Updated: Feb 16, 2020
I’ve read somewhere that your garment should look as good on the inside as it does on the outside, and I certainly agree with that. A garment simply screams home-made if it doesn’t have a good finishing, and having spent so much time and effort making the garment, that’s probably the last thing we want, yah? 🙂 Using a serger is certainly one of the easiest way to finish the seam, but not everyone has a serger. We were often asked during our workshops how to finish the seams if the students didn’t have a serger. Well, if you are sewing with knits, it’s a bit easier, since knits don’t fray and it is generally more acceptable if you leave your seams exposed. After all, exposed seams could be part of the design of the garment 😉
Image from Shoptiques
However, that’s not the case for woven. Woven fabrics will fray and unravel if the seams are left unfinished. So, what are some of options for seam finishes, besides serging?
(1) Pinked Seams
This is probably one of the easiest way out. All you need is to trim the the seam allowances with pinking shears. However, pinking only minimise fraying, so I would not suggest using this method for heavily-laundered garments. If this is your preferred method, you may consider adding a straight stitch near the edge of the pinked edge.
Image from Amazon
(2) Zigzag Seams
This is another easy way to finish your seam. Set your machine for a short, medium-wide zigzag stitch. Stitch close to, but not over, the fabric edge. You could either zigzag the edges prior to sewing the seams together, or to sew the seams first then zigzag next to the seam allowance. Trim the fabric edge close to the stitching if necessary. Since almost all domestic sewing machines now come with zigzag stitch, this is definitely a good way to finish your seam as this finishing is generally suitable for most fabrics.
(3) Machine Overcasting Finish
This is a good alternative to zigzag stitch if your machine can do overcast stitch, consisting of three to six straight stitches and one zigzag stitch.
Overcasting stitch is 03 on my Juki machine.
If you have an overcasting foot, simply place the edge of the fabric along the guide.
If you do not have an overcasting foot, a standard foot can be used as well – you simply need to sew the overcast stitch like how you would with a zigzag stitch and trim away any excess if necessary. Like the zigzag stitch, this finishing is suitable for most types of fabrics, and hence a good option if your machine can do overcasting stitch.
(4) Flat-felled seams
Flat felled seams finishing is a common way to finish a men’s shirt and can also be found on almost all jeans. It is tough and durable, and works really well if you are trying to make a reversible garment. And, it is really not as difficult as it appears!
A quick summary of sewing flat-felled seams:
Place your fabrics wrong sides together.
Sew a straight stitch with an appropriate seam allowance. We generally use 1.5cm.
Open out the fabric and press both sides of the seam allowance in one direction. (Note: be consistent in the direction throughout the project. You would generally want the side seams to be pressed towards the back. )
Fold the upper (and bigger) seam allowance over the trimmed portion and press in place. For a more secure hold, use fabric glue to hold the foldover in place. It’s important that the foldover remains a consistent width along the seam, and also for all other seams in the project.
Edge stitch close to the fold. A blind hem/edge stitching foot will help you stitch closely and evenly to that fold.
(5) French Seams
The French seam is a self-enclosed seam. It is first stitched with the fabric wrong sides together and then refolded and stitched with the fabric rights sides together. The steps are quite simple, but you will need accurate trimming and proper pressing for successful French seams. This finishing is particularly suitable for sheers and unlined jackets.
Another way to finish your seams is to bind them with bias tape.
The last three finishes are not as straightforward and require a bit more work. But, I feel that the end results are worth it, as they give a professional edge to your home-made garments! So, do give them a try! 🙂