“Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.” - Coco Chanel
A lot of Brits enjoy creative hobbies. Embroidery, knitting, crochet, sewing, etc., arts and crafts are coming back. Whether you’re making an item of clothing, a present for a friend, or touching up your curtains, creative pursuits allow you improve your imagination.
So how can you get started with sewing together your own creations?
To tailor make clothes or touch up others, here are two sewing techniques you can use: the open seam and the closed seam. Get your sewing equipment ready (pins, iron, interfacing, needles, etc.).
In this article, we're going to have a look at what each of these seams is, what they're used for, and how you make them.
What Is an Open Seam?
Sewing can seem complicated at first when you don’t know the lingo or the techniques. However, the open seam is one of the simplest to do.
The open seam allows you to join two pieces of fabric together without making the fabric too thick. This technique is often used for fabrics that are already quite thick or heavy, to begin with.
The open seam is used by beginners and experts alike. It can be used for coats, trousers, skirts, purses, or any other project using a heavy fabric.
The folds of each fabric are separated and then sewn together. This means that there isn’t twice as much thickness at the seam. You’ll usually need an iron when doing an open seam.
If you’re a beginner, you can quite easily learn to do this seam. You can also regularly use it for your own projects.
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How Do You Do an Open Seam?
As mentioned before, the open seam isn’t particularly complicated and it’s often one of the first ways you’ll learn how to sew.
You just need to overcast or serge to the two pieces of fabric that you want to use in order to create an open seam. This means that the thread won’t get in your way while you’re sewing. This will also make your work cleaner. That said, you can skip this step if you’re in a rush.
If this is the case, take two pieces of fabric, and place them right sides together. To make sure the two pieces stay in place, you should pin them together as this will ensure better results.
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With the help of a sewing machine or by hand, start sewing a centimetre from the edge of the fabric. This is the seam allowance or inlay, the distance between the edge of the fabric and the seam. Generally, this is between 1cm and 1.5cm.
To ensure that the stitching is clean, don’t forget to start and finish your stitches. This will be at either end of the thread.
Once you’re done, open the two parts of the fabric that you’ve sewn together. You want the wrong side facing upwards and you’ll place the two pieces of fabric with the right side down. The extra fabric will be overlapping.
Take this extra part and fold it over. This is called pressing open the seam. Iron the two ends until they’re as flat as possible. Turn everything over and iron the side with the stitching. Press down hard so that the stitching remains flat. You don’t want to be able to feel the stitching on the ends.
Find out more about other common seams.
Closed seams are the opposite to open seams in the way that the seam allowance is on the same side. You don’t need to separate the two sides but rather place them together.
This technique is usually used for sewing light fabrics on clothing such as shirts, blouses, or lingerie. Unlike an open seam, a closed seam adds to the thickness. A closed seam on a thick fabric would be too noticeable from the outside.
A closed seam includes a lot of the same steps as an open seam. You’ll need to have your iron on hand and overcast the fabric, if necessary.
Learn how to do a felled seam.
How Do You Do a Closed Seam?
Just like with an open seam, a closed seam starts by placing to pieces of fabric right sides together. Pin them so that they won’t move. The seam allowance needs to be 1cm. This means you won’t have too much extra fabric but it’ll be easy to work with.
When using a sewing machine, there are usually markings that indicate the right distance. If you want to sew by hand, you can use pins or a pencil to mark the allowance. To finish the stitching, you can sew back over a few centimetres of the stitching so that it doesn’t come undone.
Remove the pins and then place your work right side down. You want the wrong side facing you and to be able to see the edges. You just need to place the to edges on the same side.
With the help of an iron, flatten to the edges. Turn over the fabric and iron the other side. You can iron it several times if you want.
You can then finish the seam by overcasting the two ends of the edges. This will make your seam cleaner. You just need to cut the ends of the threads and you’re done.
The overlock stitch is also very useful!
When Should You Use an Open Seam and a Closed Seam?
As you’ll have understood, the main difference between a closed seam and an open seam is how you deal with the edges.
So which one should you use?
Once you’ve finished sewing, you can test which of the seams will work for you. When you’ve got two edges, check whether a closed seam would be too thick and if so, opt for an open seam.
You can’t do this the other way round since if you start with an open seam, you’ll have one or two edges going the wrong way. This will make it harder to do the fold. A thick seam can ruin a piece so be careful.
How Can You Learn to Do an Open Seam or a Closed Seam?
There are different ways to learn. The best way is whichever method has you progressing the fastest. Learning to do an open seam or a closed seam isn’t the most complicated aspect of sewing. This is why these seams are very common.
You could teach yourself to sew by following steps in guides like this one or the many tutorials online. You can find online tutorials on YouTube which are great as you can see what you’re supposed to be doing. You can also follow them in real time.
You can also ask a friend who knows how to sew. Learning to sew with friends can be enjoyable and you can use your scissors, pins, thread, and needles to make your own clothes and accessories. You can decorate your clothes and open and closed seams can be used for all types of projects.
There are also workshops that take place in haberdasheries. You can learn sewing techniques like open and closed seams, French seams, or zig-zag stitches. In a sewing class or workshop, a sewing kit and an experienced teacher can go a long way.
If none of your friends knows how to sew, then you can learn how to do so with the help of a private tutor. This method is recommended if you want to learn more than just the basics. You’ll learn how to add zips, use a serger, a sewing machine, get your seam allowances right, make a hem, use sewing patterns, and many other sewing techniques like a straight stitch, French seam, and zig-zag stitch.
On Superprof, there are plenty of talented tutors offering face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, or group tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials tend to be the most expensive but you'll also enjoy being the only student in the class and bespoke tuition, making them the most cost-effective tutorials available.
Online tutorials are cheaper since the tutor doesn't physically travel to you but rather teaches via a webcam. Not having a tutor there with you can make arts and crafts more difficult, but if you have a good webcam and an even better tutor, anything is possible.
Group tutorials tend to be the cheapest per person per hour because the students share the cost of the tutor's time. If you and a few friends want to learn how to sew, this could be the right option.
You’ve no excuses to not start sewing now!