Different Types of Seams

 Today I am welcoming Pam, who writes the fabulous blog Threading My Way to share all her knowledge about different types of seams. Pam has been sewing for a long time and she has amazing skills. There is not much this lady cannot sew. Her blog is one of my all time favourites and you should definitely check out her tutorials as well as her awesome refashioning projects. Thanks so much Pam for putting together this great guide all about seams!
I was thrilled when Ros asked me to contribute to Back to Sewing Basics. I’ve been reading Sew Delicious for almost a year now, and it’s one of my must read blogs. 

Today I’ll be showing you different types of seams and how to sew them.

Plain Seams
This is the most commonly used seam and the easiest to sew.

Right side
  • With right sides of fabric facing, sew a line of stitching to secure.
  • Sew 1/4″ to 5/8″ from the edge of the fabric.
There are several ways to finish plain seams. How you finish a plain seam, is largely a matter of choice.

Only use pinking shears to neaten seams if the fabric doesn’t fray easily.
Overlocking the edges together is usually done on a narrower seam.
Overlocking (serging) each side of the seam reduces bulk. This is usually done on a wider seam.
Use a zig zag stitch if you don’t have an overlocker (serger).
Same as with overlocking, this is usually done on a narrow seam.
Binding creates a very neat finish. I used binding on my Retro Flower Power Pillow.
Many moons ago, when we were sewing at school, our sewing machines didn’t have a zig zag stitch, so neatening the edges by turning a hem was what we did. This is called a plain seam with a clean edge finish. It is still a good finish for very thin fabrics.
If the fabric will fray easily, a double hem can be turned.
We were taught to always use 5/8″ for seams and patterns always used 5/8″ seams. Now-a-days the rules have relaxed and seams can be found in any width from 1/4″ to 5/8″.
When I looked in my wardrobe, the majority of my blouses were sewn with a narrow plain seam, finished by overlocking both edges of the seam together, as in the picture above with green fabric.

Welt Seams
Welt seams are stronger than plain seams and are often found in garments with thicker fabrics. Some of my jeans have welt seams. There are two methods for making welt seams, although I feel the first, where the fabric is cut, is perhaps the traditional method. I used a welt seam (method 2) when making my pintucked skirt.

Right side of the jeans
Inside of the jeans

Method 1:

  • With right sides of fabric facing, sew a line of stitching 5/8″ from the edge of the fabric.
  • Cut roughly half of the seam allowance off, on one side of the seam only
  • Zig zag or overlock the uncut edge.
  • Press the seam to one side, so the uncut edge covers the cut edge.
  • Sew 1/4″ from the seam stitching.
Right side
Method 2:
  • With right sides of fabric facing, sew a line of stitching 3/8″ to 5/8″ from the edge of the fabric.
  • Press the seam to one side.
  • Sew 1/4″ from the seam stitching.
Right side

French Seams
French seams make the inside of garments as neat as the right side. They are sometimes used on clothing for babies and on thin fabric. I use them on bags that are not lined, such as my Treasure Bags and sometimes I use them on clothing, such as dresses or skirts. I could only find one article of clothing in my wardrobe that had french seams; a blouse made from a thin cotton fabric.

Right side
  • With wrong sides together, sew 1/8″ from the edge of the fabric.
  • Trim any loose threads.
  • Turn the material so that the right sides are together.
  • Press.
  • Sew 1/4″ from the edge.

Flat Felled Seams
Flat felled seams are the strongest seams and won’t fray as raw edges are hidden. Although often sewn on thick fabrics, they can be sewn on thinner fabrics as they produce a very neat finish. A lot of my jeans have flat felled seams, as does a pair of zumba pants. The shirt that I refashioned into a skirt, even though made from thin cotton fabric, originally had flat felled seams.

Right side
  • With right sides of fabric facing, sew a line of stitching 5/8″ from the edge of the fabric.
  • Cut roughly half of the seam allowance off, on one side of the seam only
  • Fold the uncut edge over the cut edge and press
  • Press the seam towards the garment, with the cut edge down, so the raw edge is hidden.
  • Sew as close to the edge as possible.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which types of seam to sew and when. Experiment and use the ones that will give the finish you are after for the article you are sewing.

Thanks for inviting me to contribute to Back to Sewing Basics, Ros. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

… Pam

Thanks so much Pam for this fabulous resource! I have sewn most of these seams, but I must admit, since I got my overlocker, serged seams are definitely the easiest way to go. I also love the neat and tidy finish of french seams. Make sure you go over and check out Pam’s great blog Threading My Way, and you can also find her on Facebook.

For more sewing tips and tricks, check out the rest of my Back to {Sewing} Basics series! 

23 thoughts on “Different Types of Seams

  1. I've been following Pam's blog for ages, so it's great to see her guest posting. Great topic, well covered. I never finish my seams, ever. How lazy??

  2. Pam thank you so much for putting together this tutorial!!, Everything is very well explained and the photos have been of a great help to understand the different types of seams. Thanks!!!!

  3. Thank you, great post. I do have a “FFS =flat felled seam” question though. Is it possible to sew a sleeve that has only one seam ( like a sweatshirt ) using a FFS only or does a FFS need another seam opposite it on a sleeve or pant leg to close it up into a cylinder shape ? I’m under the impression it does because it appears it needs to be sewn with the 2 joined pieces open and flat ( unless using an “off the arm, $3k machine”) What would a good choice as far as strength be for the other seam ? Thank you in advance.

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