Sewing basics - 7 different seams

Let's continue the sewing basics blog series. If you missed part 1 you can find it here. Today we will dive in to 7 different seams. These are all great to learn and they are used often. 

1. Staystitching.

Staystitching is a single line of straight stitching through one layer of fabric to stabilise the fabric and prevent it from stretching out. It needs to be within the seam allowance so it doesn't show on the finished garment. Use a long stitch length (almost as if you were sewing a gathering stitch). If there are some seam lines of the staystitching showing when the garment is finished you can easily remove them. 

2. Understitching.

Understitching is a seam that helps a facing stay in place. When you have sewn bodice and facing necklines right sides together you press all seam allowances towards the facing and stitch them in place. This helps the facing stay on the inside so it doesn't poke out on the right side of the garment. Use understitching on neckline facings, hem facings etc. It doesn't show on the outside of the garment.

3. Topstitching.

Topstitching is where the line of stitching is designed to be seen from the outside of the garment, either decorative or functional. Topstitching is most often used  on garment edges such as necklines, hems, shirt collars etc where it helps facings to stay in place and creates a crisp edge. Topstitching can also be used to attach patch pockets to a garment or for appliqué. Practice topstitching often! Sewing straight lines is not the easiest thing. This is topstitching on a patch pocket:


4. Finishing seams.

Overlock/serge & zigzag. I use these seams interchangeably in my sewing pattern instructions. When working with fabric you want to inclose and cover all raw edges in some way. The most common ways are overlocker/serger seams, zigzag or folding. The best method to use depends on your project and many different techniques are often used in the same garment. Here is an example of overlocked edges. For hems it's more common to use folding. More on that in the next point. 

5. Hems. 

The final touch to your sewing project. The hem is often the last step before your garment is done. You can sew an overlock/serger seam or zigzag and then fold it once and stitch in place or you can fold the hem twice and stitch in place. The double fold creates a clean finish on the inside. You can also use a hem facing - as in the Astrid skirt pattern for example. Or you can sew a bias binding hem like I did on my green Betty dress:

Generally the heavier the fabric - the wider the hem. If you are using a super thin viscose or silk you can create a narrow rolled hem and if you are using a heavy wool fabric you want the hem to be wide with a facing or maybe hem it by hand. It all depend on the look you want to achieve and how your fabric behaves. Experiment and find the method you like. This is the hem on the Vera dress pattern:

6. Twin needle.

This is a useful needle to have. I use this for hemming knits. The wrong side looks like a zigzag stitch and the right side looks like two rows of straight stitches. You can also use a twin needle for topstitching. 

Instead of threading your machine with one thread you use two. You don't need to have two spools of thread in the same colour, instead you can use a bobbin thread for the second one. There are different widths of twin needles - I mostly use the widest one because I like the look of that one most. This is a twin needle hem but it's made with a coverlock machine:

7. Basting.

Basting is sewing long, easily removable running stitches , by machine or by hand. It is also called tacking. Basting stitches are sewn to temporarily join fabrics together or to mark pocket placements, button holes etc. My education was heavy on tailoring techniques and I definitely have a soft spot for hand sewing. You have a lot more control when sewing by hand and I would recommend all sewers to practice their hand sewing because it really pays off. I will create a separate blog post all about hand sewing techniques but a good start is practicing some basting. You can also baste on your sewing machine, just use long runnings stitches that are easily removed. Instead of using pins or chalk you can use some tailor tacks for marking instead. 

Do you have anything to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below. 

Until next time, 

Happy sewing!


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