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Nerdy sewing tips - finishing your seams

As every good seamstress knows, it's not only what's on the outside that counts - the inside of your garment should be just as neatly finished as the outside. Paying attention to seams, hems and linings not only makes for a garment finished to a couture standard, which we find very satisfying, it also makes for a garment that will last longer. And that's the whole point really - we are rebelling against throw away fashion.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing some tips and techniques, and how to apply them, to help you on your way to creating your very own bespoke couture wardrobe. First up, finishing your seams:

If left to their own devices, an unfinished seam will quickly fray and eventually split. Not cool. So what exactly do we mean by "finishing a seam"? When you finish your seams, you are basically securing and neatening the raw edged excess seam allowance exposed on the inside of your garment, essentially preventing them from fraying. In this tutorial we will cover three basic techniques - overlocking/serging, pinking and binding. Please stay tuned for more advanced techniques such as French seams and flat-felled seams - tutorials coming soon!

First things first: after you have stitched your seam (assuming you have used a 5/8"/15mm seam allowance) and before you apply any of the following techniques, the cardinal rule of seam finishing - press your seam open! Done? OK, let's begin.

Overlocked/serged seam:

Our personal favourite method. Quick and professional, but you need to either own an overlocker/serger or have a fancy sewing machine with a similar stitch. If you don't own an overlocker, but fancy yourself as a competent budding seamstress, we highly recommend the investment. We use a Janome 9200D.

Simply feed each length of excess seam allowance through your overlocker. The knife will snip away any excess fabric and the overlocked stitch will prevent any fraying. And we think it looks super profesh too.

Pinked seam:

"Pinking" basically just means trimming away the excess fabric with pinking shears (zigzag scissors!). This is not the most secure way to finish your seams, but it will prevent the fabric from fraying more so than doing nothing. This method can be seen in a lot of vintage home-sewn garments, when domestic overlockers weren't as available or affordable as they are today.

Bound seam:

Using bias binding to ensconce the raw edges, a bound seam is the most secure. However, we do not recommend this method for lightweight or drapey fabrics as it will add unwanted weight to the seams.

Simply pin and stitch the bias binding in place using the image as a guide. In all honesty, this is our least favourite technique and we rarely apply it. Maybe it's because we're lazy... but bound seams quite frankly are time consuming and not as slick as a French seam, which we'd much rather spend the time on...

Keep up with us for more technique tutorials coming soon, as well as more great fashion hacks and sneaky peaks of our debut sewing pattern collection!!

  • Elisalex de Castro Peake
  • seamssewingtutorial

Comments on this post ( 8 )

  • Dec 01, 2014

    Hi Jeanetta, yes you can absolutely serge your seam allowance before stitching your seams – however, you have to be sure not to trim away any of the excess as you serge as then when you come to seaming, you won’t have an accurate seam allowance! Hope this helps

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Nov 28, 2014

    Can you serge the edges of the skirt before you sew them together?

    — Jeannetta

  • Aug 29, 2012

    Thanks! Hope it’s helpful – and if you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. More advanced techniques coming soon!

    — byhandlondon

  • Aug 31, 2012

    Great idea! Looking forward to seeing the result :)

    — byhandlondon

  • Aug 28, 2012

    Thanks, this is helpful info. Looking forward for more nerdy sewing tips!

    — theresacouch

  • Aug 28, 2012

    You’re very welcome! Much more to come, stay tuned! :)

    — byhandlondon

  • Aug 29, 2012

    thank you! i am still learning about seam finishes and this is a great post!

    — punkmik

  • Aug 31, 2012

    Im loving this, It couldnt have come at a better time either. Im just doing a skirt and was looking at it and decided to learn how to do some decent seam finishes.
    I think I might try your bound seams to give a flash of colour on the inside :D

    — Pippa @ Beads and Barnacles

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