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The Sew What’s New Archive

This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: June Harlow
Date: 06-14-2005, 05:35 PM (1 of 27)
I'm curious as to how everyone finishes seams. I generally sew the seam first on my sewing machine, then, after I'm sure everything's right, I use a 3 thread overlock 1/8" away from the stitching line with my serger. It produces the look of a mock 4 thread overlock seam. I know it's a double motion, but I've found that if I feed my seams into the serger first time round I'm always sorry :( Does anyone else have any trick or tips on this ?
June ~

"If only I could find that missing pattern piece!"

June sews on a Pfaff 1209 and a Babylock 5180 serger
User: June Harlow
Member since: 05-30-2005
Total posts: 100
From: DorothyL
Date: 06-14-2005, 06:38 PM (2 of 27)
Until I got my serger I usually made French seams or flat fell seams. On a few things I bound them or even did a Hong Kong. But since I got my new serger I have been doing like you and serging them. On a dress I just finished for my daughter I serged each side of the seam and ironed them open.
With pants I expect to start next week I plan to do the crotch and inseam with flat fell and finish the side seams and pockets with the serger.
I never leave raw edges.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: Mother in Law
Date: 06-14-2005, 07:22 PM (3 of 27)
I take the pattern tissue off the fabric and run all my peices on the serger first. That way as I'm constructing the garment I don't have to go back and serge anything, it's done. I wish I could do it the other way but sometimes doing it that way leaves hard to get at seams to finish.
User: Mother in Law
Member since:
Total posts:
From: Kylnne2
Date: 06-14-2005, 09:26 PM (4 of 27)
I serge most of the edges first then construct the item on the sewing machine. With a coverhem machine you can also do much of the construction on the serger..even the entire garment. You can do belt loops, binding, coverhem, chain stitch and flat lock stitches and blind hem among other things. You can also do most of these stitches with a regular serger but the coverhem /chain is used in factory construction of entire garments also.
User: Kylnne2
Member since: 07-10-2004
Total posts: 629
From: AndreaSews
Date: 06-14-2005, 10:27 PM (5 of 27)
I come from a long line of pinkers. I've been giving thought to that Hong Kong finish, but pinking works so well, and when there's a lining, it's always enclosed anyway.
User: AndreaSews
Member since: 02-18-2005
Total posts: 1007
From: skybluepinko2
Date: 06-15-2005, 03:55 PM (6 of 27)
I only have a sewing machine. What is the best way to finish off edges with that?
User: skybluepinko2
Member since: 04-05-2005
Total posts: 16
From: Pudge99
Date: 06-15-2005, 04:15 PM (7 of 27)

When finishing without a serger you need to really consider the fabric with which you are sewing to know the best finish. Some fabrics such as polar fleece require no finish but do look neat with a nice pinked edge. Other fabrics require an enclosed seam or they will ravel away to nothing. My mother-in-law zig-zag finishes everything no matter what the fabric. In my pre-serger days I would either zig zag or pink. Both are fairly easy and quick.


I myself serge almost everything. If it is an item that would look best with seams pressed open I do like Susie and serge the edges first before sewing anything together.
Pictures of my successes and failures
Pfaff 2040
Janome Mylock 134D
Singer Futura CE-100 w/ Autopunch
Husqvarna Viking 3D Sketch
User: Pudge99
Member since: 10-30-2001
Total posts: 1375
From: mamagoose
Date: 06-15-2005, 07:03 PM (8 of 27)
skyblue, I believe what is called an overlock foot works on the sewing machine to zig zag the edge without it rolling and bunching so much. June, I do as you do. I was cured of serging first with difficult fabrics that would slip away. I have to be able to cut off some of the allowance to keep some fabrics in place. I serge mostly, but use other finishes as well, depending on the fabric, garment design and time constraints.
User: mamagoose
Member since: 01-26-2002
Total posts: 168
From: patti2
Date: 06-15-2005, 07:16 PM (9 of 27)
I sew the serged seam first, then sew the straight seam just inside the serged one. This eliminates cutting off my machine seam with the serger. I have both machines set up side by side, the serger with neutral dark or light thread and the sewing machine with the "right" colors. I have only been sewing for three years and am self taught. I love the tips on this sight!!
User: patti2
Member since: 05-28-2005
Total posts: 78
From: paroper
Date: 06-16-2005, 10:37 AM (10 of 27)
Since I have had a serger (about 13 years now), I serge to finish and then sew...I'm surprised that so many of you do that...I thought most people just serged off the seams now a days. I think that in terms of making a quality well-finished garment the serged and sewn seams are where it is at...they just hang prettier and leave some space for alterations.

