sdsa: seams finishes and underlining

How is cutting out your dress fabric coming along? I thought this would be a great time to discuss seam finishes, as this is something you want to consider before you start sewing. (It also is a great time to do some seam finish samples with your fabric scraps!) I’ve listed a variety of options for finishes, but of course I’ve probably neglected some and would love to hear what your favorite finishes are for a garment of this type!

Hand Overcast This is a good option if you have a very soft, supple fabric where seam finishes could show through the right side of the fabric as a ridge. Simply whipstitch the seam allowances, about 1/4″ deep after stitching the seam. Can be done either with the seams together or singly if pressed open.

Pinked An easy option, especially if your fabric is firmly woven. Pink the seam edges after stitching, and make sure your pinking shears are sharp! This works best on firmly-woven fabrics that don’t ravel too much. You can also stitch closely to the pinked edge with a straight or zig-zag stitch to help reduce raveling further.

Serging Now not everyone has a serger, so don’t worry–I’ve included plenty of other options as well. I, however, do like to use my serger for day dresses like this. It’s quick and holds up relatively well and gives the garment a professionally-made look inside. For this project I’m serging all the edges of the fabric before I start construction. I just drop the blade so the edges aren’t cut. Because I’m also underlining my fabric, I’ll be doing this after I baste the underlining on.

Turned Under and Stitched This is like “hemming” the edges of the seam. Simply press under a scant 1/8″ and straight stitch after stitching the seam. The downside is that it’s a bit tough or impossible on highly curved edges.

Zig-Zag One of my favorites in my pre-serger days. You can just zig-zag in the seam allowance, close to the cut edge and on most fabrics this will be fine. However, an extra-layer of protection against raveling that I learned years ago in a sewing class: next to the zig-zag (inside or outside) do a row of straight stitches. Works great–I have lots of garments in my closet that have this finish! Can be done with seams together or pressed open.

One finish I did leave off the list is bound seams. This finish, while producing a very nice seam, is a bit bulky for the majority of fabrics recommended for this design. That being said, I do know there is a tricot seam binding tape out there that would suit this better if you were set on binding. I would highly recommend doing up a sample first, just to check how it reacts with your fabric and if there is any show-through on the right side!

Now onto underlining. I know many of you have expressed interest in how to underline a garment, and it is frankly one of the easiest techniques out there! Underlining is great to add a bit of body to any fabric and/or make it a bit more opaque when working with sheers. I found some great resources to introduce you to the concept of underlining (if it’s new to you!):

My next post early next week will be about applying the interfacing and starting on the bodice sewing! I think because I already covered how to sew the shoulder yoke, I’ll probably cover everything up to topstitching the midriff piece on. So that gives you this weekend to cut out your fabric, attach your underlining (if applicable) and gear up for the next step–sewing!

February 10, 2011 · 24 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: ,

Liz February 10, 2011 at 16:32

Thanks Casey for this post. I think I’ll try to serge my silk fabric, but only using the 1 needle (three threads) instead of the 2-needle (4 threads) to reduce some of the bulk. I’m curious what everyone else will be doing.

I actually feel a bit silly, now. I was waiting to cut out my garment fabric until you gave the official ‘go-ahead’. heh :)

Casey February 11, 2011 at 07:47

I’m planning on doing a 1-thread serge to the edges too; hopefully that will do the trick! ;)
Oh! Please go ahead and cut out your garment fabric–no need to wait for me to give the “all ahead!”. hehe! I actually need to tackle mine this evening… lol.

♥ Casey

Portia February 10, 2011 at 16:42

Aaargh! I’m having a bit of a “I’m too behind” crisis of confidence! I’ve cut out my muslin but not sewn it yet.
The fabric is flimsier than I’ve ever sewn with before and I think subconsciously, I’m procrastinating beacause I’m worried I’ll fluff it up! It’s ok. I’ll be over it it the morning but thought I’d seize the opportunity to vent! LOL!

Casey February 11, 2011 at 07:49

No worries if you’re a bit behind! :) We’re definitely taking things slow, and of course the pictures and “finished dress party” post will be up indefinitely.

If you’re a bit nervous about your fabric selection, I highly recommend cutting out a few small pieces and sewing test swatches. Just to get an idea of how to handle the fabric. I do this almost every time I use a new-to-me fabric and it helps loads! :)

♥ Casey

Marie February 10, 2011 at 17:35

I, like Portia, have cut out my muslin but not sewn it yet. I know that if the muslin doesn’t fit I’ll panic and won’t know how to fix it, but I guess that’s where your Flickr page comes in handy Casey? I also have a quick (and probably silly) question please: do I need a specific type of thread when sewing with crepe (I’ve only ever sewn with cotton before…yikes)?

