French Seams – How to make it neatly and its uses in dressmaking

Learn how to sew french seams , a beautiful seam / fabric edge finish for garments

french seam tutorial

French fries,  French toast, French braid, French manicure, French rolls,  French knots, French heroes in romance novels & even the French beans – all my favourites. Now the French seam stitch as well.

French seam is nothing but the normal seam done twice, in such a way that the cut edges are well hidden. It looks exactly like the normal seam from the outside but on the inside, another folded seam is seen, not the seam allowance as is.

In sewing, the french seams denote something dainty,  everything discreet – the perfect edge finish for seams.

It hides the underbelly of the seam allowance,  the fabric cut edges, inside the fabric folds. It is a neat and inconspicuous seam without much bulk on the inside.

Experts swear by a french seam especially when sewing sheer fabrics. Some couturiers even do french seams on a sleeve -. I would not dare to do it on curves. But the french seam is one of my favorites for finishing cut edges in straight seam lines.

Related post – Checkout the posts on the other different types of seams16 ways to finish fabric edges.

Where all would you use the french seam?

The french seam is usually made on light to medium weight fabrics. I would use it on side seams on blouses made in sheer fabrics like chiffon, organza, tulle, etc. On custom made dresses made by designers, you would find this finish inside because they know that in dressmaking inside matters as well as the outside.

But not with thick heavyweight fabrics – On bulky fabrics this seam would make more bulk.

How to do a french seam

You have to make a clean cut of your fabric edges first and foremost – that is neaten up any stray threads on the cut edge. The following steps will give you a 1/4 inch wide fold which will encase the raw edges of the fabric, on the backside of the seamline.

Step 1

Mark the seam line on the wrong side of one of fabric pieces 1/2 inch (or 3/8 inch). (This will only be sewn in the 7th step. Ignore this marking for the next 5 steps.)

Mark a 1/2 inch seam allowance

Step 2

Keep the fabric pieces wrong sides together. Make a 1/4 inch seam.

Checkout this post on seam allowances for details on how I make a straight seam all the time. Nothing too complicated -1/4 inch seam is made by keeping the edge of the zig zag pressure foot along the edge and stitching or use the edge joining foot

Sew fabric pieces with 1/4 inch seam allowance
Keep the fabric pieces right sides to the outside; sew the seam with 1/4 inch seam allowance

Step 3

Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch. Trim any loose threads on the fabric cut edges. This cannot be emphasized enough. You do not want thread peeking from the cut edge to the face of the garment. I say from experience. Have you cut chiffon and made french seams , then you will know.

Trim seam allowance to 1/8 inch

Step 4

Press the seam to one side, setting the threads; remember not to iron but only to press. Ironing will stretch the seams whereas pressing will settle the seam and make the seamline stronger.

Step 5

Bring over the two sides of the fabric to the other side, so that now the seam allowance is enclosed in between the two fabrics.

Ensure that the fabric is folded as close to the first seam as possible. Now the fabrics will be right sides together. Fingerpress.

The marking you made for 1/2 inch earlier will be visible now, on the wrong side of the fabric facing you.

Step 6

Sew the edge enclosing the cut edges

Now stitch a seam line on the mark you have made earlier. This will enclose the cut edges and the first seam line inside the fold of the fabric and the new seam line.

Wrong side of the fabric doesnot show the cut edges because of the french seam

How to sew a french seam on curves like the armholes

Yes, this is tricky. Many professionals sew all seams of sheer fabrics this way, even the armholes.

I cannot say from experience but if I am making one I would  trim the seam allowance in the Step 3 as close as possible to the seam line as I could and also snip the seam allowance close to the seam (being careful not to snip the seam line).

Then turn the fabric to the other side and stitch the seam very close to the first seam as possible.

On tight curves, french seam is not recommended especially when done by inexperienced sewists as the seam will pucker.

Related posts

17 Different types of seams ; Plain seam; Flat fell seams; Sewing super strong seams

100+ Sewing techniques for learning to sew

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

4 thoughts on “French Seams – How to make it neatly and its uses in dressmaking”

  1. I have just started reading your posts and they are very helpful. Thank you. I learned French seams from a video on making pillowcases and now I look for opportunities to use them. Your explanation for using them on sleeves was good, if I should ever be so bold!

  2. Thank you for the great explanation, it looks so elegant! I will have to sew with sheer fabrics in the near future, and this is going to be so helpful!
    Thank you so much and a happy new year from Italy!

  3. Think a video would be helpful. Think I figured it out by using the shirt I have one and following along. I think I initially didn’t catch wrong side together to make that first seam. Read and reread – usually solves the problem.

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