Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lapped Seams

Getting Ready for Fall/Winter Sewing

A double stitched lapped seam

What are you sewing these day?  The fall season has officially begun and in my next of the woods the temperature outside is decidedly cooler. If you are like me your focus has shifted to sewing projects for fall and the approaching winter seasons. This means working with fabrics that are decidedly bulkier and heavier. Fabrics like fleece, melton or loden cloth, leather, fur and others that can pose some sewing challenges. 

Having a clear strategy to deal with these fabrics is job one. Managing bulk is one of the most challenging aspects, so learning how to reduce or eliminate the bulk is part of the overall strategy. Doing so will ensure the finished product looks professionally made rather than 'homemade' - my primary goal in every project I ever make.

What all of the above mentioned fabrics have in common is that their raw edges are tightly woven so they are not likely to fray; and therefore, can be left exposed. You can either minimize the effect of the exposed seams or emphasize them to add style and interest to any garment. For some garments it is a way to add an organic or more modern styling. It is also a great way to reduce the bulk.

Using lapped seams instead of plain seams accomplishes both objectives. This type of seam looks great in all the above mentions fabrics and is one of the best solutions for sewing with either real or faux leather. It creates a seam that is strong and adds a stylish detail to the garment.Your biggest challenge becomes selecting the right type and color of thread that will be exposed on the outside of the garment.

As a sewing instructor I am always looking for easier ways to execute sewing techniques. It's important to me that my students not only learn to do a particular technique, but that they are able to do them on the first try. This builds their sense of accomplishment and is a great way to boost confidence motivating them to want to learn more. For new sewers the importance of that cannot be overstated.

So, sometimes I re-engineer the way techniques are done. Case in point, I teach sewing darts in a reverse manner and I hem prep before I sew sleeve hems. Easy alternative approaches that accomplish the same end but are much easier to execute.

The lapped seam is another example of this.  While my method is very similar to the ways most sewing textbooks teach the technique, with a few modifications and attention to detail, it ensures a much cleaner and more professionally looking seam. If the seam is sloppy, in my opinion the garment is ruined or has that 'homemade' look. 

The keys to this technique is to use a rotary cutter for a perfectly cut edge; to mark the fabric on the wrong side; and, to use an edge/joining presser foot for a precise, straight seam line.Cutting a straight edge with scissor thought adequate can't achieve as straight an edge a rotary cutter can accomplish. Marking the wrong side verses the right side in my opinion is always best. Who wants to deal with trying to either mask or remove markings on the right side of any fabric. And, a super straight sewn seam is imperative. So finding a method to achieve that which in this case is the edge/joining foot accomplishes that.  

Here are my instructions for the perfect lapped seam:

  1. Cut all your pattern pieces to include a 5/8 inch seam allowances. Place the two pieces that will be joined (ie: front bodice joining back bodice at side seams) right side up (the piece that will feature the exposed seam is facing up) - that will be referred to as the 'outside flap'. 
  2. Take the outside flap piece and trim off using a rotary cutter and straight edge ruler 1/2 inch off the seam allowance. 
    Trim 1/2 inch with a rotary cutter from the outside flap
  3. On the wrong side of that same piece now mark a line 5/8 inch from the newly cut edge.  
    Mark a line 5/8 inch from the newly cut edge
  4. Take the under flap and line it up to the 5/8 inch marking (the wrong sides are now facing up) and pin in place. If using leather, real or fake, tape the seam in place. 
    On wrong side line up under flap to marked line & pin in place
  5. Reposition pins to the right side. 
    Reposition pins to the right side for sewing
  6. Using an edge/joining presser foot, topstitch the seam approximately 1/8-1/4 inch from the edge. Typically a slightly larger than normal stitch length is best, but use what looks best for the type of fabric you are sewing. 
    Use an edge/joining presser foot for a super straight seam

A single stitched edge gives a more organic look

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