Many sewing projects that you encounter will have you sewing two panels of fabric together creating a seam. Unless you have a serger, the edges of your seam are going to be ragged and possibly unraveling.
If you're sewing a lined drapery panel or sewing a pillow, or a sewing project where the seams will end up being hidden, then the ragged edges are no big deal.
But what if you plan on sewing a sheer drapery panel? Those seams would look unsightly. What do you do?
You sew a french seam instead. A french seam is a seam that encloses the raw edges into itself. It's very simple and will make your projects look nice and neat.
Lay your fabric panels wrong sides together.
Sew a 3/8" seam along the side edge
Open up the sewn panel and press the seams open. Press well
Fold the panel on the seam line right sides together.
Press the folded edge
Sew in 5/8" from the folded edge enclosing the raw edges of the 3/8" seam
Press the seam to one side
Now you have a clean, professional seam with no ugly raw edges. Use a french seam whenever you are going to have the backside of the seam exposed.
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