q What are French seams and what stitch to use for seams

What are French seams: All about the most important seams

Sewing is an art that has been practiced for centuries. From making clothes to repairing everyday objects, sewing is a skill that is indispensable in a variety of areas. But what actually is a seam and which seams are the most important? What stitch to use for seams? How to sew an elastic seam and which seam to use for jersey? In this article, you will learn all about what are French seams, what is a seam in sewing, how to sew a shirt seam and what stitch to use for seams.

1. Was is a seam in sewing?
2. History of the seam
3. What stitch for seams
4. Straight seam
5. Zickzack seam
6. Felled seam
7. French Seam (Right Left Seam)
8. Elastic seam (jersey seam)
9. Blind stitch

1. Was is a seam in sewing?

A seam is essentially a connection between two or more pieces of fabric using a sewing thread. It is used to bond the materials together securely and permanently. Let’s take the simple straight seam as an example, one of the most basic sewing techniques.

For the simple straight seam, the pieces of fabric are placed right sides together, i.e. the right sides of the fabrics face inwards. Then sew along the edge to join the fabrics together. It is important to choose a suitable stitch length that provides both a stable connection and adequate elasticity.

Patterns have a so-called seam allowance, which is the distance you leave from the edge to sew the seam at an even distance. With JULIANA MARTEJEVS sewing patterns, for example, this is usually 1 cm (7/16in).

For a simple straight seam, a medium stitch length of between 2.5 and 3.5 millimeters (1/8in) is generally used, depending on the sewing machine. This stitch length is ideal for holding the fabrics together securely without the seam becoming too tight or too loose.

However, there are situations in which it is necessary to adjust the stitch length. For example, a shorter stitch length may be required to sew thinner or finer fabrics, while a longer stitch length is suitable for thicker fabrics.

It is also important to adjust the thread tension on the sewing machine accordingly to ensure that the seam is sewn evenly and without creases or distortion. If the tension is too loose, the seams may not be neat, while if it is too tight, the fabrics may be distorted or even damaged.

Overall, the straight seam is a basic, yet important sewing technique that is used in many sewing projects. By selecting the correct stitch length and adjusting the thread tension, you can ensure that the seam looks stable, even and professional.

2. History of the seam

The origins of sewing go way back in human history and are closely linked to the development of human civilization. Our ancestors began joining animal skins, plant fibers and other natural materials using needles and threads as early as prehistoric times.

The first sewing tools were primitive and consisted of bone, wood or stone tools that made it possible to pierce holes in the materials and then sew them together with animal sinew or plant fibers. These early sewing techniques were mainly used to make clothing that protected against the elements and kept the body warm.

Historical sewing needle
Jürg Stauffer: 15,000-year-old sewing needles made from bone

As civilization progressed, sewing techniques also developed further. In ancient cultures such as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, sewing became a highly valued art form. Sewing played a central role in textile production and the manufacture of clothing in particular and contributed to the development of trade networks and cultural exchange.

In the Middle Ages, the craft of sewing experienced a further boom, particularly due to the establishment of guilds and craft associations that regulated the quality and standards of sewing work. During this time, more advanced sewing tools were also developed, such as needles with eyelets and scissors, which made the sewing process more efficient.

With the industrial revolution in the 18th and In the 19th century, sewing was finally mechanized and the mass production of clothing began. The invention of the sewing machine by Elias Howe and later its further development by Isaac Singer revolutionized the textile industry and made clothing affordable for broad sections of the population.

First sewing machine 1845
First sewing machine by Elias Howe, 1845

Today, sewing is not only a practical craft, but also a form of creative self-development. From making bespoke clothing to repairing everyday items, the art of sewing has evolved over the centuries and remains an essential skill in our modern world.

3. What stitch for seams

Straight stitchBasic seamFabrics that do not require much stretching, such as cotton or linen.
Zickzack stitchPrevents fabric edges from fraying All fabrics, stretchy fabrics such as jersey or knitwear
Felled seamStrong seam where the fabric edges are bound and then sewn together againHeavy-weight fabrics like denim (often used for jeans)
French seam (Right Left Seam)Seam in which the fabric edges are first folded left to left and then right to right and sewn to create a clean inner sideLightweight fabrics such as cotton, silk or chiffon
Elastic seam (zickzack seam, super stretch stitch, triple straight seam)Seams that are particularly elastic yet durableStretchy fabrics such as jersey or knitwear
Overlock seamSeam that trims and sews the fabric edges together at the same timeAll fabrics, stretchy fabrics such as jersey or knitwear
Blind stitchSeam that joins fabric edges without the seam being visible from the outside.Lightweight to medium-weight fabrics

4. Straight seam

The straight stitch is one of the most basic seams that can be created with a sewing machine. It is used to join fabrics along a straight line, making it ideal for a variety of sewing jobs, from simple repairs to making clothing and other textile projects.

