Blog post

How To Sew Seams That Don't Suck

Being that seams really affect how our final garment looks, I thought it was very, very important to go over seams, being that we discussed different stitches in a previous post and it is ESSENTIAL that your seams don’t suck!

Get that stitch info by clicking here!

What is a seam?

A seam is the line joining two pieces of fabric together. Usually it is stitched using a machine or hand stitching, but it can also be glued or fused depending on the fabric being used.

How are seams used?

As well as having the function of joining two or more pieces of fabric together, seams can also be used as a decorative feature. If we consider jeans as an example, the seam used on the both inside of the leg and the back yoke (the bit above the pockets that is attached to the waistband) is called a welt, and it provides both function and style. The function part is the reinforcement of the seam which gives it strength against a lot of wear and tear – denim was originally a workwear fabric after all ya know! The style aspect of the welt seam is the different colour of the thread used for top stitching, as well as the width of the seam: wide or narrow?

How tricky is it to sew seams?

Sewing seams can be as tricky or as easy as you make them. The most simple and easiest to sew is the ‘open seam’. This seam lies one piece of fabric on top of another with their ‘right sides’ facing each other. You sew a stitch line along the length, leaving an allowance on the edge. Standard in the UK is 1cm, and in the US it is ⅝ inch.

Slightly more complicated are ‘French Seams’ and curved ‘Fell Seams’. A French seam uses two stitch lines, so that the seam allowance is captured inside. It’s a tidy seam, and great for see through or delicate fabrics.

A fell seam is primarily used on shirts. It also neatens things up so that seam allowances are not fraying and visible. This seam is tricky but on a curve? Wowsers… 😉

If you’re worried about how hard it is to sew perfect seams, fear not! I’ve added a brief downloadable Seams Guide to this post which you can grab!

How do you know which seam to use when sewing?

Most patterns will tell you which seam to use and how much seam allowance to have. Once you’ve had a bit of practice, it’s fun to change this up and experiment for yourself. The only major no-no would be trying to do a French seam on a bulky or heavy weight fabric. You may get it to seam, but the weight of the fabric used would make it look clunky and unattractive!

Are there other ways to make a seam?

Yep. If you’re using leather, you can glue or cement seams by laying the wrong side of one piece on top of the right side of another. If the glue or cement isn’t particularly strong, or designed to work with leather, you’d probably want to reinforce the seam with a line or two of stitching though.

You could also use a double sided fusible to ‘stick’ two fabrics together. When I was interning at Roland Mouret, we fused two layers of fabric together to make the garments reversible. They called it arrignée – which means spiders web in French apparently! 😮

More decorative ways to make a seam would be to use hardware such as rivets and eyelets. Just as you placed the two pieces of leather on top of each other with glue, you can do the same with metal wear.

If you fancy some free patterns to practise your seams, check out this post: 5 Easy Sewing Patterns for Beginners! 

So, what are the seams in full?

Open seam

An open seam is the easiest to construct.

  • Place fabric A on the table with the right side facing up towards you
  • Place fabric B on top of this with the wrong side facing up towards you
  • Match up the start, end and notches
  • Pop the fabric under the sewing machine foot so that the edge of the fabric lines up with the 1cm guideline
  • Place the presser foot down
  • Turn the needle with your right hand so the needle pokes a little into the fabric, then put your foot down!
  • Now, remember to take it slow and  gentle. We’re not racing cars around a Grand Prix circuit! 😉
  • When you’ve sewn all the way along the edge, stop but keep the needle in the fabric
  • Life the presser foot, turn the fabric 180 degrees so they the seam allowance is on the opposite side, and pop the presser foot right back down again
  • Sew 2-3 stitches, just to secure the seam line
  • Pride both sides of the seam allowance open

Open Seam - Front

Open Seam - Back

French Seam

A French seam is a delicate thing. Starting with a 1cm seam allowance.

  • Place the wrong sides together, and sew as straight and smooth as possible
  • Press the stitched line
  • Trim the seam allowance down to 4mm
  • Press this seam allowance to one side
  • Place the right sides of the fabric together and press
  • Now sew along the seamline with a 6mm seam allowance
  • Press and finish

This should leave you with a beautifully crafted French seam and no threads peeking through. Voila!

French Seam - Front

 

French Seam - Back

Welt Seam

As mentioned earlier, a welt seam is used in denim as well as workwear and outerwear. It’s an easy seam to construct.
Seen just like an open seam, but with a bigger seam allowance, the seam is opened out and the allowance pressed to one side before being stitched down. It is a less bulky version of a felled seam on denim.

  • Place right sides of fabric together
  • Sew a 1cm seam alowance
  • Press
  • If you have one, overlook the edge of the allowance, being careful not to trim the fabric with the blades!
  • If you don’t have a serger / overlocker, you can use the zigzag stitch on your machine
  • Press the allowance to one side
  • On the right side, stitch a line parallel to the seam line in order to secure the allowance and strengthen the seam

 

I’ll do a further post in the coming months on how to analyse a pair of jeans, so you’re in a position to make your own pair! 🙂

 

Welt Seam - Front

 

Welt Seam - Back

Flat Fell Seam

The fell seam. Hmmm… When I was at uni, I was told to do a ‘running fell seam’ on one of my garments. I don’t remember which. Having never encountered such a seam before, I went off and searched my many sewing and pattern making books. Nothing. I explored the uni library – still nothing. In desperation, I asked Google. Turns out, the running fell is basically a simpler version of the flat fell seam. Doh.

  • Start with a 1.5cm allowance, unless you specifically want a narrower seam finish
  • Place the wrong side of the fabric together, so the right side is facing you
  • Stitch along your 1.5cm allowance
  • Press
  • Trim one side of the allowance to 5mm
  • Press both allowances to one side
  • Fold the larger allowance over the smaller allowance, enclosing it
  • Press
  • Stitch along the edge (this will be the wrong side of the fabric facing you – and also the ‘running’ fell aspect!)
  • Turn to the right side of the fabric
  • Edge stitch the seam

Flat Fell Seam - Front

 

Flat Fell Seam - Back

Lapped Seam

This seam is used on leather, suede and non fray fabrics only.

  • One piece of your fabric should have 1cm seam allowance.
  • The second piece should have the seam allowance trimmed off
  • Place the second piece (no seam allowance) on top of the first piece allowance 1cm overlap
  • It can be helpful to use a temporary spray glue to hold the pieces together, as pins will leave visible holes
  • Once you are confident that the piece is secure, start stitching your first line close to the overlapping edge
  • You can also stitch a second line close to the unseen edge of the under piece

That’s it folks. The most important thing to remember is pressing your seams with an iron is the key to having a professional finish. Honestly. And the second most important thing? HAVE FUN!!!

Now… If you are ready to get cracking, and want a printable sewing guide, sign up below to get it for free.

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RECOMMENDED READING: If you found this interesting, and are excited to crack on with practising your seams, why not check out my post on sewing Facings? Click through to read that post! There’s also my post on Collars and another on sewing zippers!

Sewing Lessons - Seams 101

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Comments (2)

  • Toni Sturrs

    August 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Wow! I didn’t know there were so many different types of seams, such a great post. This is really useful!! 🙂

    1. Eve Tokens

      August 11, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks for popping by Toni! Am so glad that it has been informative. Let me know if you have any questions!

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