A French seam is a truly useful technique to have under your belt. Although it may look a little tricky and long-winded, it’s simple and very effective when used on particular fabrics and garments.
This tutorial takes you through the process, giving you a step-by-step guide to sewing a French seam.
What is a French seam?
To create a French seam, you effectively sew the seam twice. Once with the wrong sides together, then again with the right sides together. This creates an enclosed seam, where you do not see the raw edges.
When do you use a French seam?
When you’re making clothes for children
We all know that kids clothes see their fair share of rough and tumble, so as well as looking great they need to be durable and able to withstand playtime, as well as many trips to the washing machine. Enclosing all the raw edges neatly in a French seam, means that your garment is less likely to fray and fall apart.
When you’re dealing with delicate fabrics
If you have a sheer or very delicate fabric - like a chiffon or georgette - a French seam can work really well. Not only does it mean that the garment will be more durable, it will also make the seams more pretty to look at. Imagine sewing a beautiful sheer blouse, only to find that your serged, or fraying seam allowances were visible from the outside. A French seam tucks all the raw edges neatly away.
When you don’t have a serger and can’t be bothered to use bias binding
Without a serger, making sure your seams look neat and fray less can be a lengthy task. While French seams might add an extra step to the making process, they are definitely quicker and look more professional than zig-zagging the edges or adding binding to the seam allowances.
Where can you use a French seam?
French seams can be used in most circumstances, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend them in all cases. They work well on straight seams, and can also be used (more carefully) on curved seams. However, they don’t really work as well in areas where you want to reduce bulk, like on a facing of a neckline.
How to sew a French seam
What you need:
Not a lot really!
- You need your current project, in this tutorial I’ve just used some fabric scraps
- A sewing machine
- Sewing thread
- Measuring tape
Put your 2 pieces of fabric together, one on top of the other, with the wrong sides facing each other.
On a normal seam, you usually sew the right sides together, so make sure you don’t get confused! In my example, you'll see the wrong side is lighter and the right side is darker.
Pin the two pieces together marking 1/4 inch away from the raw edge. This will be your first seam allowance. You can use a ruler or tape measure to do this.
Sew down this line 1/4 inch away from the edge. Your sewing machine might have markings which tell you exactly where to place your fabric when you’re sewing 1/4 inch.
Open out the two pieces that are now attached together, and press the seam allowance to one side. Ironing might seem like an unnecessary step, but believe me, it does make things easier.
Trim the excess fabric from the raw edges of the seam allowance, to reduce bulk.
Fold the two pieces of fabric together so that the right sides are together this time. Pin two pieces together, marking a 3/8 seam.
Go back to your sewing machine again and sew down the second seam line, 3/8 away from the edge. Most sewing machines will have a 3/8 marking on them.
Get your iron out again and press the seam to one side. You’re done!
Hopefully, this has created a lovely, neat seam with all your raw edges enclosed into the double layer of stitching.
I hope your French seam turned out well, but feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions!