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Basic Machine Sewing Seams and Seam Finishes:

Straight Seam:
Usually sewn with the stitches at a length of 3 (or mid size, if your machine doesn't have lengths). Start the seam by sewing forward 1/2", sewing in reverse over the forward stitches to the starting point, then sewing forward the length of the seam. This is called "backstitching", and it prevents your stitches from coming loose. Backstitch again at the end of every seam.

Basting:
A seam sewn with a length of 5. It is a very long, loose seam used to hold pieces together temporarily. All instructions tell you not to backstitch on any of the seams because that makes them harder to pull out later. I always do, because basting is usually used for trying stuff on, and I always pull the seams apart when I try something on if I don't backstitch. Just remember that you'll have to take out the stitches when you're backstitching - so don't do too many, or too tight.

Stay Stitching:
Usually sewn with the stitches at a length of 2 with no backstitching. These stitches are made to keep the fabric from stretching while it is sewn. Direction is very important when staystitching. That means you have to pay attention to what direction you're stitching, and make sure everything you sew is symmetrical. So don't sew down one side then up the other, because the staystitching will pull a little bit and your garment/costume will look lopsided. Also, remember when sewing hems and necklines to always sew from the outside to the middle, or inside out, not from one side to the other.

Understitching:
This is a technique that keeps linings and facings from showing on the outside of fabrics. After the seam is sewn it is pressed, then the seam allowances are pressed towards the lining/facing (instead of spread apart like ususal). The seam allowances are then sewn to the lining/facing about 1/4-1/2" from the seam. Press and fold the lining under, then press again. The bulk of the seam allowance will help keep the lining inside the garment and not show.

Flat-Felled Seam:
This is what a lot of people think of as the "jean seam" because you see it most on the legs of blue jeans. It is a very strong seam. First, seam the fabric with the right sides out (usually wrong sides are out when you sew a seam). Yes, this seam shows on the outside. Press the seam, then decide which side will be on top. Take the bottom seam allowance and trim it with scissors to 1/4". Carefully fold the longer seam allowance over the shorter one, then press to the side so the longer seam allowance is on top. Press down, then sew (topstitch) along the flap to hold it down.

French Seam:
Used often on sheer fabrics. Sew a seam with the right sides out and a 3/8" seam allowance. Press, then press open. Turn the fabric to wrong sides out, press the seam closed, then sew another seam 1/4" from the first seam. The allowances now add up to 5/8", a standard seam allowance, and all the raw edges are encased on the inside of the flap so they can't ravel.

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auroraceleste

December 2010

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