Sewing Tips: French Seams (a clean finish for your raw edges)

 

I haven’t done this in a while but it’s time to answer another sewing ‘Frequently Asked Question’.  And that is, “how in the world do I make one of those fancy French Seams??“  Some of you may already know how to do this, some may have forgotten how (and this is a good refresher), while others have no idea this sewing technique exists!

 

You know, there is a difference between rushing through a project and cutting corners, and then taking your time to make everything look nice, inside and out.  I admit, I’m usually, the rushing/cutting corners type-of-person.  I like to make things, but don’t always have enough time to spend lots of time making everything perfect.  However, on certain occasions, I really like to make things really pretty, inside and out.  I tend to take more care when I’m using expensive fabric, making a gift for someone else, or if I’m making a keepsake for my own children (blessing/baptism outfit, quilts, etc.)  And then I try and use a more finished seam, like the French Seam.

 

HOWEVER, when sewing with really sheer fabric (and fabrics that fray a TON), this seam is ideal.  It hides raw edges completely, it keeps all the fraying enclosed, and it will save you from some frustration while sewing things like sheer drapes, a sheer overlay to a dress, etc.

 

So, tuck this technique away, and use it when you’d like to really make something super polished………or when it’s NEEDED.

 

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Now, think for a second…….about those sometimes raggedy edges of your inside seam allowances.  Especially, wash after wash after wash. 

 

Now, imagine them all completely closed up and not a single stray thread in sight, inside and out.

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It really is a pretty little edge.  It can’t be used on curves……but it looks gorgeous on all those straight seams.

 

French Seams……..oh, how you make my sewing looking amazingly professional! :)

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 Ready for the good news??  It’s pretty stinkin’ simple.  

 

Let me show you…

 

 

First of all. line up your two edges that you want to sew together using the French Seam……but place the edges together with WRONG sides together.  I know, weird.  But you’ll see why in a moment.

 

Now, determine your seam allowance.  A common seam allowance is 5/8 of an inch.  So, if that’s the allowance given for your project, keep that in mind.  You will be sewing two different seams to create your French Seam, so split that allowance into two, 2/8 of an inch and 3/8 of an inch.  You want one of the seam allowances to be smaller and will use that seam allowance first.  ALWAYS.

 

Sew the two layers together, using the 2/8 (or 1/4) inch seam allowance.

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Then, open up your fabric to the “wrong” side of the fabric, and iron flat.

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Then, fold the fabric together with the “right” sides together.  Fold the fabric right along the seam you just made.

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And then iron flat.

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Now, with the “right” sides together, sew your 2nd seam allowance of 3/8 of an inch.  What just happened, is that you are now enclosing the raw edges of the first seam (shown as the black dotted line), inside of this new seam.  And this is why the first seam allowance needed to be smaller than the first…..so that it would fit inside of this second seam and not poke out.  Otherwise, this whole technique is useless.  (TIP: If you are using different seam allowances than the ones shown here, you can always cut down the extra fabric from your first seam, so that it will fit into the second seam.)

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Now, open up your fabric to the “right” side, and iron the fabric open.

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And that’s it.

 

A pretty little French Seam.

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Happy Sewing!

-Ashley

 

 

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Comments

28 Responses to “Sewing Tips: French Seams (a clean finish for your raw edges)”
  1. 1
    maryam says:

    hi,i love your projects and visit this site every day…
    :)

  2. 2
    Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand what these are really for…

  3. 3

    I almost exclusively sew with French seams. Heirloom sewing styles call for it.

    Heirloom sewing patterns also don’t use it on armholes, but I remember being a little girl and having armholes that had itchy, poky seams, and I hated them (and I LOVED the dress, but couldn’t stand to wear it because of the raw edges.) I also don’t like serged armholes, because I’ve had too many unravel as a child, and then I had a bunch of threads poking me.

    So I decided to try French seams on armholes anyway for my girls.

    It’s a bit harder on armholes, but it can be done.

  4. 4
    Oh Sew Quiet says:

    Thank you so much for this – very useful! I love your clear instructions and pictures – perfect for someone who is new to sewing (AKA me!),

  5. 5
    Cbnbog says:

    Funny name ! As in France, where I am from and leaving and sewing, we call it “couture anglaise”

  6. 6
    Lindsay says:

    I wish I had this a week ago! It would have made last weeks project so much easier and prettier! I’ll have to remember this for next time!