Prior to having a serger, I didn't always do anything to my seams and very few raveled. (For those of you who always had a serger...surprise!)

We were taught in college and high school to "test" the fabric to see if it raveled and then make a determination about how to treat it. Most fabrics that did ravel were either zig zagged or (sometimes) pinked. Pinking sheers were often stiff and difficult to use. If they were pinked, it was AFTER the seam was sewn...a properly pinked edge is NEVER cut out as pinked..those scissors are not designed for that purpose. Pinking after sewing also ensures a more accurate seamline too. Fine fabrics were and still are French seamed.

Prior to many home zig zag sewing machines...and it really wasn't that long ago that there weren't many zig zag machines...often the edges of the fabric were folded under and stitched. That was also the common finish for facings even in the 1970's when the common zig zag machines were the exception to the the home seamstress. Patterns told us to cut the SEWN-IN interfacing 1/4 inch smaller than the facings which had a small 1/4 seam allowance added...we then folded the edges over the interfacing and did a straight stitch. We were told to fold and press our hems on the hemline (after properly fitting and marking the hem ON THE PERSON. Then fold the upper edge under 1/4 inch and press..and sew along the edge of the 1/4 inch turn with the hem OPEN. Then we folded up the hem and hand stitched it by slip stitch to hold in place. We also used bias tape on the hem edges and slip stitched the bias tape at the top, so that the top of the hem was a row of bias tape (that was my favorite method). I can remember when lacy hem tape was introduced...but I didn't like to use it as much as bias tape.

Of course, bias tape finished seams were also used and often if the fabric lacked body or might ravel remarkably, we used twill tape in the seam lines to reinforce the seams and make sure that they didn't ravel into the seam lines.

We used cotton organza by the miles as interfacing too...we didn't have the non-woven stuff. I still like the feel of a garment interfaced with cotton organza but the old stiff stuff is hard to find now. The first ironons were a nightmare and were reliable only from the standpoint that they would shrink, pucker and distort your garment. Even if you used the non-woven non-stitch interfacings they weren't much better.

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
From: June Harlow
Date: 06-16-2005, 04:27 PM (11 of 27)
thanks everybody! This has been really interesting. Lots of good ideas!
June ~

"If only I could find that missing pattern piece!"

June sews on a Pfaff 1209 and a Babylock 5180 serger
User: June Harlow
Member since: 05-30-2005
Total posts: 100
From: blackie
Date: 06-18-2005, 01:15 AM (12 of 27)
I am a seam-finish addict and openly mocked by Husband and my Mum about this.

I don't have a serger either and I actually have fun finishing seams. I think my seam finishing makes the garment take longer but it is good practice for being exact and having patience.

Until I got my serger I usually made French seams or flat fell seams. On a few things I bound them or even did a Hong Kong. Dorothy

The french seam is one of my favorites. I do a relatively small one - it ends up a scant 1/4". Hong Kong or bound seams look good, too. French seams are trickier on curves or when pieces come together, like a gusset. But they can be done (remember to clip down after the first seam!). Flat-felled gives a great look to casual clothes.

A couple months ago Pam (paroper) suggested (for set-in sleeve) clipping, zig-zagging, then binding the seam. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even with binding this REDUCES bulk considerably and looks fabulous! I wouldn't have thought to try it on my own.

For my recent prarie dress costume pattern I did all the side seams where I folded under, pressed, and carefully stitched down the SA on each side. When you do this, on the RS of the garment the seam will look top-stitched on both sides. On the WS it will be finished cleanly and it will be reinforced, as well.

As far as finishing the seams *before* you construct the garment, I think that is a great idea with some limitations. For one pair of pants I zigzagged along all the pieces first then sewed them together. It looked fine. You could do this with a serger, too obviously. It was kind of a cool way to get all the "tedious" stuff out of the way (pattern tracing, cutting, and seam finishing) and then the next day I did all the fun garment construction quickly and tah-dah! I was done.

With just a little practice, you don't need a special foot to zigzag edges.

