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Friday, February 3, 2017

Sewing a Mock Flat-Fell Seam

Heavier weight fabrics that tend to fray a bit can often benefit from a flat-fell seam, just like you'd see on the sides of your jeans. But what if you don't want the seam on the outside of your garment? Well, you can achieve the same basic look with the seam on the inside. This is called a mock flat-fell seam, though some call it the mock jean seam.

The process for putting this seam together is very much like the flat-fell seam, except you work on the inside of your garment. This means you start with a standard seam, sewn right sides together. So if you decide after you've already started sewing that you want a flat-fell seam, and you don't feel like taking everything apart, you can settle for a mock flat-fell seam.

To create this flat and secure seam, press both raw edges to one side. I like to press them toward the back of the garment, but it doesn't really matter. Just make sure you press all your seams in the same direction. It makes everything look nicer in the end.

You should now have the raw edges of your seam allowance together, one on top of the other. Trim the bottom seam allowance to ⅛". Careful. Don't cut the top one, because you'll need that seam allowance to encase the other. Fold the uncut seam allowance around the other and press so that the uncut seam allowance is folded in half and fully cases the edge that you cut. Press firmly so that it doesn't move around on you.

Now to stitch it in place. Topstitch as close to the folded edge as you can, going slow and steady so you don't miss. Also topstitch on top of the original seamline. This will give you a nice finished seam inside and two perpendicular lines of stitching on the outside. All nice and finished with no raw edges visible inside or out.

This is a good choice for sporty garments or garments you want to  make reversible. It takes a little work and some precision stitching, but it's excellent practice and is well worth the effort.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sewing a Flat-Fell Seam

If you've ever seen a pair of jeans, you know exactly what a flat-fell seam is. It's the seam that lies flat on your jeans, totally encased within itself. This seam is strong and sturdy, typically used on sports clothing or reversible garments. Some people call this the jean seam simply because it's used on almost every pair of jeans you'll ever buy. It's a good looking, professional seam. Though it looks complicated, it's actually as easy as any other enclosed seam. If you've ever sewn a bias bound seam, you'll be able to full off the flat-fell seam.

Unlike some of the other seam finishes, you actually have to know you're going to use this seam finish before you ever start your garment. This is because the raw edges of the seam have to appear on the outside of the clothing. To accomplish this, simply sew the item with wrong sides together instead of right sides together, but only on the seams where you want a flat-fell effect. If you're making jeans, you'd probably only do this on the side seams. The inseams and crotch seams are not usually created using this method. Check your favorite pair of jeans and you'll see exactly where the flat-fell is typically used. Of course, since you're making your own garment, you can use the flat-fell seam wherever you like.

Once you have your chosen seams on the outside of your garment, press both raw edges to one side. Usually you would press both edges toward the back of your garment, but the choice is yours. Just be consistent. After pressing, trim the lower seam allowance to ⅛". Fold the upper seam allowance around and under the lower seam allowance. You'll basically be folding the upper seam allowance in half and tucking the lower allowance inside it. Press again, then topstitch through all layers close to the fold, essentially sealing the seam allowances inside themselves. Topstitch once again close to the seamline just to make it all look pretty and that's your flat-fell seam.

This seam is excellent when you have to hide your seams completely, especially for those garments you want to lie flat against your skin. With this type of seam, after all, there are no seam allowances inside the garment to brush against you.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sewing a Hong Kong Seam

Seams may appear straightforward, but they can be tricky things. Not in the sewing of them, because that's quite easy, but in deciding exactly what type of seam might be most appropriate. You might need a common seam, such as a clean finish seam, or an enclosed seam like one bound in bias tape. Perhaps an overlock or a French seam would suit you better. But how do you choose? Well, that depends on the type of fabric and the item you're sewing, of course.

If you're using a heavyweight fabric, and if the item in question is an unlined garment, you might decide upon a Hong Kong seam. This finish totally encases the seams, giving your garment a pretty, almost couture, finish on the inside. It should be noted that this particular seam finish works only on straight or moderately straight seams. Curved seams have to be notched to lie properly, and the notching means that a Hong Kong finish is not really possible.

But if your seams are mostly straight, and your seam is pressed open nicely, you can cut a continuous length of bias tape. The tape should be a full inch wide, maybe even a little wider, and it should be pressed open. This may seem a little wide for a seam, but the extra width gives you much needed excess when you start working on the wrong side of the seam. You can always trim it down later. You don't have to use actual bias tape. You can cut your own strips of fabric to use if you want something coordinated to the fabric you're using. Maybe even use remnants of the main fabric, or a pretty silk to make your seams even prettier. It's up to you. If you're cutting your own strips, 1½" is probably the best width to work with. Remember, you will be able to trim it later.

With the seam pressed open, line up the edge of the bias tape with the raw edges of the seam, right sides together. Stitch ¼" from the raw edge, but only on one side. Now open up this new seam, revealing the right sides of both the fabric and the bias tape. Press open, then fold the bias tape under the raw edge and press again. The seam should now be enclosed in the bias tape. To secure, stitch in place from the top side, making sure your needle hits precisely where the fabric hits the bias tape. This is called the 'ditch', and stitching here should make your stitches all by disappear. Nice and neat. Trim off the excess and repeat for the other side of the seam. This is your Hong Kong seam.

