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Most machines these days come with the ability to sew zigzag stitching, and this is a great help for finishing seams. It is so much quicker than hand finishing that for most areas, it has taken over completely. The following are three ways of finishing seams. They are all used on flat seams.TURNED EDGES: once the seam has been sewn and pressed open, turn under 1/8"/2mm and press. Sew along the edge, 1/16"/1mm from the fold. This can be done on a straight stitch machine. This finish adds some bulk to the finished edge, and is not suitable for all fabrics, or some garments.
ZIGZAG EDGES: for this you need a machine that will sew zigzags. Set the stitch selector to zigzag: adjust the width and length of the stitch according to the type of fabric. Sew along the edge, so that the right-hand stitch is as close to the edge as possible, or falls just off the edge of the fabric. This can be done after the seam is sewn, but is easier to do beforehand. It can be used to finish lightweight fabrics, medium weight fabrics and coatings. If you are working on a very loose weave fabric that frays easily, it is useful to zigzag the edges before the seam allowance frays away to nothing! On most fabrics it adds very little bulk to the finished seam.
On lightweight blouses and dresses, you can zigzag the seam allowances together for a finer finish: sew the seam as you would for a flat seam. Press without opening the seam out flat. Set the stitch selector to zigzag, and adjust the length and width to suit the fabric. Zigzag the allowances together about ¼"/ 3mm from the seam line. Trim the allowance close to the zigzag stitches.
Note: If you have a three step zigzag on your machine you can use that for all zigzag finishes. It lies flatter on fine fabrics, and gives a slightly firmer finish on stretch fabrics where both seam allowances are finished together, as above (diagrams and photos to follow... )
PINKED EDGES: to do this, you need a special pair of scissors called pinking shears. These cut the fabric in a zigzag pattern along the edge. After sewing the seam, trim the edges with the pinking shears. This finish is fine for knits that do not ravel, and tightly woven fabrics that do not fray. It is also useful for some internal constructions as it softens the cut edge of fabric or interfacing.
NB Pinking Shears are too thick and clumsy for most cutting-out purposes, though they can be used to cut out simple shapes. Like your dressmaking scissors, they should never be used to cut paper.
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