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Machine Sewn Seam Finishes - Mock French Seam and French Wrapped Seam - Part 3 of 4

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One of the hallmarks of a professional job is when the inside of your project looks as great as the outside. We have a full four-part series, and this tutorial (number 3 of 4) reviews a couple of the more unique options: the mock (or false) French seam and the French wrapped seam. The mock French seam uses a standard straight stitch, the French wrapped seam takes the straight stitch in combination with a zig zag stitch. These are basic stitches you'll find on any sewing machine, which means there’s no reason not to incorporate them into your seam finishes toolbox. 

Similar to the French seam we discussed in Part 2 of 4, these two seam finishes also come to us by way of fine couture and heirloom garment sewing. However, they are beautiful options that can just as easily be applied to home décor, accessories, casual wearables, and more. They're also a good alternative when you need a reinforced seam finish for durability.

The similarities and differences

All the reasons for using a traditional French seam finish are the same for a mock French seam or French wrapped seam: sheer fabric, ravel-prone fabric, or simply because it creates a clean, professional look.

There are two primary differences. One, the manner in which you sew a mock French seam or French wrapped seam is much easier and a bit faster. And, two, in the tutorial on traditional French seams, we stressed it was not a finish suitable for areas with a curve, such as armholes. Conversely, mock French seams and French wrapped seams are wonderful for curves, which is the primary reason you may have come across them in fine garment sewing. In addition, French wrapped seams are generally thought to be the best finish for lace and/or embroidered fabric.

Seam allowance concerns

Accurate seam allowance is always important. Similar to the regular French seam, the mock French seam can be sewn using either a ⅝" garment seam allowance or ½" home décor (and accessory) seam allowance. Quilting typically uses a ¼" seam allowance, but is not traditionally a category for which seam finishing is a hot topic, because your seams are hidden within the quilting layers. 

The important thing to remember with either of the techniques profiled here is that you'll be trimming away a portion of the seam allowance (again, similar to the regular French seam). Ultimately, the smaller seam allowance is what makes them ideal for curved areas where you want the look of a French seam. It’s also necessary to trim away some of the seam allowance to eliminate bulk, especially if you are using a medium to heavyweight fabric. We'll look more closely at this in the actual steps for each technique below, as they vary slightly.

Tools to use

Needle and thread appropriate for your selected fabric type

Standard foot – the one on your machine when you took it out of the box.

Seam gaugeand/or clear ruler 

Sharp scissors

Iron and ironing board. Pressing is a big part of all the French seam techniques!

Mock French Seam

  1. Set up your sewing machine for a straight stitch, with the appropriate needle and thread for your fabric type. 
  2. Place your fabric right sides together. Pin as needed.
  3. Sew using the appropriate seam allowance for your project, either ½" or ⅝". Remember, maintaining accurate seam allowances is key to this technique.
  4. We used a ½" seam allowance
  5. Trim back the seam allowance to ⅜". For our example, this means we have to trim away ⅛" from the raw edge. For accuracy, it's best to measure in from the raw edge with a seam gauge or ruler and mark a line.
  6. Trim along the drawn line.
  7. At the ironing board, open the seam flat. Finger press or iron flat.
  8. Fold over one raw edge to meet the seam. Press in place.
  9. Repeat for the other side of the seam so the two raw edges meet in the middle.
  10. Bring the two folded edges together so they are perfectly aligned and the raw edges are enclosed within the layers. Pin or hand baste in place.
  11. Edgestitch along the aligned double fold.
    NOTE: Depending on the thickness of your fabric, you may need to lengthen your stitch slightly.
  12. Press to one side.
  13. Looks just like a traditional French seam, cleanly finished inside and out!

Wrapped French Seam

  1. Set up your sewing machine the same as above.
  2. Place the fabric right sides together. Pin as needed.
  3. Sew using the appropriate seam allowance. Again, we used a ½" seam allowance.
  4. Sew a second seam ⅛" from the first line of stitching.
  5. Trim the raw edge ⅛" from the second line of stitching.
    NOTE: If need be, you can draw a guide line as above.
  6. Zig zag or hand overcast the raw edges together. We used a narrow zig zag on our Janome machine. Press to one side.
  7. Once again, nice and neat inside and out... and super fast!

Hints and tips

  1. In our examples, we used a ½" seam allowance as stated. It becomes very small and narrow in the end. If you are trying this technique for the first time, we recommend practicing with a wider seam allowance. You can really use any seam allowance you want; you just need to remember to account for the extra width needed for folding and/or trimming when cutting your initial fabric pieces. 
  2. Depending on the type of sewing machine you own, you may find it helpful to move the needle to its left needle position for the final finishing steps of a mock French seam. This makes it a bit easier to sew nice and straight right along the folded edges.
  3. When using these techniques along a curve, it’s strongly recommended you baste all edges together before sewing. Remember, in couture sewing, most of the stitching is done by hand!
  4. Sometimes the mock French seam comes in handy when you’ve forgotten to sew a French seam – they really do look the same.
  5. And as we always say: test, test, test any seam finish on scraps before using the techniques on your final project.

Contributors

Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly

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