French Seams

I want to teach you how to alter a garment that has French Seams in it.

But, first, I’d like to talk about what they are and how they are made.

The French Seam is a seam that is encased within itself so that no raw edges can be seen.

You’ve probably seen French Seams on many types of garments including lingerie, bridal and even on fancy pillow cases.

I use them most often when making a “wrap” for a bride or a girl going to prom.

French Seams are often found on fabrics that are sheer like this blouse:

The photo above is taken of the right side of a blouse and the photo below is taken on the inside of the blouse:

The only difference is that you can see some small stitches on the inside.

French Seams are also found on garments where the fabric frays easily.

They are generally sewn on seams that are straight.

It’s very difficult to make them on a curved edge like a sleeve or princess seam.

But they are perfect for side seams and shoulder seams.

Let’s take a look at how they are made.

I found a scrap of sheer fabric:

The main point I want to emphasize here, is that the consruction of a French Seam is different than that of a regular seam.

In this case, to sew the seam, you will put the two pieces of fabric wrong sides together!

Stitch that seam with a 3/8″ seam allowance.

I used a contrasting bright pink thread so that you can see it better:

Trim the seam to a scant 1/4″.

“Scant” means that the seam allowance should be a little less than 1/4″ wide after you trim it off.

You might feel more comfortable trimming with scissors.

Here, I used a rotary cutter and mat to do the job.

Next, press the seam open.

Be careful not to scorch the fabric.

Some fabrics are not to come in contact with an iron.

They might melt.

In that case, just “finger press” the item by pushing it down with your fingers and running your fingernail on the seam to help it lay flat.

Next, fold the fabric so that the seam allowance is on the inside and press close to that edge.

You want the stitches to be on the very edge, not going toward one side or the other:

Make sure you trim off any frayed edges along the seam allowance.

This is a very important step. If you don’t do it, you’ll risk having lots of wispy “whiskers” sticking out after you sew the seam.

Now, stitch using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Pull the two pieces of fabric apart and fold them so that the stitched seam is on the inside and the right sides are to the outside (just like the garment will be when you are finished with it).

Press the seam to one side or the other.

Ok, now to alter a garment that has French Seams.

Whatever amount you need to take in, is the amount you’ll need to trim off the raw edge of the fabric.

For example, let’s say you need to take in 1/2″ all the way down the side seam of a blouse.

I would open up the French Seam all the way (From armpit through the hem) and press the seam flat.

Then, trim off the 1/2″ off the raw edge of the seam.

Then, referring to the instructions above, put the seam back together wrong sides together first.

Follow the rest of the instructions above.

What if you don’t need to take in that much all the way down the seam?

Let’s say you need to take in 1/2″ under the arm and then taper it to nothing, seven inches below the underarm.

Then, just rip out about 9 inches (or whatever you need to have room to work) of the seam, press it flat and trim off the amount you need to take in.

Then put the seam back together again.

It’s the same procedure for any French Seam.

My next post will cover how to turn a French Seam into a serged one.

The post will also talk about how to alter a top that has binding around the armholes and neck.

Just be careful to do the math and check it twice before you begin!

Snow in May?

I just had to show you what we woke up to this morning:

We don’t typically get snow in May, especially not after Mother’s Day!

We don’t like to see it this late in the Spring as the snow can ruin the blossoms and the branches on trees.

It’s just weird seeing snow on tulips and green grass peeking out from underneath.

Now that I got that off my mind, it’s time to sew!

What’s the weather like where you live?

Adding a Corset Back to Your Dress…Option #2

You may have already read my post on Adding a Corset Back To Your Wedding Dress.

Today I am going to show you another way to add a corset back to your dress.

A customer brought me  her prom dress this week:

It didn’t zip all the way up in back, so she opted for the corset back addition.

Only, instead of loops, she wanted to use satin ribbon for the loops and ties.

I took this roll of satin ribbon and cut it into 2 inch lengths:

For this dress, I needed 10 of them. I like to use and odd number when possible. It just looks better to me.

I folded each of these 2 inch pieces in half and stitched close to the cut edges:

Then, I took out the zipper as far down the back as neccessary.

In this case, I took the zipper out to the waist area.

I trimmed the zipper leaving an extra inch or two.

Make sure you add thread bar tacks across the top of both sides of the zipper.

That way, when you zip up, the zipper tab won’t come off of the zipper tape:

In the photo above, you see that the lining is separate from the dress fabric.

I like to open up only what I need to to get the job done.

That way, when I’m finished, I don’t have to sew up alot.

On this dress, I also needed to make a new center back line. I couldn’t use the original center back line or you wouldn’t be able to see the ribbons and the corset back.

So, I drew a line from the waist diagonally up near the princess seam under the spaghetti strap and folded it back. I couldn’t fold it back all the way to the princess seam because of the boning in the dress.

On this dress, I couldn’t press the fabric on that line with an iron due to the sequins that were on it.

So, I topstitched that fold in place.

But my preference would have been to just press it in place.

Be sure and turn back the lining the same amount and press it.

Don’t forget to check the content of the lining fabric. It may need a cooler iron than the main dress fabric.

Now, sandwich those ribbon tabs that you made earlier, between the lining and the dress fabric. Make sure that each one sticks out the same amount (in this case, I thought 1/2 inch would look best):

Stitch these into place:

You’ll notice that I ended up using only four on each side. I realized that if I used five, the bottom two tabs would be smooshed together and the dress wouldn’t lay flat along the back, so I took the bottom ones out.

Now take the rest of your ribbon and “thread” it through the loops.

That’s all there is to it!

(I didn’t thread the ribbon through this dress because I didn’t want to wrinkle the ribbon for the customer, but you get the idea.)

You can thread the ribbon from bottom to top or from top to bottom.

Either way, it gives you a whole new way to solve the problem with a dress that doesn’t fit through the bust or back.

As I mentioned in the first post, you can put a modesty panel behind this area to cover the back if you don’t want the skin to show there.

Just add that piece when you sew in the ribbon tabs, leaving one side of it open so you can get into the dress.

See my first post on corset backs, for more details on that.

If you feel that a corset back isn’t for you, you can put in gussets instead.

To learn that technique, read this post on How to Put in Gussets.

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