Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Self Enclosed Seams

Last week I demonstrated the French seam, but while looking through my books for descriptions of how to do them properly, I discovered two other ways to enclose seams.

I've never tried these in projects, but thought a good place to start would be some scrap samples, which I photographed to put up here.

The picture above has a flat-felled seam on the left, and a self-bound seam on the right. They're very similar in construction, but some small details create a very different effect.

Both of these methods work better with fabric that doesn't fray a lot, but the plain cotton worked OK for these samples. This is primarily because there's a lot of folding required to get everything into place, and trying to fold a tiny piece of fabric is impossible if it keeps falling apart!

The flat felled seam
This seam creates a somewhat decorative look on the right side of the fabric, similar to what you would find in jeans.

1. Start by pinning your fabric with wrong sides together. Sew the full seam allowance--either 1/2" or 5/8" depending on your pattern. This is different from the French seam.

2. Press open your seam. This is best done with an iron, but for these samples I just used my nail to give the seam a sharp crease. Press the entire seam allowance over to one side. In garments, you'll want to press towards the back.

3. Trim the bottom layer of your seam allowance to about 1/8". For my samples, I trimmed the right side.

4. Next, press and fold the upper, longer layer of your seam allowance towards the seam, like so:

5. Since the seam allowance was pressed to one side earlier, it should be relatively easy to fold down the already folded side (on the left, in this case). Carefully pin that seam allowance down on the right side of the fabric, covering the trimmed edge.

6. Sew along that folded edge. Got to love that edge stitch foot!

7. Give the seam a final press, and you're done!

Since the flat-felled seam is on the outside of your project, you may want to consider using heavier, prettier decorative thread.

You can also get a flat-felled foot, which helps do some of the folding for you, as you sew.

The self-enclosed seam
This seam is fully enclosed, but on the outside of your project, it just looks like a normal seam.

1. Pin your fabric normally, with right sides together. Sew your normal seam allowance.

2. This time, instead of pressing the seam allowance open, lay everything flat on one side. We're going to fold the seam allowance to the left, this time, so the layer on top should be towards the back (e.g., if this was a skirt, the skirt back would be on top right now).

Trim the top layer of the seam allowance, then fold the bottom layer in half towards the seam:

 3. Press and fold the folded edge over the seam allowance, trying to match up to the original seam line as closely as possible.

This is mostly similar to the flat-felled seam, right?

Pin that folded seam allowance down.

4. Get ready to sew on the edge again, only this time you're going to sew through all the layers of the fabric, catching the fold of the seam allowance. This creates another seam line, so you want to be careful to sew as closely as possible to the original.

In the photo above, you can just barely make out the yellow top thread and the purple bobbin thread.

5. Press your finished self-bound seam!

Here's another shot of the stitching line on the back. If this were a normal project, my threads would likely be the same, so there would be no visual difference unless the new seam was drastically off.

Enclosed seams are great little details to add to your projects; they provide a clean finish and are more elegant than a zig-zag or overlocking. Flat-felled seams aren't the only ones that can be used decoratively, either! Try doing a French seam or a self-bound seam on the outside of your project. With some nice topstitching thread, an outside seam can be a very cute feature.

Happy sewing!

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