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Six Seam Finishes (And When To Use Them) | Tutorial

6 seam finishes and when to use them

Seam finishes are a very important part of the sewing process. They make the inside of your garment or project look just as neat and clean and professional as the outside, and it prevents the fabric from fraying and creating a mess. There are many, many different finishes you can choose from, but I am going to highlight some of the basics today and when you should use them.

Keep reading after the jump!

Pinked edge for seams

PINKED EDGE

WHEN TO USE IT: Stable fabrics / fabrics that don’t fray easily. Adding pinked edges as a seam finish on something that may not be washed or worn a lot is best. It is the simplest of seam finishes, and requires no sewing.So if you can get away with just this, why not?! The zig zag edge helps in preventing the fabric from fraying.

HOW: You’ll need a pair of pinking shears. Just simply cut close to the edge with your shears! (I actually usually cut out all of my pattern pieces using pinking shears. So all edges already have this finish and there are no worries about fraying anywhere).

Zig zag edge seam

ZIG ZAG EDGE

WHEN TO USE IT: Any type of fabric, really (except for sheers and really delicate fabrics – they may shred).

HOW: Use the zig zag setting on your machine. Test it out on a piece os scrap fabric first before taking a chance on your seams! Try a smaller stitch length for lighter fabrics, and a longer stitch for heavy ones. You can either zig zag both sides of the seam allowance and press the seam open (see smaller photo), or you can zig zag the two sides together, and press to one side to finish.

Clean finish edge seam

CLEAN FINISH EDGE

WHEN TO USE IT: light to medium weight woven fabrics. May be too bulky for heavier fabrics.

HOW: This is a really simple seam finish. Nothing crazy here!

1. With right sides together, sew your seam and press open.

2. For each side of seam allowance, turn under 1/4”  or less and press. Sew close to edge (of seam allowance. Don’t sew to the garment).

French seam

Step by step instructions to create a French seam

FRENCH SEAM

WHEN TO USE IT: Sheer/lightweight/delicate fabrics. A French seam completely encases the raw edge of the seam allowance, creating a clean and professional finish on a garment where the seam might be visible.

HOW:  **Megan recently did a detailed tutorial on french seams. So I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Head on over to her post for a more detailed tutorial!**

1. With WRONG sides together, sew 1/4” from the raw edge. trim seam allowance to 1/8″. Press down.

2. Turn your fabric so the right sides are now together, encasing your previous trimmed seam. Press. Sew 3/8″ away from folded edge. Press again.

3. This is what it will look like from the inside….

4. And this is what it will look like from the outside.

Flat felled seam

Step by step images to create a flat felled seam

FLAT FELLED SEAM

WHEN TO USE IT: In garments that see a lot of stress – like pants and woven shirts. Look at your jeans – I bet you they have a flat felled seam finish! It is a good seam for these types of garments because it is sturdy and durable. Also – this one is seen from the outside of the garment!

HOW: This isn’t hard, I promise!

1. With right sides together, sew 5/8″ from raw edge. Press seam open, and trim ONE side of seam allowance to 1/4″.

2. With the other side, fold inward in half  – so that the raw edge meets the seam. Press.

3. Fold this over top of the trimmed side, so that it completely covers it. Stitch close to the folded edge.

4. That’s it! Wasn’t that easy? This is what it will look like from the outside. Actually, you can use either side for the outside of your garment, depending on what kind of look you are going for!

Overlocked or serged finish

OVERLOCKED OR SERGED FINISH

WHEN TO USE IT: Many, many different fabrics and garments. Very versatile.

HOW: You’ll need an overlock machine to do this. Follow the instructions for your machine to thread it properly, and go!. There are two types of overlock seams – 3 thread and 4 thread. This one above happens to be a 3 thread finish. Again, you can either serge both sides of your seam allowance and press open, or serge them together and press to the side.

About Author

Holly writes part time for the Megan Nielsen blog– sewing like crazy, creating tutorials and sewalongs. She has been sewing since she was a little girl, and has her degree in apparel design. Now she’s a stay at home mama, and spends all her free nap times at her sewing machine.

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Ali
Ali
8 years ago

This post is so useful! I’ve read about different seam finishes before, but your addition of ‘when to use it’ is so helpful! Thanks!

Michelle
8 years ago

Thank for this lovely resource!

Juli
8 years ago

Yay, this is a really great resource! The photos AND step by step explanations are great. Adding it to my list of sewing tips bookmarks. Thanks! :-)

J
J
8 years ago

This will come in handy! A nice and clearly presented summary, thanks a bunch! :)

Dee Durrant
8 years ago

Holly – Great 1st post! Easy instruction and I love that the numbers match the photos – I found it so much easier to follow!

Jessie
Jessie
8 years ago

Hi there! Great post, I was just a little confused about “when to use it”, a great addition might also be “when not to use it” so I know when to avoid a finish with a particular garment or sensitive fabric. Great update- keep them coming.

Silvia - MadameRenard
8 years ago

Thank you for this post! Very useful!!!

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[…] how awesome was Holly’s first post yesterday?! I know, she rocks :) posted in: Studio […]

Elle Croft
8 years ago

SO helpful! Thank you very much for this!!

