How to sew fabric edge finishes
You have completed your dress at last. It is looking fantastic outside. Everything you had visualized.
But wait. You cannot let anyone peek inside. The raw edges inside are a mess. Finishing of these fabric edges of the seams are sometimes what distinguishes a homemade dress from a couture one.
After you have made a plain seam you are left with the raw edges of the seam. True that it is not visible from the outside. If you are short of time and if you are really shabby like that, you may leave them as they are. But for a professional and good looking garment you need to finish the seams.
Seam finishes aims at strengthening the seam line as well as neatening the seam allowances. Lets take a look at the seam finishes available for us.Some will take you less than a few minutes , some are somewhat time consuming. Depending on the fabric used and the purpose of the garment you may take your pick.
If you use the French seam or the flat felled seam there is no need for a separate seam or edge finishing, as in these seams, the edges as enclosed and sewn
1. Serged Seam Finish
This seam finish is done on a Serger. A serger encloses the edge of the fabric inside a thread casing. It adds a lot of strength to the seams, especially children’s clothing.
If this seam finish is applied on your home sewn garment it will look like it is manufactured rather than handmade.
How to finish seams on a Serger
This edge finish can be applied before or after sewing the seam
To sew this finish, keep the fabric to the left of the needles and serge along the fabric edge.The thread will wrap the raw edge in a way that neatly finishes it.
How to sew seams if you do not have a Serger -7 ways
The next best option you have is to use an overcast foot along with the overcast stitch. This will create a serger like finish, without cutting the extra fabric that the serger does. If you do not have overcast stitch setting on your machine use zig zag stitch.
Overcast stitch is similar to zig zag stitch but much neater in appearance; If you do not have a serger this is the next best alternative for seam finishes, especially for knits. This maynot work well with sheer fabrics.
How to sew an overcast seam ?
Fit the overcast foot for your sewing machine
Stitch the plain seam. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″.
Place the fabric so that the raw edge of the fabric is touching the little flap of metal on the overcast foot.
This is the overcast stitch – Set the machine to this stitch. Overcast stitch is very similar to zigzag stitch. Sew along one seam side with overcast stitches. The edge guide of the overcast foot will make sure that the seam lies flat and straight without any bunching up.
Repeat with the other seam allowance.
Alternately you can do both the seam allowances together especially for thin fabrics. If done separately after stitching is done, press the seam open.
More reading in detail – How to stitch an overcast stitch by hand and by sewing machine
3 Pinked seam finish
This seam finish is made using Pinking shears, a particular type of scissors, that gives a zigzag pattern on the cut edge. The very nature of the cutting prevents fraying of cloth in the raw edge to a small degree. It is mainly used in woven clothes.
4.Edge stitch- Seam finish
This is a very simple seam finish. It is best when done along with pinking the raw edge.
How to make an edge stitching seam finish
Keep the two fabric pieces with the right sides together. Stitch a plain seam. Press it open.
Pink both the seam edges
On one side of the seam allowance 1/4″ from the pinked or cut edge, make a straight stitch.
Repeat on the other seam allowance.
5.Double stitched and trimmed seam finish
Another very simple edge finish in which a parallel stitching line is made to the seam line.
How to make this simple edge finish?
Keep the two fabric pieces with the right sides together. Stitch a plain seam.
Exactly 1/8 inch away from the seam line, another stitching line is made parallel to the seam line – a straight stitch or a tight zigzag stitch is used here.
Cut away excess seam allowance close to the second stitching line.
An overcast stitch also maybe used, after trimming the seam allowance.
6.Zig zag seam Finish
This is a seam finish which helps to neaten the seam ;The zig zag seam finish is done with the zig zag stitch function in your sewing machine and nature of the stitch prevents the raw edges of the seams from fraying.This is an easy alternative to overlocker machine
How to sew a zig zag seam finish
- Stitch the plain seam. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″.
- Use the zig zag foot and set your machine to zig zag stitch.
- Use a wide stitch width and small stitch length.
- Sew along one seam edge with zig zag stitches, making sure that the pointy edge of the zigzag is always at the edge of the fabric. Repeat with the other side
You can also do this seam finish with both the seam allowances pinned together though the separately done zigzag seam is the right way to avoid bulky seams. You can use the ‘together seam finish’ on delicate and sheer fabrics though.
