Looking for a simple and elegant finishing touch to your sewing projects? Look no further than the French seam! This technique is easy to learn and creates clean, professional-looking finishes on lightweight or medium-weight garments. Whether you are new to sewing or an experienced seamstress, mastering the art of French seams is a great way to take your skills to the next level. This article is A Quick and Easy Guide To Sewing a French Seam.
What is a French Seam?
A French seam is a method of enclosing the raw edges of the fabric inside a seam. The French seam gets its name because this type of seam was first used in France.
This type of seam is commonly used on delicate, lightweight fabrics or when you want to create a neat finish to your garment. It also helps prevent the fabric from fraying or unraveling.
A French seam is probably one of the most popular ways to finish seams on garments, particularly for lightweight or sheer fabrics. It encloses the raw edges in an elegant, durable seam that looks neat and tidy, adding a professional touch to any garment!
Many people are scared of making a French seam since the name sounds so fancy, but the truth is, French seams are not scary at all!
What is the Difference Between a French Seam and a Regular Seam?
The plain seam is the most common way of sewing a seam and is used for the majority of your sewing projects. This simply means that the raw edges of fabric are sewn together, leaving behind unfinished edges on both sides.
On the other hand, a French seam involves folding each raw edge inwards when sewing, enclosing the raw edges inside the seam. This gives a much cleaner and neater finish to your garment.
What is a French Seam Most Commonly used for?
A French seam is commonly used to finish the raw edges of lightweight or medium-weight fabrics, such as cotton, linen, or silk. A French seam can also be used on sheer fabrics such as chiffon or organza.
Use this seam whenever you like, but remember that this method might create bulky seams on heavy fabrics. So I'd recommend using it for lightweight and medium-weight fabrics only. It's particularly useful for super light fabrics that might unravel with other seam finish methods.
When it comes to the types of projects you can use a French seam, you can opt for using it on any garments (from skirts to tops or dresses) but keep in mind you can only use this method for straight seams, not curves.
What is the Differrence Between a French Seam and a Flat Felled Seam?
The French seam is a locking stitch type that encloses the raw edges inside a single seam. On the other hand, a flat felled seam is used to finish the edges of a seam and is created by folding the fabric over itself and topstitching in place. To get a clearer idea of what a flat felled seam looks like, read my article on How to sew a flat felled seam.
Both methods are used to finish the raw edges of a garment and create a professional-looking finish. However, the French seam is more commonly used on delicate fabrics or when you want a very neat finish, while the flat fell seam is a more durable and sturdy seam that can be used on all kinds of fabrics. It's commonly used in trousers and jeans and creates a sturdy seam that resists ripping or fraying.
Another difference between these two seams is that the French seams are created on the inside of the garment, while flat felled seams are typically used on the outside.
While there are some differences between the French and flat felled seam, both techniques create clean, professional-looking finishes on your garments.
How Much Seam Allowance does a French Seam Require?
The amount of seam allowance required will depend on the thickness and weight of your fabric. It's best to start with leaving a smaller seam allowance and then gradually adjust this as needed based on the results you get. You may need a wider seam allowance for some fabrics, while a narrower one may work better for finer or thinner fabrics. Generally, a seam allowance of ¼ to ⅜ inches is recommended for these seams.
What are the Advantages of a French Seam?
Some of the main advantages of using a French seam include:
- A neater, more professional finish for your garment
- The ability to use this method on lightweight and medium-weight fabrics, as well as sheer fabrics like chiffon or organza
- The raw edges of the fabric are completely enclosed, which helps to prevent fraying or unraveling.
- It's a good option for those new to sewing, as it's a relatively simple technique.
What is a Mock French Seam?
This type of seam gives the appearance of a French seam but has two visible seams instead of just one. This method is often used on lightweight or sheer fabrics where a French seam would be too bulky.
To sew a mock French seam, you first press the seam allowance open and then fold the raw edges of the seam inwards towards each other. Then, sew a tiny seam along the fold to enclose the raw edges. You can use a straight stitch to sew this seam, or for even more durability, you may choose to topstitch or zigzag over the edge. While this method doesn't provide quite as professional a finish as a French seam, it's still an excellent option for those who want a neater finish than a serged seam.
French seams are quite enjoyable, quick to make, and in my humble opinion, a gorgeous way to finish seams! So grab your tools and join me in learning how to sew a French seam!
A Quick and Easy Guide To Sewing a French Seam
What You Need
- Sewing pins
- Scissors or a rotary cutter
1. Determine Your Seam Allowance
Look at your pattern to determine the seam allowances it calls for. Subtract 2/8″ (aka ¼") from that number. (So if yours is ⅝", your number is ⅜") This will be the seam allowance for your first seam.
Pro Tip: If you don't want to do the math, you can also line the left side of your presser foot up with the seam allowance that your pattern calls for. (On most machines, this will be ¼".)
2. Pin and Sew Your Seam
Pin your fabric wrong sides together and place under your presser foot at the ⅜" seam allowance (or whatever number you calculated in step 1). Sew the entire seam.
3. Trim Seam Allowance
Trim the seam allowance down to ⅛".
Pro Tip: If you're working with lightweight fabrics that easily shift (hi, chiffon), pin a point on the seam to an ironing board or another pin-able surface. Go directly through the seam line, leaving the pin sticking up like a tack. Pull the whole seam taut. This will make it easier to trim close to your stitches; the closer you get, the more delicate your finished seam will be.
4. Press the Seam
Open the seam with the right side facing up, so the seam allowance is on top. Set the iron to the correct heat for your fabric type. Press to one side.
Turn your fabric over and press on the wrong side, so the seam is flat.
5. Prepare to Sew the Second Stitch Line
Fold the fabric on the seam and right sides together. Press the seam flat again with the stitching on the edge of the fold.
6. Pin the Second Seam
Pin the layers together on the stitching line if needed. As you become more experienced, you may find that you no longer need to do this and can skip this step.
7. Sew Second Seam
Insert the seam under the presser foot. Sew until your project's seam allowance equals the number calculated in step 1. Example: If you sewed at ⅜" and the seam allowance is ⅝", that means you should sew this step at 2/8" or ¼".
Good to Know: As you sew, the seam allowance of the first seam will become enclosed within the fold/seam allowance of the second seam.
8. Press Again
Press the entire French seam to one side on the fabric's wrong side. Then, turn your fabric over and press one more time on the right side.
Do you have any tips or tricks for making French seams? If so, share them in the comments section below! Happy sewing!
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