Casey February 11, 2011 at 07:53

Yep–that’s what the Flickr group is for! :)

I just looked up crepe in Claire Schaeffer’s “Fabric Sewing Guide” (my go-to, “fiber bible”!), and she recommends either a polyester or cotton-wrapped polyester thread. I usually opt for Gutterman all purpose thread for the majority of my projects.

♥ Casey

Amy February 10, 2011 at 18:12

I’m not actually sewing along with this project, but this is all useful for the things I am working on! I’m glad you approve of zigzag finishing Casey – that’s my favourite (I’m not brave enough to try serging just yet) and I was worried it was a bit second rate.

Casey February 11, 2011 at 07:54

I’m so glad this was helpful to you, Amy! The zig-zag finish was one of my standbys before the serger, and I still use it on certain projects even now. Definitely a good alternative! ;)

♥ Casey

Lauren February 10, 2011 at 20:54

Wow! Casey, I just wanted to say you’re a superhero! I haven’t been doing this sew-a-long, but I truly have been admiring the step-by-step methods you’ve been doing and explaining and photographing! Instead of of the “swing dress sew-a-long” I think it’s should be “the complete guide to sewing your first vintage dress”.
Bravo! Brilliant work!

Casey February 11, 2011 at 07:55

Aw, thank you so much Lauren! :) Your comment and continual encouragement mean so much to me!

♥ Casey

fiona February 10, 2011 at 21:45

this is a very useful write up on seam finishes! i’ll be using the serger.
i don’t intend to use interfacing on the dress, i hope it’ll still turn okay?
btw, i’d tried the in seam pocket, on the right side only and it seems fine. :)

Casey February 11, 2011 at 07:57

Are you planning on interfacing the midriff piece at all? I do recommend you do that because otherwise it has a tendency to wrinkle a bit when wearing, and not stay smooth and flat. :)

I’m planning on just putting a pocket in the right side myself, at this point. I’m sure there is a way I can wrangle things to do the pocket on the left and the placket zipper, but I think I’ll save that for another project and when I’ve given it a bit more thought. hehe!

♥ Casey

Corinne February 10, 2011 at 23:06

great post on seam finishes Casey. Your documentation has really been great on this Sew Along.

Debi February 11, 2011 at 02:55

This is fantastic Casey! I love having all the different seam options in one post and very easy to see! Thank you!

Kelly February 11, 2011 at 12:33

Thanks Casey! I’m a serger fan myself, but it’s nice to have other options!

Imogheena February 12, 2011 at 01:32

Argh!!! just got back from holiday and am so behind. I cut out my muslin, then the very last day before I left I took my machine to the sewing machine Dr for a nice check-up and overhaul. Now I am home, aching to get started on sewing the muslin, but can’t get my baby- I mean sewing machine till Monday.

However in the meantime I could start up a Flick’r account to join in the picture fun!

Jojo February 13, 2011 at 14:18

Thank you, Casey, for showing all this techniques. Although I can’t participate in this sew along, I think I will need this for my prom dress this year.

karen February 14, 2011 at 10:24

This is really useful, Casey. Had never thought about hemming seams.

Nancy February 14, 2011 at 13:21

Great tips! Thanks!

seeks corey February 16, 2011 at 17:59

I’m working on a sleeve issue, but then am preparing to cut out the fashion fabric. I’m finding that I’m nervous about the underlining more than I anticipated! I went to JoAnn’s to find a good cotton batiste, only to be directed to the quilting section with very little help distinguishing my options. I bought some cotton sateen instead, and now worry that it’s too thick to fall well. The dress fabric is a thin cotton lawn, that is pretty thin (when folded, the pattern peeks out behind the overlapping fabric), so I would like to back it up. I think when I get home, I’ll make a toga of the sateen to see how it behaves…

seeks corey February 19, 2011 at 10:26

The toga was wonderful :) , but I also did the swatch match to see how things draped and felt. All seems well; I actually think the underlining I chose may help with the drape with its added weight. Thanks!

Leah Brynin March 22, 2011 at 16:32

I just found your site on Stumble Upon and wanted to thank you for the wonderful detail you give into each aspect of the sewing process. I have three little kids and another on the way so I am always keen to learn new techniques for sewing better clothes for them. You are very talented and much appreciated in this little house in Israel! Thanks again and please keep sharing your expertise :)

Previous post:

Next post: