How to finish a seam with zig-zag stitch

It may seem tempting to invest in an overlocker to neatly and professionally finish your garments, but did you know you can achieve a similar finishing effect with your sewing machine? The next best way to finish your seams to prevent fraying, and neaten them, is to use a simple zig-zag stitch! This is a great beginners’ technique and eliminates the need to invest in another piece of expensive kit if you've just started sewing.

This guide is designed to show you how to finish your seams for a professional finish, without using professional kit!

You will need:

  • Overlock/Overcasting foot for your machine: this isn't essential, but this foot helps you line up your stitches a little more easily. Your machine may come with this foot, or you'll be able to order it separately. If you want to use a normal machine foot, then practice first on a mock seam or a scrap of fabric!
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Dressmaking scissors

Using and zig-zag stitch to finish seams:

  1. Sew your seams as normal. Trim your sewn seam down by a few mm's. You don't want to trim them too much, as otherwise your zig-zag stitch won’t fit!
  2. Set your machine to sew a regular sized zig-zag stitch. If you have an overlock or overcast foot, now is the time to attach it to your machine, in place of your regular foot. Double check your stitch settings on a scrap of fabric, and if you are using a normal foot, get familiar with spacing your stitch accurately on your seams.
  3. With the raw edge of your seam aligned with the edge of the metal of your foot, stitch along your raw seam. If you are using a fairly lightweight fabric, you may want to work on both raw edges at the same time. If you are using anything medium or heavyweight, sew each raw edge individually.
  4. When you get to the end of the seam, don't backstitch - instead, leave a long tail on your thread and tie a double knot. Do this at the top of your seam too. Trim your tails once the stitching is secured.
  5. Repeat for the other raw edge of the seam.
  6. Press your seam open, or to one side if you have sewn them together. Usually, you will want to press a single seam towards the back of the garment.
  7. Your seams are now finished!
  8. With this stitched finish, they are less likely to fray with wash and wear. Generally, we recommend avoiding this technique with fabrics that fray considerably, such as chiffon and satin, as these finish best with an overlocker or French seam.

This is a great alternative technique if you don’t have access to an overlocker but want a neat finish!

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