Lapped seams are a slimline bulk-free seam suitable for thicker fabrics that do not fray such as leather, vinyl, fleece, and felt. The edges of each piece of fabric overlap without being finished. This creates an extremely flat and simple seam. Both pieces of fabric are overlapped facing up. Most other seams are stitched with the fabric wrong sides together to form an enclosed seam.
Lapped seams feel simple the first time around. Then as you progress and get more practice, the seams can become more complicated as you turn your lapped seams into decorative items. This very basic, bulk-free seam for thick fabrics. It may be used for construction purposes as well as giving a decorative look to your sewing projects.
This article will show you the basic lapped seams and then some variations.
How to Do Lapped Seams - Basic
Tips Before you Start
- The key to a perfect lapped seam is to accurately and cleanly cut your fabric edges. Using a rotary cutter and ruler is a good way to achieve this.
- Keep in mind that your stitching will show on the outside, so choose a type of thread and color that suits the look you require. Contrasting threads can add an interesting twist to your lapped seams.
- If you need to mark the position of your seam allowances, make sure you only mark the wrong side of the fabric.
- Your stitching will show on the outside, so double check your tension and make sure you stitch straight.
- Because this stitch is designed for thicker fabrics such as leather, make sure you have an appropriate sewing machine needle. Leather or vinyl will need leather needles and either a Teflon foot or walking foot.
How to do a basic lapped seam:
Step 1 - Overlap
The very basic and easy lapped seam is worked with the right sides of both pieces of the fabric facing up. This means the base fabric, the one on the bottom of the planned seam, has the right side uppermost and the lap piece of fabric is also right side up with the wrong side joining to the base fabric.
This basic lapped seam is for fabrics that do not fray like leather, vinyl, fleece, felt, or suede. There is no seam finishing, just overlapping of the fabrics.
Draw a line or pin a guideline along the seam allowance of the first layer called the base fabric. This is the fabric you will lay the other piece of the cut pieces on top of. You will lay the top fabric on top of the right side of the base fabric. Both right sides will show.
Step 2 - Stitch
Run a straight stitch along the edge of the upper piece of fabric.
Step 3 - Turn
Turn the joined fabric over and sew another line of straight stitching along the other side of the lapped seam.
Press your seam and that’s it! A lapped seam is a really simple way of overlapping two pieces of fabric and sewing them together.
Variations of Lapped Seams
Once you have accomplished your first lap seam you will find these variations of the lap seam very easy and useful.
Here are 3 variations to try.
Turned Lapped Seams
A turned lapped seam is a little bit more complicated than a lapped seam. However, the extra turning and sewing in the process, makes this a very hardwearing seam. It is ideal for rough and tough outdoor clothing. The turned lap seam will be stitched three times giving it that extra strength.
Overlap and stitch the seam on the seam line. Both pieces of fabric will have right sides up and overlapped according to the seam allowance. You stitch on the seam line which will be right in the middle of the overlap.
Now you are going to turn the seam. Turn one side over the seam and the other side under the seam. The raw edges of the seam should be tucked between the fabrics.
Stitch down the seam at the normal seam allowance and enclosing the fabric inside the stitching of the seam from the first line of stitching. You will see four layers of fabric in this part of the seam stitching. Press your work on the seam at this point.
Turn the fabric over to the wrong side and machine stitch along the fold of the seam. At this point you have stitched the seam three times and have a very secure seam.
If you are using bulky fabric for this seam trim off some of the seam allowances before folding over. It is a good idea to try this out on a scrap of fabric to get used to the overlapping and turning of the seam. Once you have seen how it works you will love this seam for its strength and durability.
Double Lapped Seams
Use a narrower or wider seam allowance depending on the finished look you are trying to achieve.
- Fold the top side of the seam over the raw edges of the base seam allowance. Press down firmly.
- Then topstitch on the right side.
- Press again on both sides for a neat and uniform look once the seam is complete.
Neatened Edge Lapped Seams
This seam works the same way as the basic lap seam, but you can neaten the inside raw edge with the neatening method of your choice.
These are the best options:
- Pinking shears.
- Serge or overlocking the edges.
- Zigzag the edges.
The most important quality of a lapped seam is the fact that it is not bulky therefore a simple, but effective seam neatening is best.
Lapped Seams - In Conclusion
The lapped seam, and all its different lap varieties, is really a very interesting and worthwhile seam to consider. If you start at the top of this sewing circuit with the first and basic lap and keep following the different steps you will find you have covered a marathon of different techniques. Each of these seam variations adds value to your sewing repertoire.