Hand Felling a Seam Allowance

Felled seams are sturdy and utilitarian. We’re mostly familiar with them as the re-inforced seams on our jeans, but felling is a very old technique. It was a handworked finish for seams centuries before sewing machines were invented, and was often seen in traditionally home-made items like shirts and chemises. A seam allowance can be felled after the fact. It’s a good finish for both hand and machine sewn seams, and, properly done, is completely invisible from the outside of the garment.

pressing one seam allowance

You need a plain sewn seam to start. Press one of the seam allowances in towards the stitches.

trimming pressed seam allowance

To reduce bulk in the finished seam, trim the pressed seam allowance so that it does not touch the original seam line.

trimming the unpressed seam allowance.

Trim the unpressed seam allowance so that it does not reach the crease in the pressed seam allowance.

Please note: You don’t have to trim this seam allowance back quite this far.  I have a slightly springy wool that frays like the dickens here, and I’m putting it onto a doll so I want to get as much bulk out as possible. I’ve trimmed both seam allowances so that they will kiss inside the seam, rather than overlapping.

the felling stitches

To fell, cover the unpressed seam allowance with the pressed on and whip-stitch the crease of this seam allowance to the outer fabric. This will not show if you're careful to catch only one thread of the outer fabric with each stitch!

finished seam, from inside

From the inside, you see two lines of stitches - my original machined seam (bottom), and my hand felling stitches.

seam, seen from outside

From the outside of the seam, you don't see any stitches at all (even though my thread doesn't match my fabric)!

The last two photos haven’t been doctored – the color-shift was caused by me turning on the Ottlite. :)

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