In the past few years, eco-friendly fashion trends like upcycled clothing and DIY design have exploded. Reduce waste while crafting clothes as unique as you by sewing your own wardrobe. 

Learning how to hand sew a seam is a key step in creating clothes you love. Seams are the backbone of any garment. Their dainty, cottony stitches add detail to gauzy blouses. Tight, straight line stitches keep jeans so durable that they can last in your closet for decades. 

Just as seams are the foundation to beautiful and functional clothing, learning how to hand sew seams is a foundational piece of sewing basics. Once you master basic hand stitches, collect your materials and learn how to use a seam ripper, you’ll be on your way to a life filled with a ton of hand-crafted goods. 

What is a Seam?

Seams are stitches that hold two or more materials together. Almost everything made out of fabric has seams to tie up loose ends, increase durability and add a touch of design. 

Take a look at your outfit and check for seams around your neckline and sleeves. If you have an old garment, you can even explore the seam more closely by taking it apart with a seam ripper. 

Deciding Between Hand Sewing Seams and Machine Sewing

One of the biggest benefits of hand sewing seams is that you have a lot more control over your work. Each stitch is made with careful consideration, which makes it great for smaller, more delicate projects as well as a variety of stitch types. With machine sewing, you create a more even seam as each stitch is the same size. Plus, its power can easily sew through heftier textiles. 

Discovering Different Types of Seams

Before learning the different types of seam, try taking a seam audit in your own home and see how many different ones you can find. Do they have double stitching? Does the thread feel like cotton or polyester? Do they seem to be there for fashion, function, or both?

Plain Seams

Two seams intersect one another on a cozy, white t-shirt.
Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash
Sometimes basic stitches are best.

When stitching two pieces of fabric right sides together, you are creating a plain seam. The right side is the side of the fabric that faces outward. This seam type is most commonly used for thinner and daintier fabric on items like t-shirts, blouses, and silks. 

Flat Felled Seams

A close-up of two criss-crossed flat-felled seams on a pair of jeans.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels
These durable seams do not fall flat.

Most commonly used in workwear and outerwear, flat felled seams are some of the most heavy-duty seams. Artisans make this seam by sewing overlapping seams flat. 

Welt Seams

A person’s legs stretch outward, one crossed over the other, on a rocky beach. They are wearing a pair of blue jeans with brown loafers.
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels
Relaxing on a beach is always better with a trusty pair of jeans and a strong, flat-felled seam keeping them together.

Very similar to the flat-felled seam, the welt seam is ideal when looking for how to sew a long-lasting seam. Slightly less bulky than its sister seam, you’ll create the welt seam by folding over the fabric’s wrong side and stitching it to the right side. Known for its durability, welt seams are wonderful for thicker fabric and clothes that see a lot of wear and tear. 

French Seams

A woman’s torso featuring her long statement earrings with dangling gold orbs and sheer, white blouse.
Photo by Isabella Rubie on Pexels
Get the party started with a French seam.

A stunning piece of sheer fabric can transform any garment. And the French seam is a perfect pairing for more delicate textiles. It blends smoothly into airy pieces with its double stitching and ability to enclose the raw edge into the seam itself. 

Bound Seams

A pink sweatshirt hangs on a metal clothing rack.
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels 
The bound seam is one of the most popular ways to embellish a piece for a reason.

Created to keep fraying and raw edges at bay, the bound seam is wonderful for embellishments, trimming, and hems. Sometimes called a bias bound seam, this seam type works by enclosing cut edges of fabric into another piece of the fabric. 

Lapped Seams

The chin and shoulders of a person wearing a white shirt. The shirt’s collar and shoulders feature lapped seams, which are created by stitching overlapping edges of fabric.
Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava on Pexels
The lapped seam puts the fun in functional.

As one of the easier seams, the lapped seam is created by stitching together overlapping edges of fabric. Done as either a single or a double stitch, this seam can be as strong as it is stylish. Since it doesn’t disguise fraying, leather, vinyl, and velvet will be your best bet with this seam. It also works great in showier stitching projects such as boro stitching

Piped Seams

A blue and a pink pillow with piped seams on a light brown suede sofa.
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych on Pexels
These piped seams know how to make quite the sewing commotion.

A favorite in home decor, you’ll find piped seams on everything from chic, suede pillows to your classic white, cotton couch. It creates a lovely, decorative trim all while bringing two pieces of fabric together through a rounded edge. 

Getting the Goods

You’ve examined seams around your house, dug into seams around the sewing world, and now it’s time to get to creating your own seam. But before you can sink a needle into a supple piece of linen, you have to collect your materials. 

The Needle You Need

For small, even stitches, a quilting needle’s long shank and small round eye will be perfect. When sewing a seam with voluminous yarn or ribbon, a darning needle or chenille needle’s large eye will do the trick. Between needles are a great choice for hand sewing because they have sharp points and a short length.

Getting to the Thread

When choosing threads, you’ll have the choice between natural, synthetic or mixed thread. Natural fibers like cotton, silk, and wool provide unmatched beauty and colorfastness. Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon or acrylic are often chosen for their strength and accessibility.

Adding a Seam Ripper to Your Sewing Kit

Knowing how to take apart an old or imperfect seam with a seam ripper is just as important as knowing to create a new one. If you’re not sure what a seam ripper is, a quick google search or trip to your local craft store will put you in front of this small, but mighty tool. 

To use a seam ripper, simply, glide its long, sharp side under a stitch and pull the thread away from the fabric. It should break the seam without a hitch. 

Selecting Your Scissors

An alternative to a seam ripper is a good pair of sewing scissors. They squeeze into all of the nooks and crannies in seams with their pointed edges and thin blades. When looking for sewing scissors, finer models are best for cutting threads. 

Choosing Your Thimble 

A thimble is a tiny tool that keeps your fingers from getting pricked by needles. When choosing a thimble, the most important thing is that your thimble stays on your finger with ease. 

Picking Your Pins

Your basic sewing pin will do the job for most sewing projects. For more delicate fabric or smaller projects, thin needles will be best. For hefty textiles like leather, you might opt for stronger options like T pins. 

How to Hand Sew A Seam

It’s finally time to hand sew your seam. From getting a handle on seam types to crafting a strong seam sewing kit, you’re getting close to being a seam sewing expert. 

Find a Pattern

Before any seam sewing is going to happen, you have to choose your project and pattern. Take as much time as you need to look through Pinterest boards or sewing forums for projects that inspire you. Before moving onto the next step, make sure you have your game plan outlined.

Gather Supplies

After this deep dive into the world of seams, you should already know what supplies you need. Grab the exact thread, scissors, pins, and thimble you’ll need for your project and get ready to make them your best buddies. 

Get Your Fabric

No seam can be stitched without fabric. Now that you have your project planned out, decide on whether a natural textile, a sheer chiffon or warm leather will make your final piece work best. 

Start Stitching

You did it! You’ve made it to the final step of creating a seam: the stitching. Once you’ve decided which seam type will work best for you and whether you’re going to hand sew your seam or use a machine, it’s time to turn your cut fabric into a work of art.  

You’re Sew Ready for This New Adventure

There are thousands of fun and functional seam sewing projects out there that are just waiting for you. Now that you’ve spent the time to learn more about hand sewing seams, take a few days to test a few different seams out.  You’ll be well on your way to bigger sewing projects once you’ve mastered artful seams!

Learn to Sew By Hand

Hand Sewing Basics: Work Wonders with Fabric, Needle & Thread 

Written By

Calli Zarpas

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