Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sew-Along Project: Sleep Pants (Part 3)

Greetings sew-along participants!!  It sounds like the flat-felled seams went okay for everyone!  They look so nice, don't they?  Well, today, we're going to learn another durable seam technique.  This one is a little bit less time consuming than the flat-felled seam, but just like that seam, it encases all of the raw fabric edges, making it a perfect seam to use when you are using fabric that tends to ravel and fray.  The seam for today is going to be the French seam, and a finished French seam is what is pictured above.

We will be using this seam on the inner leg seams of our pajama pants.  So, we used the flat-felled technique on those LONG, OUTER leg seams, and now we'll be using the French seam technique on the SHORTER, INNER leg seams.  The first thing you need to do is take one of your seamed pieces, and pin together the INNER leg seam, WRONG FABRIC SIDES TOGETHER, just like we did for the outer leg seam.  Remember to match your notches carefully and place your first pin there, then place your next pins at the top and bottom of the seam, and then place your pins every few inches along the entire seam.

For our flat-felled seam, we started out sewing the fabric together with a 5/8" seam.  But for the French seam, we're going to make a NARROW seam of 1/4".  Find the 5/8" marking on your machine throat plate, then look to the left and you'll see the marking for 1/2", and then 3/8".  Your machine may or may not have an actual marking on the throat plate for a 1/4" seam.  Mine doesn't, because the 1/4" marking would be exactly where the edge of the feed dogs are.  (The feed dogs are those ridged things that come up from the bottom of the machine when you sew, creating pressure together with the presser foot to sew the layers together, and helping move the fabric along.)  So, I have to "eyeball" my 1/4" seam a little bit.  Since it helps to have something for the eye to follow, I noted that the right inner ridge of my presser foot lines up exactly with the edge of the feed dogs.  Since I can see the presser foot as I'm sewing, I used that ridge on the presser foot to guide my fabric.  Notice in the picture below, how my fabric is just inside the outer edge of the presser foot:
You may want to play around with a scrap piece of fabric to make sure that you know what you are going to line your fabric up with for your 1/4" seam.  Sew a seam in your scrap using the edge of the presser foot as a guide, then take the scrap out of the machine and MEASURE the seam.  If it's more or less than 1/4", adjust how you're guiding your fabric until you get a perfect 1/4" seam.  It's really important that this seam isn't any wider than 1/4", and the reason why will become apparent a little later on.
The photo above shows my 1/4" seam after I've sewn it the whole way down.  Again, measure while you're experimenting with your scraps, because you want your final seam to be accurate.  Once you have your first 1/4" seam completed, pin and sew the second inner leg seam in exactly the same way.  Now, take both of your seamed pieces over to the ironing board, and place one piece on the board like this:
Remember how we pressed the seam allowance to one side when we were doing the flat-felled seam?  That's what we're going to do with this seam, too, except that this time, it doesn't really matter whether you press the seam toward the front piece or the back piece (although you should press both inner leg seams in the same direction).  So go ahead and get both of your inner leg seams nicely pressed to the side:
Now, turn your pressed piece over so the wrong side of the fabric is facing you.  You should be able to see the line of that seam that you just made.  FOLD right along that line, the whole way along the seam, and pin the fabric in place at regular intervals.  This is just like pinning a regular seam, except that instead of raw edges at the outside, you have a fold at the outer edge.  Here's what your pinned seam should look like:
Lay that folded and pinned edge down flat on your ironing board, and press each section firmly, first with the pin in place, then after letting the pin cool and taking the pin out, press the section again.  Do this the whole way along the inner leg seam.  If you feel uncomfortable taking all of the pins out, you can leave just a few in, evenly spaced along the seam.  Now fold and pin the inner leg seam on the other fabric piece, and then carefully press that edge just like you did with the first piece.

Take your pieces (they're actually "legs" at this point, aren't they?) back to your sewing machine.  What you're going to do is sew a 3/8" seam right along that folded and pressed edge.  So, just like you did for the 1/4" seam, look on your machine throat plate and find the marking for a 3/8" seam.  That's the marking that you're going to be following.  Here's how that leg looks in my machine, as I'm ready to start sewing my 3/8" seam:
Notice that this time, the edge of my fabric lines up just a little bit outside of the edge of my presser foot.  Again, I'm following the actual marking on my machine.

Now, have you figured out what we're accomplishing here?  1/4 + 3/8 = 5/8, right?  We simply took our normal 5/8" seam allowance, and we're dividing it up, making two, narrower seams.  The 1/4" seam that you sewed originally is now going to be bound right inside of the 3/8" seam you are about to sew.  That's why your first seam had to be accurate -- if you make that first seam more than 1/4", it won't be completely encased when you sew the second, 3/8" seam.

Go ahead and sew a 3/8" seam all along that edge.  Note that, unlike before, this time, you're sewing the seam with the RIGHT SIDES of the fabric together.  Clip your threads at the ends of your seam, and now do exactly the same thing with your second pajama leg -- sew a 3/8" seam all along the inner leg edge.
Now take your two seamed pieces back to the ironing board, and press that seam again.  Then, lay out the pajama leg on the ironing board with your new seam sticking up in the middle, and press the seam toward the BACK of the pajama leg.  Press the other leg exactly the same way.  Now, here is what your finished French seam should look like on the INSIDE:
You still have a seam allowance, but unlike a typical seam, you have no raw edges.  They're all encased in that second seam that you made.  And here is what the seam will look like on the OUTSIDE of your fabric:
It doesn't really look like anything, does it?  It looks like a seam line in most any garment.  And that's exactly what it is.  It's just a seam line, because the seam allowance is all on the inside.

Well, that's it!  You've now finished the inner leg seams of your pajama pants and learned how to make French seams, another very durable seam finish.  Plus, you now have two pieces of fabric that actually look like pant legs!  From here, it's pretty easy to see how the finished pants are going to look.

The next step (Part 4), will be sewing the "crotch" seam of the pants, that seam that runs from the front of the pants to the back, joining the two legs together.  There will be some special seam finishes for that seam, too.  So, happy sewing, and I'll see you soon for Part 4!  Once again, feel free to post any questions that you have and I'll answer them as soon as I can!


  1. Love the little guitar fabric!

  2. I came to see if part 4 had been posted, but I don't see any of the comments that were here last night. Hope is alright!