Finish Seams without a Serger: Sew a Neater Zig-Zag Finish

Finishing seams is a basic skill YOU can use to make your sewing professional without fancy equipment, or even a serger. This month I’m writing simple tutorials showing all my favorite ways to finish a seam without a serger.

So far in this series we’ve practiced 1) a French seam, 2) a false French seam, and 3) a clean finished seam.

Zig-Zag Finish

Today I’m sharing my take of one of the most common seam finishes: a simple zig-zag stitch.  I’ve noticed in my sewing that the zig-zag stitch can get sloppy. I’m sharing the steps I take to make sure my zig-zag stich stays neat. Although this finish is not as polished as the others I’ve shared, it comes in handy on curved seams such as an armhole or crotch seam.

The Tutorial

As with all new sewing techniques, I recommend practicing on scrap fabric before applying it to your garment. The extra step may take up some time, but it is worth it if it prevents mistakes later on (trust me, I know!).

Step one:

Sew a seam with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Finish Seams without a Serger: How to Sew a Neater Zig-Zag Finish stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Line up the left edge of your presser foot with the seam and sew your zig-zag stitch.

Finish Seams without a Serger: How to Sew a Neater Zig-Zag Finish stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step three:

Trim the edge of the seam allowance as close as you can to the zig-zag stitch. Be careful not to cut into your stitches!

Finish Seams without a Serger: How to Sew a Neater Zig-Zag Finish stitchesandsunflowers.com

This one is so simple, it only takes three steps! The most important step is to line up the presser foot with SOMETHING when you sew the zig-zag stitches, so that seam isn’t swerving all over the place. Trimming the seam really helps it to look neater and leaves less fabric to fray.

How to Sew a Neater Zig-Zag Finish (a part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger" series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

+ A nice twist to this finishing technique is to press the seam open first and zig-zag the seam allowances separately so the seam can lay flat when it is finished.

Love, Jess

 

 

 

 

 

Finish Seams without a Serger: Clean Finish

Welcome to my third post in the “Finish Seams without a Serger” series. In this series I’m teaching you how to make your sewing more professional even if you don’t own a Serger. So far I’ve already covered how to sew a French seam and a false French seam. Today, I’m showing you how to sew a clean finish.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Clean Finish

I first learned to use a clean finish at the edge of a facing, but it can be used in seam allowances as well. This finishing technique is beneficial because it allows you to press the seam open, creating less bulk than sewing the seam allowance all together. It also happens to be my sewing professor’s favorite type of finish. She worked in the garment industry for thirty years before teaching university classes. I soaked everything she told me like a sponge, and the tips I didn’t follow came back to bite me later.

It is made by turning the edges of the seam allowance under, pressing them, and sewing them. It is similar to creating half a hem. Here’s how:

The Tutorial

As with all of these, if this technique is new to you I recommend practicing with two scrap rectangles first, as shown here.

Step one:

Sew a normal seam with a seam allowance of 5/8″.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Press the seam open.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step three:

Press the edges underneath so the raw edge is against the fabric of the garment.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com  How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step four:

Sew along the edge to hold the fold in place.

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

This technique can also be difficult on very curved seams, but on straight seams it is so simple! If you are a beginner and find it’s hard for you to sew on such a little edge, just take your time and practice lots!

How to Sew a Clean Finish: the third post in a series that teaches you how to sew professionally without a serger. stitchesandsunflowers.com

 

Love, Jess

 

 

 

 

 

Finish Seams without a Serger: False French Seam

Hello all! Welcome to my second post in the series that teaches you how to finish seams without a serger. This series is for those of us who want to learn to sew professionally but don’t have a Serger. It is possible! View the first post in the series about French seams here.

The False French Seam

This technique is great when you can’t, for any reason, start your seam with the right sides facing out as you do in a French seam. For example, when I sewed my lace blouse I used this technique to finish the bottom of my zipper seam. I also like to use it if I forget to start the seam like a French seam, but I don’t have time (or don’t want) to un-pick the seam and start again.

It’s also said to be easier than French seams. For me, they are about the same.

The Tutorial:

If you’re sewing this technique for the first time, or just want extra practice, use two small rectangles to test it out.

Step one:

Sew a normal seam. Place your fabric right sides together and sew with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step two:

Press the seam open.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step three:

Fold and press the seam allowances in half towards the center seam.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

Step four:

Bring the seam allowances back together and topstitch so that both raw edges are encased in the seam allowance.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

And…that’s how you sew a false French seam! It is a super simple way to add some class to your sewing. As with the French seam, I only use this on straight seams. Pressing curved edges in this way could get really tricky.

How to Sew a False French Seam (A part of the "Finish Seams without a Serger." series) stitchesandsunflowers.com

 

Check back in next Tuesday for the next post in the series! Also, you can refer to Nap-Time Creation’s Create-Link-Inspire post for lots of other lovely tutorials.

Love, Jess

 

 

 

Finish Seams without a Serger: How to Sew a French Seam

Hello friends! This is the first post in a series that teaches you how to finish your seams without a serger. I know most beginners and some intermediate sewers don’t own a serger. In fact, I’ve never owned a serger (lately I’ve been using my M-I-L’s), so I’ve had to come up with ways to make my sewing look professional without a serger. This means I need to finish the seams in some way so they don’t look raggedy and bleh.

In this series I’ll share with you my favorite ways I’ve learned to finish a seam. Many of them are relatively simple, they just take a little planning and ironing. Today I’m going to jump right in and teach you the first (and my favorite) one: French seams.

French Seams

The way that French seams are sewn encases the raw edge of the fabric inside the seam, making a beautifully finished little edge on the inside. This makes them perfect for sheer fabrics where you can see the seam through the outside of the shirt.

