Saturday, 29 March 2014

Notionally Speaking: Finishing

This month's Notionally Speaking post comes from Amy from Almond Rock who randomly chose "finishing". How to finish your seams is a key decision when planning your project and Amy provides some useful advice when making this decision...

Notionally Speaking

What's the deal with so many pattern companies not daring to suggest seam finishes for garments? It's like the ultimate taboo sewing subject but also a vital part of making clothes that last!

How do you finish your seams?

As a beginner it always troubled me that my clothes might unravel in the wash so in the beginning I often chose to make garments with fully enclosed linings. Today I’m summarising the pros and cons of the top methods of seam finishing.

These are methods slightly more involved than zig zagging at your machine and maybe you’re thinking about trying one of them out on your next make.

French Seams

I've heard a rumour these are called English seams in France. I'm probably being totally delusional to believe that though. There's no denying these are a very handy finish!

Super robust and pleasing looking.
Perfect for sheer fabrics.
It’s nailed on that you will sew the right sides together at some point rather than the wrong sides. And probably trim the seam too. Maybe you won’t even realise until you’ve sewn a complete seam… the wrong way around.

Pinking shears

Pinking shears

I inherited my Grandmother's pinking shears a couple of years back. They're a little temperamental and heavy to boot, but I love thinking of us both using this pair decades apart.

Quick and easy. I pink around arm and neckhole curves as a quick and dirty way to notch/clip and prevent fraying. If I had a sharp lightweight new pair I might pink all my allowances! It really looks neat inside a sundress or blouse.
Don't snip a big hole in your garment!
And don't expect your seams to last forever through repeated spin cycles and constant wear.

Bias tape/Seam binding

Seam binding

Have you ever spent the time to encase the raw edge of your fabric with bias tape or seam binding for the traditional Hong Kong finish?

Using bias tape as a facing is a popular technique because it is very quick, provides a clean finish and allows you to enclose an armhole or neck opening without worry of future unravelling.
Hong Kong seams are just so lovely to see inside a garment. They can bring satisfying pops of colour to the inside of a garment that make you smile everytime you wear it!
Don't forget a facing will provide more support at a neckline that you might miss by using bias.
Plus you need to not be in any kind of rush and pretty certain your garment fits, to sit and bind all of the exposed seams.


Singer serger

In 2012 I treated myself to a baby singer overlocker. Sergei the serger if you will. Then I upgraded at the end of 2013 to a new overlocker - Sergei II. This is my go to method for finishing seams.

Super robust and professional looking.
I have two methods for incorporating the overlocker into a project.
I either use method 1 where I serge the edges of all my pieces before sewing them together, along any seam allowance that will be exposed (not any curved areas) and then sew my pieces together so seams can be pressed open. This means you can follow the pattern instructions without worry.
Or I use method 2 which a lot of ready to wear clothes use where I serge my seam allowance together which allows me to trim and enclose the two pieces of fabric at the same time. I then press towards the back.
They’re relatively expensive – basically like buying a second machine.
They can be fiddly to set up and can accidentally eat a big hole in your garment if you're not concentrating.
Method 1 does mean a bit more time needs to be spent upfront on prepping each piece.
With method 2 you have to know when to stop to serge as you often have to serge one seam before moving onto another.

So what’s your preferred method of finishing your seams?


  1. You left out just turning under & sewing. I don't know if that's got an official name, but it's the version I generally favour.

  2. Another con of French seams is that they get really, really bulky if your fabric isn’t pretty lightweight. I love French seams, but if you want to use them, make sure you try on some scraps how bulky they’ll get with your fabric! (Ask me how I know…)
    Bias-bound seams can also get bulky if your bias tape isn’t very lightweight. I like to make my own from voile rather than using the store-bought, which always seems to be too heavy and stiff.
    Personally, I also really love flat-felled seams. Not for everything, obviously, but since I’m currently working on a pair of jeans for my boyfriend, they’re topmost in my mind. (:
    I don’t have an overlocker, so I like to have all raw edges enclosed. That’s why I love French seams, flat-felled seams and bound seams, obviously. Where I really don’t need the extra bulk, I resort to my sewing machine’s “overcast” stitch—which works fine, but uses up a lot of thread and is slooow.


Do you have thoughts about this post? If so, please leave a comment - I really appreciate them! I read them all and try to reply as much as possible.


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