How To Sew A French Seam

An easy way to hide all the raw edges on your project and to create a nice clean finish on your garment, even zipper pouch or home decor. They require no special sewing expertize, except for knowing how to sew a straight stitch. French seams give your projects a professional look. Scroll down and see where's the (only) catch with a French seam.
French seam


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Are you bothered by the uneven finish on one of your past sewing projects? Use a French seam, and it will make you feel like a pro! French seams make your project beautiful on both sides, the seam is strong and even. Best for light- to medium-weight woven fabrics. French seams are beautiful on sheers and silk. On quilting cotton, too, if you ask me!

In this tutorial, I used a bit thicker material, cotton twill, to make it really easy to see where the seams meet. I suggest lightweight cotton for your first try.
How to sew a French seam

For this tutorial, let's say our project requires a standard 5/8" (1.6cm) seam allowance. This is what you usually see with apparel (And I might have a project like this underway...but shhhhh)


How To Sew A French Seam


French seam
1)You'll start with wrong sides together. Not used to that? Don't worry, it's OK - you'll see why.

How to sew a French seam
2) So, with wrong sides together, stitch the two pieces using 3/8 inch (1cm) seam allowance. Then trim to 1/8. (I do not open the seam, so I can grade it using a rotary cutter. Easy&lazy way to trim, I love it!)


How to sew a French seam
3) Unfold fabric with right sides facing up. Press the seam allowance to one side. To be honest, I first press to one side and then to the other side, to make the seam easier to further manipulate it.


How to sew a French seam
4) Fold the fabric so that right sides are facing. The raw seam is hidden. Press along the seam.

French seam
5) Sew a 2/8 inch (0.6cm) seam along the edge, encasing the raw edges. The previous seam allowance will be sandwiched in the fold.


How to sew a French seam
6) Press seam flat and then unfold it and press again, to one side. Done!


Where's the Catch with French Seams?

Only one: you need to pay attention to the seam allowance in each of the two steps. Nothing difficult. But if you don't do that, your French seam will use up too much or too little fabric, resulting in a project too tight or too wide. 

So to account for the correct seam allowance, the sum of both seam allowances must equal the total seam allowance of your project. In other words, just


Split the seam allowance in two. 


Let me make it easy for you. Two most common cases:

5/8" SA = 3/8" (trim!) + 2/8"

If you use a 3/8 inch SA in the first  part, and a 2/8 SA in the second part, that is a 5/8" seam allowance. This is standard on apparel. (5/8"=1.6cm, 3/8"=1cm, 2/8"=0.6cm, rough translations of my inch-lingo for my fellow Europeans)

For a 5/8" seam allowance, sew the first line of stitches 3/8" from raw edge, then trim, then sew the 2/8 to finish off (this is what the above tutorial shows).

1/2" SA = 1/4" (trim!) + 1/4"

On a pattern with a 1/2" seam allowance, say for a zipper case, you can first stitch a 1/4" seam, trim it down and then stitch the 1/4". (1/2"=1.3cm, 1/4"=0.6cm)


The half-inch total seam allowance is already pretty small, I usually never go less than that on a French seam. Though you can, off course. (Just it's too fiddly for me.)

French seam

MAKE IT FASTER: NO-TRIMMING TIP

Depending on the total seam allowance, you will not always need to trim the first seam. If you, say, have a total 5/8 inch allowance, you can distribute it so that the first line of stitches uses a 2/8"SA only and the second one a 3/8" SA. No trimming.

This is not always possible. And totally not advisable if you are using a fabric that frays a lot - you might end up with little frayed threads on the front side. But when the fabric is not frayed (especially when cut with a rotary cutter!), here's your chance to speed up the process.

Beginner sewing tips.

French seams give your garments a nice clean finish, especially if you do not have a serger.  You can add French seams to almost anything. With some practice, you can even sew them on curved seams. 

Heads-up, I 'might' be working on something with a slight curve to try out your French seam sewing skills. Pretty soon! Give the French seam a try, you'll very likely want to jump on that new project!

Save for Later:
How to sew a French seam to give your sewing project a clean finish. Beginner sewing tips. How to sew a French seam to give your sewing project a clean finish. French seams require no special sewing expertize but give your projects a professional look. Check out where's the (only) catch with a French seam.


Damjana

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free pattern for a fabric hanging basket


Or ...go straight to one of my currently most popular PDF patterns - the ZIP Pocket Coin purse. No French seams on that one, but it includes a good sewing tip to hide all your zipper edges!

sewing pattern for coin purse with zipper

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