Types of Seam Finishes
Do you know what finishes you can apply to a seam allowance and when to use them?
Although seam finishes are usually hidden away inside the garment, a poor choice in finish could affect your design and the cost of the garment.
The main functions of a seam finish are to avoid fraying, to stabilize and maintain the shape,
and to give more resistance to the garment or textile product.
Some finishes are better suited than others, depending on the fabric, the type of seam, the style of the garment, and the part of the garment where it’s applied (e.g. cuffs, neckline, shoulders, etc).
This guide, besides being a source of inspiration, will help you to select the appropriate seam finish for your designs.
First of all, it’s important to clarify that when we talk about «seams», we are including the 3 types of seams discussed in previous articles: construction, finishes, and details (see Types of Seams).
Seam finishes are divided into 5 groups, depending on the technique used:
1. Raw Finish Edge
Seams with seam allowance with no sewing technique on the edge (raw edge).
If you use this option, it is a good idea that the seam has a topstitch. This way, you can make sure that the fabric does not fray or ravel, since the topstitch holds the seam allowance and reinforces the seam.
An advantage of using this option is that it improves the cost of production, since the manufacturing time is reduced.
A disadvantage, however, is that if the garment is not lined, it could be seen as low quality.
Therefore, this option is not recommended for fabrics that fray easily, unless the fraying is the desired effect.
- Fabrics that do not fray easily
- Lined garments
- Seams with topstitched
- Low priced products
- Frayed edges
- Bags and shoes
2. Edge Polished with Stitch
It includes all those seams where the seam allowance is finished with a stitch that covers the edge.
The most popular technique within this group is the Serged Edge. This technique is easy, fast and economical, although it is not considered as a «clean» finish. Therefore, if the wrong side of the seam is visible (e.g. the back neckline of a t-shirt), it’ll make the garment seem low quality.
Other stitches included in this group are:
- Cover Stitch: mostly applied on the hem of garments made of knit fabrics
- Flatlock Stitch: clean on both sides with and embroidery look. It’s widely used on active-wear due to its soft touch and its resistance.
- Zigzag Stitch: which is a home-made way of serging
- Fabrics that fray easily
- Stretch fabrics
- Ready-to-wear garments
- Work clothes
3. Self-Enclosed Edge
These are seams where the edge is polished by folding it inwards.
This technique is very popular due to its clean appearance, versatility and cost-effectiveness.
There is a wide variety of seams we can apply this finish. The best known are the French Seam, the Welt Seam, and the Double Fold Hem.
- Unlined garments and accessories
- Shoulder seam
- Cuff vent
- Seams with elastic or strings
4. Edge Polished with a Trim
This type of edge finishing is made when the fabric edge is wrapped or covered with a ribbon or binding.
Also known as Hong Kong Finishing, this technique is considered a high quality seam. Some variants of this group require more than 3 machine passes, which increases the cost of the garment significantly.
For construction seams, the seam allowances can be either open, or placed together to one side. The second option gives more resistance and strength to the seam.
- High quality garments
- Unlined garments
- Medium to heavy weight fabrics
- Fabrics that fray easily,
- Curved or bias cut seams
5. Edge Polished with a Piece of Fabric
The technique consists of covering the edge of the fabric with another piece of fabric: it could be a facing, a lining, or another layer of fabric.
In contrast to the technique above (Edges Polished with a Trim), the piece of fabric covering the seam allowance is also a piece of the pattern.
This edge finishing gives more structure to the garment and reinforces the seam, helping it maintain its shape.
Its clean looking appearance and low cost makes this finish ideal for all types of garments.
- Necklines, collars and lapels
- Yokes and shoulders
- Armholes of sleeveless garments
- Pocket opening
- Bags and shoes
As you can see, each of these 5 sewing techniques to finish a seam has a wide range of alternatives depending on the structure of the seam.
If you would like to know more about it, please let us know on the comments below, or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
When I buy clothing, I first look them at the inside, and then the outside. My friends tell me I look like a grandma, but that
is the way to know if the garment was made with love and care, or not. The finishes speak, it doesn’t matter if they are visible or not.o.
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