Friday, August 24, 2007

Sewing 101: The French Seam

I just learned a new-to-me trick: The French Seam. This is used most often when sewing clothes if you don't have a serger. The raw edges of the fabric are encased so that there is no fraying. Grab some scrap fabric and try it out (it's fun!) Here goes:
We are going to sew these two pieces of fabric together:


This is the part that feels strange. Line up your fabric with WRONG sides together and sew a 3/8" seam:
Measuring 1/8" out from the sewn line, trim off the seam allowance.

Fold the fabric on the seam so that right sides are together and iron it down.

Stitch another seam at 1/4" (this part feels normal again, because right sides are together--whew!).

When you open it up, it looks like this:
And from the back, it looks like this--see, no raw edges!!! Why all the precise measurements? To get a perfect 5/8" seam, of course!
If you can think of any ways that you would use or have used the French seam, PLEASE leave a comment.

61 comments:

Carolyn said...

I have to give this a try... that's for the tutorial.
I'm sure I can use it for something, and when I find out what I'll drop you a line!

Sarah Leak said...

Great tutorial! French seams are used a lot in heirloom sewing and smocking - think really fine cotton fabrics where overlocking would show and not look nice.

Jen said...

I always use French seams when using Chiffon or any lightweight see through fabric. The seams is so much stronger than a raw edge that has been serged. Great for all those summer shirts we think,no dream, of making each year!! Great Tutorial.

Katie said...

I use a French seam wherever possible, esp. for kids' clothes. It's such a pretty and nice finish. Even if I had a serger, I would use them.

A question, although I am No Good at math--my instructions from an heirloom dress pattern say to get the 5/8" seam, you first sew 3/8" and then 1/4" on the second pass (rather than 1/2"). And if I remember the common denominator thing (which is a miracle really), then 3/8" and 1/4" (aka 2/8") is 5/8". Is that right?

June said...

I really appreciate your posting of this as I've been wanting to do French seams in my sewing efforts but wasn't sure how. Thank you so much!

lera said...

I used French seams when I made some clothes from corduroy, just to give it a finished look on the inside. (I'm not sure if corduroy frays or not, but that would help, too.)

jojo* said...

Katie, glad you caught the typo! It is 1/4, not 1/2. I just changed it on the tut, thank you!! :)

Lynn said...

Oh thank you for this! I was always wondering what people meant when they said they used french seams...

joyce said...

i've use it on drawstring pouches that weren't lined...just to try it out =) it does look clean.

Krista said...

YAY! I do not like fraying; and this is precisely why I was discouraged from sewing kids' clothes a whole lot. The French seams looks just gorgeous, what a simple solution.

Thanks! I'll definitely file this one to try when I'm sewing again :)

kayla_d said...

This is such a good trick. I've used it to sew sheer pieced window panels, so there are no raw edges exposed. It's also good for tote bags that you don't want to line.

Rosa said...

I use french seams for a lot of things where I don't want an unfinished seam. A bit ago, I sewed some PJ pants for dd. I used french seams in the inner leg seam and when I sewed the two pant legs together. They came out wonderful. There aren't any loose fibers, and no itchy parts on the leg. It is a great alternative to having a serger, especially when you don't have the space for a ton of machinery. Great post.

Heide said...

Clever!

Jessicah said...

I use french seams where other seams would be too bulky or would show through- think organza, silk (ball dress!) It is much tidier and can be used to make a reversible skirt- french seams on the inside become a feature on the outside!

Amy said...

My mouth dropped, so simple and so easy, but heck I never thought of or ever saw this before! I am now smiling at the thought that I do not have a serger, but I have a great seam substitute! Yipee! Thanks for sharing!

dizzyjadey said...

French seams are great for gauzy fabrics, too. I use it a lot on my kiddy smocks because kids are hard on their clothes and it helps keep the shape. I still use it, even though I also have a serger.

tamdoll said...

Fantastic! I just pinned together a skirt of silky fabric that I'm going to try assembling with French seams. If I get offline this morning, I'll do it.

