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Tutorial: French seam with help from the serger


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When I did my class at Sewing Summit, one of the tips I mentioned is that you can use a serger to sew French seams with non-sheer fabrics. Some people were interested in this variation, so I thought I’d show it here.

First, if you’re not familiar with French seams, check out the standard French seam tutorial. A French seam is basically an enclosed seam. You sew a narrow seam with the wrong sides together (not right sides together, as you normally would). Then turn the work so the right sides are together, press, and stitch again with a slightly wider seam allowance. The raw edge ends up enclosed.

A French seam is a lovely finish on light fabrics, and I use it on most light silks, particularly sheer ones. Don’t use it on heavy fabrics generally, because it will be too bulky.

When I’m sewing with a light fabric that isn’t totally sheer, I’ll use my serger to help out. I’d use this on anything that isn’t really sheer, like chiffon or organza. That’s because you’d be able to see the serging, which ruins the effect of the pretty French seam. But on opaque or even semi-opaque fabrics like georgette, it looks exactly the same as any other French seam.

So what is the advantage of using the serger?

First, it’s very secure, so if you have a fabric prone to raveling, your raw edge is totally finished and you don’t have to worry about it.

Second, I find that it makes it easier to turn and press the seam. The extra finishing and thread from the serging makes the edge very stiff, which helps me turn the fabric around it and press it really neatly. Very handy for lightweight, unstable fabrics!

This isn’t so much a tutorial as a tip, really. You sew it almost exactly the same as a traditional French seam, just using the serger for the first bit of stitching. Here’s a quick step by step:

With the wrong sides together, serge your pieces together at the edges, using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Press the seam to the side. This helps open up the seam.

Turn so that the right sides are together and press the seam flat. This is where the serging comes in handy. The stiff surging makes it much easier to fold the fabric back and press it cleanly.

Stitch the seam with your sewing machine, using a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Give it a press and you’re done! A pretty French seam with a bit less fiddling and no chance of unraveling if you’re a bit rough with your garment.

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 12


I have seen this method used on sheers…only they use the rolled hem settings on the overlocker for the first pass, so that it still looks neat.


Wow; thanks for this! I always skip serging on French seams and then fuss over the little floppy and frayed edges that sneak through. The stiffness is a plus in this case; never thought about it, until the ever helpful Colette post. Thanks again!


I love the more I sew the more awesome tips I find. Such a simple solution but one I would never have thought of.


Cool, but 2 questions.
a) do you think the overlock stitch function on my regular machine would be equally effective?
b) does it make the seam considerably stiffer in the long run? One of the reasons to do a regular french seam is sometimes so it will drape the same as the garment, isn’t it?


Wow, such a great idea! Thank you!!!


What about on curves? Does French seam work where you’d need to clip?


Wow! Thank you for this great tutorial! I included your link in today’s round up …


thanks for your good and clear tip!
do you have tips to properly deal with your lock?
Wilhemina greetings from Belgium

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