How To Sew A French Seam | Sewing French Seams

How to Sew a French Seam

How to Sew a French Seam | French Seam Tutorial

We’re here today to teach you how to sew a french seam. Maybe you’ve heard of this before and maybe you haven’t but by the end of this tutorial you’ll see how this seam can help you to have professional looking finished edges on lightweight or sheer fabrics. This seam is handy for woven fabrics – not knit fabrics and the seam is difficult for curved edges.

What is a French Seam?

A french seam is a strong seam with a stitch on both sides of the fabric to enclose the raw edges and seam allowance. You basically sew french seams like a normal seam but stitch it twice. The raw edges / extra fabric / seam allowance gets tucked away – leaving a clean edge and professional look on the right and wrong side of the fabric.

This seam will help prevent the edges of the fabric from fraying or unravelling and the seam is very small. A french seam conceals and hides or encases the raw edges – therefore, you can make a strong, yet small seam, without a serger if you’re doing clothing construction.

French seams are my secret weapon for leveling up my sewing projects at home.  I really like that the seam can be sewn with a regular sewing machine, and it is a very quick way to make your projects hold up better through the wash and look as clean and neat on the inside as the outside. 

Where to Use French Seams When Sewing?

As noted above, a French seam works best when used with thin to medium weight fabrics, as the bulk of the material stays inside the seam. Some instances where I love sewing french seams are inside pillowcases, on straight seams in children’s clothing, constructing the corners of crib sheets, and with chiffon or silk where edges would fray easily. French seams also work for gentle curves although curves are more difficult.  

These seams take care of the seam allowance, look higher end, are stronger, and have a neat professional finish.

When Should I Not Use French Seams When Sewing?

First, french seams should not be used on thick fabric as they will create a seam that is too bulky. Tight curves will also be difficult with a french seam. Lastly, we do a lot of sewing with knit fabrics around here and french seams are not generally used with knit fabric. Why? It’s generally too bulky and sewing this seam with knit fabric is more difficult on a sewing machine. We generally recommend using a serger with knit fabric for ease of use and a professional finish. Also, one benefit of a french seam is that the edges won’t fray or unravel. This concern is for woven rather than knit fabrics.

How is a French Seam Different Than Other Seams?

How is It different than a regular or plain seam? Unlike a plain seam, a French seam works by enclosing the raw edges of the fabric by sewing the seam twice to enclose the raw edges.

How is a French Seam Different than a Flat Felled Seam? A french seam and a flat felled seam are both classified as “lapped seams” in that you are folding or overlapping the fabric together to make the seam. Both a french seam and flat felled seam start out with putting the wrong sides of the fabric together and sewing a seam. The difference is in the finished product. At the end, the french seam has the excess fabric or seam allowance out of site on the wrong side of the fabric. The flat felled seam has the excess fabric on the right side of the fabric with a stitch – in a flat felled seam the excess fabric is topstitched down on the right side of the fabric. One common place to find a flat felled seam is in jeans.

What’s the Difference Between a French Seam and a Bound Seam? A bound seam is constructed by folding some type of binding strip over the edge of the seam. You then use a stitch to join the material together through the binding.

What is a Mock French Seam? A mock french seam has the appearance of a french seam but is easier since your not messing around with seam allowances. It might be also used along a curved edge where a regular french seam wouldn’t work or would be difficult to make. It’s also completed with two separate stitches but you sew it by placing right sides touching and using the seam allowance.

How to Sew French Seams?

We’ve learned what a french seam is, when to use it while sewing, and how it’s different than other seams. Now let’s get down to the actual construction – the sewing of the french seam. Here’s the steps on how to sew it:

Sewing a French Seam Step 1: Start by breaking the typical rule of sewing, and start with your WRONG SIDES together. I know it feels so wrong, but go ahead and do it!

Sewing a French Seam Step 2: Now stitch your seam. Because you are essentially adding an extra seam, you should adjust your seam allowance to about ¼” less than your pattern instructs. For example, if the original pattern has a seam allowance of ½”, sew this first line at ¼”. If your pattern calls for a ⅝” seam allowance, sew this line at ⅜”.

Sewing a French Seam Step 3: Trim the seam allowance to eliminate any excess bulk.  If you are sewing a corner, be sure you trim the corner as well so it will lay nice and flat.

Sewing a French Seam Step 4: Iron this seam open. In the past, I have been known to skip over sewing steps if I didn’t deem crucial… Do not skip this step! In order to get the professional, finished look you are trying to achieve with a french seam, iron this well. After you’ve ironed it open, then iron it Right Sides Together (RST).

Sewing a French Seam Step 5:  It’s time to sew RST with ¼” allowance, or whatever seam allowance you are using. Now, the first line you sewed will be sandwiched, or hidden inside the casing. Iron your seam one final time! 

Creating a french seam takes a homemade DIY project to a professional, durable finished product.  I hope you enjoyed sewing this seam with us today. Remember to use your new found knowledge and use the french seam when seeking a professional looking finish on medium to lightweight woven fabrics.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, check out our tutorial on 11 High Quality Ways to Sew Seams.

Also be sure to join our Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop Facebook Group.

How to Sew a French Seam

3 Responses

  1. Thank you. I have sewn French seams in the past and you reminded me to make a smaller seam and use the iron before I stitched the last seam! Great tutorial!

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