Yesterday I showed you how to sew a straight seam and I mentioned that the raw edges of the seam allowance usually need to be finished off in some manner. In this article I’m going to show you a couple of different ways of finishing of the raw edges to create a closed seam.
A closed seam is when the two layers of seam allowance are finished off (e.g. overlocked) together. The two layers of seam allowance are then no longer able to be spread open, hence the name ‘closed seam’. This is a very common way of finishing off seams as it’s quick, easy and strong.
The best way to create closed seams is with an overlocker. But don’t despair if you don’t have an overlocker, you can also use your normal sewing machine. For both methods, start with a seam sewn as shown in yesterday’s post, but don’t press it open.
For the overlocker method, simply overlock the raw edges of the seam allowance together.
My mum taught me this method of tying off the overlocking at each end of a seam. Cut off the excess chain of overlocking, leaving a tail of about 1 cm. Pinch the base of the tail (at the edge of the fabric) between your thumb nail and your forefinger.
Holding the tail with your other hand, give a quick, sharp tug and the ends will form a knot leaving a couple of loose strands of thread dangling from the end. These can be snipped off.
If the end of the seam is going to be caught in another seam you don’t really need to tie off the overlocking, although I usually do it anyway because I hate having threads hanging off everywhere while I’m sewing. I like it to be tidy!
Open out your fabric and press the seam allowance to one side. If you are making a garment, the seam allowance should be pressed towards the back of the garment.
For the normal sewing machine method, you will need to set your sewing machine to a fairly wide zig-zag stitch. I still like to back tack at the start and end of the seam to make sure it’s strong and won’t come undone. If your fabric is getting caught in the machine while back tacking at the start, hold on to the tails of thread behind the presser foot and gently pull them to help the feed dogs move the fabric along. When you sew along the raw edge, make sure that the needle passes on the outside of the fabric i.e. the needle will pass through the layers of fabric for the ‘zig’ but for the ‘zag’ the needle needs to pass just next to the fabric, but not through it, so the threads wrap over the raw edge.
Open out the fabric and press the seam allowance towards one side, the same as for the overlocked example.
As you can see, the zig-zag method is not quite as neat (although this will be less obvious if you use a matching thread), but it is a quick and secure way of neatening your seams if you don’t have an overlocker.
Bias binding can also be used to neaten seams, but I’ll do a separate post on that later along with some other fun uses for bias binding.
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