Sewing french seams the quick and lazy way

May 10, 2016 7 Comments

Sewing french seams the quick and lazy way

May 10, 2016 7 Comments

Making french seams the quick and lazy way

A tutorial on sewing french seams quickly, without any trimming or tricky measuring. This is a perfect method if have less time or just don’t want the extra work.


French seams are beautiful, but can be quite time consuming and fiddly if you do it the “proper” way, i.e. first do a narrow 6 mm (1/4 inch) seam, cut away around half of the fabric, press and then do another  narrow 6 mm (1/4 inch) seam. So when I was fazed with doing a gazillion of french seams on my new dress (including a voile lining) I instead resorted to my french seam hack, which is a quicker way do to this classic seam. It is not as not as narrow or as as immaculate as the real deal, but good enough if you don’t want or need a couture finish.The trick is to simply change the width (preferably by moving needle position if you can) and skip the fabric trimming and the first pressing. So lets get going!

Making french seams the quick and lazy way

1. Set up the sewing machine to sew a narrow seam

I moved the needle position one step to  the right and then used the edge of the presser foot as a guide. This made the seam about 4 mm. Of course you can just use presser foot as a guide too, if you can’t change the needle position. Sew the seam with the wrong sides facing (the upper right side should be what you see when you sew)

Making french seams the quick and lazy way

2. Trim frayed edges (if needed)

Since my fabrics frayed like crazy I trimmed the loose strands with a scissor. I later tried using the rotary cutter and that worked even better. You need to get rid of the threads as they might peek through the seam otherwise. But if your fabric doesn’t fray much, this step is not needed.

3. Set up the sewing machine to sew a slightly wider seam

This time I made the seam around 8 mm wide, i.e wider than a traditional french seam, as I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t catch the seam allowance of the first seam.

Making french seams the quick and lazy way

4. Flip the fabric and sew the second seam

The second seam should be sewn with the right sides facing and the wrong side up. For better result, you could press the first seam before doing this step. But as this is the quick and lazy way, I will not. Instead I just use my fingers to push the seam out while sewing.
Making french seams the quick and lazy way

Making french seams the quick and lazy way

5. Press the seam and enjoy the result

French seams
Yes it is wider and not as refined perhaps as the real deal, but in my book this french seam version looks good enough. How do you do french seams?


Johanna Lundström

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  • BeccaA May 10, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    My quick and easy way is to use the serger for the first seam because that cuts off all the messy whiskers from the seam allowance. It does make a thicker seam than the traditional method. I always press because pressing is as important to the result as sewing is.

    • Johanna May 10, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      I really like your method using a serger, I have never tried that but it makes total sense, especially when it comes to keeping the fraying in check. And I agree pressing will always improve the end result, there is no way to cheat around that

  • LinB May 11, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Except that my machine is not so fancy as yours, so I rely on my eyeballs and the seam guide on the throat plate to do the narrow seams, I do French seams exactly this way. No need to press polyester seams — polyester does not press. Finger-pressing cottons and linens and silks is entirely good enough for this technique.

    I do flat-fell seams in a "cheat" way, too. Offset the seams by a quarter inch. Sew on the 5/8" line. Finger press to one side, fold the wider side over the narrow side, fold both over to enclose the raw edges, sew along the fold. No need to trim half a seam allowance. Still finishes at the proper seam allowance when finished. (Not my invention, it was in a Threads magazine article decades ago.)

    • Johanna May 12, 2016 at 6:51 am

      That flat-fell method sounds brilliant, I will definitely try that next time! And good point about polyester, no need to press those seams. Something I often forget, and I drive myself crazy trying to press those fabrics like they were natural fibers. I've even tried to press polyester/lycra functional jersey fabrics, and that didn't go well!

    • LinB May 12, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Title of the article was something like "I Can Wear Angelheart to Work!" Late 80s, early 90s. Lots of good diagrams and photos.

  • Summer Flies May 15, 2016 at 2:07 am

    I do mine exactly like that. I don't have time or inclination for fancy ways particularly for everyday stuff.

    • Johanna May 16, 2016 at 5:23 am

      Word! That is exactly how I feel about it too!

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