  7. 7
    Julia says:

    What a wonderful tutorial! I was never very clear on how to figure out my seam allowance, but you made it so simple! And beautiful, instructive pictures. You do such a nice job teaching. I’ve learned multiple things from your tutorials, starting with shirring. Keep it up. I love it!

  8. 8
    Tanya says:

    I love tidy seams inside and out, yes I too dislike the look and feel of over locking and love the added strength heirloom seams – French, flat felled, bias bound (especially when you get to use a splash of Liberty of London)… gives to a garment, which is perfect for active kids. Agree with the lady above that it can be used on curves successfully and vintage pattern instructions advise them on arm holes. Yes my clothes take longer to sew but they just make me smile when I pull them out of the wash or get a flash of the inside while it’s being worn. Great tutorial and have a lovely week

    • 8.1
      Mysti says:

      I know this is nearly seven months late, but I like to use bias tape to finish the curved seams. I just make sure to get some extra fabric and make my own so it matches. I’ve seen it called the “Hong Kong finish”.

  9. 9
    Lynette says:

    Um…that is the coolest thing ever! I had heard of french seams, but never known any more than that. Thanks for helping me learn something new today!

  10. 10
    Jill says:

    I love french seams! I use them for most of my straight seams. They’re just so easy, yet so fancy and professional-looking!

  11. 11
    Hawwa says:

    Thanks for the great tip, I’ve been thinking about how to have a neat finishing without investing in a serger.
    By the way, I love your blog, nice pictures and great content!

  12. 12
    Stephanie says:

    Oh, Ashley, you are simply the best! I love coming to your website and finding a new posting. I am a beginner when it comes to sewing, but you have already taught me so much. The French seams look beautiful. I will definitely practice this technique to incorporate into the huge list of projects I have created for myself recently. Thanks for all you do!

  13. 13
    Beth says:

    If you press the first seam open rather than flat, your inside seams will turn more easily and look neater. Narrow french seams are my favorite finish, especially in baby or heirloom garments.

  14. 14
    Joyce French says:

    Ashley,
    I love the tutiorial, and the next step to a flat felt is the top stitch (3rd) for shorts or skirts that are more sporty. The seam will be thicker and very stable. Love the new format, hope your no where near the flooding. Aloha Joyce

  15. 15
    Ida says:

    I found your site the other day and find your tutorials extremely helpful and well-written (especially the zipper one). Just wanted to say thanks for making them, and please keep it up!

  16. 16
    Maureen M. says:

    Thank you! I was wondering if there was a better way for the inside seams of laundry bags…they make great gifts but I always wondered if there was a better way to keep the fraying away!

  17. 17
    Amy says:

    I am in love with french seams. They look so beautiful!

  18. 18
    byseverine says:

    comme c’est amusant je te l’écris en français parce que chez nous nous appelons ces coutures cachées des coutures à l’anglaise

  19. 19
    miladie says:

    I really like your work, I just want to ask if you have any advice for a sewing machine?m willing to buy one and m a beginner, I know nothing about sewing, appreciate your feedbacks

  20. 20
    Heather says:

    Ahhhh… I had no idea. Looks great, and not too tricky! Thanks :)

  21. 21
    jan says:

    Ohhhhh I love the French seam tutorial . My 2 girls are all grownup and now I have found my old love of sewing . The French seams are perfect for my little Grandaughters Pyjama trousers . Never made any before but thrilled with the results .Thank you

  22. 22
    Chris says:

    Thanks so much for this – I read half a dozen other tutorials but they were all really vague and assumed the reader has some experience sewing. I’m a total beginner and really needed to laid out and explained like this. Thanks.

  23. 23
    Laura says:

    Thank you for this. I saw this on another crafting website and it was about as clear as mud. This was so much easier to understand and l could grasp the whole idea as l was reading along. Next year l will be making my own drawstring pouches so l look forward to including this seam. Again thank you:)

  24. 24
    Alyssa says:

    I used French seams when I restored my grandmother’s wedding dress, it made the lace bodice and sheer overskirt look so much better! I wish I remembered to use it sooner on my girl’s dresses.

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