Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hollyburn Sew-along - Skirt Seams

Welcome to the next post in the Hollyburn Skirt Sew-along! Incase you've missed any, here are all the posts so far:
Inspiration (Part 1)
Inspiration (Part 2)
Choosing a view
Choosing and Buying Fabric
Changing the Length
An Interview with Tasia
Pattern Alteration - Removing the Pockets
Pattern Alteration - Piping on your waistband
Prewash and Prepare Fabric
Thoughts on Grading Up in Size
Choices to make before starting to sew

Yesterday we went through sewing up the pockets of the skirt, today we're going to sew the front and side seams of the skirt. Just like yesterday, I'm going to go through two ways to sew/finish the seams; the way in the instructions and another method with french/hong-kong seams where the raw edges are completely hidden. This skirt is a great garment to try out new seam finishes, as the seams are straight making it easier for when you're trying out a new technique.

Check your machine settings!
Before we start with today's sewing, as the last step we did yesterday was basting, you may not have remembered to reset the stitch length to your shorter sewing length. So start by checking your stitch settings.

(Just ask me what prompted me to include this in the instructions!!)

Sew side and centre front seams - instructions method
Place the two skirt front pieces RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, matching the notches. Pin in place so it doesn't shift, and sew a line of stitching 1.5cm (5/8") from the raw edge. This seam will be pressed open, so you'll need to finish the raw edges separately with a zig-zag stitch.

When I do this I like to finish the underneath edge, holding the upper one out of the way, as I find it easier to see that I'm not accidentally catching the other edge in the stitching:

Quick Tip: stitch the seam before you finish the edge! I have tried doing it the other way around (finishing the edge before stitching the seam) and the two pieces got distorted and didn't fit together properly anymore

Now press the seam open.

To sew the side seams repeat the process. The pattern suggests pressing the seams open, however I think that would generate a bit too much bulk around the pockets, and my preference is to press the seams together towards the back. If you do this, you finish the seams together and then press it towards the back.

Centre Front Seam - Hong Kong Bound Seams
If you want to try a different seam finish where the raw edges are completely enclosed, then I would suggest a hong-kong bound seam on the centre front seam. As you need to press the seam allowances open a french seam like we did on the pocket is not suitable here.

If you want to try this method you'll need some extra fabric to use as binding. I used some cotton batiste (that I also will use for my skirt lining).

If you're not 100% confident with what you're doing, I recommend practicing on some fabric scraps first before you do your skirt.

Place your skirt front pieces RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, lining up the notches on the centre front and pinning.

Now stitch along the centre front seam, with a 1.5cm (5/8") seam allowance.

Next press the seam you just stitched. Everything I've read says to do this to 'set the stitches' - if I'm honest I don't really know what that means, but I would do it here as it will smoothen out the seam and make it easier to press open

Now open up the skirt, wrong side facing up:

and press the seam allowance open:

Now we need to prepare the binding. Normally you'd use bias binding, which you can use here, but as the seams we're binding are straight we can also use straight binding - which saves fabric. Cut two strips of fabric 1" wide that are at least as long as your centre front seam. Now press the fabric so that the two raw edges meet in the middle like in the picture below:

You can buy gadgets to help you press the tape like this, or use a pin or this printable tool. I used clover bias maker to press mine, but have used a pin in the past too.

Next we're going to enclose the raw edge with the tape. Lining up the raw edge of the seam allowance on the WRONG SIDE of the skirt fabric with one of the raw edges of the folded tape:

Stitch along the tape on, or just to the side of the fold line on the tape (to the side nearer the raw edges):

Make sure you are only stitching it onto one of the seam allowances, not both.

Now press the tape away from the centre front seam line, along the line of stitching you just did:

Your skirt should look something like this:

Now, fold the rest of the tape around the raw edges so they're enclosed, and sew along the edge of the tape, about 1/8" from the edge:

Your finished seam should look something like this:

And that's your hong-kong bound centre front seam!

Side Seams - French Seam Method
The alternative method that I used for the side seams was a French Seam. As I was planning on pressing the seam allowances back, French seams are suitable.

So first, line up the front and back skirt pieces at the side seams WRONG SIDES TOGETHER (I know, it feels wrong!), lining up the notches. Pin in place.

As with yesterday, check that your machine is set to stitch a 1/4" seam allowance.

Stitch along the side seam 1/4" from the raw edge.
Now turn the fabric RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, and press the seam you just stitched so the stitching is right along the fold line.
Next, stitch another line of stitching at 1/4" from the folded/seamed edge.

Press the seam towards the skirt back, and you're done!


Whichever method you followed, you should now have all four pieces (2x front, 2x back) stitched together:

How's everyone going? Making sense so far? In the next post we'll be stitching the waistband onto the skirt.

Missed any of the sew-along posts, or just want to re-read them? You can find the full list here.


  1. Hi Rachel, silly question - if I'm doing a lined skirt, should I be sewing the lining side and front seams too? Thanks! Thea

    1. I will be walking through all the steps for doing a lined skirt.

      I haven't mentioned it yet as I will say when I would sew the lining seams up - as it might require a different thread colour I'd usually do all the lining seams separately to the skirt ones. I'll also be discussing some tips for sewing with slippery fabrics when we get to the lining section.

      Having said that, you can do the lining seams now if you like, but you don't need to.

  2. Hi Rachel, I am a bit behind, have only cut out, but hopefully will get a chance to get into it this weekend. Tricky, hubby is back in town and apparently I am supposed to spend time with him, not the sewing machine ;)

  3. The seam allowance is 5/8". But the french seam is 1/4 + 1/4, doesn't that equal 1/2". Or do you figure the turn of cloth adds more so it all evens out in the end?

    1. Right in one! Turn of cloth tends to add the extra. However I recommend practising with a scrap of your fabric to check that the same is true for you and your fabric and machine etc.


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