Wednesday, August 3, 2011

French seaming...

I am making a blouse for myself using a fabric that is a smidge on the sheer side, and when one is using light or sheer fabrics the seam allowances inside your garment can be very visible from the outside.  French seaming might seem like a lot of extra work, but it's not at all really... if you plan to overlock your seams to finish then you are still running over each seam twice anyway so French seaming is the same amount of sewing time...  and you want your handmade garment to look as nice as possible, right?  
And personally I think that overlocked edges seen peeking through a sheer fabric looks a little tacky too... that's just my own opinion...
When sewing a French seam, the fabrics are firstly laid wrong sides together, and the raw edge sewn together in a narrow 5mm (1/4") seam.  I know, I know, it seems all wrong wrong wrong to sew the fabric wrong sides together, goes against everything we've ever done as seamstresses before... but bear with me here... it all comes right in the end.
Press the sewn seam nice and flat.
Trim the raw edges to an even 3mm.  It is a good idea to do this step, even if your fabric edge is perfectly cut and not fraying at all, although if you are anything like me, you've cut out your fabric maybe a few days before and it is already starting to fray a little just sitting there making this step an absolute essential.  Trim them anyway... and as straight as possible.
Open the fabric pieces out and press your new mini seam open...
Now turn the fabric over, fold with the right sides of the fabric together (and all is right with the sewing world again...) and fold flat along the new seam edge.  Try to get that sewn edge of the seam right slap bang on the fold, and press in as sharp a knife edge as possible...
So with the right sides of the fabric now together, and treating the fold you have just pressed as your new "edge" of fabric, sew a new seam 1cm (3/8") in from the fold.
Press the sewn seam.
Open out the fabric and press the new French seam to one side.  Exactly which side you press it to depends on which seam within the garment you are sewing...  I have a roughly blanket guide to myself of pressing seams towards either down or towards the back of my garment, whichever is more applicable, but I'm sure everyone has their own preference here...
There you have it!  From the outside your seam looks like an even width 1cm line.  This is a neat and tidy finish with no bit-sy ratty threads showing, and (if immaculate insides are your thing) as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. 


  1. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I'm preparing to cut out some rather sheer fabric for a blouse, and I think I'll make French seams. I generally use a 1/2 inch seam allowance, so I guess I need to make the seam allowance a bit wider than usual.

  2. I love french seams, they always look so lovely in a garment, and so neat and tidy! Especially handy on those days when my serger is being tempermental!

  3. I think French seams can be a great finish but it is a matter of picking one's projects carefully. In a very tricky fabric like thin silk, they sometimes pull so much on the fabric that serger treatment ends up looking better. And it doesn't work on seriously shaped seams, like normal arm scyes.

  4. Well put together tute. French seams are my favourite finish - I wish I was as compulsively neat in other aspects of my life.

  5. A great tutorial. I like french seams though they always feel counter-intuitive when I start sewing them!x

  6. Thanks for the iDye Poly info. Shipping from the US to Canada can be expensive and slow. I once returned an order to Dharma because the exchange and duty was more than the product. They were very understanding. An excellent company. I've found a Canadian source. It's Stitches, a small quilt shop on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. They have the iDye cotton as well.

  7. Thanks for this - the photos help! I've been meaning to try this - here's my motivation :)

  8. I've always loved a French seam. Except when you start off in automatic sewing mode with right sides together!

  9. I followed through and used French seams on the blouse I was just getting ready to cut out when I read your tutorial. It was very easy to do, and the results are beautiful. Thanks again for the tutorial. The photos were really helpful.

  10. It's funny, in France we call this seam "couture anglaise" english seam ! Thanks for this clear tutorial.