How to Sew French Seams – Tuesday Tutorial

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In continuing with our seam finishing tutorials and making our clothing gorgeous on the inside too, I thought I would share with you another simple and lovely seam finish, the French seam.  If you would like to see our previous post on seam finishes, you can find them here at Quick Seam Finishes.

French seams are probably one of the more popular seam finishes because they’re so easy to sew and hide raw edges well.  It’s also the perfect seam finish for lightweight or even sheer fabric.  Today I’ll show you two different ways to sew a French seam.

To demonstrate this seam finish I’m using the newest Tie Dye Diva pattern, the Lemon Drop Dress and Tunic.

I absolutely love this pattern with its curved bodice and twirly goodness, not to mention those large lovely pockets for all kinds of treasures!

This pattern is available in sizes 12 months to 9/10 years, includes tunic measurements, ruffles and a hem finish, and is also available in the 14.5″ doll and 18″ doll sizes.

Let’s get started, shall we?  Ok, one more picture of that amazing twirl…

The French Seam

Most importantly when sewing a French seam is to know your pattern’s seam allowance (SA) before cutting your fabric.  Also note which seams are enclosed in the pattern and which ones you will need to finish using a French seam.  Using the Lemon Drop dress’s SA of 1/2″, I know I will have enough SA to sew a French seam, and I will be applying this seam finish to the side seams as the bodice and straps are enclosed.

Method 1

This first method is the most common way to sew a French seam.  First, take your fabric pieces and place the side seams wrong sides together.

Sew your seam using a 1/4″ SA.

Press your seam open to set your stitches.  This also makes it easier to get a clean fold at the seam.

Fold your fabric wrong sides together again and trim your SA to 1/8″.  Here I’m trimming and removing 1/8″ of my 1/4″ SA.

Now fold your fabric right sides together enclosing your SA inside your seam.

Sew using a 1/4″ SA.

Press your seam open and there you have your French seam!  Your raw seam is completely encased and hidden.  I love how finished a French seam looks!

Here is the front view, seen clearly by the headless unicorn.

Method 2  (the serger method)

This method is very quick, but I will caution that it uses a bit more SA.  When using this method, you may want to increase your SA by 1/8″ (if your pattern calls for a 1/2″ like the Lemon Drop).  If your pattern has a 5/8″ SA, you’re good to go and don’t need to add anything.  I didn’t increase my SA and you will see why in my note below.

First, take your fabric pieces and place the side seams wrong sides together.

Now instead of sewing, serge this seam making sure not to cut off any of your SA.

Press this seam open and fold your fabric right sides together to enclose your serged seam.  Since you’re not trimming this seam, you will need to make sure you’re sewing with a SA wide enough to completely enclose this serged seam, otherwise you will see it from the front.  I’ve highlighted my serged seam on the ruler so you can see exactly where it is inside my fold.

A little note about the importance of seam allowance here.  This is where I will be using a 5/16″ SA to completely enclose my serged seam.  This is just a smidge wider than the 1/4″ serged seam and ensures it will be completely hidden.

If you had cut your fabric using an extra 1/8″ SA at the sides like I mentioned above, you would just sew this next seam using a 3/8″ SA and be done.  This is most important if the garment you are sewing is fitted and every 1/16″ makes a difference (I’ve been there, it DOES make a difference in a fitted garment!).  Since the Lemon Drop dress has a gathered skirt portion, I didn’t see the point in making a larger SA, or maybe just do as I say and not as I do!

Now press open and you’re done!

Why use one method over the other?  The serger method is quick and can make the seam a little sturdier, making it easier to turn over and sew the French seam.  It is a bit of a heavier French seam than method 1 is, and if your child has sensitivity to thicker seams, I would definitely recommend method 1.  Here’s a picture comparing the two.

You can see the serged French seam on the right is a bit stiffer.  It’s not a huge deal, but for those looking for a seam finish that’s “softer”, method 1 may be your best bet.

This is also a very easy way to finish the seams in the Lemon Drop Doll pattern too!

You can use this seam finish in many of Tie Dye Diva’s patterns, not just the Lemon Drop.  Here are just some of my favorite patterns that would look great finished with French seams!

Patterns from left to right, top to bottom:  Fair and Square Dress and Top, Peasant Blouse for Girls, Every Day Top, Butterfly Dress, Jon and Janie Romper, Day Dreamer Dress, Potato Chip Pants and Shorts, Seaside Sailor Dress for Baby, and the Easy Peasy Peasant Dress for Girls.

You can find all of these patterns and more in Tie Dye Diva’s pattern shop.  Now you can French all the seams!  Just pay attention to those seam allowances, alright?