What is Seam? 22 types of SEAMS & How to sew them

Definition of what a Seam is, about different types of seams and how to sew these.
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Seam – What is it? and How to sew them for your garment

A seam is a term that refers to the stitching line where two fabrics are stitched (pieced, if you want the technical term) together. It is the basic building block of a garment. The stitching line along the seam is called the seam line.

Seams form the structure of the garment and help to create the garment. They are also used as a decorative feature. 

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. 

How to decide which seam is suitable for your sewing.

Seams should be carefully done for a beautifully finished garment. Not only that, it should also suit the type of garment you have, the fabric it is made of etc. For eg: a flat felled seam is used to sew jeans side seams.

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 an exposed seam as in 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’s 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.

Related post : How to sew straight seams with simple tools.

Types of Seams

1.Plain seam

plain 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.

sew plain seam

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. More on straight stitch and zig zag stitch.

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 seam

Other than the ordinary foot you use to sew, you can use a 1/4 inch seam foot for accuracy in sewing a seam with a 1/4 inch or 3/8 inch seam allowance. It can help you get a continuous seam line that has the same seam allowance. Checkout this post on using the 1/4 inch seam foot for more details.

quarter inch sewing machine foot

    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)

More on the plain seam here  with Tips to sew it strong and straight, without bulk {& Stitch curves nicely}

The best way to hand sew a plain seam is to use a back stitch or saddle stitch. A saddle stitch can look exactly like a sewing machine lock stitch. You can check out these posts Saddle Stitch and Back stitch for detailed steps to  make them.

2. Plain seam with a single stitch

A single topstitching 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.

plain seam with top stitch

    How to sew a Plain seam with double top stitch

To get this seam, after making the plain seam, seam allowances are pressed open on both the sides and top stitched on both sides of the seam at equal distances.

4.Reinforced seams

There are many instances where you want the seam to be super strong – and there are many ways to get this rip-proof seam. Checkout this post on sewing a super strong seam here.

5. Hairline seam

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 hairline seam

    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. You can also clip the extra seam allowance till the stitching line and then Press the seam. Ensure that the stitching line is not cut as you clip.

Turn right side out.

You can make a top stitch to secure the seam

6. Lapped seam

(also called Tucked seam)

This is a very useful seam when sewing with heavy fabrics like suede, artificial leather, felt.

 lapped seam

    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.

7.French seam

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.

French seam

 How to sew French seams  

For this seam unlike other seams, you have to start with the 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.

 french seam

A more detailed explanation on making a french seam and use it in dressmaking can be found here in the post – French seam.

8. 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 make a flat fell seam

how to sew a flat fell seam

    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.

Learn more about a flat fell seam here.

9. 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. Edgestitch 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.

10.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 corded or piped seam

    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.

Checkout the tutorial to make bias tape  and how to bind fabric edges with the bias tape

11.Faced seam

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.

12.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.

13.Mock French seam (1)

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.

mock french seamhow to sew seams in dresses

    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.

14.Mock French seam (3)

This is another copy of the french seam – similar looking but done differently. 

This seam also can be used in place of french seam and is very useful for sewing thin delicate fabrics and for loosely woven fabrics that frays a lot.

To sew this seam make a plain seam as usual.

sewing delicate fabrics -mock french seam

After this trim one of the seam allowances to half.

sewing delicate loosely woven fabric - mock french seam-trim one seam allowance

Turn the other seam allowance over the trimmed seam allowance and stitch in place. Use a small zig zag stitch for this. 

Turn the other seam allowance over the trimmed seam allowance and stitch in place

Your new stitching line will be just outside of the seam line.

15.Serged seam

serged seam

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 enclose the 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 its stretching property.

16.Slot Seam

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.


17. 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.

 counter seam

18. 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 

19. Sheet seam/linen seam 

This is a seam where we use 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

  1. Finish the fabric edges
  2. Tack the edges of the two fabric ends with a buttonhole bar stitch
  3. Cut a strip of paper of 1 inch width and the length equal to the fabric edge
  4. Baste the edges of the fabric to the paper so that the distance between them is 1/2 inch 
  5. Work the stitches between the fabric edges; Interlacing, knots, twisting all  work between the edges

insertion stitches -linen seam

For more details checkout the post – Insertion stitches 

20. Hand stitched seam – with ladder stitch

Ladder stitch is one of the invisible stitches that can give you a beautifully hand sewn seam.

Ladder stitches disappears into the seam

You can fold the edges and sew along the folded edge as in the picture given below. When you tighten the stitches you get a neat seam.

Ladder stitches -pull them tight

Learn more about this stitch in this post on slip stitch or ladder stitch  or in the post on invisible stitches

21. Strap seam

In this seam an extra strip of fabric is attached on top of the seam line. The fabric strip is prepared by pressing the long edges 1/4 inches to the inside and then kept on top of the seam concealing the seam line and stitching along the edges.

22. Taped seam

This refers to any seam sealed with a tape for waterproofing/weather proofing. In this seam a strip of fabric/ tape is sewn to the seam to prevent water or any elements from seeping into the inside of the item. The tape may also be added to prevent distortion.

Related posts:

Princess seam

Different types of Hem  ( Hand sewing a hem)

Different types of sewing machine made hem

All about Seam Allowance

How to sew invisible hem – 4 ways

How to prevent seam puckering

What to do about skipped stitches on a seam

5 types of enclosed seams.


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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.

35 thoughts on “What is Seam? 22 types of SEAMS & How to sew them”

    • Never give up!! If you become stuck on something, put it down for a day or two, then try again. I teach sewing and everyone wants to jump on a machine before they’ve learned anything. I can tell who really wants to learn after I give them their first homework. After explaining tools, patterns and basics of setting up the machine, I let the student sew a square and keep going all the way to the center. Like a “maze”. I also let them do a circle in a spiral. The homework is to pick it all out without destroying the fabric. Nobody has come back after this.

      Keep sewing. Ask questions to experienced seamstresses. We’ll help you!!!

      If you have any questions that aren’t already on the internet, ask me.

  1. THANK YOU! I can’t tell you how incredibly helpful this post was! I have been mumbling “Ohhhhh yeah okay everything makes sense now,” at least 4 times through this article.

    Thank you for combining clear, descriptive, but succinct descriptions with well-lit and clean photos! So thankful I found this post.

  2. Thanks for such a useful and informative post, Sarina! Do you know if it’s possible to add a slit to a french seam? Also, do you have any advice as to how to determine slit length?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Tessa
      That sounds complicated. I have never done it but I suppose you will be marking the slit, make a clip ( a cut on the seam allowance till the stitching line) at the seam allowance and do the french seams till the clip and then finish the slit as a regular turn under twice seam – hope I make sense

      Regarding slits – on long tunics the idea of a slit is to aid in ease of movement – so they start just above ( 2 inch or less ) the widest part of your hips

  3. Thanks a lot for this information…….. This information helped me
    as I am doing fashion designing I need to know about various aspect of fashion designing and this site helped me a lot…… Thank you again

  4. Thankyou so much. this information actually helped me. I’m doing fashion designing course. i needed this. again thanks a lot xoxo (:

  5. My name is modesta am Tanzanian I teach students how to sewing but I need to knw more is any body can help me

  6. nice website .if you can post a tutorial on straight cut ladies pants to be worn with kurta or tops I would be grateful to u, also please suggest the type and amount of cloth required for the same.

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