Using a serger is one way to get beautifully finished seams, but if you don’t happen to have a serger, there are many ways to finish your seams with a regular machine.
One of the simplest ways to keep your seams from fraying is to use pinking shears. Pinking shears are scissors with a zigzag edge and are great to use when the fabric doesn’t fray too easily. You simply sew your seam then trim the seam allowances with the pinking shears. If the fabric is thin you can pink the two layers together before you press the seam allowance open. If your fabric is thick, press the seam allowance open first then pink each side separately.
The turn and stitch method of seam finishing has been around for a long time. This is a great method to use if your machine doesn’t have a zigzag stitch. First sew your seam then turn under an 1/8″ of the raw edge on each side, press and stitch.
Top stitching is a finishing technique that will show on the right side of your project. This type of stitch not only finishes your seam but is also decorative. After pressing open the seam allowance stitch close to the seam through both layers.
Using zigzag stitch is another great option for finishing seams. Most machines come with a zigzag capability nowadays. Just set your machine to a medium zigzag and sew the seam allowance 1/4 inch in from the edge. Trim close to the stitching but be very careful not to clip any stitches as you trim.
French seams are a little more involved, but they are perfect for sheer fabrics and are one of the best ways to finish the inside of a project. French seams work best with straight seams.
First, place your fabric with wrong sides together. Yep, I did say wrong sides together, seems weird I know, but stay with me here.
Sew using a 3/8 inch seam allowance.
Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch.
Open it so the raw edge of the seam is up.
Then fold over so the right sides are together now and the seam allowance is on the inside. Press the seam flat.
Sew a 1/4 inch in from the fold.
Press to one side. Now the raw edge is completely enclosed which will make your garment very sturdy with absolutely no fabric fraying.
I have to start this next seam finishing technique with a story.
Back in junior high school, I made my tall, blonde, guitar playing boyfriend a western style, woven, plaid shirt. Oh, I was so proud of how well it fit him and it was one of the most involved sewing projects I had mastered at the time. I concentrated on getting all the seams to match up perfectly, measuring the hems to perfection and not to mention all the buttonholes I had to make. It was truly a labor of young love.
However, I did neglect to finish off any of the inside seams. Which, thinking of it now, I’m sure horrified his couture seamstress mother. Norma never said a word about the unfinished seams, in fact, she was quite gracious and raved about the shirt to me. But the next time I saw the shirt, all of the inside seams were lovingly finished with double fold bias tape. So this tutorial is for you, Norma, wherever you are! Thanks for finishing that shirt for me so long ago and I promise, I’ll always remember to finish my seams because of you.
To finish with a bound seam like Norma did, first open some double fold bias tape and pin it to the raw edge of the seam.
Use a straight stitch to sew along the crease in the binding.
Fold the binding around so the raw edge is sandwiched in between the bias tape and pin.
Sew close to the edge of the bias tape.
Repeat on the other raw edge of the seam.
Now, let’s make Norma proud by making all of our projects just as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside by finishing our seams even if we don’t own a serger.
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