Sewing Lessons: How to Finish Seams

Learn how to finish seams when you're sewing... even if you don't have a serger!


Hello!  For this month’s Sewing Lesson we are going to talk about “How to Finish Seams”, and you don’t need a serger!  If you’re new here, Sewing Lessons is a year long blog series hosted on the Polka Dot Chair that is sponsored by Bernina!  There will be 12 lessons, each one aimed at improving your sewing skills.

For even more great sewing tips you can check out Bernina’s site, We All Sew and their Youtube Channel, which is full of loads of great video tutorials.


Okay now lets talk finishing.  You want to finish your seams.  I know that sometimes this seems like one extra step, and you’re just tired of the project and want to be done, but it IS important.  You don’t want to spend all of that time making something to have it fall apart when it’s washed or worn.

There are many many ways to finish a seam today we are going to talk about 6.  Flat Felled Seams, French Seams, Zig Zagged Seams, Pinked Edges and Overlock Seams.



Let’s start with the simplest of all of these, Pinked Edges.  For fabrics that do not fray a great deal or that will not get a lot of wear you can simply use your pinking shears or a pinking attachment on your rotary cutter and pink the raw edges of your fabric.  You can even do this when you first cut out your project. The pinked edges will help deter the fabric from fraying.



Next the Zig Zagged Edge. Almost all sewing machines have a zig zag feature.  To zig zag an edge, sew the seam as you normally would and press the seam open.



Next, set your machine to a zig zag stitch. On the Bernina 710 this is a #2 stitch.



Depending on the weight of your fabric you can adjust the length and width of the zig zag to get the best possible result.

Now just zig zag along the raw edge of the seam, one hit of the needle will be on the fabric and the next hit of the needle will be off of it.




Next is a Flat Felled Seam.  Flat Felled Seams are generally used on heavy weight fabric where extra strength is necessary (i.e. jeans). However I really like to use flat felled seams on skirts and other children’s clothing. The finished top stitch gives a professional look to the outside of the garment.

Sew your seam as normal.  Press the seam open.  Then trim down one side of the seam allowance to 1/4” wide.



Next press under the uncut seam allowance 1/4”






Fold the seam allowance with the folded edge on top of the seam allowance with the cut edge. Press.



Using foot #5 (edge stitch foot). Top stitch along the folded edge of the seam.  You’ll need to adjust your needle position to the left.



To do this, just hit the arrow on the front of the machine until the needle is in the correct position.



Now for French Seams.  Don’t be intimated by these, I was for years, then I learned how to do them and they are so simple!  French seams work best for lightweight fabrics and are very common in heirloom sewing.



For this type of seam you are going to start by sewing your fabrics with the WRONG sides together.  A common misconception about french seams is that you start by sewing a very tiny seam allowance. This is not true. Sew with the same seam allowance you would normally use, otherwise your pattern may not align correctly.

After you have sewn the seam, trim the seam allowance down to a scant 1/8”, basically get as close as you can to the edge without cutting the seam.



Now turn the fabric with right sides together and using your fingers roll the fabric until the seam is worked out all the way to the edge. Now just stitch a seam along the edge.  Make sure it’s deep enough to catch all of the raw edges, but try to keep it as small as possible so there is not a lot of bulk.



Next is a Bound Seam. You may want to use a bound seam when finishing the raw edge of something like a skirt or sleeve and you want the contrast of the bias tape to show as a decorative touch.



You will need double fold bias tape, or you can get single fold and fold it in half.

Open up the bias tape and match the raw edge of the bias tape with the raw edge of the fabric. Just a note, use a matching thread, I only used white so you can see the stitching.

Stitch along the first fold in the bias tape.

Refold the bias tape and press.  Now just top stitch along the edge of the bias tape to finish.



The last finishing technique I’d like to talk about are Overlock Seams.  These seams are made for knit fabrics.  They allow you to finish and sew the seam of your fabric in one step. An overlock stitch is also great for a decorative touch on things like the collar of a t-shirt. The great thing about the Bernina 710 is that it has a built in Overlock Stitch. These stitches are usually  found in sergers.

Since you are sewing with a knit fabric make sure that you use a stretch needle in your machine.

On the 710 set it to the overlock stitch which is #10



Now hit the “i” on the screen and adjust the presser foot pressure. You want a light presser foot pressure to get a good result. (otherwise your fabric make gather and stretch as you sew)





Now just stitch down the edge of your fabric. The needle will be going off the edge slightly as it stitches.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this months lesson! Any suggestions for next month!?!

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Melissa Mortenson is the author of the Polka Dot Chair blog which is in its 7th year of sharing fresh and creative ideas with readers. She is the author of “Project Teen, Handmade Gifts your Teen will Actually Love”. Her first fabric line “Derby Style” debuted in January 2015 through Riley Blake Designs. A mom of 3, she considers herself lucky to be living in Kentucky.


  1. Jeannie says

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for the tutorial. You gave me an insight of overlocking and presser foot pressure.

    I bought a 750 Bernina in April, I’m still learning to use it. It’s so much advance than my manual basic Bernina 1000+. When I just brought home, I was so scared to use it and didn’t like it at all as it was too hi tech for me. But after piecing up a quilt, I am loving it!! Now it’s waiting for me to quilt it. I’m not sure how it is going work out with BSR or dual feed. May be you would like talk about those next time?


  2. DianeY says

    I just brought a new 710 home this week and am slowly working my way through ath stitches and functions, so this was a very timely and valuable post. Thanks!

  3. says

    so jealous! i wanted bernina 750 so bad but it was so expensive my mom made me go with a babylock. i guess that’s alright since i dont know how to properly use the machine yet and my speciality is in jewelry not sewing LOL! I will get good tho thanks for the inspiration

  4. says

    Nice post. But I do feel the need to make a small correction. The #5 foot is the blind hem foot. The edgestitch foot is the #10 foot. On the #5 foot the center blade continues back to the needle so that when the blind hem stitch is made it swings over the blade so the stitch is loose so the hem has some give. To use it for straight stitch you have to be careful that the needle is positioned so that the it doesn’t hit the blade. On the #10 foot the blade does not continue back to the needle area and can safely be used with the needle in any position.

    • says

      Thanks for the clarification. I have been using it for a straight stitch by just moving the needle. I’ll make sure the change the name of the foot on the post, I did mention to adjust the needle. Maybe I’ll have to invest in a #10 foot next.

  5. Diane says

    Thanks for these tutorials. I’m fairly new to sewing and recently got the 750 so it’s nice to learn the basics that you’ve shared. I am enjoying learning about all the different feet and features of this machine.


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