I recommend only using them on straight seams, or almost straight seams. I’m pretty sure even the best seamstress couldn’t figure out how to sew a French seam around a sleeve…or could they? I’m not sure, but I stick to the straight seams.

The Tutorial

In order to practice this you can use to scraps of fabric with straight edges. This is a really good idea if you’ve never used this method before. It will give you a chance to make mistakes without messing up your sewing project.

Step One:

Place your edges right sides out and sew your seam with 1/4″ seam allowance.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

 

Step Two:

Trim the seam allowance down to 1/8″ and fold the fabric over it, press.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

Step Three:

Using the folded seam as your edge, sew/topstitch another seam with 3/8″ seam allowance, encasing the raw edge. Your fabric will be right sides together now.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

Step Four:

Press your seam to one side and admire how beautiful and professional it looks.

Finishing Seams without a Serger_ How to Sew a French Seam

It doesn’t have to be really hard to make your sewing look more professional. It just comes down to paying attention to detail and taking the time to polish your work. Look forward to the rest of the series! I’ll be posting another seam-finishing guide every Tuesday.

Love, Jess

Check out the rest of the posts at Create Link Inspire here.

 

The Paper Bag Trick (a Beginner’s Sewing Tip)

I realize that lots of the sewing tutorials I post might seem scary or too intense for a lot of beginners out there. I want this blog to make sewing accessible to everyone, so I’m going to start a series of posts specifically for the beginners out there. We’ll start with a trick that streamlines the sewing process, but that I forget to utilize too often! I’ll call it the paper bag trick.

 

Why use the paper bag trick?

The paper bag trick helps keep your workspace clean(er). It also encourages you to cut off strings AS you sew, instead of waiting until the end. This is important, because when you wait until then end you miss more threads, making your finished project less professional. You can use the little “blade” on the back of the presser foot on your machine to trim threads, or keep little scissors close. I sometimes prefer using scissors because I can be more precise, but it’s much more time effective to use the machine, and I know professionals who swear by it.

The Paper Bag Trick: A Beginner's Sewing Tip to Streamline your Sewing Process | stitchesandsunflowers.com

It’s as simple as this:

Take a paper bag and fold down the top a few times to make a cuff. This helps to hold the bag open

Tape one edge of the bag on the edge of the table next to your sewing machine.

Cut off strings as you sew and drop them in the bag. This keeps your sewing area clean. If you leave strings on the table around your machine, they tend to stick all over whatever you are sewing as you work.

When you clean up your workspace, dump the strings out of your bag and save the bag for the next project.

That is really all there is to it!

I was uncertain if I should share such a simple tip, but I was quite impressed when I learned it as a beginner. I also thought writing about it would maybe help me actually put it into practice (finally). 🙂 If you don’t want to buy paper bags to try this, check out my diy un-paper bag tutorial to make your own (hint: it’s beginner friendly!).

As a beginner, what sewing tips would help you improve your sewing? Is there something you’ve been dying to try, but just aren’t sure how? Let me know in the comments.

Love, Jess

 

Tips for sewing with Denim

I recently finished a fun sewing project I made for a friend using recycled jeans. Let me just say, sewing with denim can be super tough! Especially when you are using recycled denim and you may be sewing through lots of layers. During this project I was able to test out denim-sewing tips I learned in my college sewing classes, and they really worked! I was amazed at how using the right techniques can take a lot of the stress out of sewing. 🙂

Here are four tips make sewing with denim a little easier:

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

One: Use the correct needle and thread.

I’ve known this for a while, but since I don’t like to buy a lot of extra materials and supplies I tend to not follow through. This time, however, I DID and it made ALL the difference. When sewing with denim you should be using the largest needle (the numbers will say 100/16), or use the special jean needle. This made it easier to sew through the thick parts, and they’re less likely to break. I recommend you buy multiple (especially if you’re a beginner), because I still broke quite a few needles. I also used jean thread (found here, but I think it can be found cheaper at local department stores) which made such a difference! The thread didn’t bunch up underneath the fabric at all, and it really solved a lot of the issues I usually have while sewing denim.

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Two: Use a hammer.

What?! That’s right, pounding down the layered spots in a denim sewing project is actually a common and accepted technique that makes them easier to sew. You can buy cute, tiny hammers made specifically for sewing. Or, you can use whatever is on hand (just make sure that if you use a big hammer you work on a sturdy surface). For my last project I used a meat tenderizer (because it was really close and handy), but a hammer would probably work better, now that I think about it.

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Three: Use a stitch starter.

Sewing machines are made to sew through surprisingly thick layers of fabric. However, they have a really hard time climbing onto a thick part in the fabric. You can even that plain by sticking something underneath the presser foot behind the needle. They sell stitch starters for this purpose. I have used cardboard, foam core, or even a pad of sticky notes. You could also use folded up fabric like in this post.

Four tips for Sewing with Denim | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Four: Sew things the “right way.”

I don’t ALWAYS tell you that you have to sew something using the traditional method. Sometimes recycling fabrics or upcycling old clothes require a little creativity and freedom, which is okay. However, for a more professional look it’s important to follow professional techniques.

For example, if you are taking in jeans, don’t just pinch at the side and sew over both waistbands. This will look bad, but it will also be sooo frustrating to get your machine to sew through all those layers (after all, it’s not designed to sew that way). Instead, unpick the waistband from the top of the pants. Take in the side seam first, then take in the waistband, then sew them together again copying the way it was done before. Cotton and curls has a great tutorial showing how to do this.

If it’s hard to tell what the professional way to sew something is, I like to look at how it was put together in the first place. Then I try to copy that as well as I can.

Sewing with denim will be easier with these tips. It is still a challenge, but the results are worth it.

Love, Jess