I think pinking looks good, but I have never done it as my Mum (who taught me) didn't do it either.
see the mundane life of a housewife.
User: blackie
Member since: 03-31-2004
Total posts: 594
From: fisherfolk
Date: 06-19-2005, 03:50 AM (13 of 27)
I'm glad to know that I am the not the only one who does not have a serger ("overlocker" here in Australia)!!! I always finish seams, except on polar fleece.

I usually sew, press, then zig zag each side of the seam, especially on curves - I get a much smoother finish that way. Some seams I zig zag both sides of the seam together. If it is a especially "ravelly" "fraying" fabric, I find that a french seam works really well, and the inside looks as good as the outside. I don't finish my edges before I sew seams because I like to cut away the excess - the Pinking shears are fab for that!!!

I'm please to know that others still go with the good old zig zag - even though there are about 40 different seam finish stitches on my machine, nothing beats the zig zag for me...

I'll likely be zig zagging forever - even if I ever get an overlocker - I can never seem to control the feed well enough to stitch straight!!!

Love this site, but rarely contribute...

User: fisherfolk
Member since: 11-07-2004
Total posts: 7
From: mommydionne
Date: 06-28-2005, 08:29 PM (14 of 27)
I usually serge and sew at the same time for the kids stuff,
I tend to serge edges and then sew for things for me (alterations etc) but when I do heirloom I french seam or use a narrow zigzag - serging is just too bulky for it unless I use an exposed rolled edge (the new viking serger I have does an AMAZING rolled edge). I've never done a hong kong finish but may some day just for fun :re:
I don't even own a pair of pinking shears :sick: have lots of other scissors though :bg:
I don't finish if something is not terribly frayey (is that a word?) and it is lined
User: mommydionne
Member since: 01-08-2004
Total posts: 838
From: MaryW
Date: 06-29-2005, 09:24 AM (15 of 27)
Hmm, frayey. I don't think so. LOL.

I usually serge, then sew the seam. For grandson's baggy shorts I do a mock flat fell. He is growing too fast to spend a whole lot of time on them. He is only 14 but is 6'1". They will be out of style next year. :yawn:
owner/editor of Sew Whats New
User: MaryW
Member since: 06-23-2005
Total posts: 2542
From: Magot
Date: 06-29-2005, 12:44 PM (16 of 27)
Pre-serger, I always zigzagged - now I still do sometimes instead of whapping it through the serger.
On my daughters Great Granma of a Singer (look I do one stich, in one direction, at one size, OK?) She sews a seam and then turns it under by 1/4 and neatens the seam that way. She is sewing her Very First Modern Garment ( a pair of drawstring shorts - had to go simple) and is very proud. She has managed a 16th Shift before so really doesn't need any other stitches. Unless you count being able to sew by hand - pity - she finds that hard.
love and kisses, Jan
Cells a Speciality
DNA to order.
User: Magot
Member since: 12-22-2002
Total posts: 3626
From: Jayde877
Date: 09-06-2005, 12:53 PM (17 of 27)
I am fairly new to sewing, been sewing for a couple of years and I am pretty much self taught. I keep seeing metion of French , Hong Kong, flat fell, and what not and I have NO idea what any of these are. Most of my garments do not have finished seams as I do not have a serger. If I feel the seam needs more reinforcement or something to prevent fraying then I zig zag off the edge of the seam. If anyone could point me in the direction of how to do all these different finishes I would be greatly appreciative.

User: Jayde877
Member since: 07-27-2005
Total posts: 106
From: Zabelle
Date: 09-06-2005, 01:00 PM (18 of 27)
French seam: see here:
This is great for sheer fabrics so that the edges do not show through the fabric.

Flat fell:

Sorry, I don't know about the Hong Kong seam... :bluesad:

I don't have a serger either, but I do have overlocking stitches on my sewing machine. What's your machine, so we can see which stitch would work best for you?

