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How to Sew a Fine Seam

Updated on January 23, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

As a teacher at all levels and mother of five children, Bronwen has been interested in a variety of crafts for both children and adults.

Hand Sewn Seams

Hand sewn seams are very good for the finest fabrics. With an upsurge in the popularity of making 'retro' clothing and handmade 'medieval' attire, the art of producing hand sewn seams is once again coming to the fore.

Of course, we sew most seams today by machine and the results are very similar to those in the samplers, so you could follow the general instructions using a sewing-machine and have similar seams on most fabrics in much less time than it takes to make the seams by hand. A fairly thick cotton fabric has been chosen for the samplers as that helps to make it easier to see how it is done.

Seams are made when we want to join two pieces of fabric together. In this article we show how to hand sew three different types of seams:

  • French Seam
  • Open Seam
  • Flat Seam

French Seam
French Seam | Source

How to Make a French Seam

A french seam is a useful way of making sure that a fabric that is inclined to fray at the edges will be contained within the seam. The seam is sewn twice and that helps to make it stronger.

  • To make a french seam, place the two pieces of fabric together with the right sides facing each other.
  • Pin or tack the two pieces together to hold them firm and then sew the length of the join, as close as possible to the edges. With most fabrics this should be less than half a centimetre from the edge. This is sewn by hand with tiny backstitches. Secure the end firmly with three small backstitches.
  • Fold the fabric back the other way so that the right sides are now facing outwards. It is a good idea at this stage to press the fabric flat with a warm iron.
  • The edges of the fabric are now hidden and there is a double edge along the seam you have sewn. Pin or tack to keep it firm and then backstitch along about half a centimetre from the new edge, making sure that both the cut edges are inside this seam. Fasten securely at the end.
  • Press the seam flat, all in the one direction.

Open Seam
Open Seam | Source

How to Make an Open Seam

Open seams are probably the most used. The finished seam is ironed out flat and is suitable for fine fabrics that are not prone to fray very much.

  • Place the two edges together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other.
  • Pin and then tack to hold it firm.
  • Sew tiny backstitches the length of the seam, about one and a half to two centimetres from the edge. Secure firmly with three small back-stiches.
  • Press the seam open.
  • Unless the edges of the seam are selvedges, they should be sewn to prevent unravelling of the fabric. Two methods are shown in the sampler. The upper edge has been turned under about three millimetres and hemmed close to the edge. The lower edge of the seam allowance has been oversewn with very small stitches. If using a sewing machine, zig-zag edging is useful for a quick finish to prevent fraying and can be done before or after sewing the main seam.

Flat Seam
Flat Seam | Source

How to Make a Flat Seam

The flat seam is also called the flat felled seam. It is suitable for fabrics that require strong seams that will not fray.

  • Place the wrong sides of the fabric together, pin, tack and then sew them together, about one and a half cm from the edges.
  • Iron the seam flat, pressing both seam allowances to the same side.
  • Trim the underneath seam allowance to about half its width.
  • Fold a narrow edge of the top seam allowance under to make a hem. Make sure that it covers the trimmed edge under it and press carefully.
  • Pin and tack this in place. Stitch as close as possible to the folded edge.
  • Press.

The Three Seams
The Three Seams | Source


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      MsDora: Lovely to hear from you and thank you for your comments.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Really Useful. Here is a hub we all can learn from; a genuine "Thank You."

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      stillwaters707: Thank you - and for your following comment about home-made cards. They are made with thoughts for the recipient and I'm so glad that yours' was enjoyed so well.

      RTalloni: Yes, sewing seams by hand takes patience, but, as I said at the beginning of the article, when people want to make clothes for historical re-enactments, medieval parties and so on, most want to use the right materials and to hand-sew just as clothes were made in those days.

      christin53: We had to learn at school, too, and how to teach it in elementary school when we were learning to be teachers, but it doesn't seem to happen these days, we really have become a throw-away world. Your not wanting to sew when you've been working at a machine all day is understandable, like many chefs who never cook at home, you've just had enough of it and want to relax when you're at home.

    • christin53 profile image

      Ann-Christin 5 years ago from UK

      A very useful hub great for those learning to sew. In my day we had to learn all that at school,these days young girls don't seem able to sew on a simple button. I always do repairs on my clothes but don't make my own clothes any more, probably because they are cheap to buy these days plus I sit at a sewing machine all day at work and don't feel like sewing again when I get home.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      This tutorial on making fine seams will be helpful to those who are just learning to sew--very nice!

