Seam – What is it ? and How to sew them for your garment.
Seam is a term which refers to the stitching line where two fabrics are stitched together. It is the basic building block of a garment. They form the structure of the garment and help to create the garment. They are also used as a decorative feature.
The stitching line along the seam is called the seam line.The seam allowance (SA) is the space between the fabric edge and the seam line. You can checkout the post on seam allowances for some details on how to sew a straight line and the common seam allowances used.
Seams should be carefully done for a beautifully finished garment. Knowledge of the seam finishes will enhance the look of your sewn garment.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
How to decide which seam is suitable for your sewing.
There are some things to take into consideration when deciding what seams to use.
Type of fabric – “What kind of fabric is it ?” is a top consideration. If it is a sheer fabric the seam finish you select will be very different from what it will, if the fabric is a heavy weight Brocade cloth. A loosely woven cotton seam will be finished differently from a rayon blend fabric seam. A lace cloth will have a different seam than a denim cloth.
Seam placement – A curved seam will be differently treated from a straight seam. If it is exposed seam as in a pants, it will be different from an enclosed seam as in a yoke or a collar.
Sewing machine – What is your sewing machine capable of? What attachments do you have?, are also important – if you have a serger or at least a zig zag machine you have more possibilities than a simple straight stitch machine.
Garment purpose and use – A child’s dress will need a more sturdy seam than a camisole top. A wedding gown will not have the same seam finish as a biker’s gear.
- 1.Plain seam
- 2. Plain seam with a single stitch
- 3. Plain seam with double top stitch
- 4.Hairline seam
- 5. Lapped seam ( also called Tucked seam)
- 6.French seam
- 7.Flat felled seam or Run and fell seam
- 8.Mock flat fell seam ( also Welt seam )
- 9.Corded or Piped seam
- 10.Faced seam
- 11.Hemmed fell seam
- 12.Mock French seam
- 13.Serged seam
- 14.Slot Seam
- 15. Counter seam
- 16 Butt seams
- 17 Sheet seam / linen seam
In a Plain seam, two fabrics are joined together along the seam line by a line of stitching. It is also called a single needle Butterfly stitch as once the seam is made the seam allowances are pressed open to either side of the seam line to look like a butterfly.
This is the simplest and easiest seam to make. It can be made by hand or machine. Straight stitches are used to make this seam though sometimes a tight zigzag stitch can also be used to make this seam especially for knit or stretch fabrics.
This seam requires a seam finish for its exposed edges.
The advantage of a plain seam is that this seam does not add bulk to the seam lines. But as it has only a single line of stitch the strength of the seam is not that great.
How to sew a Plain seam
Keep the two fabrics together with right sides together. Make sure that stitching lines are aligned. Pin in place
Stitch along the line you have made marking the seam line.
Start stitching and then do a back stitch for strength. At the end also do a back stitch and then a forward stitch.
Do not forget to press the seam open (do not iron; just press with a hot iron)
2. Plain seam with a single stitch
A single top stitching seam, this seam is a strong seam as well as a decorative one.
How to sew a Plain seam with a single overcast stitch
To get this effect, after plain seam is done, press both the seam allowances to one side and give top stitching on that side.
3. Plain seam with double top stitch
Double top stitching seam ; This is a decorative seam which also provides great strength to the seam line.
How to sew a Plain seam with double top stitch
To get this seam, after the plain seam seam allowances are pressed open on both the sides and top stitched on both sides of the seam at equal distances.
This is a type of enclosed seam which is mostly used for collars and other enclosed areas. The seam allowances are not visible from the outside as it gets enclosed.
How to sew a Hairline seam
Make a plain seam using a very tight straight stitch, with the fabrics right side together. Trim away very close to the stitching line. Press the seam
Turn right side out.
You can make a top stitch to secure the seam
5. Lapped seam ( also called Tucked seam)
This is a very useful seam when sewing with heavy fabrics like suede, artificial leather, felt.
How to sew a Lapped seam
Decide on which fabric piece will be on top with the lapped application. Turn under the seam allowance of that piece along the seam line and press in place.
Keep the folded fabric on top of the other fabric along the seam line. The seam lines should align. Pin together to keep it in place. Edge stitch close to the folded edge
When sewing with heavy fabrics, as the edges of these fabrics do not fray, you can create this seam by trimming the whole seam allowance of the top piece. Now the bulk is eliminated as there is no fabric to turn under.
This is the best seam for sheer fabrics. As this seam encloses the raw edges in a fold, the raw edges are not seen from outside without adding much bulk. This seam is usually done on straight edges but if you clip nicely it can also be done on curved edges.
For this seam unlike other seams, you have to start with wrong sides of the fabric together matching the stitching lines ( instead of right sides together)to make a plain seam.
First on right side of the fabric, mark the stitching line with 1/2″ seam allowance. Then on the wrong side Mark a line half way through the original seam allowance i.e for a 1/2 inch seam allowance mark a stitching line at 1/4″
Stitch the plain seam through this 1/4″ line. ( picture 1 of the above diagram)
Trim the seam allowance a little bit.
Now fold the fabric over at the seam RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, covering the raw edges. Press.
Stitch on the original seam line. ( at the 1/2″ mark) right sides of the fabric together ( picture 2 of the above diagram)
Press flat and then to one side.
Now the raw edges are nicely enclosed in the back.
