When it comes to sewing the fun is in planning your design; what pattern you'll use, what fabrics, which buttons to use from your button tin... Yet, one often overlooked aspect of garment construction is the choice of seam finish. The right seam finish not only ensures your garment will stand the test of time, but also adds a touch of professionalism to your project that says "made with care".
To take the guesswork out of the process, we've created this helpful infographic - refer to it the next time you're not sure what seam finish to use, or print it out for your sewing space so you're never stuck asking "HOW DO I FINISH THIS DANG FABRIC?!" Details on all the seam finishes mentioned can be found below, often linking to more detailed tutorials to walk you through each step. Please note this guide is specifically for woven fabrics - knits are a whole other animal!
Quick and Easy Seam Finishes
The simplest of all finishes, using pinking shears to trim the edges of fabric creates a zig zag effect that helps reduce fraying. It's best suited for fabrics that don't fray too much, like stable wovens. While this is a very basic and beginner-friendly finish, it's also used in higher-end garments where the seams will be hidden and a flat, simple finish is required to help reduce fraying and bulk (like the inside of a lined jacket). To pink your seams, all you need is a sharp pair of pinking shears – these ones are our favourite brand. You can also get pinking blades for your rotary cutter!
Zigzag Stitch Finish
Zigzag stitches are a basic way to finish the raw edge of your fabric to help reduce fraying if you don't have a serger. Set your machine to a medium-width zigzag and sew along the raw edge of your fabric, enclosing the frayed fibres. This finish is best for mid to heavy weight fabrics - lighter weight fabrics may roll into the stitch and not lay flat. Depending on your machine, you may also have a mock serger stitch that accomplishes the same thing.
Overlocking (Serger) Finish
If you own a serger, take advantage of it for beautifully finished seams. Sergers create tidy, trimmed edges that not only prevent fraying but also look professional. Use three threads for wovens (four thread serging is for knits) and experiment with the stitch width and length to achieve the perfect density. This method is excellent for most types of fabric - you may need to play with tension for lighter weight fabrics so they don't roll or bunch up into the stitch.
Taking Your Time Seam Finishes
Our favourite! For a more polished look on light to mid-weight and sheer fabrics, consider using French seams. These seams encase the raw edges, making them invisible from the outside and making the seam extra strong and durable. To create a French seam, sew your seam with the wrong sides together first, then trim the seam allowance, and fold the fabric to encase the raw edge. Sew a second seam, ensuring that the raw edge is completely hidden inside. We have an in-depth blog post here on how to make beautiful French seams, including how to French seam curves, pockets, and arm-scyes.
Flat-felled seams are both strong and visually appealing because they involve a visible line of topstitching to secure. Often seen in denim and workwear garments, they're suitable for medium to heavyweight fabrics. To create a flat-felled seam, sew your seam with right sides together, trim one side of the seam allowance, fold the other side over the trimmed edge, and sew it down. The result is a double-stitched seam with a clean, finished look. We have a post here on how to get it right!
Hong Kong Finish
The Hong Kong seam finish is an high-end seam finish that adds a touch of luxury to your woven garments and is ideal when you want a beautiful, finished edge to a visible seam. The raw edge of the fabric is wrapped in a pretty piece of flat bias tape, and is perfect for mid to heavyweight fabrics. Here is our in-depth tutorial on sewing this gorgeous finish.
Bias Bound Finish
Similiar to the Hong Kong seam but using double fold bias tape instead of flat bias tape, it allows you to personalize your garment by choosing different fabrics for binding, and creates a bold, strong finish often uses to finish quilts and quilted jackets. To sew, cut strips of double-fold tape, wrap them around the raw edge, and stitch along the edge. This finish works well for lightweight to medium-weight fabrics. Check out this post for four ways to sew in double-fold bias tape.
Choosing the right seam finish for your woven garments can elevate the overall quality and appearance of your creations. Each technique has its unique advantages, so consider the fabric weight, garment style, and your personal preference when making a decision. By mastering these seam finishes, you can achieve a professional, polished look that will last a lifetime!
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