Seam Finishing

In my post yesterday ( https://aethelfliedbrewbane.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/fighting-tunic-for-ciar/ ) I made a passing comment about how to finish the seams was dealer’s choice, but didn’t explain the differences in seam finishing techniques. Then did a quick scan of my archive and realized I’ve always assumed my readers know how to finish seams. Well guys, you know what they say about assuming. And so here is a brief description of a couple seam finishing techniques. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll get you started.

First off: Why finish seams in the first place? The thing is sewn together, that’s enough right?

Technically speaking yes. I’ve got some garments that I never bothered to finish the seams on. Because they’re wool, I’m lazy, and the worst that happens is I pop a seam. That’ll be embarrassing when it happens, but I won’t die.

That being said! Finishing your seams adds reinforcement to the seam itself, and stops the raw edges from fraying, shedding bits of thread all over you/your under clothes, helps make the garment last longer, and just generally makes the whole piece look better and more professional.

Seam finishing technique 1: Serging

How to do it: after you’ve sewn your garment together, right sides pressed together with the wrong sides out, you run those same seams through another machine called a serger. This is what you generally see on commercial garments when you see the 8,000 threads running along the seams.

Pros: Fast, neat, minimal effort.

Cons: Requires access to a serger (which are not cheap), not period in even the slightest way, can be tricky with small/tight seams.

Seam finishing technique 2: French Seams

How to do it: Sew your garment together RIGHT SIDE OUT. That’s the biggest difference. Either sew as close to the edge of your pieces as you feel comfortable, or trim down to close to your stitches once you’ve got it sewn together. Now, flip your garment inside out and sew the seams again. This basically encases the raw edge in a tube of fabric.

Pros: Can be done with a modern machine, fast, arguably documentable.

Cons: creates a ridge on the inside of your garment, uses more seam allowance, really bad along curves for some reason.

Seam finishing technique 3: Flat felling. 

How to do it: Sew your seams, right sides pressed together and wrong side facing out. Trim one side of your seam allowance down close to the stitches, fold the other side over as if to hem. Run a whip/invisible hemming stitch along the fold.

Pros: Better in tight spaces/ along curves, arguably documentable, no ridge along the inside of your garment.

Cons: Best done with hand sewing. I mean, you could use a machine if you don’t mind a line of thread on the right side of your garment, but this really is better done by hand.

Seam finishing technique 4: Bias tape (option 1). 

How to do it: Sew your seams, right sides pressed together and wrong sides facing out. Sandwich the raw edges in bias tape/ribbon and run another seam.

Pros: Can be done on a modern machine, doesn’t require extra seam allowance,.follows curves.

Cons: Need bias tape/ribbon, can be tricky in tight spaces, can be finicky to get the bias tape seam to line up with the original seam to avoid puckering on the front, creates a ridge on the inside of your garment.

Seam finishing technique 5: Bias tape (option 2).

How to do it: Sew your seams, right sides pressed together and wrong sides facing out. Press your seams open and trim so they are no wider than your bias tape. Lay bias tape over the seam and sew along either edge of the tape.

Pros: Can be done with a modern machine, doesn’t require extra seam allowance, creates a smooth, flat, seam.

Cons: Need bias tape/ribbon, can be tricky in tight spaces, if you use a machine you will have two lines of thread showing on the right side (which you can use contrasting thread for and make a Feature), takes a little longer since you’re basically sewing each seam three times.

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One thought on “Seam Finishing

  1. If you don’t have a serger, but you have a sewing machine that lets you make an zig-zag or overlock stitch, you can use that on your unfinished edges. It’s how I was modernly taught to finish seams when I learned to sew.

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