Friday, March 13, 2015

How to add french seams to straight seams and armholes

A great way to elevate your sewing into something you'll treasure for years is to finish the inside as beautifully as you've finished the outside.  French seams are a great finish for silk (say, for example, for your Silk Challis Oakridge Bow Blouse Sewing Kit) because they smoothly enclose all the ravely raw edges in a clean manner.  

Frenching your seams might not be the best option for a very bulky fabric such as velvet, as it adds an extra hem to each seam.

In a nutshell, when french seaming, you enclose your seam allowance by sewing your seam once with wrong sides together, and then turning it right sides together and sewing it again.  Because you are sewing the seam twice, you need to divide your seam allowance into two parts.  For this tutorial we'll assume you are working with a 5/8" seam allowance, and we'll divide it into 3/8" and 1/4". 

If you are working with a pattern with skimpy seam allowances, you  may want to add in more generous ones when cutting out your pattern in order to allow for seam finishing.

Frenching Straight Seams

First line up your two pieces of fabric wrong sides together and sew a 1/4" seam.  Trim your seam down very close, press flat, and then open up the fabric and press the seam to one side. 

Turn the fabric so that right sides are together.  Use your fingers to pinch the seam and wiggle it to make sure the seam that you've already sewn is right at the edge of the fold, instead of having lots of extra fabric get caught in there.  With right sides together, sew a 3/8" seam.  

Press flat and then press to one side, usually the back. Admire your lovely, indestructible French Seam!

It's important to pay close attention to your right and wrong sides when sewing this way, as it is a big practice change from always starting with wrong sides together, and you don't want to end up with some seams on the inside and some on the outside! 

I would advise clustering tasks, by sewing the first step on a batch of seams, pressing them all, and then moving on.  On my Oakridge blouse, I sewed both side seams and both shoulder seams with wrong sides together, then trimmed and pressed the whole batch before turning the whole garment wrong side out. 

Frenching Armhole Seams

First, make sure that you have the correct sleeve for each side.  The notches around the armhole should match up, and the sleeve placket opening should face the back when laid out. 

Turn the sleeve inside out and pass it through the armhole opening so that the sleeve is hanging inside the garment.  Your seam is now wrong sides together.  

Match notches and underarm seam, gently gathering your easing stitches, and pin baby pin!

Sew a 1/4" seam.

Trim closely, press flat and then to one side.

Pull the sleeve out of the blouse, then fold the blouse over the sleeve so that the garment is right sides together.  Wiggle that seam with your fingers so the trimmed seam allowance is nestled right in the fold and you don't risk threads sticking out when you sew your final seam.

Sew your 3/8" seam.  

Press flat and then to one side.  


What's your favorite seam finish? Tell us in the comments!

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