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Perfect Lapped Seam Sewing Tutorial

Sewing a lapped seam is a no brainer when dealing with bulky or non-grain fabrics. The problem is, a perfect lapped seam is hard to achieve.

This sewing tutorial will help you achieve a beautiful and perfect lapped seam finish on leather, suede, fleece to any other non-grain or non-fray fabric.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

What Is A Lapped Seam?

A lapped seam is the seam created when one piece of fabric is laid upon another piece of fabric with an overlap. The fabrics are both right sides up, and by overlapping the fabric, you end up with two layers of fabric instead of up to four when using other types of seams.

We all know that the flat-felled or French seams are great for a perfect seam finishes that hide the seam allowances away, but the lapped seam is the best when going for a clean flat finish with non-fray fabrics.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

Lapped Seam Uses

Knowing when to use a lapped seam over any other type of seam kind of comes down to experience if you’re not following a sewing pattern guide.

You can use a lapped seam:

  • To reduce bulk
  • As a design feature

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

Sewing a lapped seam in theory is easy, but as they say, the devil is in the detail. (Is that what they say?)

Here are the basic steps for sewing a lapped seam, then we’ll jump into the photo tutorial part!

  1. Place your first piece of fabric on a flat surface, with a cutting guide or tape measure nearby.
  2. I line up the raw edge of my one fabric piece with the straight line on my cutting matt.
  3. Take the second piece of fabric and lay this upon the first, overlapping by your chosen seam allowance.
  4. Secure the lapped seam with your first row of stitches.
  5. Edge stitch your second row of stitching along the un-sewn raw edge.

Typically, the lapped seam has been sewn with fabrics that are not most suitable for heat from an iron, so I always endeavour to finger press seams.

Sewing A Lapped Seam

Alrighty, lets sew this seam! First thing to note is seam allowance. There are two ways to factor seam allowance:

  • Full amount on one side, and no seam allowance on the opposite.
  • half the seam allowance on each side, so when overlapped, it becomes the whole amount.

Materials

First, start by gathering your fabric / materials. I’m using a remnant of suede from my remnants stash for this tutorial.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

I’ve cut it into two, so that the pieces can be lapped. Here’s the two sections. Rotary cutters are best for non-grain materials in my experience!

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

Lining Up The Lap

Next, place the one piece on your chosen flat surface right side up – I’m using my cutting matt as mentioned before. Notice how the straight edge of my material lines up with one of the bolder lines on my cutting matt?

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

Overlapping The Lap

Next, we’re going to place the second piece on top of the first, again right side up, so that it overlaps by our desired seam allowance.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

Notice how it is perfectly aligned with the thinned straight line of the cutting matt?

Sewing The First Stitch-line

As I’m using a suede remnant in this tutorial, I can’t use pins to hold the sections in place as the pins would leave a mark.

If you were sewing lapped seams on a leather, suede or other non-grain material, you could lay a little leather glue or cement to join the two sections first before sewing. It will help the lapped seam to be in position!

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

When sewing the first stitch line of your lapped seam, make sure to edge stitch carefully to maintain a neat and perfect finish. This type of seam is visible on both sides remember!

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

When you turn to look at the back you’ll notice that my piece has visible marking from the feed dog. This means I cannot turn the piece over and must stitch the second line from the right side too!

How To Sew A Lapped Seam
How To Sew A Lapped Seam

That perfect line of stitching! Woop woop!

Sewing The Second Line

Now, we sew the final line. As we cannot sew from the wrong side without scraping at the right side with the feed dog we need to be careful and make sure we know *what* we are using as our sewing guideline.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

This is the reverse of the seam. I’m going to use the ‘bump’ created on the right side by the overlap and use my left hand to feel it’s position as I sew from the right side, making sure to not go over that ridge, so that my second seam is in fact catching the two pieces of material.

Another way way would be to buy a teflon feed dog, designed specifically for working with such fabrics, though I found when using mine on my Brother that it still dragged on the material. Better to just sew from the right side.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

Isn’t that just a perfect lapped seam? You can also use the edge of your sewing machine foot as a guide, and pop your needle to the right instead of centre, so achieve a perfect and non-wonky stitch-line.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

You can see better in this photo just what the marking looks like when the feed dogs drag over the suede.

How To Sew A Lapped Seam

There you have it. Will you try a lapped seam on any of your planned sewing projects? Let me know how you find sewing it in the comments below!

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Wendy P. Schoen

Wednesday 5th of June 2019

Beautifully done, you clever lady. Can you please tell me if it matters whether the lap on both side seams go in the same direction, or should they be different? Also, I'd love to see how it works on linen and having to fold under the edge. I suppose I could serge the raw edge first. What do you think?