SEAM FINISHES – 6 Best Seam Finishes for Fabric

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You don`t need a serger to get neat and durable seam finishes. Neatly finishing your seams not only makes your sewing look professional but keeps the edges from fraying so it lasts for years to come. If you are a beginner or don’t have a serger, then never fear! You can get great looking seam finishes with a regular sewing machine. Try some of these popular methods to finish seams without a serger.

seam finishesPinBest Seam Finishes


What Do Seam Finishes Do?Seam Finishes with a SergerSergers on AmazonBest Seam Finishes Without a SergerSeam Finishes #1 – Zig-Zag Seam Finishes #2 – French Seam Seam Finishes #3 – Turned under edges Seam Finishes #4 – Overcast (Overedge) Seam Finishes #5 – PinkingSeam Finishes #6 – Bound edges (Bias bound seam or Hong Kong Finish)Sergers (Overlockers)Seam Finishes for Knit FabricsSeam Finishes | In ConclusionMORE POPULAR ARTICLES FOR BEGINNERSPOPULAR SUBJECTS FOR BEGINNERS

What Do Seam Finishes Do?

Seam finishes have one main purpose. That is to stop the edges of your seam from fraying. If a seam frayed right up to the stitching line, it would result in holes in the seam and all that hard work you did sewing would be wasted.

Before you start finishing a seam you need to have sewn your main seam. Seam finishes are done at the end after a seam has been sewn. You may do this at the end of the garment or on each seam as it is sewn.

Further Reading: How to Sew a Seam

There are 2 ways to sew seam finishes.

With a SergerWithout a Serger

Seam Finishes with a Serger

If you have a serger then you are all set to go. Sergers (also called overlockers in some countries) cut and sew a strong edge finish on woven and knit fabrics.

A serger does not replace your regular sewing machine but rather complements it by finishing the seams.

If you are purely finishing a seam a 3 or 4 thread serger stitch can be used. Serger seams can be finished together or separately and pressed open.

A serger will trim the edge as it sews so just make sure your seam allowance is wide enough for this small sacrifice. You will normally trim about ⅛ inch (3mm) from the edge.

If you look at any store-bought clothing in your cupboard, they will all have serger finished seams with have been finished together rather than separately.

Sergers on Amazon

Further Reading:

Sewing Machine vs Serger vs CoverstitchHow to Use a SergerGathering with a Serger

Seam Finishes with a SergerSeam Finishes with a SergerPinSeam Finishes with a Serger

Best Seam Finishes Without a Serger

While nice to have, a serger is not necessary for beautiful seam finishes.

The 6 best seam finishes when you don`t have a serger are:

Zig-ZagFrench SeamTurned Under EdgesOveredge StitchPinkingBias Bound Edges

Seam Finishes #1 – Zig-Zag

If you don’t have a serger, zig-zag stitch is a commonly used seam finish, particularly for thick or bulky fabrics. It is best for medium to heavy fabrics.

If my serger is not threaded with the correct color thread I need, I often quickly sew seam finishes with a zig-zag. Although it doesn`t look quite as pretty as a serged seam it is equally as durable and it is probably one of the fastest seam finishes without a serger.

Use a narrow zig-zag to sew about ⅛ inch (3mm) from the stitched seam allowance. I generally use a width of 2.0 and length of 3.0.

Trim close to the zig-zag stitches. You could use this same method with a 3 step zig-zag.

Sewing on the edge vs away from the edge – Sewing right on the edge usually results in a curled-up edge. This may be fine for thicker fabrics where the outline of the curl will not show through to the right side of the fabric. Sewing away from the edge and then trimming will result in a flatter seam.

In the photo below I have zig-zagged the seam allowances separately. It is also possible to join the seam allowances together and zig-zag the edge as one.

Experiment and see what works best for your fabric.

seam finishesseam finishesPinSeam Finishes – Zig-zag

Seam Finishes #2 – French Seam

Use a French seam on fine or sheer fabrics for a professional-looking finish. A French seam is created by encasing the seam within the seam allowance. There are no visible raw edges to fray.

French seamFrench seamPinFrench Seam

The advantage of these seam finishes is you have a durable seam which will not fray.

