Sewing Seams: 11 Ways of How to Sew Seams

how to sew seams

Are you ready for the mother load of information on sewing seams or how to finish a seam? I hope so because I have the best finishing seams tutorial for you!

Just for starters, a seam is a line (or lines) of stitches that joins two pieces of fabric together. There’s a number of different ways to accomplish them depending on how sturdy you need the seam to be, what type of fabric you’re using, and what type of sewing machines you have. 

Today, I’ll cover 11 ways to finish seams. We also put definitions at the end of the article so you’ll have a basic idea of some other ways and methods to finish seams. 

Many of these stitches and seams can be done with a regular sewing machine. Some people think you have to have a serger to make a beautifully finished edge – but I’ll show you that isn’t necessarily true. Actually, the most professional results don’t use a serger at all when sewing seams. No more serger envy folks! Okay, so that may be taking things a little far. But I am going to show you that you don’t HAVE to have a serger to produce a beautiful handmade finished seam. You may want to pin this post for future reference. 😉

Alright, with all of that out of the way let’s start with the basics of finishing seams and build from there.

Sewing Seams Method 1: Straight Stitch Seam Finish

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The easiest way to finish the seam is to sew a parallel line to keep the raw edge from unraveling.

Simply sew your seam using the seam allowance given in your pattern.  Then sew a straight stitch 1/8″ from the raw edge. Keep your stitches short to help minimize fraying.

You will still have some fraying with this technique, but it reduces it greatly. I wouldn’t recommend this type of finish on anything that would have an exposed seam. However, it would help strengthen the seam.  It would be good when a seam is hidden if you have a fabric that frays a lot, like flannel lining a jacket.

Sewing Seams Method 2: Pinking Shears

You can also use pinking shears with this technique to help minimize fraying even more. If you do this, sew your second straight stitch 1/8″ from the first and then clip the seam allowance with your pinking shears. 

Using pinking shears (or “pinking”) is a quick and easy way to add structure and stability to the seam to prevent it from fraying in the future. Some also choose to use the pinking shears on the raw edges of fabric before sewing the seam. Whatever you do, make sure your pining shears are sharp!

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Sewing Seams Method 3: Clean Finish Edge

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Sew a straight stitch using the seam allowance given in the pattern. Press the seam open. Now, press the edges of the fabric under 1/8″-1/4″ to the wrong side and stitch into place.

The back side of the seam allowance is shown above.

This finished edge will produce a little more bulk at the seams. It also requires a bit more work at the iron. But it does keep fraying at bay providing a nice clean seam finish.

Sewing Seams Method 4: Zig Zag Stitch Seam Finish

Zig Zag Stitch Seam Finish

For this seam finish, you are simply going to run a short, wide zig zag stitch right at the edge of your fabric to encase the raw edge to prevent fraying. If you don’t have a serger (or overlock machine) this is a widely used stitch to finish seams for knit or woven fabrics.

This technique will get the job done if you don’t have any other technique available to you. It’s also fast and doesn’t require extra time at the iron or special feet for your machine. Be sure to use a short stitch length. It will help reduce the amount of fraying you get.

Sewing Seams Method 5: French Seam Finish

French Seam Finsih

This style of seam will completely encase the raw edge. It is great for light weight and sheer fabrics that would be too delicate for an overlock stitch or a zig zag stitch. It isn’t great for heavier weight fabrics because it can cause extra bulk. It is also only suitable for straight seams.

To create a French seam using a 1/2″ seam allowance, first sew your two fabrics WRONG sides together using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Then, trim the seam allowance down to 1/8″ and press open.

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Now fold the fabrics RIGHT sides together, encasing the raw edge from the previous seam, press and stitch again using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Voila! A completely encased seam.

Sewing Seams Method 6: Mock French Seam

Mock French Seam

The mock French seam encloses the raw edges completely giving a nice finished look. It’s good for curves, just clip the seam allowance after pressing the edges into the middle to allow the fabric to make the curve without bunching. Again, it can produce a bit of bulk, so it is best for mid to light weight fabrics.

Sew your fabrics right sides together using the pattern seam allowance. Press seam open.

Fold the raw edges in, meeting in the middle of the seam and press.

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Now fold the folded edges together and stitch.

Lovely enclosed seams!

Sewing Seams Method 7: Flat Felled Seam Finish

Flat Felled Seam Finish

This is a seam style that you will most often find on jeans. It’s super sturdy, has a very clean, professional finish and lays nice and flat, as the name suggests. This is a great seam finish for people with sensory issues or for kids who are super rough on their clothes. (ripped inseam problems, anybody??)

To sew a flat felled seam, sew your fabrics WRONG sides together using the pattern seam allowance. (I am going to use 1/2″ for this example.)

Trim ONE side of the seam allowance in half. Press the seam open. (left picture below)

Fold over the longer seam allowance so that the raw edge meets up the the stitch line and press. (center picture below)

Now, fold over the seam allowance once more. You are folding the longer seam allowance over the shorter seam allowance side. All the raw edges are tucked nicely away. Press. (right picture below)

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Stitch the seam allowance into place.

Here is what your back will look like. The red stitches are my bobbin thread from topstitching the folded seam allowance down.

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Beautiful! Don’t you feel like a rock star after that one!

Sewing Seams Method 8: Overlock Stitch Seam Finish

overlock stitch seam finish

Some machines have a special overlock stitch that will mimic the look of a serged seam. Look for this symbol in your stitch catalog. It’s stitch 12 on my machine.

