid-weight knit and plan on wearing this “Ashlin” has a summer dress, but I also have plans to make a few new nightgowns using this same technique for my spring/summer wardrobe.

Alright on to how to create the Shell Edge Finish. Start by cutting out your pattern pieces. For this example there is only a Front and Back. Do not do any sewing yet! First, mark all the areas that will be finished with the Shell Edge using chalk and the desired seam allowance in this case 1/2″ (Note: I used a 1/2″ for the hem as well) on the right side of the garment. You may want to pre-test marking method to make sure that it will wash out of the finished garment.


These are all the seams that I marked for the “Ashlin” (shown by the butterscotch colored lines) in the diagram:

step 2

After you marked all the desired areas, sew the the garment together. In this case, I sewed the shoulder seams and side seams using a serger. Press seam allowances toward back.

Find the correct stitch on your sewing machine. It is a four point lingerie stitch with every fourth stitch extending past the others. You may have to adjust your tension to create the best “shell”, higher tension for heavier knits, lower tension for lighter knits. Again use a practice piece of knit to find the best settings for your machine.

step 3

The key to making this stitch work is that you need the stitch that extends past the others to land just off the edge of your fabric. From the right side, fold the seam allowance along the chalked line toward the wrong side. I placed my fabric so that it was just on the inside of the mark on the far right of the pressor foot.

Sew all of your marked seams, backstitching at each end just slightly. (Optional: pull the top threads to the back and tie in knots.) This is what you will end up with on the right side of your garment:

step 4

The extending stitch plus the tension creates the pull to create the “shell effect”. We are almost done, flip your garment inside out to view the wrong side and this is what you will see:

step 5

Trim the remaining seam allowance being careful not to cut through the garment:

step 6

And that’s it! I whipped up this “Ashlin” in less than an hour and a half start to finish.

Ashlin 11

A couple of tips:

  • Go slow and fold the fabric as you go, if the knit is a little slippery use some spray starch to  give it more stability.
  • Use contrasting thread to show your stitches more (think hot pink on black, etc)  while matching thread will put the emphasis on the shell edge and the stitches will sort of disappear.
  • Practice on several scraps to get the feel for it. Cut a curved scrap to practice as well.

29 thoughts on “Shell Edge Finish for Knits Tutorial

    1. Thanks! It stretches just enough, but goes back to it’s original look. I would try it out on a scrap of knit that you plan on using and check out how it stretches and recovers. 🙂

  1. My machine is old and has a ‘blind hem’ which stitch looks similar to this on the controls. Would this work in the same way?

    1. Hi, Ann! I would recommend trying it on a scrap. It probably won’t have enough stretch you might need to play with the stitch width to try and achieve a similar look. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi KZ, I’m always looking for decorative ways to finish garments and this looks beautiful. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you for the great instructions.

  3. Thanks for this! found some double sided fabric that I wanted to make a reversible dress out of but needed a way to finish the edges of the tie straps that would work for both sides and I think this Will!

  4. Easy to follow instructions. And you did a great job with the pictures. (we can actually see what you mean) I was wondering what #settings you used for the length and width. Thank you looking forward to trying this technique.

  5. Just curious if there is a way to adjust the size of the “shells with this stitch? Just signed up for your blog. Looking forward to more great info like this especially as I’m a beginner at sewing apparel. 😊

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I really like the look. The stitch would make the garment more appealing & very professional. I will definitely have to try this.

  7. This stitch has saved some of my long abandoned projects! I just finished a shirt and will be finishing several more soon. Thank you so much!

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