A stitch length of between 2.5 and 3.0 mm (1/16 – 1/8in) can be ideal for medium to heavy fabrics such as cotton or linen, while a smaller stitch length of around 2.0 mm (1/16in) is better for lighter fabrics such as silk or chiffon. It is important to experiment with different settings to find the best stitch length for the material in question.

For the seam allowance for the straight stitch, you should consider a standard allowance of around 1 to 2 (7/16 – 13/16in) cm to leave enough room for sewing and pressing.

When sewing with a straight stitch, it is important to ensure that the fabric is guided evenly and straight so that the seam is sewn cleanly. If you have never sewn before, you can see how to sew a straight seam in these instructions from minute 11:45:

Tip: Before actually sewing, make a test seam on a scrap of fabric to check the machine settings and ensure that the stitch has your desired strength!

Straight seam
Straight seam

5. Zickzack seam

The zigzag seam is used to prevent fabric edges from fraying and to provide a certain elasticity at the same time. It is particularly useful when working with stretchy fabrics such as jersey or knitwear, but can also be used for a variety of other materials.

To set the sewing machine for a zigzag seam, the stitch width should be adjusted as required. A moderate stitch width of around 2.5 to 3.5 mm (1/8in) may be suitable for preventing fabric edges from fraying and for normal sewing work. A larger stitch width of up to 5 mm (3/16in) can be used for stretchy fabrics.

However, the stitch length also depends on the density of the fabric. For lighter fabrics, you can choose a smaller stitch length of around 1.5 to 2 mm (1/16in), while a slightly larger stitch length of around 2 to 3 mm (1/8in) is suitable for heavier fabrics.

Zigzag stitch
Zigzag stitch

6. Felled seam

The fell seam is a robust seam that is characterized by its strength and durability. It is particularly suitable for materials that have to withstand heavy use, such as denim or thick fabrics. This seam consists of at least two seams that are sewn together in such a way that the fabric edges interlock securely and no fraying is possible. The seam allowances do not need to be neatened, and the seam also looks neat from the wrong side.

The fell seam is particularly suitable for robust materials such as denim, where a stable and durable seam is required. A longer stitch length of around 3.0 to 3.5 mm (1/8in) may be suitable for heavy fabrics such as denim, while a smaller stitch length of around 2.5 to 3.0 mm (1/16in) is preferred for lighter fabrics such as cotton or linen.

The seam allowance for the fell seam should be generous, typically around 1.5 to 2.0 cm (9/16 – 13/16in). As the fell seam is a double seam, the seams should run neatly and parallel to each other.

How to sew a felled seam:

Sewing a felled seam

1.Step: Lay your fabric pieces with the wrong sides together and topstitch at 2 cm (13/16in) using a straight stitch.

How to sew a felled seam

2. Step: Fold one of the two seam allowances down and press the seam allowances open. Then cut the upper seam allowance back by half.

Felled seam sewing instructions

3. Step: Fold the fabric pieces apart and press the long seam allowance over the short seam allowance.

Felled seam for beginners

4. Step: Fold the long seam allowance around the short seam allowance and pin the seam allowances. Topstitch narrowly left along the previous seam again.

Felled seam instruction

Congrats! Your sturdy fell seam is now finished!

Tip: As a beginner, you don’t necessarily need a fell seam to sew a beautiful denim project. You can also achieve the same look by double topstitching your seam. You can find out exactly how to do this using the example of the denim jacket pattern The Jean Jacket in this video sewing tutorial:

Sewing pattern with felled seam:

7. French Seam (Right Left Seam)

The French seam, also known as the Right Left Seam, is a sophisticated sewing technique that allows for a clean and elegant inside of garments without the need for additional steps such as neatening the edges. This method is often used for light and transparent fabrics to achieve a smooth and professional inside.

The French seam is particularly suitable for lightweight fabrics such as silk, chiffon or other transparent materials, but is also used for other fabrics where a smooth and professional inside is desired. It is important to allow for enough seam allowance and make sure that the fabric pieces are placed wrong sides together at the beginning. Curves, such as an armhole, are difficult or impossible to sew with this seam, so in such cases you should use the standard seam instead of the French seam.

The stitch length for the French seam can vary depending on the fabric and personal preference. A smaller stitch length of around 2.0 to 2.5 mm (1/16in) may be suitable for light fabrics such as silk or chiffon. This creates fine stitches that hold the thin fabric securely together without damaging it. For slightly heavier fabrics such as cotton or linen, a slightly longer stitch length of around 2.5 to 3.0 mm (1/8in) may be preferred. This enables a more stable seam that can better withstand the stresses on the material.

Sewing patterns with French seams:

If you want to try out this high-quality finishing technique right away, grab your sewing machine and a suitable pattern, such as the blouse pattern The Noella Blouse, and join in with right-to-left sewing!

