Sunday, October 24, 2010

The surly guide to french seams

I’ve never really liked doing french seams. I know that they look nice but the idea of having to sew a seam more than once annoys me (I know that yes that is what you are technically doing when you overlock the seam but there isn’t all that messing around with pressing and turning in between).

But some of the cotton voiles that I am using for my range simply had to be french seamed. They are too lightweight for overlocking, they are also slightly sheer so the overlocking could be seen through the fabric and I want all the garments to be machine washable so french seams were my only option.

The thing that has always bugged me the most about french seams are the little whiskers that sometimes stick out on the right side. You know when the fabric has frayed a bit before sewing.

Well today I had a light bulb moment about how to avoid the pesky whiskers without laboriously trimming them back when sewing.
The trick is to manipulate the needle position when sewing.

So on the first run, with wrong sides of the fabric together, I lined up the seam to half the final seam allowance (I am using ½ inch s.a so my first s.a guide is ¼ inch) and then move the needle position one click toward the cut edge.

Sew the seam, press flat and turn garment so that right sides are now facing.
Line up the seam at ¼ inch s.a again and then move needle position one click toward the garment (ie the opposite to what you did in the first run) and sew the seam.

Ta da! Perfect french seams with no whiskers!

So essentially you are sewing the first run with a slightly smaller s.a and the second run with a slightly larger s.a which makes sure all the fabric is neatly enclosed. And because you move the needle and use the same s.a guide it is pretty accurate.

Now of course lots of people have probably been doing this for ages but I was pretty chuffed with myself after sewing up 8 tops today and not having one whisker poking through!


  1. Cute top Sandra, I remember doing French seams with you in High School...probably the last time I did one...
    Looking forward to seeing your clothing range!fierli

  2. So simple!! I can't believe I didn't think about it earlier. thanks :)

  3. Great idea. Have you ever tried serging the seams on the right side and then stitching on the wrong side. Try it. It works.

  4. Good idea! My one complaint about my machine (a bottom-end Janome) is that the needle only shifts to the left. Really this shouldn't be a problem, but every once in the while it pisses me right off. :)

  5. Ah Princess Martha, you just reminded me of the blue floral polyester nightie that I made in Year 8! I think Mum still has it somewhere!
    KMQ: brilliant suggestion, so simple and yet never occurred to me!

  6. Yes, that's how I do mine but it took me a while to come to the idea!

  7. Yes I dislike those pesky little whiskers! And the one you think will be ok to pull out will leave a big run in your fabric, on the front, in the centre, at bust level...!