    • stillwaters707 profile image

      stillwaters707 5 years ago from Texas

      Also, one recipient loved his card that I made for him on scrapnook. That was a great idea!

    • stillwaters707 profile image

      stillwaters707 5 years ago from Texas

      You're welcome. Thank you for your helpful articles, BlossomSB.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      stillwaters707: Thank you for your helpful comment.

    • stillwaters707 profile image

      stillwaters707 5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks, BlossomSB. I also realize that you can turn your garment inside out and trace. You might not need to extend the 5/8 seam allowance, unless it was serged.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Jackie Lynnley: You had a wise mother. Those skills might be remembered one day and help to make married life into a team effort where the couple work together. I know we women-folk are inclined to spoil our husbands, but when the need arises, your brothers will know what to do. They are happy memories.

      stillwaters707: I guess one of those pin boards without a frame would work.

    • stillwaters707 profile image

      stillwaters707 5 years ago from Texas

      I like lauramaryscott's hint, too. I can try that for some of my clothes. Can you get those boards from the hardware store?

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I guess mom taught us all to sew, even my four younger brothers! They also ironed and cooked but you know once married I can't recall they did those things anymore, other than occasionally cooking. Well thanks for the memories!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      lauramaryscott: Wow! That is such a useful hint. I hope other people come across this and read your comment, too. It would work so well, I must try it. Thank you.

    • lauramaryscott profile image

      lauramaryscott 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      BlossomSB, I used to have a large piece of it wasn't foam but it was stiff and I could poke T-pins in it. I would cover this board with butcher paper and then poke T-pins in the seam lines and gradually work across a garment so I did not have to disassemble it. I had a perfect pattern and all I had to do was add 5/8 seam allowances. It works well when you have a purchased garment you want a pattern of so you can make more.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      mours sshields: Marcia, if you did all that, you're probably better at it than I am! thank you for your comments.

      lauramaryscott: That's not easy to do! I know from trying it. It's often easier to begin to build a pattern from the basic instructions than it is to alter one already made. I'm wondering if, when you used a garment for a pattern, did you pull it all to pieces? I did that once, too, but it's not easy as the fabric has often pulled into a different shape.

      always exploring: I'm glad you found it useful. About the neatness, I think that if I go to the trouble of doing something I may as well do it the best I can.

      shara63: Thank you for your lovely comments.

      teaches12345: Tailoring class! Wow! Do you make lots of your own clothes? It's such fun being creative, isn't it?

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I remember these seems from my tailoring class. You make it all seem so easy and you are such a professional voice in sharing this information. They do look beautiful!

    • shara63 profile image

      Farhat 5 years ago from Delhi

      Hi Blosson SB, your each and every Hub is so informative that it is helpful equally in the chores from home to outside at commercial level...the way you write , i really like it!...thanks a lot !

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Really an informative piece. It is nice to know about the different seams and how to do them. Yours are neat. Thank you for sharing...

    • lauramaryscott profile image

      lauramaryscott 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      BlossumSB, another well-written article. I enjoy sewing. This afternoon my daughter and I altered a garment to use as a pattern. Sewing something gives me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Altering patterns does, too. BlossumSB you do an excellent job of explaining how to do things. Thanks.

    • profile image

      mours sshields 5 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      Interesting and informative! Thank you for refreshing my memory about all this! I've always enjoyed sewing, although I've been out of practice for years. However, I took lots of Home Economics classes in middle school, high school, and college. Always loved it! Also, loved doing crafts in sewing and art classes.

      My mother and grandmother always enjoyed those things also!

      Marcia Ours

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Faith Reaper: I remember my mother, and Grandmother, too, doing lots of hand-sewing, even tiny clothes for my favourite dolls. They were always letting down the hems of my frocks as I grew, too (or mending them as I was rather a tomboy). Thank you. GBY

      Frank Atanacio: My Dad used to sew, too. In WWI they had to know how to sew on their buttons, etc., and he made so many holes in his pockets with all the nails and things he put in them that mother refused to mend them and he became very adept at putting in new, tougher pockets!

      Lipnancy: It's not so difficult and yet I know people who will throw away a jacket if a button comes off, instead of sewing it back on. It doesn't really take long for such chores, and when they're done we can gain great satisfaction from such a small thing.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Sewing is a skill that I always wished I had. You explain it so well. My mother used to sew all of our clothes.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      well you sure make it look easy.. great share blossoms :) Frank

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 years ago from southern USA

      I remember my mother always hand sewing everything. Very informative hub. Well done. In His Love, Faith Reaper