There is a fine elegance that can be achieved when making handmade clothing, that cannot be found in department store garments. Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to afford Giorgio Armani, Chanel or DKNY, you will not find quality in the vast array of clothing on the market today. The apparel industry is geared toward frugal mass production that will, hopefully, make the manufacture, at the very least, a 300% mark up.
For those of us who sew, or would like to learn to sew, we can bypass all the middle men by crafting our own garments for a fraction of the cost.
Take my new linen/cotton blend blouses for example. The style is that of a classic Ralph Lauren Oxford button down, but with two differences. The first is that mine was not made with Oxford fabric and the second is that I did not spend the $89.50 price that the Ralph Lauren website is offering it for. I paid a whopping $23.55 for the green and $19.48 for the champaign colored one.
Whereas I would love to be able to afford to purchase Ralph Lauren clothing again, I am currently not in the position to do so. I do not want to give up on quality though, so I learned how to produce high quality garments. Thanks to my mother and grandmother, I already had a good solid foundation in clothing design and assembly, but I had to teach myself the tricks of the trade that make a garment not only visibly appealing, but also of the highest quality. One of these tricks of the trade is the French seam.
A few years back, I knew I had “made it” as a seamstress when my husband came home from work and told me that the other men on the city crew had been admiring his handmade flannel shirts and they were wondering if I could make them some too. The quality that they were noticing, besides the high caliber flannel fabric and the custom fit, was the French seams, which gives all his work shirts an upscale look.
French seams are very easy to make, but they are time consuming. If you are going to try and make some, you need to plan on working on your garment twice as long as what it would normally take. The reason is because your are sewing each seam twice, but I promise you that all your hard work will be worth it.
First, and very importantly, mark the right side of your fabric with a water soluble marker, or safety pin so you will always know which side of the fabric is the “right” side and which is the “wrong side”. Once you have done that, pin your garment with the wrong sides together. then stitch a scant 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric.
Once this is done, trim your seam allowance to 1/8″.
Take your garment to the ironing board and press, (not iron), the seam towards either the back or the front, it doesn’t matter which right now.
Next, you are going to fold your fabric in half along the seam line, with the seam on the inside. Right now your fabric will be wrong side out, right sides together. press, (not iron), the seam flat.
Stitch the garment once again, with another 1/4″ seam allowance.
Press, (not iron), your seams toward the back of the garment. That’s it, your seam is complete.
Although most patterns say to sew 5/8″ seams, you can use these two 1/4″ seams and let the last 1/8″ get lost in the play of the fabric without ever noticing a difference.
The art of making French seams is fun and it make’s a huge difference in the appearance and quality of your finished sewing project. With some fabrics, like linen, it is also a great preventive measure to ensure that your seams will not unravel over time.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and I truly hope that you will try this technique for yourself.