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Seams Your Way

Join your pieces with style

Most garment seaming is done with the basic, straight seam, but there are several other types of seams you will enjoy learning. Most seams are stitched with ½”-wide seam allowances, but others require wider seam allowances (such as the flat-felled seam shown). Be sure to decide the type of seams you want to use before you draft your pattern, and keep the necessary seam allowance width in mind.


Seam allowance is the distance between the fabric’s raw edge and the sewn seam (or stitch line). It’s up to you how much seam allowance you add. You want enough seam allowance to have room to sew, without adding too much bulk.

Most sewing patterns (such as those made by Simplicity, Vogue, and Butterick) include a ⅝”-wide seam allowance. In the garment industry, though, most seams are sewn with a ½”-wide seam allowance, and that’s how I’ve written the instructions for the following seams. You might consider using a smaller seam allowance for seams that will be concealed or turned inside-out, such as those found inside a waistband. For seams like that, I typically use a ¼”-wide seam allowance. If you don’t feel comfortable using that small of an allowance, you can always use a larger one when stitching and then trim it down once your seam has been sewn.

Choose Your Seam Allowance

TIP : Seams into which zippers are sewn sometimes benefit from slightly wider seam allowances, so you might want to add 5⁄8″-wide allowances to zipper seam edges when drafting a pattern.

RIGHT OR WRONG : The illustrations in this book use a lighter shade for the right side (RS) of the fabric, and a darker shade for the wrong side (WS).


In order to sew any type of garment, you’ll want to master how to machine-stitch a variety of seams. The seams listed below are essential to the construction of well-made skirts. 

Basic Straight Seam A basic seam is sewn with the right sides together and raw edges aligned.

1). Use a straight stitch, set to about 8 to 10 stitches per inch. The standard seam allowance is between ½” and ⅝” wide, but you can use any width seam allowance you like.

Basic Straight Seam - Step 1

2). After stitching, press the seam flat, and then press the seam allowances open. To finish, press from the right side of the garment with a press cloth between the garment and the iron.

Basic Straight Seam - Step 2

French Seam A French seam is a beautiful, narrow finish without any raw edges, making it a perfect selection for sheer or lace fabrics.

1). To begin, sew the seam with ¼”-wide seam allowances and with the wrong sides together and raw edges aligned. Then trim the seam allowance.

French Seam - Step 1

2). Next, fold the seam along the stitching line so the wrong sides are together. Sew the seam again, ¼” away from the folded edge.

French Seam - Step 2

Flat-Felled Seam The flat-felled seam is finished inside and out, and features a decorative topstitch. This seam is frequently used in sportswear and is almost always found on jeans.

1). Start with ¾”-wide seam allowance. Sew the seam with wrong sides together and raw edges aligned. Press the seam allowance open and trim one side to ¼”.

Flat-Felled Seam - Step 1

2). Press the wider seam allowance ¼” to the wrong side and wrap it around the trimmed one. Press it in place.

Flat-Felled Seam - Step 2

3). Topstitch the seam allowance along the folded edge through all layers, securing it in place and hiding the raw edges inside.

Flat-Felled Seam - Step 3


A well-made garment looks almost as good on the inside as it does on the outside. There are many ways to clean finish the raw edges of seam and hem allowances to minimize raveling and give your skirt a professional looking finish.

Hong Kong Finish. The Hong Kong finished seam starts as a traditional seam, but has finished seam allowance edges, thanks to the application of double-fold bias tape (for more on creating your own bias tape). You can match the color of the bias tape to your garment or use a contrasting color for added punch on the inside.

1). To begin, stitch a traditional, straight seam with seam allowances at least ½” wide; press the seam open. Press one side of the bias tape open and pin it along the edge of one seam allowance with the right sides together and edges aligned and stitch with ¼”-wide seam.

Hong Kong Finish - Step 1

2). Wrap the bias tape around the edge of the seam allowance. Secure it in place by stitching in the ditch or just to the inside of the original stitching to catch the bottom of the bias tape in the seam and to completely enclose the raw edge. Stitch only through the bias tape and seam allowance, not the garment.

Hong Kong Finish - Step 2

3). Repeat on the remaining seam allowance to finish.

Hong Kong Finish - Step 3

Pinking Shears

This method of finishing your fabric edges is the easiest and quickest. Simply trim your seam allowance edges with pinking shears after the seam has been sewn. Do not trim them before you sew the seam. The zigzag cut of the pinking shears will prevent the fabric’s edges from fraying during wear and after washing.

pinking edge finish

Serged or Overlocked Finish

Sergers, or overlock machines, will cut and finish a fabric’s edge as it sews. To finish an edge with a serger, sew the seam on the sewing machine first and press the seam allowance normally. Then use the serger to either finish the seam allowances together, or finish them separately to keep the pressed-open look. I typically do not use the serger to sew the initial seam because it cuts as it sews and it creates a stitch that stretches. It’s hard to correct sewing accidents once they’ve been cut and sewn by a serger, so make sure everything is exactly how you want it before you send it through the machine.

overlock finish

Topstitched Edges

Start with a sewn seam that has been pressed open. Then press each seam allowance ⅛” to the wrong side and topstitch each seam allowance edge to secure the raw edge under the stitching.

topstitched edge

Zigzag Finish

If you do not own a serger, you can use a zigzag stitch to finish your edges. Start with a seam that has been sewn and pressed open. Then, sewing through the seam allowance only, machine-stitch close to each seam allowance’s edge with a zigzag stitch and press to set the stitches. Trim the seam allowance close to the zigzag stitch. The zigzag stitch helps prevent the raw edge from fraying.

zigzag edge finish

Source :
SKIRT-A-DAY SEWING Create 28 Skirts
For A Unique Look Every Day
Nicole Smith