Sewing Seams and Seam Finishing

Sewing seams and seam finishing

The definition of sewing seams is the stitching of two or more layers of fabric, animal hide, or other materials together with stitches.

Before the sewing machine was invented and available to everyone, stitching was done with needle and thread by hand. We have come a long way since then. Hand sewing is a very important part of any sewing project, but I’m grateful to have access to my sewing machines. 

There are many different ways to execute a sewing seam. Here are few to get you started. 

The most common of seam stitches is the straight stitch seam. However, there are many versions of this seam and many seams that are better suited to different fabrics.

Below are examples of different kinds of sewing seams and seam finishing that is best suited for the fabrics you may be using.

Straight Stitch

Using your straight stitch presser foot , sew a straight line, 5/8" in from the edge. Press open with a steam iron. You can really only get away with not finishing a seam edge if your fabric does not ravel easily. I recommend finishing your seam with any of the following finishing techniques.

straight stitch
straight stitc

Pinked Sewing Seams

Pinking shears
  • Straight stitched seam with pinked edge.
  • Pinking shears are a quick easy way to prevent fabric from raveling if your fabric is not easy to ravel.
Pinking shears
  • The photo on the left shows a safety stitch between the seam and the pinked edge. This gives a little more security for the seam.

Straight Stitch with a Serged Finish

serged edges
  • If you have a serger , you can use it to serge the edges of a straight stitch seam, then steam iron the seam open. This is a good way to prevent bulk in some garments and projects.
  • You can also press to one side if you prefer.

As well, you can use this seam when you want to leave room for growth in a garment. An example would be in the side seam of a skirt for a child.

serged edges

Flat Felled Sewing Seams
step by step

The flat felled seam, is a good seam used for denim fabric and other woven fabrics to give extra strength to stress areas like the inner thigh of jeans. Flat felled seams are also used for decorative interest. The sewing foot below is a foot specifically used to make a flat felled seam faster and easier that by hand, but the instructions below will show you how to do this seam without it. 

Please Note: If you purchase a sewing foot like this one, make sure it is compatible to your specific sewing machine.

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Step One:

With right sides of fabric together, sew your straight stitch seam.

flat felled seam

Step Two:

  • Trim off 3/8" of one side of the seam allowance.
flat felled seam

Step Three:

  • Press the wider side of the seam allowance over the narrow seam allowance.
flat felled seam

Step Four:

  • Once again, press over the wider 5/8" seam allowance to cover the now, 2/8" seam allowance.So it is folded completely around the narrow side.
flat felled seam

Step Five:

Stitch a straight seam allowance parallel to the original seam.

flat felled seam

Flat Felled Seam Finished Result  

flat felled seam

French Seam

The French seam is best suited for sheer fabrics. Your seam stitches will not show and it is clean and professional.

Step One:

Sew a straight seam with wrong sides of fabric together and right side of fabric showing, 1/4" from the fabric edge.

french seam

Step Two:

  • Turn your fabric to show the wrong side of the fabric and press flat.
french seam

Step Three:

  • Sew a second straight stitch seam 3/8" from the fabric edge and press flat.
french seam

Step Four:

French seam
  • Turn the fabric back over to the right side and press.
  • You now have a neat and tidy seam for shear fabrics.
  • This is also a nice alternative to serging or lining a garment. The inside looks clean and professional.

Stretch Stitch

There are a few different types of stretch stitches you can use on a regular sewing machine , depending on the type of machine you have.

Zig Zag Stitch

zig zag stitch
  • Most common is the zig zag stitch. You can use this stitch for stretch knits, such as, when sewing swim suits.
  • The photo gives example of how the width and length can be adjusted for different application.

Stretch Stitch

stretch stitch sewing seam
  • This photo is showing a stretch stitch that I have built into my sewing machine.
  • Take a look at all the built in stitches on your machine. This could be a great alternative, if you don't have a serger.

I do not use this stitch for sewing full seams, only because it takes a while for my sewing machine to complete a seam. As the name says, it literally stitches three times, before it moves to the next stitch. So this stitch is time consuming. Where this stitch is most useful is in high stress areas.

Triple Stitch

triple stitch sewing seam
  • A triple stitch is good for sewing knits and I would use this stitch in stress areas such as in the crotch area or under the arm, if you do not have a serger.

Basting Stitch

The photo is an example of a machine basted stitch used in the zipper construction of a centered zipper.

basting sewing seam
  • Machine or hand basted stitches are used to secure a temporary seam. Machine basting is commonly 3.0mm in length or more. Whether you hand baste or machine baste, you will remove this stitch at a later time.
For more sewing help leave sewing seams to go to sewing instructions.