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You will also have a special foot.

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You will still need to use a straight stitch to join your seam. Then, go over the raw edge with the overlock stitch. See the little black flared edge at the front of the foot? That is your fabric guide. Just line the raw edge of your fabric up with the left side of that little piece and sew. Trim off any excess fabric from the edge, if needed.

This stitch is great for any exposed seams because it will really keep fraying at bay and it isn’t bulky. Some people may find it irritating, but pressing the seam down and topstitching the seam in place will help protect against irritation. If you have a large seam allowance, you can trim it down to 1/4″ before overlocking to reduce it.

We talked seams, now let’s go over the different techiniques for how to finish a seam.

Sewing Seams Method 9: Bias Tape Bound

bias tape bound

Just like the name suggests, this method uses double fold bias tape to encase the raw edges of the seam.

Sew the seam as usual with right sides together. Insert the raw edges into the center of the double fold bias tape.

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Stitch binding into place.

The binding will add some bulk to your seam, but it gives a very nice, clean finish. You can find this in unlined jackets. The bias may be topstitched into place from the right side of the fabric to keep it laying flat.

Sewing Seams Method 10: Hong Kong Seam

hong kong seam

This method is usually only found in high-end clothing because it is time-consuming. It works well for woven fabrics and nicer garments. 

Similar to the bias-bound seam, each seam is encased in its own bias strip. You know the packs of thin bias tape, this is one use of that. Of course, you can make your own bias strips as well. Sew your fabric’s right sides together. Press the seam open and insert each raw edge into the bias strip. Stitch strip in place.

Sewing Seams Method 11: How to Finish a Seam with a Serger/Overlock Machine

serger overlock machine

A special machine is needed for this finish, a serger, or overlocker, depending on your region. A serger is a multi thread machine that sews a seam, trims the seam allowance and encases the raw edge  simultaneously. This makes sewing a clean seam super fast. Serged seams are also commonly used to construct knit garments because they allow the seams to stretch with the fabric.

And there you have it with sewing seams! You know how to finish a seam eleven different ways!

Sewing Seams Table

Seam Application or Use Picture
Straight Stitch Seam Finish You sew parallel lines of straight stitches to keep the raw edge from unraveling.
Pinking Shears Can be used with a straight stitch seam finish. This helps minimize fraying. Sew your second straight stitch 1/8″ from the first and then clip the seam allowance with pinking shears.
Clean Finish Edge Sew a straight stitch using the seam allowance given in the pattern. Press the seam open. Now, press the edges of the fabric under 1/8″-1/4″ to the wrong side and stitch into place.
Zig Zag Stitch For this seam finish, you are simply going to run a short, wide zig zag stitch right at the edge of your fabric to encase the raw edge to prevent fraying.
French Seam A french seam encases the raw edge and is great for lightweight and sheer fabrics that would be too delicate for an overlock stitch or a zig zag stitch. It is also only suitable for straight seams and is made by sewing wrong seams together and trimming excess.
Mock French Seam The mock French seam encloses the raw edges completely giving a nice finished look. It’s good for curves, just clip the seam allowance after pressing the edges into the middle to allow the fabric to make the curve without bunching.
Flat Felled Seam You’ll find this seam on jeans. It’s very sturdy and is made by sewing fabrics wrong side together, trimming the seam allowance, and stitching the seam allowance in place.
Overlock Stitch This is a sewing machine stitch that mocks provides the lock of a serged seam.
Bias Tape Bound Encasing the raw seams or edge of the fabric with bias tape.
Hong Kong Seam Each seam is encased in its own bias strips. Sew your fabrics right sides together. Press seam open and insert each raw edge into the bias strip. Stitch strip in place.
Serger or Overlock Machine This is the stitch commonly seen on a serger or overlock machine. A serger or overlock machine makes finishing seams super fast with a professional look. This is especially the preferred method when sewing knit fabric.

 

Other Methods of Sewing Seams

Kelly did an amazing job of covering many different ways of stitching seams. Just as a matter of reference, I’d like to just mention some more ways to finish seams just to make sure you’re sewing vocabulary is up to par:

  • Plain Seam: A plain seam would be similar to the straight stitch seam above except you use only one row of stitching. 
  • Hemmed Fell Seam: We went over the flat felled seam above. The hemmed fell is similar. You make it like you would make a flat relled seam. The difference is that on the second set of stitches near the fabric edge you make hemming or overhand stitches by hand. 
  • Overhand Fell Seam: The overhand fell seam is like the hemmed fell seam. The difference is that both seams in the fabric are done with overhand or hemming stitches rather than just the one on the side of the unfinished fabric.
  • Lapped Seam: A lapped seam is somewhat of a decorative seam finish and not terribly common. It’s how it sounds – a seam where the edges overlap and the finished side of the garment is left with a loop or portion of fabric protruding out that is not stitched down. Here’s a good tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkLdfHjttcs
  • English Stitch Seam: 
  • Welt Seams: The welt seam is a decorative seam. It’s often used on thicker fabric. It’s similar to a flat felled seam but you finish the top seam allowance with a serger, zigzag stitch or pinking shears.
  • Piped Seam: This is simply a seam where you attach two pieces of fabric using a piece of piping that will be visible on the right side of the garment. 

Sewing Seams | How to Finish a Seam

If you need help with your seams, or other projects, be sure to join our Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop Facebook Group. If you enjoyed this tutorial, you might also enjoy some of these other tutorials:

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