Different Types of Seam Finishes and Their Uses

There are many different types of seam finishes you can choose from to give your seam a tidy finish. I will highlight the most commonly used basic seams used today, and when you should use them.

Finishing off your seams is probably one of the most important parts of the sewing process. How you finish your seams will decide on how long your garment will last as well as making the inside not lust look neat and tidy but can give it a finish that will last.

By finishing your edges in a way to prevent fraying and looking unprofessional while preventing your garment from falling apart throughout the laundering process as well as general day to day wear and tear.

First, you will need to create a plain seam by placing two pieces of material, right sides together, and stitching on the wrong side of the fabric, at the required seam allowance, usually 1.5cm or 5/8″, then open and press flat with an iron.

But as you can see the seam has yet to be finished. Use any one of the following to finish your seam, to prevent your fabric from fraying.

Stitched Plain Seam

Learn to Sew at Home Stitched Plain Seam

WHEN TO USE IT: light to medium weight woven fabrics. May be too bulky for heavier fabrics.

HOW: This is a really simple finish. Nothing too difficult here!

  • With right sides together, sew your seam and press open.
  • For each side of the seam allowance, turn under  0.5cm or 1/4″ or less and press. (you are turning under the raw edge of the seam allowance)


Learn to Sew at Home Zig-Zag Seam Finish

WHEN TO USE IT: Any type of fabric, average to heavyweight is preferred as sheer and really delicate fabrics may shred.

HOW: By using the zig-zag setting on your machine. It is a good idea to test it on a piece of scrap fabric first – try a smaller stitch length for lighter fabrics, and a longer stitch for heavier fabrics. You can either zig-zag both sides of the seam allowance and press the seam open, or you can zig-zag the two sides together, and press to one side.

You can either zig-zag both sides of the seam allowance and press the seam open, or you can zig-zag the two sides together, and press to one side (as with an overlocker/serger).

French Seam

Learn to Sew at Home French Seam

WHEN TO USE IT: Sheer/lightweight/delicate fabrics. A french seam completely encases the raw edge of the seam allowance, creating a clean and professional finish on a garment where the seam might be visible.

HOW:  By starting with WRONG sides together (yes this is done in reverse) and sewing a very narrow seam of .5cm or 1/4″  from the raw edge before turning through and enclosing it with your finished seam by stitching “1cm or 3/8” from the folded edge (previous seam).

  • With WRONG sides together, sew .5cm or 1/4” from the raw edge. trim seam allowance to .25cm or 1/8″ and press.
  • Turn your fabric so the RIGHT sides are now together, encasing your previous trimmed seam and press.
  • Sew 1cm or 3/8″ away from the folded edge and press again.

Pinked Seam

Learn to Sew at Home Pinked Seam

WHEN TO USE IT: Stable fabrics (fabrics that don not fray easily). Something that may not be washed or worn a lot is best. It is the easiest of seam finishes as it requires no sewing to finish the edge. So if it is a garment or fabric that can get away with this then, why not use it? The zig-zag cut edge helps to prevent the fabric from fraying.

HOW: You will need a pair of pinking shears to get started. By simply cutting close to the edge with your pinking shears and pressing your seam.

  • With right sides together, sew your seam and trim edges with pinking shears.
  • Press.

Flat Felled Seam

Learn to Sew at Home Flat Felled Seam

WHEN TO USE IT: It is generally used on heavyweight fabrics such as jeans and on seams where extra strength is needed. Take a look at your jeans, boardshorts and/or shirts – you will find that they have flat-felled seams! Also – this one is seen from the outside of the garment and leaves a nice topstitched decorative finish.

HOW: This is not as difficult as it may sound – see below.

  • With the right sides together, sew 1.5cm or 5/8″ from the raw edge.
  • Then, press the seam open and trim ONE side of the seam allowance back to .5cm or 1/4″.
  • With the other side, fold it inward in half  – the raw edge should meet the seam.
  • Then press again.
  • Fold this over top of the trimmed side of the seam, so that it completely covers it.
  • Stitch close to the folded edge.
Learn to Sew at Home Flat Felled Seam Sample - Single Stitched

Outside view – ONE row of top stitching

Learn to Sew at Home Flat Felled Seam Sample - Two Rows Top Stitching

You can, of course then add another seam for strength and/or decorative purposes, to look like the sample picture above.

Overlocked/Serged Seam

Learn to Sew at Home Overlocked / Serged Seam Sampe

WHEN TO USE IT: Many, many different fabrics and garments. Very, very versatile, and I use it on everything unless a finish is not required (such as in a flat felled seam, french seam)

You’ll need an overlocker/serger machine to do this. There are two types of overlock seams – 3 thread and 4 thread. You can either serge both sides of your seam allowance and press open, or serge them together and press to the side.

Follow the instructions for your machine to thread it properly, and go!.


As you can see, these are pretty straight forward and can be used by anyone of any level of sewing ability. You will find that the only time you do not need a seam finish is when and Item is fully enclosed such as a lined garment where the seam is not exposed or seen.

So, depending on the garment, fabric and the resources you have available to which seam finish you end up using. Remembering that depending on which one you use will dictate the overall look and durability of your finished garment. In time these will come naturally when making garments in the future.

When I first started out sewing my own clothes, I commonly used a zig-zag as I did not have an overlocker/serger, but it was my next purchase and I have never been without one as it is my preferred seam finish for pretty much ALL of my sewing requirements. I do like the professional look of the overlocked finish to my seams, and I also like to keep my friends guessing as to whether or not I made it or if it were shop-bought.

If there is a seam that you are having problems with or have heard of and need more clarification on it, please comment below, I am here to help.

Thank you for stopping by.

~Keep on Sewing

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