English sewing journal: Kitty Couture
In French: Journal d'une cousette
User: Zabelle
Member since: 02-25-2004
Total posts: 98
From: Magot
Date: 09-06-2005, 02:05 PM (19 of 27)
those links are eally clear, thanks, I have one book that has terrible instructions.
love and kisses, Jan
Cells a Speciality
DNA to order.
User: Magot
Member since: 12-22-2002
Total posts: 3626
From: LeapFrog Libby
Date: 09-06-2005, 05:45 PM (20 of 27)
Hong Kong finish is press seam open after stitching -- Then encase each raw edge in bias binding (self or contrasting). I have seen both used.. Most people do not purchase binding for this. They use the fabric, since this a more coture finish..
Sew With Love
User: LeapFrog Libby
Member since: 05-01-2002
Total posts: 2022
From: Jayde877
Date: 09-06-2005, 11:43 PM (21 of 27)
I just got a new machine it's a singer with about 40 stitches. ( Had a Brother with only straight and zig zag then got this one) I can't find a model number on it or in the manual. It was purchased at Wal-Mart for around $100. Other than that I don't know what to tell you. I appreciate the links and I will be sure to check them out. Thanks for the help. I really like this site. :bluesmile

User: Jayde877
Member since: 07-27-2005
Total posts: 106
From: Zabelle
Date: 09-07-2005, 02:19 AM (22 of 27)
Maybe your machine does have an overlocking stitch.
Here you'll find a description of all the stitches built in Singer machines.
The overlocking stitch is this one:

I might have found your machine (is it this one ( ?) but the picture isn't big enough to see the stitches on your machine :sad:

If your machine doesn't have that stitch then a zigzag stitch like you said is fine. For heavily fraying fabrics you might like to add a straight stitch once you've zigzaged (for non-stretch fabrics), to imitate the overlock stitch.

I'm completely self-taught as well and am learning mainly through the Internet :bluesmile . I have plenty of pages with sewing advice bookmarked so they might as well serve you friends. :bluewink:
English sewing journal: Kitty Couture
In French: Journal d'une cousette
User: Zabelle
Member since: 02-25-2004
Total posts: 98
From: patti2
Date: 09-07-2005, 09:26 AM (23 of 27)
I serge, then sew, seam by seam since I have the machines set up next to each other. If the seam is too small or curved to safely serge, I either do a small zig zag, or a 1/4" french seam. I sew a lot of baby clothes and the serger is a blessing for those knits!! I am also totally self taught, so I love reading about how different people do things :smile:
User: patti2
Member since: 05-28-2005
Total posts: 78
From: Jayde877
Date: 09-07-2005, 12:45 PM (24 of 27)
Yes Zabelle, that is my sewing machine. I looked on the stitches and found one that looked similar to the one you showed. I pulled out my manual and what did I find. Not one, but 3 'overedge' stitches. Guess I just skimmed over that part when I was looking through the manual. Thanks so much for your help. I can't load the picture I scanned in here though. If you want to e-mail me (I would love to know what websites you go to) I can send you that image. <email address removed for privacy> thanks again.

User: Jayde877
Member since: 07-27-2005
Total posts: 106
From: Sewhappie
Date: 09-10-2005, 02:35 AM (25 of 27)
Having done Industrial work for so many years, guess that I have learned to use the Serger/Overlock for most of my sewing. I do use the single needle machine for trickier things that a Serger just will not do, but for the most part it's put together on a Serger.
I used to be the Queen of pins in the project, but have also learned how to hold and sew items either without them or using as little as 2-3 for the project.
The one thing I do miss is the speed of a Industrial Machine. Home Machines just don't have that umph!!!!!!
User: Sewhappie
Member since: 10-27-2001
Total posts: 1427
From: MartySews
Date: 09-12-2005, 07:58 PM (26 of 27)
The type of finish depends upon the garment. When I'm quilting, I use pinking shears to finish the edges. When I am making a garment for myself, I might serge the edges or use a decorative stitch. Sometimes I use a mock french seam or a traditional one. This is especially true on tailored garments. I do try to have the inside of the garment look as neat as the outside. However, there are times when I need to "whip up something" and I will usually serge the seams. I do this typically on fleece. Happy Stitching!
It takes one moment to change a life.
User: MartySews
Member since: 02-23-2003
Total posts: 504
From: Orc40k
Date: 09-14-2005, 05:02 PM (27 of 27)
No serger, so I mostly zigzag or even straight stitch about 1/8 inch from edge and zigzag over raw edge. But now that I'm doing historical garments, I do a lot of hand overcasting if the fabric isn't right for French seams or they're not period. Also, I started a Viking garment (1010 AD) with seams on the outside, pressed open with a narrow band of woven trim topstitched over each edge.

I know, I'm nuts.

User: Orc40k
Member since: 06-29-2005
Total posts: 47
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