12 February 2013

How to Sew French Seams


French seams are a rather fancy way of creating a lovely, neat finish to your garment. What they do is enclose the unsightly raw edges of the fabric within a neatly stitched secret cavity, never to be seen again… or that’s how I like to think of them!

They work really nicely on light- to medium-weight fabric, but not so great on heavier fabrics which will create bulky seams. They’re particularly useful on sheer fabrics as they look less conspicuous than overlocked seams, and the strength of the seam makes them practical for clothing that’s going to go through the laundry a lot. Plus they just look awesome :)

You know how you usually stitch fabric right sides together? Well, with French seams you start by stitching the fabric wrong sides together. Sacré bleu!! Intrigued? Let’s go…


1) Stitch the fabric wrong sides together, using a 6mm / ¼” seam allowance (I use the edge of my sewing machine foot as a guide, because I know it’s this distance from the needle), back tacking each end. If you're fabric frays a lot, trim those pesky sticky-outy threads so they don't reveal themselves later.


2) Press - firstly flat to help “set” the stitches, next press the seams open, and finally fold the fabric right sides together along the stitching line and press along the fold.


3) Now stitch the fabric right sides together using a 1cm / 3/8” seam allowance, back tacking each end. The raw edges should now be hidden away within the two lines of stitching.


4) Press the seam to one side. When sewing a bodice, seams are usually pressed towards the back. On the Mathilde Blouse, you may want to press the yoke seam up rather than down to reduce bulk at the tucks.


Now admire your handy work – don’t those French seams look beautiful?

18 comments:

  1. Thanks Tilly for the super clear instructions and photos! Hadn't tried French seams before but now I shall give them a go!
    Jill

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  2. I love that you are doing this series, it's so generous of you and your information is invaluable. Thank you!

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  3. Yes, they do look beautiful!

    Any tips on doing french seams at the armsyces? While I can picture french seams on e.g. a side seam in my head, I can't even begin to imagine it joining a sleeve to a bodice. My seams there are always horrifically messy!

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    1. I've never used them on a scye myself. Jen at Grainline does though - check outher great-looking tutorial. I'm not sure how they'd turn out on the Mathilde Blouse or similar with gathered sleeve caps though.

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  4. In France it's called "couture anglaise" that mean 'english seams' i'ts funny :)

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  5. really silly question but can youuse french seams even where he pattern does not say so? is there anything extra to consider about the seam allowances?
    I love the look of french seams but just cant get my head around the calulations!
    thanks so much!

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    1. Yes you can - they'll work nicely on light to medium weight fabrics, but I would avoid sewing them on any bulky seams eg. where there is gathering.

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  6. It feels so wrong when you start, but the results are lovely. Definitely my preferred method now.
    Thanks very much.

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  7. Hi Tilly, I just wanted to double check before getting started - if a pattern has a 5/8" seam allowance it's ok to use these measurements you've given - 1/4" with wrong sides together and then 3/8" with right sides together? I'm making a dress with fabric suggested to me by Lauren at Guthrie and Ghani :)

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    1. Hi Deborah - yes that's right. 1/4" = 2/8", so if you add that to 3/8" you get 5/8". Enjoy!

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  8. I just tried it and they look great, thanks!

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  9. I am so doing this with my daughter's dress project. I don't have an overlocker and am concerned the side seams will fray and look terrible. Thank you for providing such a clear explanation!

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  10. Hi Tilly,

    I just wanted to say thank you. I have read several very complicated tutorials about French Seams and was frankly afraid to try them. Your explanation here and in your book is so simple and easy to follow! I tried it out and I don't know what I was afraid of. I am definitely going to be using this technique for my Margot Pyjamas and other light weight projects!

    Many thanks! x

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  11. Way before the days when home dressmakers had over lockers this was the way we dealt with seams that were fragile or needed some beauty. Great for joining and repairing sheets when worn thin.
    Thank you for your clear tutorial and a great tool for those who want to /need to live thrifty. You could add this link to the "How to " site as there are always people researching and wanting to know how to...

    From Sydney, Australia

    Alexa-asimplelife

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  12. Hi Tilly! I am pretty new to sewing (just made my first top!) and have never heard of these seams before but your explanation is really clear. Can I just ask - what sort of garment would you use them in, is there a particular time you would suggest them or is it purely decorative as you said at the start?

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    1. So glad you found the tute useful :) As I say, French seams are great on sheer fabric where you're going to see the seam, also on lighter weight fabrics in general where the thread involved in overlocking or zigzag finishing will end up a bit bulky or messy. I like to sew French seams on lightweight blouses and dresses. I hope this helps!

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