Ask The Sewcialists: How do you finish your seams?

I only started sewing clothing in earnest about two years ago, and one of the first dilemmas I encountered was how to finish my seams.

One thing that has frustrated me about sewing seams is that indie designers (nor the big companies, that I can recall) do not offer specific instructions on how to finish seams. I’ve encountered maybe one pattern (the Wiksten Baby Harem Pants) that explicitly showed a French seam in the directions. However, most patterns tend to vaguely state “Finish your seams.” As a newish sewist, I didn’t really know what this meant… I thought my seams were finished as soon as I sewed them!

Picture of French seams
Picture of French Seams from Oliver + S

Since becoming a regular sewist, I’ve started experimenting with a few different methods of finishing seams (my favorite being the French seam). However, when a pattern doesn’t directly tell me how to finish a seam, I don’t know at what point in the sewing is it appropriate to finish a seam, and with what method. For example, I insert pockets into every skirt/shorts/pants that I make, and I’ve been trying to figure out the best way of finishing the seams where you attach the pocket to the main part of the skirt. I usually French all other seams if possible, but am not sure what to do about where the pocket meets the skirt (since it seems un-French-able to me). So on one of my sewing projects, I decided to try and finish these seams with a Hong Kong finish, but this ended up creating so much extra bulk that everything ended up puckered and not fitting correctly. I eventually ripped them out in frustration, and made the skirt pocket-less. If a pattern were to suggest possible seam finishes and when in the pattern is best to complete them, that would make my sewing life so much easier!

Picture of Hong Kong seams
Picture of Hong Kong seams from Closet Case Patterns

To heap onto the seam frustration, when I looked at sew-alongs online, or checked out other people on Instagram who had made the same pattern, I kept encountering the same thing: serged seams. To me, this seems like the obvious way to finish seams, but I was frustrated because sergers are expensive and not accessible to everyone (both because of the cost and the extra space to store another machine).

So I’d like to ask my fellow Sewcialists: How do you finish your seams, especially without a serger? What were the first seam-finishing techniques that you learned, and how did you discover them? Would you like to see more seam-finishing suggestions in indie patterns?

Additional Reading:

Oliver + S: Six Tutorials for Seam Finishes

Seamwork: Upgrade Your Sewing – Flat Felled Seams

Mood Fabrics: All About Sewing Seams

Erin can be found posting about sewing, knitting, gardening, hiking, and dachshunds on Instagram @shortern.