How To Finish A Seam

Beginner seam finishing options.

Not sure how to finish your seams? Not sure what it even means to ‘finish a seam’. 

I’m here to help!

In this blog post I’ll explain exactly what it means to finish a seam, why you might need to do it and show you a few different ways to try. 

What Does 'Finishing A Seam' Mean?

When you sew a seam using a sewing machine, you will be left with two layers (or occasionally more) of fabric on the inside of your garment. ‘Finishing a seam’ means you do something to the raw edges of your fabric in that seam allowance to protect the fabric and make it look, well… finished! 

When Do I Need Finish A Seam?

Finishing a seam is essential when using any fabric that frays. If you don’t, then as you wear and wash your garment the fabric will fray more and more and eventually the seams will come undone. Most woven fabrics will fray. 

You may also wish to finish the seams even when using fabric that doesn’t fray. A finished seam will often feel more comfortable against the skin and gives a much more professional look to a garment. Most knit fabric will not fray. 

How Can I Finish A Seam?

There are LOTS of ways to finish a seam but I’m going to stick with some simple choices. 

1. Overlocker/Serger
This is the quickest way to get a really smart looking finish. An overlocker uses several threads to create a loopy chain around the raw edges of your fabric. 

If you are using woven fabric, you must sew your seam using a sewing machine first and then go over the seams again with your overlocker/serger. 

If you are using knit fabric, you have the option to go straight to the overlocker – there’s no need to sew your seams twice. 

finishing woven seams with an overlocker
finishing knit fabric with an overlocker

2. Zigzag Stitch
If you do not have an overlocker/serger then don’t panic! You can use a regular sewing machine and a zigzag stitch instead. With this option, you must sew your seams first, no matter what kind of fabric you are using. Then you go back over the raw edges and sew them together with a zigzag stitch. This option isn’t quite as neat or effective as using an overlocker/serger, but it’s a brilliant option for those just starting out.

(Note: If you are using this option on knit fabrics, you should either sew your seam using a straight stitch with stretch thread such as Maraflex, or using a stretch stitch a regular thread. Don’t use a straight stitch and regular thread – your seams will pop when worn!)

finishing a seam with a zigzag stitch

3. French Seams
This is one of my personal favourites! It particularly useful when sewing with light, delicate fabrics, but can also be used on regular/mid-weight fabrics to give a special finish. To create a French seam, take your two pieces of fabric and place them wrong sides facing (this feels so naughty!). Sew using a small seam allowance. You may choose to trim away some of the seam allowance here to keep your finished seam small and neat. Press the seam with the fabric right sides facing. Your raw edges will now be hidden inside. Sew the seam again using a larger seam allowance. 

In other words you sew the seam, press and then sew the seam again the other way, hiding the raw edges inside. 

French seam tutorial part 1
French seam tutorial part 2

If you choose to use French seams on a pattern that doesn’t specify them, make sure your two seam allowances add up to whatever the seam allowance of that pattern is. If you use a pattern such as the Kinjarling Dress, the pattern is already drafted to use a French seam and all the information is in the instructions. 

If you’ve found this useful, let me know and I’ll write a second blog post with more advanced seam finishing options. 

Happy sewing!