How to French Seam and Armhole

If you're working with a fabric that frays easily or want a super professional finish to the seam allowances of your garment a French seam can be a great option, but just how do you sew the armhole? In this handy video tutorial I take you step by step through the process and give you lots of general tips for sewing and setting in sleeves too.

Introduction

A French seam is a finish that encases all the raw edges of the fabric within the seam. It sounds complicated, but once you know how it is actually very easy. It takes a little extra time and effort, but in my opinion is so worth it for the results especially if you are working on a special garment.

French seams are also stronger than regular seams because you effectively sew the seam twice. They are commonly used on tailored shirts and garments where a more professional, neat finish is required, however, they are only suitable for lighter weight fabrics since they would be too bulky in heavier weight fabrics.

In this video I'll show you how to apply this sewing technique to an armhole, which often confuses people.

Method

In exactly the same way that a standard French seam is sewn, start with the fabric wrong sides together.

With the sleeve turned the wrong way out and the bodice the right way out, insert the sleeve inside the armhole.

Match the notches at the shoulder seam and armhole and ensure the side seam matches up with the sleeve seam.

It is crucial to match up the notches on a sleeve accurately, insert the wrong sleeve in the armhole and it will look very odd - I know I've done it!

Pin in place easing the excess sleeve fabric in or use easing stitches.

Sewing from the sleeve side, sew the initial seam with a 1/4" seam allowance. I used my purple thang to help me keep the fabric in place as I eased it through the machine.

I used my seam guide foot to help with accurate sewing of seams, in fact this foot is pretty much permanently on my machine. This particular foot is by Husqvarna and designed to be used with their sewing machines (check our compatibility chart for details of which models), however, other brands we stock offer a similar alternative.

Press the stitches flat then open. It is incredibly useful here to use a tailors ham and/or sleeve roll so that you can position the fabric for accurate pressing of the seams.

Push the sleeve back through the armhole so the right sides of the sleeve and bodice are now together.

Pin in place - it should be easier this time around since a lot of the excess fabric has already been eased through.

Sew with a 3/8" seam allowance making sure the raw edges of the previous seam are encased.

Give everything a final press et voila you have sewn an armhole with a French seam.

Shopping List

Have fun sewing!

Lucy

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