French seams are generally used for lightweight and sheer fabrics such as silk and chiffon where traditional seam finishing methods would show on the right side of the fabric. They are also great for items that will be washed repeatedly such as pillowcases. Read this easy how to sew a French seam tutorial.
What are French SeamS?
French Seams are a type of seam finishing used in sewing where the raw edges on the inside are totally encased in an extra row of stitching.
This creates a seam that is far more durable than most other seam finishes and an item or clothing pieces that looks as attractive on the inside as it does on the outside.
What are French Seams Used For?
French seams are generally used on straight seams rather than curved seams. It can also be used on corners successfully.
It is better suited to thin to medium weight fabrics as heavy fabrics add to much bulk in the enclosed seam.
Use a French Seam for:
- Pillowcase seams since they will be washed repeatedly
- Sheer fabrics where the edge would otherwise fray and look unattractive
- Delicate, fine fabrics such as silk and chiffon where overlocking would create unwanted bulk and show stitching through to the other side.
- Linen seams where the edges would fray excessively
- Straight side seams on kids clothing. Kids clothes get washed far more so durability is really important.
French Seams - How to Sew A French Seam Video
Here is a quick video I made to show you just how quick and easy French seams are to sew. Like most of my videos, it is only about 3 minutes and gets straight to the point. I know you are busy!
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French Seams - Photo Tutorial
Here are the steps for how to sew a French seam. Grab a piece of your scrap fabric first to practice and to ensure this is a suitable seam for your sewing project.
STEP 1 - Sew the Seam
Pin the WRONG sides of your fabric together.
IMPORTANT (French seams vs Regular Seams)- This is the biggest difference between sewing French seams and regular seams. Normally you would start with the RIGHT sides together to stitch a seam. With French seams, you start with WRONG sides together. It can seem a little strange at first but you will quickly get used to this difference.
Stitch the seam. Your seam allowance should be ¼inch (6mm) less than the seam allowance specified in the pattern. If your pattern has small seam allowances less than ½ inch (12mm), it may be necessary to add a little extra.
- For a ½ inch (12mm) seam allowance – sew now at ¼ inch (6mm) from the edge
- For a ⅝ inch (1.5cm) seam allowance – sew now at ⅜ inch (10mm) from the edge.
STEP 2 - Trim the French Seams
Trim the seam allowance to ⅛ inch (3mm).
Use sharp scissors to get a nice clean edge and do your best not to overhandle the raw edges in the next couple of steps to prevent it fraying again.
Trimming Corners: If you are sewing French seams on an item with corners (for example on pillowcase corners), make sure you also trim the corner diagonally to reduce the bulk.
STEP 3 - Press Seam Open
Press open the seam with the seam allowance on one side. Make sure the seam is nice and flat.
Use an up and down pressing motion rather than pulling the iron along the seam.
Further reading: Pressing for sewing
STEP 4 - Press Right Sides Together
Press the fabric in half with RIGHT sides together and with the seam on the edge.
Make sure the seam is on the very edge and not to the side as all for the best results.
STEP 5 - Stitch French Seams
Sew the seam again ¼ inch (6mm) from the folded seam edge.
Using a ¼ inch foot (6mm) may help keep your width accurate.
The previous seam allowance will be sandwiched in the fold. It is important to sew accurately or you will get little tufts of raw edges poking through the seam.
STEP 6 - Final Press
Press the seam open again, with the seam allowance on one side.
Flip your piece over and give the inside of the seam a final press so it is nice and flat.
You can now get a professional French seams finish on your next project!
French Seams for Curves
Although french seams are best on straight seams, it is possible to use them on very gentle curves. If you are sewing sharp curves you would be better off with another seam finish such as overlocking or bias bound seams.
If you do want to do French seams on a gentle curve, pay special attention to step 2 where you will need to trim as close as possible to the seam.
In addition put some tiny clips into the seam allowance in step 2, being careful not to cut into the stitching line. (Read Clipping Sewing)
French Seams Pillowcase Patterns
Now you know how to sew a French seam, why not test your new skills. I have a full blog article on how to make a French seam pillowcase.
These are really durable in the wash and a great beginner sewing project. Add some lace or trim to the edge to make it interesting and unique. Both of these pillowcase patterns have cutting instructions so you can make them in several sizes.
Pillowcase Patterns on my Blog
Why not try French seams on the side seams of the Taylor Skirt? This is a FREE tutu skirt sewing pattern!