The Overlap - seam finishing methods!

Hello everyone,

I hope you've been well! How about a post on some lovely seam finishing methods - Hong Kong seams, flat felled seams and French seams to get you all prepared and excited for sewing The Overlap pattern! Those of you who've already bought it would have seen that I've tried to be as detailed as possible on the different seam finishing methods featured, without overloading the instruction booklet... but I can always elaborate further in here, right?! I thought a few actual photos might be helpful, too. So here goes:

 

HONG KONG SEAMS

You will need bias strips of lightweight fabric cut to 3cm wide and a bit longer than the seam allowance you're working on. I tend to leave 1-2cm extra length on either end. You can trim this later to the shape or angle you need. 

NOTE: You might be wondering if you can use strips of fabric cut on the grain instead of bias and the answer is 'Sure!' but I'd like to point out a couple of reasons why I prefer not to. Fabric cut on the bias is flexible, so you can easily shape it around curves and it also doesn't fray the way fabric cut on the grain does. This means you don't have to ever worry about any long threads hanging down from that raw edge of the bias tape underneath. Leaving that edge raw underneath means less bulky, more delicate seams. This is slightly different from bound seams using ready-made bias binding. That is not to say you can't use ready-made bias binding, you just need to press it open before following the steps below. 

With your fabric pieces right sides together, pin and sew at 1.5cm seam allowance. You can mark this with chalk, as I did here, if it helps you keep to a straight line. 

Sew using a regular straight stitch.

Press (iron) the top layer of this seam allowance towards the garment. The raw edge of the exposed bottom layer is what you're going to finish first, using the Hong Kong method.

Place one length of bias tape on top, right sides together. Align the raw edges and pin.

Sew at 0.5cm seam allowance. 

Press the bias tape away from the garment...

...and then press again all the way under to the wrong side of the main fabric. 

A closer look.

Sew a stitch in the ditch right next to the bias tape.

Trim the extra length of tape now or leave it until you finish both sides.

Treat the other side of the seam allowance in the same way as you did the first. 

You may need to trim a little off the raw edge of the tape underneath if it ends up wider than the seam allowance itself. This will depend on how accurate you were keeping to the seam allowances and also the thickness of the main fabric. 

Press the seam allowance open and take a moment to admire your work : )

 

FLAT FELLED SEAMS

You can use this method for all the construction seams and it would work with any light to medium weight fabric that doesn't fray like crazy. Always test on a scrap of fabric before starting, so you don't end up swearing at it too much! In addition to the steps provided on the pattern instructions, I wanted to show you a little trick that works wonders for flat felled seams (some call it wonder tape!).

Start with your main fabric pieces wrong sides together.

Align and pin the raw edges to be sewn. You may want to mark the 1.5cm seam allowance.

Sew with a regular straight stitch.

Grade this seam allowance by trimming off one layer at half the width. 

NOTE: The side you trim is the side you're going to flat fell towards, so you may need to decide which way you'd like this to be before trimming. I like to do this towards the back on shoulders and side seams, but down towards the sleeve when sewing sleeves to the garment. 

These duckbilled scissors are great for grading seams, but you can use any of your favourite scissors. I was in a bit of a rush here and as you can see I didn't keep to a very straight line, but you can do better! 

Fold and press the wider seam allowance on top of the trimmed one, with the raw edge very close to, but not covering the row of stitching. Try and keep a nice, consistent distance from the folded edge to the stitch.

So, here's the little trick that might help you achieve perfect flat felled seams every time. This is a non branded 6mm wide (1/4") double sided wash-away tape. It is water soluble so there's no stickiness left after washing. You may already have some or you can look for it under a few different names and brands (quilter's tape, wonder tape, wash-away tape, etc.)

Cut a length of tape and stick it right next to the row of stitching on the garment side.

Peel away the paper backing.

Unfold the garment open underneath and finger-press the folded edge of the seam allowance flat on top of the tape.

This will hold it neatly in place while you sew it. 

NOTE: Although the tape is very helpful, this folded edge can simply be pressed and pinned before sewing, as per the pattern instructions.

Sew close to the folded edge.

Only one row of stitching will be visible on the wrong side. If you prefer this look on your right side, then all you need to do is start with the garment pieces right sides together. The rest of the process is exactly the same.

 

FRENCH SEAMS

This method is perfect for all construction seams when working with a variety of lightweight fabrics. It encloses all the raw edges beautifully. Not suitable for medium or heavier weight fabrics. 

Start with your garment pieces wrong sides together. 

 Align the raw edges and pin. Your first seam allowance is 0.5cm - you can mark this if you wish. 

 Sew with a regular straight stitch. Trim any loose threads.

Press this narrow seam allowance open. This may seem pointless given the fact that you will fold the whole thing over again, but it really helps you get a really crisp folded edge in the next step.

 Fold along the previous row of stitching, press and pin.

Sew at 1cm seam allowance...

...then press to one side.

NOTE: If you'd like narrower french seams, you can simply increase the first and reduce the second seam allowance by the same amount. In which case you will need to trim the first seam allowance after stitching so it fits within the next. For example: If you'd like to end up with a 0.5cm wide french seam, your first row of stitching should be at 1cm instead. Trim 0.7cm off this seam allowance, leaving only 0.3cm before pressing it open. The second row of stitching should then be at 0.5cm. 

 

I hope this will help you improve on your sewing skills or learn brand new ones!

Happy sewing,

Dhurata x

 

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