How to Sew a Seam




About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

Sewing a seam is the most basic of sewing skills to learn! It's super easy to do, but there are a few things that will make your sewing go nice and smooth. :)

To prep yourself for sewing a seam, check out my "how to sew" instructable.

Step 1: What You'll Need:

For this project, you'll need fabric (I'm using 3x5 pieces of muslin for this - the perfect size for practicing), pins, thread and scissors.

If sewing by hand, you'll need:
If sewing by machine you'll need:
  • a sewing machine (this is mine - it's the best sewing machine I've ever had)
  • a bobbin loaded with the same thread you're using in the needle on the machine (mixing threads can cause problems with tension sometimes)
  • an appropriate machine needle for the weight of fabric you're using. Because I'm using muslin, I've got a quilting needle installed.

For both handsewing and machine sewing, I like to use a cotton/poly thread. It's a bit stronger than plain cotton. :)

Step 2: About Pinning

Everyone has their own preference - but I prefer to pin vertically instead of horizontally, especially for machine sewing! (And that's only when I pin - I mostly pin during my instructables to make things look organized, otherwise I run wild with no pinning. It's faster!)

Sewing over pins is dangerous to boot and can break your needle, so you have to pull them out as you go. I like to zip along so pinning vertically is the way to go for me.

Also, when sewing on a machine, always points the tips of the pins toward you - this will save you stabbing yourself in the hands.

Step 3: Sewing a Seam on a Machine

The key to a strong seam is backstitching! It's always important to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam. Backstitching on a machine is the equivalent of tying a knot while hand sewing - it locks the stitches in place. Without it, the seam can open up. This happens especially fast if the seam will be under any stress - for example, turning a project right side out after sewing.

Here are my steps to sewing on a machine:
  • pin your fabric right sides together
  • insert the fabric under the needle so your seam allowance is correct and the edge of the fabric is 1/4 inch past the needle and pull the threads to the back of the machine
  • use the hand wheel to move the needle down into the fabric
  • backstitch to the edge
  • sew down the seam to the opposite edge
  • backstitch for about 1/4 inch at the end
I've embedded a quick video of me sewing a seam, too.

Step 4: Sewing a Seam by Hand

Sewing a seam by hand is fun, but I tend to avoid it because it can be very slow going and the results (for me, at least!) are rarely as sturdy as a machine sewn seam. There are certain applications where it works great through, including small dolls and toys, delicate hems, and finishing items professionally.

Here's a list of things to remember when hand sewing:
  • a backstitch is more durable than a running stitch (click through to find explanations)
  • tie strong knots!
  • pin and mark the sewing line if necessary to keep your stitches straight - this is great for beginners!
  • the smaller and closer together your stitches are, the stronger the seam will be
  • beeswax is great for keeping your thread from tangling
  • I like to hold the fabric taut between two fingers while sewing - it takes a little practice, but allows you to move a little more quickly!

(This is definitely not the fanciest hand sewing I've ever done. It was ridiculously hard for me to film myself and do this! :P I typically hold the fabric up at chest level - that's a much more comfortable position.)

Step 5: Using Beeswax

Here's a quick gif of how to use the beeswax! All you need to do is drag the thread along the top of the chunk of beeswax.

I like to do this a couple times just to make sure it's coated well, and sometimes I'll also rub the thread between my fingers to help warm up the wax.

Step 6: Comparing the Seams + Extras

As you can see, the hand sewn seam is looser by far. You can tighten it up considerably by using tinier stitches and more of them!

I like to press my seams with a steam iron after sewing because it makes them look a little neater. :) You can also clip the edges with pinking shears to stop them from fraying - I almost always do that.

Have you mastered the basic seam and want to level up in sewing? Have a look at my French seam tutorial! It's much easier than it looks, and it's a fantastic way to make clothing and accessories look and feel more finished. :D



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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    it's really very well explained, I learnt two thing which I didn't know. thank you


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice tutorial, thanks a lot.

    I needed this tutorial so I can sew a velcro pad to the roof in my car and mount a dash cam on the ceiling. It seemed more clean than drilling holes, haha.

    Thanks a lot for this instructable!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Well documented and an easy turtorial. Thanks for sharing! :-)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    You make these tasks look so easy and beautiful! What is the advantage of the beeswax? Thank you

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It stiffens and smooths the thread a bit, so it glides through the fabric easier and won't loop around itself so much. :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is very useful, thank you for making this instructable Jessy! I had never heard/seen the beeswax before, at least in sewing, I need to look it up now!