Terri
Terri
8 years ago

Great info! However, I am stumped as to how you use the flat-felled seam on pants. Sure, you can flat-fell the inner side seams OR the outer side seams, but you can’t do both, because the pants legs are a tube and won’t fit through the sewing machine for the entire pantleg length. Does that make sense? Is there a way around this problem?

Terri
Terri
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly

I did more internet searching, and found that some people found a solution, which is to scrunch up the pant leg and make a sort of well to do the final two flat-felled seams. I tried it on wide pajama pants, and though tricky, it worked, but I don’t think it would work on narrow pants or pants that have stiff material. Thank you for your reply. Love your blog!

dolsgirl
dolsgirl
8 years ago

Just getting started again after 38 year break & the info is invaluable. Thanks.

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago

This was excellent! I’ve only recently started sewing and haven’t figured out the different seams yet. This is a really great resource – I’m sure I’ll be back plenty of times in the future :) Thanks!

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[…] to your preference (as you can see, I kept it simple with pinking shears. See other seam finishes here). Sew a row of basting stitches 5/8” from the raw edge on each side of your garment. This is […]

Betty
Betty
8 years ago

Thank you for this very helpful tutorial. I am just about to sew a blouse using lightweight fabric, and I will use the French seam you’ve suggested. I’m excited to see the result.

Vicki
8 years ago

I am working on a childs two layered top. I’m a newbie to sewing. The pattern says to narrow the hem which I understand, but then it says to narrow front hem edges in same manner, squaring stitching at opening. The top layer of this top has a split down the front of it so that the bottom layer can show through. Can you help me understand what to do?
The pattern is called New Look 6114.
Thanks, Vicki

Diana
8 years ago

I remember reading this post when I was just starting sewing, I couldn’t understand anything, but now it seems so easy! Thank you :)

Evelyn
Evelyn
7 years ago

Thanks Megan, this is very clear and helpful.

Victoria
Victoria
7 years ago

The pictures and the information on different types of seam finishes has made it so easy to do my project. Thanks alot for the useful information.

Farah
Farah
7 years ago

this is really a useful information.. thanks a lot for share this guideline.. its really help me to do my sewing project

Mercedes
Mercedes
7 years ago

I have a question similar to Terri’s above…I have a 2 piece pants pattern and the inseam calls for a flat felled finish…and I end up with the pant-leg-tunnel. Is this normal?? Do people actually do this?

When you say that they are usually only used for the inner seam, does this mean BEFORE the outer side is closed up, that way you avoid Pant-leg-tunnel? So if I used a standard 4 piece pattern instead of the 2 pieces it would be simpler?

Thanks in advance.

Meg
Admin
Meg
7 years ago
Reply to  Mercedes

Hi Mercedes!
I totally understand how confusing that would be. To be honest, i have no idea how anyone would acheive a flat felled finish on a 2 pieces pants pattern (i’m assumed you mean there is one pattern piece only?). If you were using a standard 2 pattern piece/4 piece pattern for pants then yes, you would sew the inseam with the flat felled finsh before sewing the outer seams :) i hope that helps!! Meg xoxo

sarvin taba
4 years ago

It was a great tutorial. thanks so much for it. I may posted this technique to my website : http://www.sarvinstyle.com

Sharifah
Sharifah
3 years ago

Hello there! Your blog was so helpful. I am new to all these and was wondering if you could suggest what seam style best fit a lightweight material such as combining 2 nylon pieces together?

trackback

[…] the sleeve cuffs, bottom hem, and the seams so they look finished and don’t unravel!  I will leave it to others to give a variety of seam finish options.   Here is a good one for Viking garments, as part of a […]

K Smith
K Smith
2 years ago

Thank you. Great explanation.

clubemaxiscootersdonorte.com

I learned a lot about the seam !!!

niel Dare
niel Dare
2 years ago

Our Curtain maker has produced a pair of curtains with the seam showing on the outer fold when the curtains are open, is this right? it docent look good surely they should have hidden the seam in the inner fold.

jeanne Schroeder
jeanne Schroeder
1 year ago

Answered all my questions-love you Pinterest!

trish
trish
6 months ago

what seam finish can be used on a chef jacket

Tim Clarke
5 months ago

Hi Holly, thanks so much for your clear description of the seams. I have bookmarked it for future use. I learned from my Mum to sew a similar seam to what you are defining as ‘flat felled seam’. For many years I have used it for long strong seams on my ultralight tents. (For just as many long years I also incorrectly called it a ‘French seam’, so thanks for your correction.)
Right or wrong, my Mum taught me to do the seam without any trimming. To make a 1/4″ seam, I put the two pieces face to face and wrap or roll 1/4″ of the lower fabric around the edge of the top piece and stitch down (through 3 layers) close to the raw edge. Then I do the felling (without ironing and just using side to side hand tensioning) and sew down the tightened flattened seam as close as possible to the rolled edge. There is no extra cutting involved. Am I correct in calling it a ‘flat felled seam’ or is there another name for it.

I find that it is very strong and when joining thin soft and slippery fabrics such as silnylon. This wrapping method works well when a straight grain or salvage edge is to be joined to a stretchy ‘off the grain cut edge’. In this case, I wrap the stretchy edge in the straight grain and the sewing is so much easier. Does this make sense?
Thanks again, Tim

Nicole
Nicole
3 months ago

Awesome. Learned something new with the flat felled seam. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks!