Last week we started talking about the importance of paying attention to the little details when making our own clothes in order to achieve a professional finish and ultimately, a better made and longer lasting garment. We went through three basic techniques for finishing your seams: overlocking/serging, pinking and binding. Today, dear readers, we have for you la crème de la crème of seam finishes...
A French seam is the neatest, most elegant seam there is, in my opinion, though I'm sure most would agree. Typically applied when working with sheer silks or lace when it would be most disgraceful to see any other finish such as overlocking showing through, French seams essentially hide the excess seam allowance by sewing it in on itself. It's actually a lot simpler than it sounds. This technique does not only have to be limited to sheer fabrics however; any fabric (that's not too heavy) can be Frenched, and any garment Frenched throughout will always be far superior as a result.
Let's assume you're stitching up the side seam of a skirt, with the standard 5/8" or 15mm seam allowance. First, with wrong sides together, close your side seam with a 1/4" seam allowance - or simply match up the raw edge of your fabric with the edge of your sewing machine's foot.
Trim the excess seam allowance with pinking shears - don't get too close to the stitching though! - and press the seam back with right sides together. Pin into place. You can see how neat this is going to be now, can't you? Salivating yet? We are.
Back to your sewing machine, and now with a 3/8" seam allowance, close your seam. If you can add fractions you'll see that by sewing the first seam with a 1/4" allowance (or 2/8"), and now with 3/8", we have closed the seam with the required 5/8" seam allowance. Now press your perfect seam to one side (towards the centre back usually if making a garment), et voilà!