7.Flat felled seam or Run and fell seam
Mostly used in sports wear, men’s shirts,jeans kids clothes, pyjamas etc. It provides adequate strength to the seam line.This seam can be stitched inside as well as outside the garment
How to sew a Flat felled seam ?
Make a plain seam.
Press both the seam allowance to one side. One seam allowance is trimmed to 1/8 inch.
Turn the larger seam allowance up and over the smaller one, all the way nearly to the seam line stitched earlier. Use an iron to press this .
Now fold the whole seam over on itself to the other side so that the raw edge is now hidden and press again.
Edge stitch over the fold. Make sure that an even distance is maintained from the original seam line.
8.Mock flat fell seam ( also Welt seam )
This is a seam which looks a lot like Flat fell seam but is easier to make.
Unlike the flat fell seam here the raw edge is not turned under. So this seam will have exposed raw edges of the seams on the wrong side.Hence it is better to be used with fabrics which do not fray or where the seam will not be seen. This is a great seam for a bulky fabric like felt or synthetic leather.
How to sew a mock flat fell seam.
Stitch a plain seam as usual with right sides together.
Decide on the side you will be sewing the seam allowance to.Trim the seam allowance of that side to half of what it is. Press the seam allowance to that side.( now the wider seam allowance will be over the smaller one
Now turn to the rightside of the fabric. Edge stitch close to the seam line.
Then turn to the other side and stitch along the raw edge. Now there will be two rows of stitching parallel to the seam line.
9.Corded or Piped seam
In this seam a fabric covered cording is inserted between the seam line . It is a decorative seam and is mostly used in collars, cuffs,pockets and home decorating fabrics
How to sew a Corded or piped seam
For this seam bias strip covered cords are used. You can either buy a precovered cording or buy cording and cover it yourself.It is sewn with a zipper foot attachment. The cord is kept snugly inside the bias strip and then using the zipper foot the bias strip is sewn close sandwiching the cord inside. The stitching line should be made as close to the cord as possible without the needle touching the cord.
A faced seam is usually used in the seams of armholes, necklines and waistlines. It creates a very good finish to the seam line
How to sew a faced seam
Make a facing for the seam
sew it to the seam line
grade the seam allowance to half its width.
Press the seam allowance to the facing side
Under stitch the seam allowance to the facing close to the seam line
This under stitching prevents the seam from rolling to the outside of the garment
Checkout the tutorial for best ways to make facings.
11.Hemmed fell seam
How to sew a hemmed fell seam
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.
12.Mock French seam
This is a seam which can be used in place of french seam where a french seam may not be possible like in a curved seam line, for eg. armholes of a transparent dress. This will neatly finish the seam line also.
How to sew mock french seam.
Unlike the french seam, here a plain seam with right side together is made first.
Place the fabrics right sides together.Stitch a plain seam along the stitching line.
Press the seam open and then close.
Turn in the edge of the seam allowance of each seam 1/4 inch. Press.
Edge Stitch along the this folded edge, so that the raw edge is enclosed inside.
You need a Serger or Overlock machine for this seam. In this seam instead of a plain straight stitch the serger stitch is used on the seams and the seam allowance is trimmed by the machine.This seam gives stretch and flexibility to the seam.
This seam can be used under the following conditions
1.If it is not important that seams are kept flat or open.
2.For loose garments
3.On lightweight fabrics
4.When sewing with knits
How to sew a Serged seam
Place right sides of the fabrics together matching the stitching lines.
Keep the fabric under the needle
The serger will automatically trim the seam allowance and eenclosethe fabric edges in a thread.
A 3 thread serged seam will give stretch to the seam and a 4 thread serged seam will give strength to the seam. A 3 thread serged seam is usually used for knit fabrics for it’s stretching property.
This seam which is similar to the lapped seam, is used for its functional as well as decorative properties.
How to sew a slot seam
Keep a 1 1/2″ wide cloth, as long as the seam, under the seams. This is used as a backing piece kept between the two fabric lapped along the stitching line.
15. Counter seam
A very suitable seam for heavy materials, in this both the raw edges are enclosed by both the seam allowances along the seam line
How to sew a counter seam
Turn under the seam allowances of both the fabric pieces to the wrong side. Press
Place the wrong side of the first piece of fabric on the right side of the second piece along the edges, keeping the seam allowances. Pin in place
Stitch along the folded edge.
16 Butt seams
The fabric edges are folded and joined together by a zig zag stitch or chain stitch. This is used when joining seams where you do not want any bulk. For example when sewing lingerie. You can make this kind of seam with the help of a sewing machine
17 Sheet seam / linen seam
This is a seam where we use an an embroidery stitch to join the seams. It looks absolutely beautifully though not as strong as the other seams The stitches can be set horizontally or slanting. Antwerp edging stitches, Fishbone stitch, blanket stitch or herringbone stitch can be used in this manner joining the seams. These stitches are called insertion stitches.
How to do this seam
- Finish the fabric edges
- Tack the edges of the two fabric ends with a buttonhole bar stitch
- Cut a strip of paper of 1 inch width and the length equal to the fabric edge
- Baste the edges of the fabric to the paper so that the distance between them is 1/2 inch
- Work the stitches between the fabric edges; Interlacing, knots, twisting all work between the edges
For more details checkout the post – Insertion stitches