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 six seam finishes today (the basics really) and when you should use them.
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 to use it: 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
When to use it: Any type of fabric, really (except for sheers and really delicate fabrics – they may shred).
How to use it: Use the zig-zag setting on your machine. Test it out on a piece of 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
When to use it: light to medium weight woven fabrics. May be too bulky for heavier fabrics.
How to use it: This is a really simple seam finish. Nothing crazy here!
- With the right sides together, sew your seam and press open.
- For each side of the seam allowance, turn under 1/4″ or less and press. Sew close to edge (of seam allowance. Don’t sew to the garment.
- Don’t sew to the garment).
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.
- With WRONG sides together, sew 1/4” from the raw edge. trim seam allowance to 1/8″. Press down.
- Turn your fabric so the right sides are now together, encasing your previous trimmed seam. Press. Sew 3/8″ away from the folded edge. Press again.
- This is what it will look like from the inside…
- And this is what it will look like from the outside.
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 to use it: This isn’t hard, I promise!
- With right sides together, sew 5/8″ from raw edge. Press seam open, and trim ONE side of seam allowance to 1/4″.
- With the other side, fold inward in half – so that the raw edge meets the seam. Press.
- Fold this over top of the trimmed side, so that it completely covers it. Stitch close to the folded edge.
- 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
When to use it: Many, many different fabrics and garments. Very versatile.
How to use it: 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.