How To: Sew French Seams

Posted by Freya Gilbert
on August 08, 2023

French seams are a neat and tidy way to finish seams on lightweight and delicate fabrics.

They enclose the raw edges within the seam, preventing fraying and providing a clean finish on both sides. They are used to add strength to projects, including totebags, or making a really clean, beautiful finish on dressmaking projects.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to sew French seams:

Materials You'll Need:
1. Fabric pieces to be joined
2. Sewing machine or needle and thread
3. Pins or clips
4. Iron and ironing board
5. Fabric scissors or rotary cutter
6. Measuring tape or ruler


Step 1: Preparation
1. Place the fabric pieces with their wrong sides together. This means that the right (or printed) sides will be facing out.
2. Make sure the edges you want to join are aligned neatly.

Close up of sewing a french seam

Step 2: Stitch the First Seam
1. Using a 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) seam allowance, stitch along the edge you're joining. This seam should be close to the raw edge but not right on it.
2. Trim the seam allowance down to about 1/8 inch (0.3 cm) using fabric scissors or a rotary cutter. Be careful not to cut the stitches.

Step 3: Press the First Seam
1. Open up the fabric and press the seam allowance to one side. Use an iron set to low heat for delicate fabrics.
2. Make sure the stitched seam is right along the edge of the fabric.

close up of trimming the fabric to make a french seam

Step 4: Stitch the Second Seam
1. Fold the fabric along the seam line, enclosing the raw edges within the fold. The right sides of the fabric will now be facing each other.
2. Pin or clip the folded fabric in place to keep it secure.
3. Stitch along the folded edge using a 3/8 inch (1 cm) seam allowance. This will encase the trimmed edges from the first seam.
4. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam to secure the stitches.

Step 5: Press the Final Seam
1. Open up the fabric again and press the second seam flat, allowing the enclosed raw edges to lie within the seam.
2. Use an iron set to low heat and be careful not to iron directly over the pins or clips.

close up of the final steps of sewing a french seam

That's it! You've successfully sewn a French seam, providing a clean and polished finish to your project. Remember that practice makes perfect, so don't hesitate to try this technique on scrap fabric before working on your actual project.

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