By Haley Pierson-Cox
French seams are a simple and versatile way to create strong, professional-looking seams in any sewing project. A French seam uses two lines of stitches to encase the raw, unfinished fabric edges within the seam itself, which hides the edges from view, prevents fraying, and creates a clean and elegant look that’s perfect for anything from trousers and jeans to delicate foundation garments and lingerie. I use French seams just about every time I sew — especially when I want to be sure that fabric won’t unravel when a finished piece is worn or used. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to utilize the French seam method in your own sewing projects!
Fabric pieces to be sewn Before starting an important project, first try the method out on two rectangular pieces of scrap fabric.
Fabric clips or straight pins
Rotary cutter or fabric scissors
Iron and ironing board
Sewing machine Hand sewing is also fine.
Before we get started, please note that I used a standard ½” seam allowance for this tutorial. If you are working with a pattern that has a seam allowance that is larger or smaller than ½”, you can increase or decrease the measurement in Step 5.
Step 1: With the WRONG (unprinted) sides of the fabric facing, align the edges of the fabric to be sewn together. Use fabric clips or straight pins to hold the pieces in place.
Step 2: Use your sewing machine to sew down the length of the fabric edge with a ¼” seam allowance. This line should be sewn on the RIGHT (printed) side of the fabric.
Step 3: Align the quilting ruler on the seam that you stitched in Step 2, then use a rotary cutter to trim away the excess fabric on the edge of the seam, getting as close to the seam stitching as possible.
Step 4: Once the extra fabric has been trimmed away from the seam edge, open the connected pieces of fabric and use an iron to press the seam between them open. Next, fold the the fabric pieces together at the seam with RIGHT (printed) sides facing and press the folded seam closed.
The two pieces of fabric should now be folded together at the seam, and the unfinished edge should be sandwiched between them.
Step 5: With a ¼” seam allowance, sew along the folded edge, enclosing the unfinished edges between the two layers of fabric.
Step 6: To finish, open the folded fabric, then press the seam open on the RIGHT (printed) side of the fabric. On the WRONG (unprinted) side of the fabric, press the folded edge of the seam flat to one side.
That’s all there is to it. Now, go forth and sew French seams to your heart’s content!
About the Author:
Haley Pierson-Cox is a Brooklyn-based craft writer who loves granny glasses and loathes extraneous apostrophes. She blogs about crafts, cats, domestic bliss, and DIY goodness at The Zen of Making.
11 thoughts on “Sewing 101: French Seams”
question: I love using french seams, and use them quite often when making things like bags and pillowcases which are mostly straight seams. I’m not sure how to do a curved seam since you can’t clip the curve. Is there something I don’t know, or are they mostly just for straight seams?
Great question–I’m so glad you asked! French seams are usually fine for slight curves like the hips of trousers or a flare in skirts, but they’re not appropriate for more dramatically curved seams like sleeves and shoulders. As a general rule, french seams work best when you’re joining two straight fabric edges.
How interesting! In english it is “french seam” and in french, “couture anglaise”
Hah! I love it! :)
What a great tutorial! I will have to share this with my costuming friends…
This is so helpful! Thank you for sharing!
Even though this lovely seem occurs on the inside of a garment and is unseen, is it at all acceptable to permanently tack it it down with a straight stitch to prevent it from sort of “flopping about” after it’s pressed?
Thank you so much for the tutorial. It helped a lot! :) Cheers!
[…] two 8″ edges together with the right sides together. I do not have a serger so I like to do a french seam to hide the edges and prevent fraying, when doing a french seam first sew the wrong sides together […]
[…] Finish the long side using a french seam. […]
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