Though this seam is a little more work than the less fussy bias tape bound seam, it is neater and exactly the type of seam finish you might need if you're creating an unlined garment where the seams will occasionally be seen. If you want to jazz it up even more, consider using silk or another fine fabric as your bias tape. Though this isn't necessary, a finer fabric enhances the finish and makes your garment appear designer. Which it is. Designed by you, anyway.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sewing a Self-Bound Seam

There are so many seam finishes out there it can be difficult to decide on one. The decision is typically made based on the type of fabric and the exact look you're going for. If you're hoping to hide all your raw edges by enclosing them, and your fabric is sturdy and does not fray easily, or at all, you might consider the self-bound seam.

Start by ironing your seam in the expensive position. This will help keep you from accidentally clipping both sides of the seam allowance. When it's nice and flat, trim one side to about 1/8". No more than that, but not really less than that either. You'll need the room.

Once that's done, fold under the opposite seam allowance and press carefully. Fold it under again and press again. Then take the trimmed seam allowance and slip it inside the folded seam allowance. Take your time and make sure everything lays flat along the entire length of the seam.

When you're prepared, stitch the seam closed. Stay as close to the folded edge as possible while still catching all layers of the seam allowance. Once you're done, press flat and go.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Costumes: Cleopatra

I love making Halloween costumes, especially when they're for children. This item was one of my favorites. Because I was working with the child in question, we decided to throw out historical accuracy and focus instead on what she wanted in her own costume. Please note: in the picture the little girl is wearing a thick sweater under the dress. Hey, it's really cold where we live and everyone was about to leave for the annual trick-or-treat. If the costume was to be worn indoors, the arms would have been bare.

To begin, we chose a brilliant white satin for the base gown. Because this had to fit over a snowsuit (we're usually buried under snow by the end of October), we had to make the gown a couple sizes larger than normal. We also had to make sure it was short enough for her to climb over a snow bank if she had to.

When it came to the cape, she picked a gold taffeta. Because I was dealing with a child, I made sure the cape could be easily removed. Children love capes, but only until the capes are annoying. Then they want the capes off, so the cape only loops around the neck (under the collar) and has loops to hook over the wrists. This makes it easy to take off.

Children take forever to make up their minds, so we were running out of time before Halloween. So instead of making the collar and belt from scratch, I purchased them, took them apart, and put them back together again. Why did I do this? Well, let's face it. Nothing I purchased would match exactly. So I needed to add a few new touches. A slightly different fabric and a few gems and gold pieces (not real, of course; she's just a kid) later and she was ready to go. Well, after the makeup and wig were applied.

I might have done a few more things to the costume and even used different fabrics, but she was very happy with it as it was. Since that's what matters to me, that's what we went with. I'm hoping to make another Cleopatra costume, a more deluxe version, in the future. Maybe next year.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sewing a Tricot Bound Seam

If your fabrics are sheer or especially delicate, a bias tap bound seam may actually be too heavy. In this case, you may want to bind the seam using tricot, which is a lighter and more delicate fabric. It will work well with other fabrics of a similar weight.

To sew a tricot bound seam, cut a long piece of tricot about the width of the seam allowance. Fold this piece of tricot strip in half lengthwise and encase the raw edge of the seam allowance. Stitch along the edge of the tricot strip using either a zigzag or a straight stitch.

Remember to press your seam open before beginning. Also make sure the tricot you're using won't shrink when you wash the garment or item in question. When in doubt, pre-shrink your fabrics before you begin.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Sewing a Bias Tape Bound Seam

Fabrics that fray so quickly and completely that they'll practically disappear on you typically benefit from an enclosed seam. The most common enclosed seam is a bias tape bound seam. this type of seam finish works well for easily frayed fabrics, fur, and unlined jackets that you need to give a professional look to. It's also fairly easy to pull off if you have some coordinating bias tape lying around. If you don't, head off to your local store and buy some. Make sure you've measured your seams and added up how much you'll need so you don't need to make a second run.

Now that you have your bias tape, it's time to enclose and finish your seam. Start by pressing your seam open. Then encase each raw edge with the bias tape, pinning carefully so you'll catch both sides of the tape and the fabric when you sew the seam. Stitch close to the folded edge of the bias tape, making sure you're not missing the tape on the other side. Once you stitch both sides of the seam, you're finished.

You can make your own bias tape, if you like. This is done by simply cutting long strips of fabric and folding and pressing so that it is folded just like bias tape. Examine a piece of bias tape to see how it's folded and you'll discover making your own out of whatever fabric you wish isn't hard.

Whether you make it or buy it, make sure to wash and dry the bias tape before you use it. Nothing is more irritating than having your bias tape shrink once you've already finished your garment. So always, always pre-shrink your bias tape.