Kathy - Pink Chalk Studio said...

Another vote for the french seam. I used to make a lot of dress up clothes for Leil. I would make skirts out of synthetic organza and make the side seam a french seam. It's a wonderful finish for see-through fabric.

I also use a french seam on my water bottle carrier tutorial. Again, a nice finish whenever you have a seam that will be in view.

capello said...

whoa, awesome!

that's one of the main reasons i've never made any clothes.

Mom2fur said...

French seams give a garment such a nice, finished look. They are great for cottons that fray when you make kid's clothes.
Your instructions are great. It does feel funny to start wrong sides together, doesn't it?

I only wish I could figure out how to French seam a curved edge like a sleeve, LOL!

Belém said...

Thanks for sharing. I use french seems on my bags.

keri said...

What a great tutorial, thanks! I've heard of a french seam but never knew how to use it!

Kathy said...

I stumbled upon French seams about a month ago. I used it when sewing T-shirt material since I don't have a serger. It was nice! I'm planning on using it when making bags so I can machine quilt the lining and the outside of the bag and then use French seams to sew it all up.

laeroport said...

Oh, yes, for sewing chiffon, there is nothing like a french seam. I used them most recently on for me and my daughter. Great tutorial.

Kari said...

Thank you for writing this! I've been trying to wrap my head around how to do french seams, but I didn't really "get it" until I read this. I appreciate it!

Chara Michele said...

I have actually never done this and I have made my own clothes! :) Thanks for the nice & simple tutorial (so easy to understand which is good!).

Kloth & Bolt said...

Wow - this is a great tutorial. I have sewn quite a bit of clothes, how helpful this would have been! -kb

Anonymous said...

I use French seams when finishing needlework. They keep linen from unraveling and ease any stress on the seam (like whne stuffing a tube to make a needle roll.) Most recently I used French seams when sewing a lining into a piece of Hardanger that being finished into a jewelry pouch.

Meghan said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I was just thinking about trying French seams on some apparel I am sewing. Previously, I was too excited about finishing to even think about making the seams look nice/be sturdy.

Donna said...

Great tutorial, and a good refresher for me. I've used French seams back when I used to sew a lot of clothing because I didn't have a serger.

Cherry said...

Very cool! I use my serger too much. I just made some sheer drapes that turned out kinda wonky because I serged the seams (although you can't see the serged edge), wish I would have seen this before. I am a serging fool and old habits die hard but I just got some fabric for a tote that I don't have to line or serge now that I have seen this! Can't wait to try it.

mira said...

I use french seams to make baby slings (for the butt curve).

To do a curved line, you just pink the seam allowance (or snip with normal scissors every 1/4" or so) and then sew the second seam very carefully to make sure your two layers line up properly. I usually sew the flap down as well for slings, just to give a bit more stability.

Hedgehog said...

This is super-helpful - thanks so much!!

The Lillypad said...

Thank you for the great tip! Now I am not in such a hurry to get a serger :-) Arlene

MegSmocks said...

I use french seams all the time! My sewing love is children's clothing...especially heirloom and smocking. I aim for having the inside and outside both looking beautiful. :-) I actually prefer doing smaller seams...3/8" total so I usually do the first past at about 3/16th trim to scant 1/8 and do the second pass at 3/16th. If the fabric is particularily prone to the ravelies...I will often do the first pass as a narrow short zig zag.

Sarah said...

Very funny ! In french, we call that seams : "english seams" ! :-D

mdk jewelry designs said...

great information for a newbie learning to sew.

thanks for the tutorial.

still a ton for me to figure out.

MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

Hee. that's so great, I had to try it out with a couple of napkins and the stapler I have here at my desk. Thanks mucho!

Rachel said...

I use french seams in some of my handbags. I love them, they are a a lot easier than bias.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for this explanation & tutorial.
I was at a total loss as to what the teacher was requesting my child to do for her 1st project in a beginner's sewing class.

We are using this for a pillowcase.

JL said...

Hi,

I love handmade stuffs, but i cant really use a sewing machine....so sad.

patrick & carly said...

