Finishing Seams Without a Serger

In sewing, it’s all in the finishing details, isn’t it? Seam finishes are applied to garment seams to help prevent raveling as well as to make the inside of the final garment look more attractive, and there are a variety of seam finishing techniques out there. Serging seam edges is a popular technique because it’s fast and easy, but there are plenty of other options that do the job equally well and do not require a serger.

Seam finishes collage

When planning your seam finish, consider the weight of the fabric, the method you plan to use for laundering the item, how much wear the garment will receive, and whether or not the seams will be visible.

Here are 7 seam finishes that don’t require a serger:

Pinked seam finish with scissors and cutter

1. Pinked

I love pinked seams! It is such a sweet vintage look, and bonus, it’s super fast and easy to do. You can use a pair of pinking shears, or if you like rotary cutters, you can use a wavy blade instead. I think pinked seams are best in a garment that’s not going to be laundered too frequently, and when the fabric is firmly woven.

Stitched and pinked seam finish

2. Stitched and pinked

This technique takes it up a notch from pinking alone. Using a fairly small stitch length, sew a straight stitch on each side of the seam allowance about 1/4″ from the raw edges. Next, use pinking shears or a wavy blade rotary cutter to pink the raw edge of the seam allowance. This technique is more effective at controlling raveling than pinking alone.

Turned and stitch seam finish

3. Turn and stitched

Turn about 1/8″ – 1/4″ of the raw edge of each seam allowance to the wrong side, and stitch close to the fold using a straight stitch. This technique gives a very clean appearance, and looks great when used on unlined garments. It’s best used on light to medium weight fabrics, and is easier on straight or mostly straight seams.

4. Hand overcast

Often used as a couture seam finish, hand overcasting takes more time than a machine stitch finish, but is a lovely way to control seam edges and raveling. Using a single thread, overcast both edges of the seam allowance, spacing threads about 1/4″ apart. This technique is often used even when the final garment is lined. For more information about the overcast stitch, see our post on Couture Hand Sewing: Stitches to Try.

Zigzag seam finish and scissors

5. Zigzagged

This technique is a great way to really control ravelly fabric. Use a medium width setting with a fairly short stitch length, and stitch close to but not over the raw edge of each seam allowance. You can also trim close to the stitching if desired. See also our post on the zigzag seam finish.

Overlock seam finish

6. Overlocked or vari-overlocked

Many machines today include an overlock or vari-overlock stitch, designed to closely approximate a serged stitch edge. Most of the time, this stitch requires a special presser foot, and settings will vary by sewing machine manufacturer. Try to position the fabric so the right swing of the needle encompasses the raw edge of the fabric. The special presser foot will help the fabric edge remain flat.

Bias bound seam finish

7. Hong Kong or bias bound edge

These two techniques are very similar, and both include bias fabric stitched to the raw seam allowance edge. The Hong Kong finish starts with a flat strip of bias fabric, and the bias bound edge uses commercial or handmade double-fold bias tape. These techniques give a beautiful, polished look to the inside of any garment. For more information about Hong Kong seams, see my Hong Kong seam finish tutorial.

Learn how to use decorative seams to spruce up a simple garment in the Craftsy class Decorative Seams: Techniques and Finishes with Katrina Walker.

Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for Free Pattern Friday: Halloween Edition!

Do you have a favorite seam finish you like to use on garments?

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