The baby seam finish hails from the faraway land of Haute Couture, France. Who exactly came up with such a stitch is unknown, as well as when it came into use. However, by the 1920s and '30s, it became very widely used and we can see many period examples.
This type of seam finish is used on delicate, semi-transparent, and transparent fabrics like silk, chiffon, and cotton voile. It is best used for loose-fitting garments.
This subject really makes me want to open and take apart some old garments for you, because they show so many interesting techniques, like this one, that are not done anymore. The baby seam finish is one that's hardly known and used today, even though it can be a very useful skill to know. The exception being if you are one of the lucky people who can afford a USD $3,500 silk chiffon blouse made by Chanel, Fendi, or Dior. But if you don't want to spend that much on a blouse, why not learn the technique and sew it yourself?
Imagine a world without the serger/overlocker or a cover stitch, and you are working with silk chiffon or silk taffeta. Then imagine that you cannot use either of the bias binding seam finishes (single and double), otherwise known in the mass-production world as the Hong Kong finish. This is the world that the baby seam was developed for. Additionally, if you wanted to make a garment that can last you for generations, the baby seam would be one of my top choices, if you had the skill and the best fabric you could find of course.
This is an advanced technique that requires cutting the fabric perfectly. If you've ever worked with silk chiffon you know that this is much easier said than done. The seam requires a 5/8″ to 1/2″ seam allowance to work well and once it is done will lay flat hence will hardly be noticed from the outside. This is why it makes it the perfect seam for sheer fabrics.
How To Make The Baby Seam Finish?
Start with the print sides together. As a rule, seams are ironed towards the back, so place the back of the shirt/skirt or tunic on top and the front at the bottom.
Sew a straight stitch at 3/8″ from the edge.
Iron the seam allowance using the straight stitch as a guide. I have to admit here that I hardly ever do this step. But in sewing especially in tailoring and Haute Couture, the rule is that you iron after every seam made.
Leave the stitching line visible on the folded seam allowance.
Sew another straight stitch at 1/8″ from the folded edge.
Cut off the seam allowance as close as possible to the stitching line.
Fold over the seam allowance one more time.
Stitch 1/8″ from the folded edge.
Iron the seam flat towards the back of the garment.
Many consider this seam finish time-consuming. But, let's not forget that it takes time to clean, oil, and try the perfect setting for the type of fabric that you will be using with the serger.
So why use the baby seam finish and not the french seam? In my humble opinion, I find making the french seam finish on chiffon very hard to do, the fabric moves and wiggles under the foot and it is almost impossible for a beginner seamstress to perform it perfectly. The other reason is that I find the french seam done on chiffon tends to come apart with time.
This is a strong and easier finish that will preserve your garment for years to come. Let me know if you enjoyed this little-known technique, and let me know how you went on your first try.
Until Next Time, Happy Sewing!