Pin It Hover Widget

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fabric Center's Sewing Tips and Tricks: French Seams

We get a lot of visitors to the store who come to us looking for help, tips and tricks for their sewing and quilting needs and projects. But what about our beloved customers who can't make it to our store in the Salt Lake Valley?

Furthermore, we have incredibly talented employees who have such a passion for sewing and quilting, they've decided to spend a large chunk of their time surrounded by quilts, projects and beautiful fabrics  AND STILL go home and continue to work in their sewing rooms -- all for fun!

We've realized we have a wealth of knowledge to share and want to share it with you. We've asked each employee to think of their favorite tips or tricks they've learned over the years that have helped to make them a more skilled sewer/quilter.

Our first segment: Maquel and why she loves to use French Seams! 

French seams are great for when you need a clean, professional and impeccably finished seam or if you want a clean seam but do not have a serger. French seams are especially important to use when working with high-quality, fine fabrics like delicate bridal and apparel fabrics like chiffon, georgette, charmeuse, satin, etc. 

With this tutorial, we're going to show you not only how to make a french seam but give you an idea as to how to use it beyond just a seam and add a cute detail to your next project. 

We have just two square pieces of apparel knit fabric for this example as well as 3/8" wide elastic which we'll use to give a seam a nice ruffled look. 

For your actual project, you want to make sure your elastic is around half the length of the seam you intend to ruffle in order to get a nice, full look. 

To create the actual french seam, you are going to place your two pieces wrong sides together (make sure and line up any designs like stripes!). 

Make a small seam in from the edge, in this case 1/8". 

Iron the seam open (choose the appropriate setting on your iron for this - most delicate bridal and apparel fabrics can't stand up to too much heat. It doesn't hurt to also use a pressing cloth with those kinds of fabrics).

Next, use the tips of your fingers to roll our your seam and realign your pieces, this time right sides together. 

Quickly press to ensure your seam stays completely out and in place. (Just because we aren't using pins in this tutorial doesn't mean you shouldn't. Shame on us. It's a good idea to use pins to keep things in their place.)

Sew your seam again, still rights sides together, this time in a width that is the difference from the original seam allowance minus the amount used for the first line of stitching. For example, if your pattern or project calls for a 5/8" seam allowance, and you used a 1/8" seam when sewing your pieces wrong sides together, you are going to want to use a 1/2" seam for this step. This ensures you still use the same amount of fabric and your project will continue to fit properly. 

If you choose to make a french seam to use with elastic to give a ruffled look, make sure you use an elastic size that fits in your seam allowance! We are using 3/8" elastic and are making a (theoretical) project that calls for 5/8" seams. 

Iron your seam so it lays properly. 

Next, you are going to iron the seam so that is lays flat to one side of the two pieces. 

Top stitch the seam laying to one side, very close to the edge. 

If you'd like, to make your seams appear uniform and balanced, you can then top stitch again on the other side of the seam very close to the edge. 

You now have a completed french seam! What's great about french seams is that the raw edges are completely enclosed in the seam. You get a clean and polished look both outside AND inside!

At this point if you want to use a french seam as a guide for elastic to create a ruffled look, you will want to take your elastic and feed it through the seam with a safety pin. 

Once through, pin both ends of the elastic to the fabric so it doesn't get pulled inside the seam -- remember, the elastic is cut shorter than the seam length. 

You'll get an early preview of what your seam will look like; adjust to how you like. 

For the last step, you are going to want to pull your project and the elastic taught as you sew! This will keep the elastic in it's place. 

Do not pull so hard you are pulling your fabric through the machine faster that it naturally feeds with the feed dogs. You want to just keep the fabric from bunching at this point, while simultaneously guiding the fabric through the machine.

While this is a raw example, you get the idea that by creating a french seam, you not only get a professional, clean appearance both inside and outside of your garment, but you also have a ready-to-go option to add more detail to your projects.

Here is an actual example of how this process was used to create an elegant gather at the seam on the bottom of a dress sleeve. While it is a small detail, it creates a big impression on the dress and your sewing abilities! 

Happy Sewing! If you'd like more tips and tricks or have a request for how to do something, send us an email to 

No comments:

Post a Comment