Special fabrics deserve special attention and seam finishes. There are many different ways to accomplish this, but I thought I would share a few of my favorites.
The five techniques that follow will be invisible from the right side of the garment.
All start with a basic seam (generally 5/8" in modern pattern designs) except for the French Seam.
One of the most basic ways to finish a raw edge is with a pair of pinking shears. Woven fabric is produced by weaving threads together (warp and weft), which is why, if cut on the grain, you can peal a woven fabric apart – depending on the looseness of the weave, this may be incredibly easy to do. Pinking shears make tiny cuts into the bias, making it more difficult for the edges to unravel.
If you doubt the viability of such a finish, check out a well-worn vintage day dress. Quality of fabric certainly has something to do with the longevity, but from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that the pinked edges will remain in fine shape, even when seams start to pull apart and other forms of wear and tear are clearly visible.
If you are not sure that pinking alone will keep your edges from fraying, a line of stay-stitching will add another layer of protection. (The stay-stitching should happen prior to pinking the edge.)
Provided your fabric choice is light to mid-weight, the French Seam may be perfect for your special fabric.
This technique is stitched twice, once to stitch two pieces of fabric together, and then again to enclose the raw edge of the first seam.
Some people suggest opening that first seam with an iron, but depending how delicate and/or slippery your fabric choice, it may be easier to push the trimmed seam to one side or the other. The first seam allowance plus the second seam allowance should add up to the allowance given on your pattern – make sure to account for turn of cloth, especially if your fabric is a mid-weight.
The most difficult part of the French Seam is wrapping your head around stitching something wrong sides together. No matter how many times I use the technique, it always throws me when I see raw edges sticking out the right side of my fabric after that first step!
The couture version of a serged edge is hand overcasting.
This is especially useful in a princess seamed garment that requires clipping. As with the pinked edge, an extra line of stitching can add a layer of protection against the fray monsters.
If you skip the line of stay-stitching, this finish is virtually undetectable after a good pressing, even with the most delicate of fabrics - which is why it is often used in couture houses.
Another option is a folded edge. Press the raw edge under and run a line of stitching to secure the fold.
If you wish to add a line of decorative top-stitching to your seams, you can stitch through both the fabric and the folded seam allowance and accomplish two steps in one.
I think the stuff is magic. If someone made me decide between an ironing board (or any other vital piece of sewing equipment, for that matter!) and rayon seam binding, I think I would figure out a way to make my table into an ironing board so I could hold onto my favorite sewing notion.
Not only does it encase the raw edge with little to no added bulk, it is so very pretty to look at! A detailed explanation of how to use this technique may be found here.
There are certainly many other choices for edge finishes, but these are the ones I come back to again and again. Remember to test with a scrap of your chosen fabric to determine which option will work best for each specific project.
Do you have a favorite technique for finishing your seams?