I’ve already showed you how to sew open and closed seams, so here’s another type of seam – the French seam, in which the seam allowance is all contained and neatened without the need for an overlocker. French seams are often used in garments made from sheer fabrics as they give a very neat finish. If an overlocker was used for a sheer garment, the stitching would show through the fabric and be unsightly.
Given the neatness and high quality of French seams they can also be found in higher end garments such as shirts. Cheap clothing will rarely have French seams as they require a slightly wider seam allowance (which can affect fabric layouts and add considerable fabric costs) and they are more time consuming to sew. That said, French seams are not difficult to do and will give your home projects a professional finish. It’s best to only use this technique if your project has been designed to be sewn with French seams. French seams are bulkier than overlocked seams, so this technique shouldn’t be used for thick or heavy fabrics.
To sew a French seam, the seam allowance needs to be 1.5 cm (5/8”). Generally all seams are sewn with the right sides of the fabric together. This is where French seams are different! Start by pinning your two pieces of fabric together with the wrong sides together, so the right sides are facing out.
Sew a row of stitching 9 mm (3/8”) from the edge of the fabric, remembering to back tack at each end.
Trim away some of the seam allowance, leaving only 3-4 mm.
Press the seam allowance open. I find it easiest to just use the tip of my iron and run it along the seam allowance pushing it open with the tip as I go. If you need to use your fingers to open the seam allowance as you iron, be careful to not burn your fingers with the steam.
Fold the fabric along the seam line so the right sides are facing together. Press along the seam line to make it sit nice and flat.
Sew again 6 mm (1/4”) from the seam line (always remembering to back tack at the beginning and end of the seam).
Open out the fabric and make sure none of the seam allowance is poking through to the right side. Press the seam allowance to one side and your French seam is finished. Note that if making a garment, the seam allowance should be pressed towards the back of the garment. Ta-da! Your French seam is finished and look how spiffy it looks!
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