Tutorial: 10 ways to finish your seams

There are loads of different ways to finish a seam allowance; in this tutorial I will just cover ten of the methods that you might like to experiment with. Maybe you have a favorite or two in this grouping, and maybe you will be encouraged to try a few other finishes in the near future.

The purpose of a seam finish can be to:

  1. prevent raveling
  2. provide a decorative detail on the inside of a garment
  3. strengthen a seam
  4. reduce bulk

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Felled seam

A felled seam is commonly used on jeans, men’s shirts, and other garments where a flat finish is preferred next to the body and extra strength is needed in the seam itself. Start by stitching the seam with the specified seam allowance, and then trim 1 side of the seam allowance to no more than 1/4 inch. Press the remaining seam allowance over the trimmed seam allowance, turn under, and stitch close to the edge. Well, I guess I stitched sort of close to the edge in my example—could have done a little better there. Sorry!

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

French seam

French seams are often used on sheer or lightweight garments, both to eliminate raveling as well as to provide a narrow seam allowance to minimize show-through. The key point to remember with French seams is you stitch the same seam 2 times—so the sum of both seam allowances needs to equal the total seam allowance for the garment. For example, for a 5/8 inch seam allowance, place the wrong sides of the fabric together and stitch a 1/4″ seam. Trim, press, then fold along the first stitching line so the right sides are together. Stitch the second seam 3/8 of an inch from the pressed fold. Perfect! A totally enclosed seam that equals 5/8 of an inch!

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Hand overcasting

Often used in couture sewing to “lightly” finish the  seam allowances even on a lined garment, overcast stitch by hand along all seam allowances. It is a surprising fun and relaxing way to sew!

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Hong Kong finish

A Hong Kong finish is most often used in an unlined coat or jacket to both prevent raveling and provide a decorative finishing element. Start with bias strips of fabric (lining fabric is a good choice with wool) about 1–1/1/4 inches wide, and with right sides together stitch a strip to each side of the seam allowance using a 1/4 inch seam. Press the bias strip away toward the raw edge, and fold it around to the back side of the seam allowance. Stitch in the ditch from the top side to secure the back of the bias strip. Trim any extra fabric on the back side.

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Overlock with serger

Overlocking with a serger is a fast and easy way to finish seam allowances. You can serge either each seam allowance individually and press the seam open and flat, or you can serge the two seam allowances together. You can use either a 3-thread or 4-thread overlock stitch for this finish.

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Overcast with sewing machine

Most sewing machines include an overcast stitch, which is similar in function to the overlock stitch on your serger.

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris


Pinking produces a very flat seam finish, and gives a vintage look to the inside of your garments. Pinking requires a wavy blade for your rotary cutter or special pinking shears.

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Straight stitch

A line of straight stitching close to the edge of the seam allowance can be used alone or in combination with a pinked edge to reduce raveling.

Seam Finish tutorial by Sew Maris

Turn and stitch

Turn each seam allowance to the underside 1/4 of an inch, and stitch with a straight stitch close to the edge.

Seam Finish tutorial by SewMaris


Similar to the overcast stitch, a zig-zag stitch can also be applied close to the raw edge to reduce raveling.

Select the seam allowance you want to use based on your fabric, how the garment will be laundered, and the look you want for the final garment. It is a great idea to sample several seam finishes on leftover fabric to see what will work best.

Do you have a favorite seam finish you like to use? How many  of these 10 finishes have you tried in your garments?

Happy sewing!




16 Responses to Tutorial: 10 ways to finish your seams

  1. Great summary, I love a french seam, binding and pinking. Sometimes I’ll do a faux felled seam, by frenching, then top stitching the frenched seam allowance. Bindings a lovely way to add some inside prettiness too – just takes forever!

    • Thanks Sarah! I never thought of a faux felled seam by using the French – great idea! I love the look of binding too. It goes (more) quickly if you have a binder attachment for your sewing machine because it is applied all in one pass. But for a Bernina at least, they are EXPENSIVE! (Yes, of course I have one!;-) )

    • Hahahaha Mary Jo! Thank goodness I was not drinking coffee when I read your comment! Anytime I get “giddy” in the sewing studio is a great day!


  2. So, my Mom sewed when I was growing up but I didn’t really start until I had moved away and was married. A month or two after I’d been working on teaching myself, I remember calling her and saying “MOM did you know what finishing seams means!! I had no idea, and I hadn’t been doing it at all!” She was not impressed, and said she never did it herself. Oy. I’m also embarrassed to say it never occurred to me to serge each side instead of together – I bet that would look a lot nicer on lots of things!

    • Sewing is a journey Stephanie, and along the way we have the chance to learn loads of new things from a variety of sources. Just keep being open, learning, and trying new things, and you will be amazed at where this journey takes you! Happy sewing!

  3. So nice to see all of the variations here, some of which can be sewn by any body, some of which require a special machine and some of which, like the Hing Kong seam, require a bit of patience. I sew a lot with knits these days and would love to have a serger one day, until then, I overcast a lot. Works beautifully. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    • Jonie – that was so sweet of you to say! I am really glad you find them interesting, and I hope you have sew something awesome and fun very soon! And also practice some new finishing techniques! 😉

  4. This is such a helpful and resourceful post! Thanks for all the great tips. I clearly still have a lot to learn about technique! 🙂

    • Thank you very much Terri – so kind of you to say! We ALL have plenty to learn about technique – one of the things I love about swing is I am always learning!

  5. Can I add using the 3-step zig-zag stitch? It doesn’t produce tunneling like a simple zig-zag does on lighter fabric.

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