7 Seam Finishes Explained (and when to use them)

Updated: May 2, 2021



Seam finishes are a very important part of the sewing process. They make the inside of your garment or project look as neat and clean and professional as the outside. But most importantly It prevents the fabric from fraying and creating a mess on the inside. There are many different finishes you can choose from, some are fabric and others are project dependent.


WHAT IS FRAYING?

Fraying occurs when fabric is cut and the threads that make up the fabric begin to unravel. The speed and extent to which a fabric frays depends upon many factors, including the tightness of the fabric's weave, how much wear the fabric endures on a day-to-day basis and the age of the fabric. For example, looser weaves such as linen fray a lot in comparison to a tightly woven cotton poplin.


Following, I will cover 7 basic ones and when to use them.



1. PINKED EDGE

WHEN TO USE IT: Stable fabrics or fabrics that don’t fray easily such as cotton, including cotton lawn and quilting cotton. Adding pinked edges as a seam finish on something that may not be washed or worn a lot is a good idea. It is the simplest of all seam finishes, and requires no sewing.


HOW: You’ll need a pair of pinking shears. Simply cut close to the edge with your shears and then press the seam open or to one side. You can also cut your pattern pieces using the pinking shears before you actually sew the layers together.



2. ZIG ZAG EDGE

WHEN TO USE IT: Any type of fabric, except for sheer and delicate fabrics – they may shred; or woven fabrics with an open or loose weave - they may make the fraying even worst.


HOW: Use the zig zag setting on your machine. Test it out on a piece os scrap fabric first before taking a chance on your seams. Try a smaller stitch length for lighter fabrics, and a longer stitch for heavy ones. You can also play around with the width of the stitch, if you can adjust this setting on your machine. You can either zig zag both sides of the seam allowance and press the seam open (see smaller photo), or you can zig zag the two sides together, and press to one side to finish.



3. CLEAN FINISH EDGE

WHEN TO USE IT: light to medium weight woven fabrics. It might be too bulky for heavier fabrics.


HOW: This is a really simple seam finish:

1. With right sides together, sew your seam and press open.

2. For each side of seam allowance, turn under 1/4” (0.6cm) or less and press. Sew close to edge of seam allowance only. Don’t sew it to the garment.



4. FRENCH SEAM

WHEN TO USE IT: Sheer, lightweight and delicate fabrics such as silk, chiffon, rayon/viscose and even delicate cotton lawn. A French seam completely encases the raw edge of the seam allowance, creating a clean and professional finish on a garment where the seam might be visible.


HOW:  If this is your first time sewing french seams, try to choose a fabric that has a clear wrong & right side. It will make your first french seam much easier to sew. The following steps apply, if the seam allowance is 5/8" (1.5cm). If the pattern you are using has a smaller seam allowance, you might need to adjust the following steps or increase your seam allowance when cutting your fabric: