Here is the follow up to the straight French seams. This seam is handling gathered fabric such as used in setting in a puff sleeve, ruffle or skirt. The main principles are the same. Use a 3/8" seam allowance. It is a two part seam with the first pass being stitched with wrong sides together, second pass right sides together. The first pass uses a zig-zag stitch with a 2.1 width and .9 length. Second pass a straight stitch run right along the edge that is formed by the first pass. To see these basic principles in pictures go here. And as always, in any post, click on the pictures to enlarge them.
The set up on the fabric is the same, right sides of the fabric marked with an R. The 3/8" and 1/4" seam allowances are marked with a water soluble blue marking pen and a C Thru ruler.
To gather my fabric, I run three rows of gathering stitches. Since this is a fine batiste, I don't use the "basting stitch" button on my machine, I use a stitch length of 3. This is much smaller stitch than some are used to using. This is a fine fabric, this will give small fine gathers instead of honkering gathers. If I was gathering velvet I would use a longer stitch. Everything in proportion.
I use three rows of gathering stitches for more control. You will have nicer, more even gathers this way. I stitched these rows at a scant 3/8", a scant 1/4" and 1/8" in my seam allowances. If I am lucky I won't run over the gathering stitches too badly when I sew the seam and I will be able to remove them later.
Here I have pulled up my gathers so that my fabric fits the shorter piece. See how nice and straight my gathers are? Three rows of gathering stitches does that. Again, my fabric is wrong sides together.
My first pass (green thread) using my zig zag stitch. No this is not an Irish flag, I am using different color threads so you can see which stitch is which.
Set your stitches by pressing the seam as it was sewn. I am only pressing the seam allowance. I don't want to press the gathers down. Why re iron the wrinkles out of the fabric when I am done?
Take a deep breath, its time to trim that seam allowance. This is from the back. It is easier to see my zig-zag stitches on the flat side. No they aren't green because I was too lazy to change the bobbin as well as the top. Shoot me!
Trim right up to those zig zag stitches.
Trimmed seam from the gathered side.
Turn your pieces right sides together and press. Being careful to make sure your seam is at the top of this fold and I pressed it with the nose of my iron to save myself those set in wrinkles.
This is an extra step I don't do when I make a flat French seam. I hand baste (the red thread) the seam instead of pinning it. Why? More control! It takes all of 30 seconds and I can make sure that my gathers are straight and out of the way. Nothing ticks me off more, than to turn it right side out and see all of the "caught" gathers. Grr. So try this, it works great.
This is where my bamboo skewer is priceless. It is hard to see that first pass of the seam through those gathers. So I really depend on the gulley made by the skewer this time. Again refer to the first post about French seams to see this more clearly.
Another trick to help control this second seam, or any seam, is I use my left hand to act as a tiny "hoop" by applying opposing pressure on the fabric to hold it taught. I am not pulling as much as keeping it straight with that steady opposing pressure. Imagine as you are pressing the fabric flat to the machine bed that you are also spreading your thumb and forefinger gently apart. I hope that makes sense. Hard to show the action in a still picture.
While doing this action I use my right hand to use my bamboo skewer. Take my word for it, I couldn't hold the camera, the fabric AND the skewer. There is a limit to even my talents! :)
Second pass of the French seam. Snugged right up next to that first zig zag that in now encased in the seam on the 3/8" seam allowance.
This is how it looks from the flat side. Remove the hand basting and the gathering threads. Sometimes we have a tendency to want to leave the gathering threads in there. Especially if we have used a matching thread, thinking it won't show. No it won't, but removing them will give you a softer seam. You don't need all of that extra thread inside the seam allowance.
Again press the seam as it was sewn, then open the seam, press to one side from the wrong side and then from the right side.
Finished seam to gathered fabric. Doesn't that look great? Now this is more gathered than a sleeve head would be simply because I cut two scraps with one being twice as long as the other.
French seams with gathered fabric are not limited to just fine batiste either. This is a sleeve set into a garment with a French seam that has been made from line pique. The yoke is also lined. So that is three layers of pique fabric in that French seam to gathered fabric.
This is another shot of the same sleeve using the pique. The gathers are there.
And right side out. So get to French seaming with confidence. Hope this has helped.
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