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  • Helen Puddefoot

Finishing Seams - a tip from a vintage pattern

Hi stitching fans,

I wanted to write a post about my recent discovery of an easy way to finish seams really neatly using a sewing machine.

So often I don't bother finishing my seams, I really can't be bothered with all the extra work it takes, but my recent experience where my fully lined Joan dress frayed through my back seam because it was the one seam I'd forgotten to finish, was enough to convince me I need to be a bit more careful. I spent an hour or so correcting that error and I'd rather not have to do that again!

The other reason to finish seams is that it moves a garment from feeling 'homemade' to 'handmade' - just a notch above your own sewing projects, as well as making sure they'll last you a long time.

There are lots of ways of finishing a seam off, some of the most common are to finish with an overlocker, or zig zag stitch. For this method you simply sew down the edge of your seam allowance once you've sewed your seam, and the overlocker or zig zag ensures the raw edges don't fray through your stitch line. On my ultimate trousers I finished my seams with a zig zag stitch and you can see what it looks like quite clearly here as I did it in a contrasting thread:

My only issue with this method (which works really well) is that either I need to get my overlocker out, and that's a faff as I don't have much space and it's usually in a cupboard, or the edges still look a bit untidy if I use a zig zag stitch.

As I mentioned in my video post about my plans for the month, my vintage sew along pattern arrived last week and I spent a happy half hour with a cup of tea reading through the instructions. I don't usually do this but I was in a cafe with time to kill and it was the only 'reading material' I had in my handbag. It was time very well spent, not only do I now have a clearer idea of how I'll construct the thing when I do come to sew it, but it introduced me to a new way of finishing seams that I have since adopted and love!

I don't know what the official name of this finishing method is, there will be one I'm sure, but here it is:

Once you have sewn your seam, take each single layer seam allowance and sew along the outside edge at a 0.25" distance from the raw edge.

Sew all the way along so you have a line running down the length of the seam allowance

Now go back to the top of that sewing line and fold the fabric under, using your stitch line as a reference point, so the stitch line sits on the fold line. Sew closed close to the fold line, creating a neatly turned under edge.

Repeat this on the other side and you'll have a beautifully finished seam allowance that won't fray and will make you want to wear your clothes inside out because they look so beautiful!

It takes a little while to do, but the results are SO neat it really makes the difference to how a garment feels.

Give it a try!

Happy stitching


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