How to Sew a French Seam

Kate Miller-Wilson
french seam

If you're working with shear fabrics like chiffon or organza or if you want the inside of your project to look as beautiful of the outside, a French seam is the answer. Having this sewing skill in your repertoire of techniques will allow you to create beautiful, professional-quality work that will make you proud.

Easy French Seams

Although these tidy seams may appear intimidating, they are actually very easy. If you can sew a straight seam on your sewing machine, you have the skills you need in order to sew a gorgeous French seam as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Your project
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Sharp scissors and/or pinking shears
  • Pins
  • Iron

Calculating the Seam Allowances

Sewing French seams is easy but they require a little math. Because they are a seam inside another seam, they use a bit more fabric than a traditional seam. If you plan for your French seam before cutting your fabric, you'll save yourself some stress later.

Figuring the seam allowance can be confusing but this handy calculator can help. If you know the total seam allowance from a pattern, simply input it and the inside French seam allowance into the calculator. Alternatively, you can input the inside French seam allowance and remaining seam allowance to get the total.

Sewing the Seam

  1. Examine your fabric to identify the right and the wrong side. Line up the raw edges with the wrong sides together. This is the opposite of the way you would normally line up your fabrics, but it is correct when you are making French seams. Use pins to secure the fabric along the entire area where you will be sewing.
    french seams
  2. Sew a simple seam all the way down the raw edge of the fabric, using the inside French seam allowance you determined using the calculator. These photos show a contrasting thread to make the process clear, but you should use a thread color that matches your fabric.
    french seams
  3. Using sharp scissors, trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch. If you're working with a very delicate fabric prone to unraveling, consider using pinking shears.
    french seams
  4. Make sure your iron is set to the appropriate temperature for your fabric. Press both layers of fabric on the seam to one side.
    french seams
  5. Turn the project over and press the other side. Fold the project at the seam so the right sides are together. Press again. Your seam should be placed exactly in the fold. Use pins to hold the fabric layers in place while you sew.
    french seams
  6. Sew down the length of the seam, using the remaining seam allowance you figured out using the calculator.
    french seam
  7. Press the seam to one side. Your French seam is finished!
    french seam

Make Your Projects Look Fantastic

With a little patience and a bit of practice, you'll find that French seams are an easy way to make your sewing projects look fantastic. Whether you're a beginner or an expert seamstress, this technique is well within your reach.

How to Sew a French Seam