Different Ways to Make Sure Your Sewing Seams Don’t Fray, including how to sew Overlock, Faux Overlock, Flat Felled and French Seams
When I was younger, I was all about sewing as quickly as I could. A seam finish, if I did one at all, was a quick clip with the pinking shears. But now I really enjoy nicely finished seams. They help garments last longer, and I actually enjoy the process of being thorough. Or rushing through with the serger. Whatever works, ha! So let’s take a look at these different finishes.
How to Sew an Overlock Seam Finish (Serger)
This stitch is done with 3, 4 or 5 threads on a serger. It can also be referred to as serging a seam. Two of the threads wrap around the edge of the fabric, and a knife trims the fabric edge straight so that the threads can wrap around it.
Pros: quick and easy to do
Cons: you need a special machine to do this stitch
How to Sew a Faux Overlock Seam Finish
This type of stitch is essentially a zig-zag stitch done with the needle hitting just over the edge of the fabric on one side.
Pros: Can be done with any machine that can do a zig-zag
Cons: Does not wrap around the fabric edge as securely as an overlock stitch
How to Make French Seams
French seams are sewn twice, enclosing raw edges within a seam. It is a good finish for sheer fabrics.
Pros: Can be done with any machine, finished seam can be made pretty narrow
Cons: Takes more time, precise fabric cutting and seam allowance sewing is key, needs at least 1/2 inch total seam allowance even for very narrow French seams.
I used French seams on this skirt. A French Seam is made like this:
- Pin pieces together with wrong sides together, using a 1/4″ seam
- Flip the pieces to right sides together, and stitch the seam again
- The raw edges should be encased inside the seam
- If you look at it from the side, you can see the raw edges inside the seam
How to Sew Flat Felled Seams
A flat felled seam has the raw edges wrap around each other, and is often combined with topstitching. It is a very sturdy seam and suitable for heavy fabrics.
Pros: Can be done with any machine, very strong seam.
Cons: Takes more time, precise fabric cutting and seam allowance sewing is key, needs at least 1/2 inch total seam allowance.
To do a Flat Felled seam follow these steps:
- Stitch your pieces together with at least a 1/2″ seam.
- Press the seam flat and trim one seam allowance down to 1/4″
- Wrap the other seam allowance around the trimmed raw edge
- Stitch down close to the folded edge
- Your seam will look like this on the outside. You can add topstitching next to the seam or stitch with a double needle in step 5 to make this seam more decorative.
A flat felled seam can also be done starting with wrong sides together; this will give you a ridge on the outside like you normally see on jeans. It is the type finish I used on this skirt.
So see, these fancy, scary sounding names for finishes are actually nothing to be scared of.