Well, it's been that time of year when many of us don't have much time for sewing, me included! Actually, my wardrobe is exploding right now. I was so enthusiastic about my sewing last year that I made so many clothes that I feel almost embarrassed! In a country where flip-flops, clean shorts, and a t-shirt is the only dress code for almost every occasion, I don't really have the excuse to sew a big wardrobe full of clothes.
So I'm using this time to brush up on my sewing skills and learn some new ones, trying out lots of different things on all my fabric scraps.
Towards the end of last year, I concentrated a lot on learning good fitting skills. Now I want to learn more about how to get a really nice finish on the inside of my work so that the inside looks (almost) as good as the outside. One area to concentrate on is seam finishes.
I admit I can be a very lazy sewer and at least when I first started out I was always so keen to finish everything that I didn't worry too much about how and when (or if!) I finished my seams. That's going to change this year so I'm going to be learning some new seam finishes and I'll share them as I master them.
Firstly, why ‘finish' seams in the first place and what does that mean? Well, if you look inside your store-bought clothing you are highly unlikely to just see the raw edges of the fabric. Some fabrics will fray if left unchecked, and some fray like crazy! That means that they shed the edges of the fabric, and guess what – if they keep on shedding those threads, eventually the seam allowances will wear away to nothing and your seams will fall apart.
On this test piece, it was already starting to fray before I had even had a chance to properly press the seam open. So we ‘finish' the seam by treating that raw edge in some way to stop the fabric from fraying. There are lots of different ways to finish the seam. Some are dependent on the type of fabric or garment being made, but many are interchangeable and you may just use your favorites.
Today, the very basics – finishing the raw edges with a zig-zag stitch seam finish. This should be easy right? Except I always kept getting things really bunched up. I have fiddled with my settings and eventually settled on:
Set a regular zig-zag stitch – stitch number 4 on my machine.
Set the stitch width quite wide – 5.0 and the stitch length quite small – 1.4.
As I sewed along the raw edge, the right-hand swing of the needle JUST fell outside the edge of the fabric, causing it to be brought in just a little bit. And here is the finished result.
You may need to vary the stitch settings on your own machine to get the best results. Practice on some scraps.
I don't think this seam finish would win any prizes. It's adequate on fabrics that don't fray too badly, is reasonably flat and thin, is very quick and easy to do, and ideal for beginners. But it doesn't look especially attractive. Obviously, I have done mine in a contrasting thread for effect, but still – it's not that pretty.
There is a variation you can use to get a neater finish. If your machine comes with an overlocking foot, this can be used to great effect with the zig-zag seam finish. Using exactly the same settings, this foot is lined up against the edge of the fabric as you sew keeping you on the straight and narrow and a little part of the foot just helps those zig-zag stitches sit neater. With this foot you could even increase the stitch length (see the seam on the left) and still have it lie nice and flat.
See – much flatter. I'll also be looking at using the overlocking foot in a future seam finish too. It's a really useful piece of kit.
Next, I think I'll try the Flat Felled Seam. Not an obvious seam finish for many garments, but worth learning.