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Seam Finishes - Bound, Clean and French Seam

There are many different ways to finish seams in the construction of sewn items. The treatment will vary depending on the type of fabric being used, how visible the seam will be and the desired quality of the finish. For example, couture garments are finished very differently than your standard blouse. I will briefly explain several of the most commonly used seam finishes in this article.

Bound Seam
These seams are bound with bias binding, either on the inside or the outside of the garment, depending on the desired look. The advantage to this finish is that the raw edges of the fabric are entirely encased by the bias binding. It makes for a very neat and clean finish. The Hong Kong Finish is a variation on the concept that is frequently used in couture construction. It differs from the basic bound finish in that the seam is pressed open and each side of the seam allowance is encased separately; usually with bias cut silk strips. This reduces bulk and results in a flat, smooth seam that shows less on the finished side.

Clean Finish Seam
Clean Finish SeamA clean-finished seam is created by turning the raw edge under and stitching it down. A seam is clean-finished as follows:
  1. Sew 5/8 seam
  2. Press seam open
  3. Turn under each raw edge 1/4 and press
  4. Edge stitch close to the folded edge (be sure to only sew through the seam allowance and not into the garment fabric)
This finish is not widely used these days because many home sewers use sergers for finishing seams, but it can be used on unlined jackets because it is more attractive than a serged edge on the visible seams inside the jacket. If you are using a fabric that frays easily, you will need to either zig-zag (or serge) the raw edge before turning or use a different seam finish.

The image shown at the right shows a close up view of a seam where one side has been finished using this method. I have used a contrasting color thread for illustration purposes only.

French Seam
French SeamA French seam is basically a double-seam where the raw edges from the first seam are sealed inside the seam allowance of the second seam. Create a French seam as follows:
  1. Cut your seam allowances to 5/8
  2. With wrong sides together, sew a seam 3/8 from the raw edge
  3. Press the seam to one side
  4. Trim seam to 1/8
  5. Fold fabric back over so the right sides are together and press
  6. Sew a scant 1/4 seam
  7. Press seam flat first, then press to one side
This finish is frequently used on transparent fabrics such as chiffon that fray easily. French seams are best used on straight or very slightly curved seams because they do not have much give.

The image to the right shows a finished French seam. If you look closely, you can see that the finished seam has been pressed to the right; the second sewn seam is visible on the left and the encased seam is on the right side. The encased seam is not sewn down or attached in any way.

Click here to learn about the Mock/False French Seam and the Flat Felled Seam.

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This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.

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