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June 2015

Hello <<First Name>>

As you may have seen on my Facebook page, we've finally had a drop or two of rain so everyone is very happy here on the farm. I can almost hear all that greenery growing after our extended dry spell.  It's so invigorating. 

So this month I thought we could talk about seams.  A seam is the line of stitching which joins two pieces of fabric together.  They really are key foundation building block of sewing patterns.  You'll find them everywhere - the sides of shirts, the inside legs of pants, even the insides of bags. Just to keep you on your toes, there are a few different types and many different ways to 'finish' the raw (cut) edges.

As always, please reply with any comments or questions you have.  I love hearing from you (lets me know that I'm not talking to myself ;) ) and would be happy to help guide you along with any sewing challenges you're currently facing.
Until next time, 
Happy Sewing, ♥ Sarah x

Puddles!  As seen from my sewing room window ~

Sewing a Plain Seam

One of the key skills to master when you first sit down at a sewing machine is a seam. The seam allowance is the term given to the amount of fabric you should leave between the cut or raw edge and your line of stitching.  Keeping this consistent as you sew is something to strive for.  For example, garments usually allow a 1.5cm seam allowance in contrast to patchwork which is pieced with a scant 6mm or 1/4".  The more fabric you have in your seam allowance, the stronger your seams will be; too narrow and your fabric may fray and pull apart right back to your stitching line.  Seams sometime may also need to be trimmed back to reduce the bulk so they'll sit flat.

A plain seam is worked with your fabrics Right Sides Together (meaning that your printed sides are touching and you will be looking at the reserve side of the fabrics as you sew).  Your seam allowances will end up on the inside of your project.  You may also need to finish the raw edges; an unnecessary step if your project is lined.

To read all about how to sew an even seam, visit this post 
Hint:  You'll use those little grooves on the metal plate on your sewing machine ;)

Another great resource is this post by  You should maintain a consistent seam allowance throughout your project but you do have the choice to make them bigger or smaller when cutting out your pieces.  Most patterns should tell you if a seam allowance is included and what it is.

Finishing a Seam

As we've discovered above, most seams will have two raw edges of fabric either side of your stitching line.  You'll need to 'finish' them to stop the edges fraying as you wash, wear or use your items.

The first decision you need to make is if your allowances need to be pressed open (so the edges are pressed apart, as shown above) or if they can remain closed (meaning edges are stitched together).  It really depends on if you're folding another seam on top of them (say a waistband on a skirt) and need to keep them open to reduce the bulky layers or not.  I press my seams open where I can.

There are quite a few different ways to finish a seam.  The easiest way is to just use a wide zigzag and sew down either side.  You can see this illustrated in the photo above.  Use a shorter stitch length than you normally sew with (I wind mine back to 1.5-2).  Another way is to trim them with pinking shears or stitch with an overlocker (also known as a serger in the US)  if you have access to one - this is particularly good for knit fabrics.  Ros at Sew Delicious has written a round up of techniques.

Other Types of Seams & Finishes

A fun way to add some personality to your garment is to bind the seams with bias tape.  You can use pre-made tape or make your own with a coordinating or contrasting fabric.  Abby at Things for Boys shows you exactly how to do it and Jodie at The Haby Goddess has a great post on how to join the ends.
A French seam fully encloses all raw edges. The trick with these is that they are sewn with wrong sides together first - see the below diagram.  You then flip them around and sew again with with right sides together.  Tilly at Tilly and the Buttons has more.  Open tutorial...
If your project is unlined and you still want a nice neat finish to your seams, a felled seam might be just the thing for you.  All raw edges are enclosed; they are commonly seen on the inside leg of jeans.
Coletterie is the best how-to.
It's much easier to visualise how to sew a French Seam with a picture.  This image is from a tutorial that uses French seams on a handbag.  I've used French seams to make a fitted sheet from a flat sheet.
About Sarah

I live in rural Western Australia.  I love living in the country; there are so many things that I enjoy about the rhythm of life out here. Being a long way from a fabric shop isn’t one of them (thank goodness for online, I love fabric parcels in the mail!). When I finally pull myself out from behind my sewing machine, you’ll find me tending a sadly 
neglected garden with a G&T in hand while the kids bounce on the trampoline. I may also be found occasionally in the sheep yards helping my farmer husband.

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