Whether sewing clothes or craft projects, if a seam is not completed enclosed (e.g. in a lined jacket), the seam will need to be overcast in some manner in order to prevent it from fraying. I firmly believe that there’s no point spending hours on a lovely handmade project if you don’t finish off the seams properly. As soon as it’s put in the washing machine, or even just from everyday wear and tear, the fabric in the seam allowance will fray and may cause holes to develop in your seams. With just a little extra effort you can finish off your seams to prevent fraying so your creation will enjoy a longer and happier life.
In a previous post I’ve showed you a couple of methods for finishing off the raw edges of seams using an overlocker or normal sewing machine. Here I want to show you a couple of techniques for finishing off seams by hand. This is much more time consuming than using a machine. As such, I would only use these methods if I couldn’t finish off the seams by machine, or if for some reason you are following a project that specifies to finish off the seams by hand.
There are two main ways of overcasting by hand. The first is with a simple overcasting stitch, the second is with a blanket stitch. Both methods are to be done after the seam is sewn (by machine or hand).
Overcasting stitch is quite simply sewing a stitch over the raw edge from one side to the other, pass the needle through both layers of fabric and repeat. It’s that easy! Unless working with a very delicate fabric, I would use a double thread as it’s stronger than a single thread (remembering to knot your thread before you start, of course). As you sew, try to keep your stitches small and at an even distance apart. To finish off, sew three tiny stitches on top of one another before cutting the thread.
Blanket stitch isn’t quite as simple as the overcasting stitch, but it’s still pretty easy once you get the hang of it. As with overcasting stitch, I prefer to use a double thread unless working with a very delicate fabric. Start by drawing the needle up through both layers of fabric. Pass the needle over the raw edges and back through both layers of fabric (like you did for the overcasting stitch), but before you pull the stitch tight, pass the needle up through the loop of thread.
The first stitch will look a little wonky, but that’s okay.
Repeat this process of stitching along the length of the seam.
Notice how blanket stitch creates a row of thread exactly along the raw edge of the fabric. To finish off, sew three tiny stitches on top of one another before cutting the thread. Blanket stitch can also be used decoratively when appliquéing. To learn how to used blanket stitch for appliqué, have a look at this post where I appliqué a baby’s singlet.
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