Maw & Mo Sew Along: Finishing the Seams

In our continuing exploration of all the careful techniques we use when sewing a quality garment, we will examine an option for finishing our seams to prevent the fabric from unraveling through repeated wearings and washings.

See the preceding posts in part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

At this point, Madelyn and I had assembled our bodices.  The bodice for this dress was very simple — because this dress has a side zipper closure, you will want to make sure that you follow the pattern instructions and stitch the left side only to the designated dot.  This is really important!  Otherwise, later you will have to rip out stitches so that you have a space for your zipper.

pinned fabric for Simplicity 2305

Pin your fabric so that it is even, right sides together.

sewing on a 5/8 inch seam allowance

When you depress your needle, you can double check that you’ve lined up your fabric to the 5/8″ seam line.

stitching seams for Simplicity 2305

Take your time around any curves and maintain the 5/8″ seam allowance, removing pins as you come to them.

seams for Simplicity 2305

Back stitch at both ends and at the stay stitching line, it will look like this.


bodice for Simplicity 2305

Your assembled bodice will look like this at the neckline.

After assembling the bodice, it’s really important to press open your seams.  This is a step that should never be skipped!  The difference between sloppy looking clothes that give off the bad type of “Eww… Homemade” comment and the clothes that make people exclaim “You made that??” is in the finishing.  Professional looking garments are pressed at every turn!   Every seam is pressed after stitching in addition to the final garment when it’s complete.

unpressed side seam for Simplicity 2305

This is the side seam, freshly sewn, not yet pressed open.

pressing open the side seam for Simplicity 2305

Side seam freshly pressed open.

NOW we can tackle finishing these seams!  You will want to finish every raw seam from this point forward.  This will be the only post that we look at finishing seams, so don’t forget to do it everywhere else as you finish subsequent steps of the project.

If you examine store bought clothes, you will notice that they are often finished with a serger.  That is a very different type of sewing machine that does an overlock stitch and trims excess fabric all at the same time.  Pretty cool!  You can easily care for your garment seams by doing any number of seam finishing techniques, all without using a serger.  I don’t own a serger and while sometimes I think maybe I’ll get one in the future, for now I find that my regular machine provides everything I need (including an overlock stitch option).  Some people will edge finish their seam allowances (we will look at edge finishing in detail next week), some people like to use bias tape to make the inside look especially polished.  These are just a couple of ways.  Another way is to use a simple zigzag stitch and when I sewed this dress, I was still sewing with my old machine.  I opted to use the double zigzag option because I liked the way it looked more than the single zigzag.  The nice thing is that you don’t have to backstitch any seam finishes!  Hooray!  They all end up tucked away and secured between the final seams.

selecting a double zigzag stitch


double zig zag finished seams

Half the seam is finished, the other half is not finished.

fully finished seams for Simplicity 2305

Here is what the finished seam looks like.

Finishing the seam like this helps prevent any fraying of the fabric.  It’s true, some fabric doesn’t have this problem (like fleece) and in those cases you can skip this part of the construction process.  But most woven fabrics will need to have the seams finished.  In future garments, I’ll demonstrate other seam finishes so that you can all see what those look like.  But the zigzag stitch is probably one of the most common methods and it’s also one of the fastest methods.


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