To sew a right-to-left seam with a 2 cm (13/16in) seam allowance:

French Seam

1. Step: Pin your fabric pieces together with wrong sides facing and topstitch at 0.7 cm (5/16in) using a straight stitch.

French seam

2. Step: Then press the seam allowances open and fold the pieces right sides together.eile rechts auf rechts.

French Seam sewing instruations

3. Step: As 1 mm (1/16in) is usually lost by folding over, stitch the layers together at 1.2 cm (1/2in).

Sew right left seam

Congrats! You successfully managed your French seam!

8. Elastic seam (jersey seam)

Have you ever wondered which seam is suitable for jersey? In this chapter you will learn all about the elastic seam, sewing an elastic seam with a normal sewing machine and the overlock elastic seam.


The super stretch stitch is a simple and effective method for sewing jersey fabrics. This special stitch, which is a type of very fine, slightly slanted zigzag stitch, creates a very elastic seam. The stitches are only slightly offset, but the seam can stretch well, which is ideal for stretchy fabrics such as jersey. It is sewn with the normal sewing machine foot and offers a good alternative for elastic seams with a normal sewing machine for sewers who do not own an overlock machine.

A stitch width of 0.5 to 0.8 and a stitch length of 2.5 are recommended for the super-stretch stitch. If the seam is sewn too wide, the fabric can become wavy, so it is important to use the correct settings. When sewing with this stitch, the fabric should be placed under the sewing machine foot so that the feed dog feeds the fabric with both legs to achieve a nice straight seam.

Super Stretch Stitch
Super Stretch Stitch

Sewing patterns with super stretch stitches:

Triple straight seam

The triple straight stitch is a special sewing technique in which the sewing machine sews one stitch forwards, one backwards and then forwards again before moving on to the next stitch. The three consecutive stitches ensure that the tension is evenly distributed over the entire seam, resulting in a robust and durable joint.

Due to its stretch and stability, the triple straight stitch is also particularly suitable for processing woven fabrics with elastane content, such as stretch denim or stretch cotton. This stitch is also possible without an overlock and is therefore well suited as an elastic seam with a normal sewing machine.

Triple straight stitch
Triple straight stitch

Overlock seam

The 4-thread overlock elastic seam is one of the most stable seams in textile processing. This sewing technique uses both looper and needle threads, which results in a wider seam and creates a particularly robust connection. The use of two needle threads makes this seam more durable and is therefore particularly suitable for areas subject to heavy use and elastic fabrics.

To sew a 4-thread overlock elastic seam, first guide the fabric edges under the sewing machine foot, positioning the fabric between the hooks and the needles. The two looper threads form loops on the back of the fabric, while the two needle threads hold the edges of the fabric together and form the front of the seam. This process creates a wide and stable seam that is both elastic and durable.

Typically, a medium to longer stitch length is used for a 4-thread overlock elastic seam to ensure sufficient stability and still allow a certain elasticity.

Overlock seam
Turned out, curled overlock seam “lettuce hem”

The overlock seam is also great as a decorative seam because of its special appearance! For a trendy look, you can wear the seam on the right side of the fabric turned outwards, as in the long sleeve shirt pattern made from jersey fabric The Ina Top. Here the seam is even finished as a scalloped hem.

9. Blind stitch

The blind stitch is a versatile and inconspicuous sewing technique that is often used for hem finishes on garments or for invisibly sewing on hems and cuffs. This seam is ideal for achieving a clean and professional finish without the seams being visible from the outside.

To sew this elastic seam, small, almost invisible stitches are made on the front of the fabric, while most of the thread runs along the back of the fabric. This makes it possible to join the edges of the fabric invisibly by piercing only a small amount of the fabric with the needle, thus concealing the seam.

Slightly thicker fabrics with a light structure, small patterns or loose fabrics are ideal for blind stitching with the machine. Light woolen fabrics are perfect for the blind stitch, as are tweeds or wool jerseys.

When setting the machine, it is best to use the thinnest needle suitable for your material and fine thread. The upper thread tension should be loosened slightly so that the sewing thread has some slack and does not pull on the fabric thread, resulting in the blind stitches being visible on the right side of the fabric.

How to sew a blind stitch using a hem as an example:

Blind hem stitch

1.Step: Fold the hem upwards.

Blind stitch
Blind stitch sewing

2.Step: Fold the hem as shown so that approx. 0.5 cm (3/16in) seam allowance is still visible. Place the fabric under the presser foot so that the spacer runs along the folded edge and sew the hem.

Easy blind stitch
Blind stitch wrong side of fabric
Blind stitch sewing beginner
Blind stitch right side of fabric

Congrats! You successfully learned to sew a blind stitch!

Overall, there are a variety of sewing techniques, each of which is suitable for certain materials and applications. By choosing the right seam for the project at hand, you can ensure that the end results are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced sewer – with this ultimate sewing guide, you are well equipped to successfully complete your sewing projects.

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