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Hand vs Machine - A Run and Fell Seam

Next in our series of Hand vs Machine sewing samples, let's look at a run and fell seam. Once again this is a seam that can be sewn beautifully by either hand or by machine. In this instance, an interesting version can be sewn by both, whereby the first seam is sewn by machine and the second 'felling' seam is sewn by hand - either visibly or invisibly.

A run and fell seam is one of the strongest seams in dressmaking. You will often see it used when working with denim and workwear such as the long seams in jeans. It is also used in men's tailoring, on shirt sleeves for example.

As before, for most fabrics, set your machine at a medium to long stitch. Rather than backstitch at the start and end of the seam, which stiffens the fabric, knot the ends of the threads or weave them back into the seam stitches, to keep softness in the fabric. When hand sewing traditionally a back stitch would be used. A back stitch loops up and around itself, creating a strong, double layered stitch. Traditionally the piece of thread used would be the length from your wrist to elbow. This helped prevent twisting and knotting, but also means, that if a stitch were to pop, only a small length of an long seam would be impacted.

In comparing the two stitched samples, superficially the stitches may look different, but at a practical level, both seams are straight and strong and perfect for any number of sewing projects.

To sew the seam. The seam is usually formed on the right side of your fabric. With wrong sides together, a seam is sewn, with one seam allowance wider than the other, for example, one SA of 0.5cm the other SA 1.5cm. For a novice sewer, you can sew a standard SA of 1.5cm and trim one of the SA's down to 0.5cm after the first seam is sewn.

The seam should be pressed at this point, flat as sewn, then open, then to one side, with the wider seam allowance on top. This is known as under pressing and is an important step in any project, not to be skipped as you may not be able to get your iron in and press once the project is finished.

This wide seam allowance is then folded over and under the narrow seam allowance to enclose it, and a row of top stitching sewn along the edge of this fold. In denim, this is usually in a heavy, contrasting golden yellow thread, well known by all of us. For our own projects, we can top stitch is a matching or in a contrasting colour, whichever best fits with our project and the end look we are aiming for.

As the seam is sewn twice, this double row of stitching and folded edge give great strength and durability to the seam. It lies lovely and flat and can be a good choice for children's wear.

It is so useful to know a range of seam types, particularly those that enclose and finish your seam at the same time. No need for extra seam finishing and definitely no over lockers!

Hopefully you can see how simple it is to start sewing with a needle and thread, the machine can always come along later, and who knows what you may make in the meantime. Far better to be sewing by hand, than not be sewing at all due to a lack of machine.

Should you like to learn more about enclosed seams, including run and fell, welt, standing fell, French and mock French why not take a look at our specialist Enclosed Seams lesson:


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