I recently made a baby dress and used a French seam. I love it and will do it for forever now!!

Anonymous said...

I recently read about doing french seams when hemming jeans that you don't want to LOOK hemmed, kwim? Just use the method above to hem and use contrasting stitching that matches the rest of the jean's stitching.

Hemmed jeans that don't look hemmed.

Anonymous said...

Pillowcases use to be sewn this way all the time. I checked a new pillowcase for a refresher before making a matching pilowcase for a quilt and it had been serged. So disappointing!

Anonymous said...

I have sewn for years and took many classes in my early years. I know how to do a lot of things with sewing but did not know how to do this. Thank you so much for such easy instructions with clear, easy to follow pictures.

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial! It looks so easy the way you do it. I have seen other directions and I was scratching my head. Thanks again.

hellesbelles86 said...

I did this on accident when making a pair of wrap pants for one of my nieces and now its my favorite way to finish of homemade clothes. So glad to know it has a name and that I had already figured out french seams- I feel a little less amateur now. Awesome tutorial!

Anonymous said...

I use french seam when I made a fleece pouch sling, it is a very strong seam when you stitch the seam down to the fabric so it lays flat. I have been getting alot of people asking me 'Where did you get that wonderful carrier?" I just smile and tell them I made it!

Priscilla said...

I used french seams ONCE and never used it again. I somehow messed it up and the shirt I made for my daughter was 2 sizes too small for her...hehehe. So I gave it to my best friends daughter who is younger than my daughter. It came out neat and I guess its usefull when you have kids who do not like the feeling of harsh seams against their skin.

Anonymous said...

I used the French Seam on some sparkly, pink organza for a jacket to top white satin flowergirl dresses for my granddaughters. It was great, only I did it a little different. I made a 1/4" seam with wrong sides together, pressed the seam, then made a 3/8" seam with right sides together. Worked like a charm. Thanks for the helpful instructions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial, I had to read it a few times, but I am a bit thick sometimes :D

I'm learning to sew and love french seams so hurrah! and thanks :)

Marianne said...

Do you know that french seams are called "Coutures anglaises" (english seams) in France ? Funny, no?
However, your blog is very nice, I like it very much !

Anonymous said...

I am a fairly new seamstress and every single tutorial or instruction I have read regarding the french seam has utterly confused me. Until I stumbled on this one.

Thank you for making the perfect tutorial. Short, sweet and relevant!

ANudge said...

I use french seams when making pillow cases. The tutorial was right on! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

We used them for making flags for colorguard. They have the double advantage of giving the flags a nice look from both sides (you really can't have a big old seam sticking out half the time!) and being very strong, as the flags go through a lot of abuse!

My mother uses a slightly different method, but you can get the same effect by adding in a last step of seaming the "flap" down along the edge, to create a sturdier seam.

Anonymous said...

I learned this seem about 14 years ago in my high school sewing class. I think it was one of the first things we learned. We used it when making a pillow case. Although I haven't used it often, I love the seam. It is so neat and long lasting.

woof nanny said...

So this doesn't take any additional fabric then? I need to sew 1/2" seams on a little girl's dress I'm making this week. So should I do 1/4" on each side to make the half? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I am going to try this today on a "Pillowcase dress". I have made several dresses, but the fabric unravels, not too much, but just enough to make it look cheap when it comes out of the drier. I am going to sell my dresses this Christmas season and a french seam is just what I need. Thank you!! Julie

jtorresluna@att.net

Pat said...

I've used this style of seam for years on my son's Boy Scout troup's neckerchiefs. They have a unique neckerchief that's half black and half yellow with the french seam down the center. It works beautifully.

Lori@KitchenFunk said...

Just wanted to let you know that I posted a link to your french seam tutorial. Thanks for posting this nice tutorial, its hard to explain to people and my fabric pictures weren't helping! :)

Tora´s Vintage Dream said...

I´v been sewing for many years but I have NEVER seen this :) it´s totally awesome, thank you so much for sharing this.