Many pillowcase patterns use a French seam. Since they will be washed repeatedly over their lifetime, it is important to sew a seam that will not fray. If you want to practice a french seam, then try one of my free pillowcase patterns.

PinBorder PillowcasesPinFrench Seam Pillowcases

Further Reading

How to Sew a French seamPillowcase with French Seam

Seam Finishes #3 – Turned under edges

This is the method I always remember my mother and grandmother using before we had a serger. If you have an old machine that only does a straight stitch then this is the best seam finish method for you.

Make sure your seam allowance is at least ½ inch (12mm) and adjust the pattern if necessary.

Turn under the raw edges by ⅛ -¼ inch (3-6mm) and straight stitch or zig-zag it in place. From the outside, it looks quite clean but you will have a little fraying still when the item is washed numerous times.

Seam Finishes Seam Finishes PinSeam Finishes – Turned Under

Seam Finishes #4 – Overcast (Overedge)

Did you know most modern sewing machines have an overlocking function built-in?  This may be called an overedge, overlock or overcast stitch in your machine manual.

Your machine will have a special foot for this function which guides the fabric and wraps the thread around the edge.

The difference between using a serger and the overlock function on your sewing machine is that no edge is trimmed before sewing. You will need to do that manually before you sew.

The disadvantage of using this seam finish is that you will have to change the foot each time. This is why I prefer a simple zig-zag over this stitch.

Seam Finishes -Seam Finishes -PinOveredge Seam Finishes

Seam Finishes #5 – Pinking

Use your pinking shears to stop the edges of your seams from fraying.  

This works best in fabrics that have a tight weave and won’t be washed too often. To provide extra strength and stop unraveling, you can stitch a straight row of stitches just before the pinked edge.


Pinking sears work by cutting your fabric on the bias (diagonal) where the threads do not fray as much. Pinking shears can be a little hard on your hands if you are using them a large amount so use them for smaller seams and areas.

Further Reading:Cutting Tools in Sewing

pinking shearspinking shearsPinPinking Shears

Seam Finishes #6 – Bound edges (Bias bound seam or Hong Kong Finish)

Bias tape seam finishes are often used for bulky fabrics or unlined jackets.

Using a thin double fold bias tape, slip it over the edge with the wider side on the bottom. Stitch the open edge closed.

Using a contrast colored or pretty floral bias tape can make a jacket look as pretty on the inside as the outside. Store-bought bias tape is usually plain and boring so if you do want to make some bias tape your self then have a read of my article – how to make bias tape.

bias seam finishbias seam finishPinBias Bound Finished Edge

Further Reading:

Hong Kong FinishBias Bound SeamsHow to Make Bias Tape

Sergers (Overlockers)

Still not convinced you can sew seam finishes with a regular machine? Then consider shopping for a serger.

I have both a Singer and Janome serger and both have been great machines. My Singer is now over 20 years old so I certainly got great value in that purchase!

Further Reading:

How to use a SergerGathering with a Serger

Seam Finishes for Knit Fabrics

Knit fabrics rarely fray so you don`t usually need seam finishes for them. This makes sewing knits extra fast and easy. When sewing knits with a serger, the seam allowances are automatically sealed and won`t fray.

If your knit does fray and you don`t have a serger, or you just want an extra row of stitches for security against seam slitting, use a zig-zag close to the edge.

I use this technique on leotards where I`m worried that the extra stress on seams will split.

Further Reading:Sewing Spandex and Lycra

Lycra seamLycra seamPin

Seam Finishes | In Conclusion

Seam finishes can be created with or without a serger to make your sewing projects look beautiful on the inside and to last many washes and wears to come.

Which seam finishes do you use with your regular machine? Please share with us below.

My most used of all the seam finishes is the zig-zag stitch.


How to Sew a Hem: 5 Easy WaysHow to Baste a Seam before SewingHow to Pin Fabric – 2 waysHow to Clip Corners and Curves for BeginnersFabric Marking – How to Mark Fabric with ChalkHow to use a sewing machine


HemsGatheringMarking FabricSewing Different FabricsTools for SewingSewing Bias Tape


seam finishesseam finishesPinSeam Finishes

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