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Create an Illusion Mesh Edge

by Susan Lazear

This edge is a semitransparent, double-layered mesh band.  You can see the seam allowances through the mesh. If the garment area you are finishing is curved, cut the mesh length 10 to 25 percent shorter than the edge you are finishing, and stretch it to fit as you sew. The percentage will vary depending on the degree of curve in the garment opening and your desired band width. This ensures the band lies flat against the body.

1. Cut the mesh strip.
Measure your garment’s edge, and cut a mesh strip with equal length. If your desired finish width is greater than 1/2 inch, reduce the length slightly so the folded top edge lies against the body.  Cut it twice the desired finished width plus seam allowances.

2. Position the strip. Fold the strip in half lengthwise (if the fabric is slippery, baste the layers together along the center of the strip). With right sides together, place the raw edges of the mesh knit against the garment’s edge. Stretch, as necessary, as you pin the band into place.   

3. Attach the strip. With right sides together, stitch the strip in place along the seamline using your serger or a similar stitch on your sewing machine. Finish the short ends using your preferred method.

4. Press to finish. Press the band away from the garment. The seam allowance will show slightly, but that is part of the look.


Create a triple-layer edge
Try altering the mesh strip technique to create a more opaque, triple-layer look (not shown).

1. Measure your garment’s edge. Cut a knit mesh strip measuring three times the desired width, plus 3/4 inch. Make its length match the garment’s edge or slightly shorter for curved edges.

2. Fold and press the strip in thirds lengthwise, being careful to press all parts evenly. If the fabric is slippery, baste the layers together down the center.

3. Pin the band in place on your garment’s edge, with the raw open edge aligned with the neckline edge.Stretch it slightly, as necessary, to make it fit around any curves.

4. Stitch the band to your garment using your serger, or a similar stitch on your sewing machine.

5. Turn and press the band in place, pressing the seam allowances toward the garment. Edge-stitch on the garment, or stitch in the ditch, near the seam through all thicknesses to hold the seam allowance in place.

excerpted from “Edgy Alternatives,” Threads #151, p. 58


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  1. stsimon | | #1

    Where can you buy these mesh strips? The article makes it sound as if they are a standard sewing item, but I've never heard of them.

  2. woodruff | | #2

    It's just fabric that's meshy and sheer, like what you'd use for bridal or often costumes. It can be called mesh or tulle or illusion, and it's pretty easy to find. marcytilton.com has it, as do these vendors (though some may be temporarily out of it):


  3. slportas | | #3

    You buy the fabric yardage but have to cut your own strips. Cut desired width plus seam allowance multiplied by two. For instance 1/2 wide plus 1/4 seam = 1/2 plus 1/2 plus 1/4 plus 1/4 or total 1.5 inch strips. You probably want to do this on the bias. For triple thickness see instruction in article. I've never seen strips of mesh or illusion sold like ribbon or trim but that would be perfect! Maybe that's a new business for someone!

  4. User avater
    bkinyorkton | | #4

    that's awful. It looks like the neckline is unfinnished and insideout!

  5. LakeFreeman | | #5

    I may be confused, but if the red serging is to show, would you really sew right sides together in Step 1?

  6. User avater
    AngelaLee | | #6

    I have done this same thing, but with solid colored homemade bias tape instead. I was refashioning a weirdly necklined shirt and did this out of pure frustration. But I ended up really liking the way it looked.

  7. DianeNoel | | #7

    I've bought this at Hancock fabrics, it's in with the speciality and costume fabric. Comes on a bolt just like regular fabric.

  8. User avater
    MessyONE | | #8

    I'm with bkinyorkton. That just looks like sloppy finishing. Bias tape that's been folded completely to the inside of the garment, then finished with a single line of top stitching makes for a FAR more professional-looking finish and it's much sturdier.

    I would expect to see something like this on cheap t-shirts.

  9. Puterdame | | #9

    My initial comment out loud when I first saw this in the magazine was, "you've GOT to be kidding". This looks like a first sewing job by a 14 yr old. I would never use this technique.
    After having sewn for over 45 years, I'm looking for a little more than using organza to finish a neckline. Now if they have covered this mess with a sparkly trim, perhaps I would have been interested in it.

  10. RefindDesigns | | #10

    This project is current and hip!!! Show me more!!

  11. lauraflo | | #11

    I don't think that is mesh or net or tulle, of the regular kind, like in Bridal sections of a fabric store. It is a nylon stretch mesh, I think. I have seen this on purchased tees. (Sometimes done nicely and sometimes not.) It would seem to need some stretch to it and not be unstretchy.
    It would have been nice if the author of the article had written what she used and where to get it.

  12. purplebouquet | | #12

    I love this. I have several sleeveless RTW tops that are finished that way, and it updates an otherwise no-frills design. The serged edges don't show. I will print and save this technique.

    One caveat: I've sewn with mesh knit and it melts quickly when touched with a hot iron. So be very careful when ironing and test first.


  13. Sefanna | | #13

    I think it looks fresh and modern - a nice detail for a casual t-shirt!

  14. Horse4Hmom | | #14

    this is called "stretch illusion mesh" and is a knit fabric that is usually found in the swimwear or evening fabric sections of fabric stores. it comes in solids and prints and was made most popular by Vera Wang on her modern bridal gowns--and, most notoriously on the white & bright yellow skating dresses worn by Nancy Kerrigan when she competed in the Olympics against Tonya Harding.

    what is fun to stitch it on wrong sides together, serge, and top-stitch down for a contrast/cover-stitch trim. primitive as it may seem, it is used on stretch silk velvets for t-shirts and dresses in fancy stores like Nordstrom and Saks.

    not all stretch illusion meshes have the same stretch, so give it a tug before you buy.

  15. Kyla | | #15

    I like that i think i am going to try that thank you.

  16. Rabia | | #16

    I hate to say it, but I too think this looks AWFUL. Cheap and tacky, like a bargain basement t-shirt trim.

  17. Robertasugar | | #17

    This is very current and found on ready to wear in all price ranges. I make lots of t shirts and can't wait to try itl

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