I have a wee obsession with French Seams at the moment! I just love the neat finish and how simple it is. I also like that you can make a very professional looking garment without an overlocker/serger. Which is great if you are just starting out with sewing and a standard machine is all you have.
I made the Contrast Hem Skirt as part of my All About Skirts theme back in July this year. I loved this simple skirt. It has a nice contrast which I always like and this gives it a great look with only sewing straight lines. It is the perfect project for a beginner. So I thought it was time I did a French Seam version!
What you will need
Fabric – One main and one contrast. You can make this without the contrast too.
Elastic 25mm (1”) wide
General Supplies – Thread, pins, iron
112cm (44”) of double fold bias binding (optional)
NOTE: Always lock stitch at the start and end of each seam. Lock stitch if you have the function on your machine, or sew a few stitches and reverse over them to prevent the seam coming undone!
Step 1 – Measuring
This skirt is made by measuring the fabric rather than using a pattern. If you want to make more than one it would be quicker to draw your pieces on paper and cut them out. Then you would only have to measure once!
I used standard size chart that I found online. There are so many you can just Google it until you have one that is in the measurement units you like working with. This one I have used in the past.
Lets work out the width first. For a size 4, the waist was 56cm (22”), for a nice full gathered skirt you need to double this number 56cm (22”) x 2 is 112cm (44”). We do not need to allow a seam allowance even though we are using French seams as there is plenty of gather a centimetre or inch isn’t going to matter.
Now the length. You need to decide how long you want the skirt to be. Then add 12.5cm (5”) to that measurement. You can make the contrast hem any size you like but as long as both pieces add up to the desired length + 12.5cm (5”) you will be fine!
I decided to hem the bottom in bias binding, if you like the look of that then you can reduce the add on from 12.5cm (5”) to 9cm (a little over 3.5”).
My skirt is a short one to wear over tights, finished length it is 25cm long.
Step 2 – Cutting
Using your measurements cut out your pieces. If your fabric is wide enough you can cut it in one piece. If like me your fabric is too narrow, then you can cut it in two parts.
If you cut in two pieces you will have two side seams, if you cut in one piece you will only need to do one side seam.
Note: Do the same for both fabrics. So if one is too narrow then cut both fabrics in two pieces.
Step 3 – Sew Contrast and Main Fabric together
Pin the the two pieces together with wrong sides facing each other (right way around – the opposite to how you would normally sew a seam).
Sew this with a small 1/4” seam allowance.
Press the seam to one side. It will usually want to go in one direction just roll with it for now!
Fold the fabric closest to you (red one) over top of the contrast and line up with the edge of the contrast fabric. So that you are pressing them both flat at the seam.
A little easier to see the finished result in this picture. It should now be right sides of the fabric facing each other. Next you need to sew down the seam again using a 3/8” seam allowance. I don’t use pins for this as it has just been pressed in place, feel free to pin it if your fabric isn’t pressing well or you just prefer it!
This will encase the raw edge in between the two seams. Press again, with the seam folding towards the bottom (hem) of the skirt. Gravity will be pulling it this way when it is being worn!
If you have any threads sticking out of your seam like above,
pull them gently and most of them will come out. If not trim them with scissors as close to the seam as possible while gently pulling on the thread.
You can’t even see where they were!
Repeat this step with the second piece if you cut in two pieces!
Step 4 – Sew Side Seams
Pin the side seam together starting from the seam in between the two fabrics. You need that point to line up, it doesn’t matter if the top of bottom edge isn’t perfect.
You sew this in just the same way as the first seam. With wrong sides of the fabric facing, sew the seam with a 1/4” seam allowance.
After pressing it will look like this. The seams don’t line up perfectly at the bottom but don’t panic this is the inside. Sew with a 3/8” seam allowance as before.
Here is the same seam folded out after sewing. Pretty happy with the way that lined up!
Repeat for the other side if you have one.
Step 5 – Waistband
Fold over and press the waistband by 1/2”
Then fold over and press again using your elastic as a guide. You want it to be a little bigger than the elastic so that there is room for the elastic to fit inside the waistband. I like to cut my elastic before doing this. You will need your waist measurement in my example 56cm (22”) and subtract an 2.5cm (1”) from that. So my elastic is 53.5cm (21”) long.
I again don’t pin this (I probably should!) but I do pin the centre back to leave an opening to thread the elastic through.
Change the thread to one matching the main fabric (or contrast if you like!) and sew the seam slightly larger than than the 1” line on your machine. For mine the 30mm mark lines up perfectly. Leave the gap between the pins open!
Using a safety pin feed the elastic through the waist band.
Pull the elastic out so the skirt is as gathered as possible. The more elastic you have pulled out the easier it is to sew together. There are several ways to join elastic together, I have a post on that here!
As you can see these days I tend to overlap the elastic a little more (1 1/2”) and don’t sew right on the edge. Either way you like really, my kids have clothes with all the different methods and I haven’t had one come undone yet!
Stretch out the skirt so that the elastic pops back inside. I like to get the open area sitting fairly flat so I use pins to keep the gathers away! I usually sew the tag on before sewing the waistband but this works too. Just sew the gap closed lining up the end of the first seam with the needle on your machine.
Step 6 – Hem the Bottom
I decided to bias bind the hem, if you do this make sure it is a nice soft bias binding. If you want instructions on attaching bias binding I have a post called Struggling with bias.
You can always hem as normal. Fold and press over by 1/2” and again just like the waistband. Only you don’t need to make it as wide as it won’t need elastic inside it.. I like a quite narrow hem on these skirts so it is not too bulky.
There you have a skirt that looks good enough to wear inside out…well almost!
What is your favourite way to finish your seams?