7. Hand overcast seam finish ( Flannel seam )
An overcast hand stitch is used in this edge finish.Use a matching thread to sew this edge stitch. This is used to finish the seam edges of flannel cloth.
How to sew a hand overcast seam finish
Keep with two fabric pieces with the right sides together. Stitch a plain seam. press it open.
Using a single threaded hand needle, Sew an overcast stitch along the edge, wrapping the fabric edge in thread, all the while maintaining the flatness of the fabric edge. Adjust the closeness of the overcast stitch according to the raveling quality of the fabric. For a very raveling fabric use very tight close overcast stitches.
8.Self bound Fabric edge finish
Best used for light weight fabrics and sheer fabrics. This seam finish wraps one seam allowance over the other, thus enclosing the raw edge.
How to sew a self bound seam finish
Keep the fabrics together right sides together along the stitching line and make a plain seam.
Trim one of the seam allowance to 1/8 inch.
Turn the other seam allowance edge over the trimmed seam allowance . Now the smaller edge is enclosed in the fold of the other seam allowance.
Make a straight stitching line along the raw edge of the folded seam, parallel and close to the seam stitching line.
9.Hemmed fell seam Finish
Similar to the self bound seam edge finish this is hemmed by hand.
How to get it done ?
Make a plain seam. One seam side is trimmed to half of the other side. The other seam is turned down and hemmed by hand.Checkout the different hemming stitches.
10.Turned under seam Finish ( Clean finish)
A very easy and very neat looking seam finish
How to sew a Turned under seam
- Stitch the plain seam. Press the seams open .
- Make sure that the seams are of 1/2″
- Now turn under raw edges 1/4 inch of the seam allowance and press.
- Edge stitch along the fold line of the turned under seam allowance, each side separately. Voila you have a very clean seam without any complications.
11.Bound seam ( Hong Kong seams) Finish
This method uses bias binding tapes to enclose the seams for a very neat look ; All the frayed raw edges are hidden in between the bias binding.This is usually used in high end couture clothes. You can use this in your handmade clothes for a very professional and neat appearance inside.
Make sure that the bias binding tape is made of a very light weight fabric otherwise you will add unwanted bulk to your seams. I would use a contrasting coloured bias tape for a very interesting look inside.Checkout the tutorial for different ways of bias binding
How to sew Bound – Hongkong- seams
Join the two fabrics right sides together and stitch leaving the required seam allowance.
Press the seams open with an iron ; Make sure that you have not trimmed or overlocked the edges
Determine the length of the seam. Prepare and cut bias binding for the length
Place one edge of the seam into the double folded bias binding and pin in place
Now sew the seam enclosed in the bias tape close to the edge. For that open the bias binding and first pin one length to the wrong side of one of the seam allowances.Now fold and press the binding around to the right side of your seam allowance and pin it into place. Stitch close to the edge.
Repeat for the other side and press in place.
The next section of fabric edges are not necessarily used as seam finishes. These are fabric edge finishes you can use to finish the fabric edges of skirts, dresses, scarfs etc. For more details checkout the post on hemming stitches
12. Picot edge Stitch
A picot stitch makes a zig zag stitch along the edge enclosing the fabric edge in a fold and uses a rolled hem foot for this.
For details on how to make this edge – How to sew picot edge with sewing machine and by hand and the best ways to use the rolled hemmer foot
13 Scalloped Fabric edge
This is a hand finished fabric edge suitable for hems. Blanket stitches are used in a graded fashion on the fabric edge and excess fabric is cut away.Check out the post on scalloped edges for more ways of doing this finish
14 Ornamental braided edge
This is a fabric edge which is usually used as a hem. Braids made with hand stitching are attached to the edge after finishing the fabric edge.
Check out this post “8 beautiful decorative edges” for more edge stitches like this that you can use.
15. Fringed edges
Checkout the post on making 9 types of fringed trims
16 Piped edge
This is an edge where you sew a cord covered in a fabric strip (known as piping ; checkout the post on making piping cord and sewing it)