Every experienced designer or tailor knows that good design depends on the type and quality of finish on the edges.
It does not matter if the rest of the garment is a piece of art, perfect for the red carpet, a badly done edge will make it look as gaudy and as uninspiring as sackcloth for lack of a better comparison.
How then should you approach edge finishes for the best outcome? Luckily, there are quite a number of tried and tested edge finishes to choose from.
What Is Edge Finishing In Sewing?
An edge finish refers to the final hem you apply on the edges of a garment. It not only adds to its aesthetic appearance but prevents your garment from fraying on the edges over time.
Edge finishing can be done using an overlocking/Serger machine if available, by hand or with a normal sewing machine. To achieve a professional look, you must ensure that your edge finishes are done to perfection.
There are several types of edge finishes you can use, among them: serged finishes, pinked seam finish, edge stitch, zigzag seam, hemmed fell seam finish, bound seam, overcast foot, double-stitched finish, fringed edge, piped edge, among others.
Of course, the finish has to match the design of your garment and may sometimes depend on the type of fabric.
Types of Edge Finishes in Sewing
1. The Pinked Finish
This is perhaps the simplest and quickest finish in this list. However, it must be combined with another finish to complete. A pinked finish is done using a pair of pinking shears to give a zigzag looking pattern on the edges.
The finish is applied to woven fabrics to prevent fraying on the edges mostly on the inside of the seam so it’s not visible from the outside.
Step 1. Stitch a quarter-inch or as large a seam as you need on your fabric or garment. Pinking works best on woven fabrics. Get your pinking shears ready.
Pinking is an edge finishing technique that prevents your fabric from unraveling once you have finished sewing. Pinking also makes your edges more attractive.
Step 2. Press your seams open with a hot iron.
Step 3. Now, bring your presses seams together and align them to make sure that they are straight.
Step 4. Cut with your pinking shears so that your seams now have serrated edges.
Step 5. You can also finish your edges with the pinked and stitched seam finish. Before you cut your seam edges, make a quarter inch on the seams. Now, with your pinking scissors, pink just below the stitch you made on the seams. The inked and stitched technique ensures that your finishes are much stronger and durable.
2. The Zigzag Seam Finish
This finish can be used to reinforce the inside of your seam to prevent fraying. A zigzag seam can be applied with a normal sewing machine.
To apply a zigzag finish, just set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch and run it along the edge of the seam on both sides. The zigzag finish is good for any type of fabric because it does not create a bulky seam.
Step 1. Stitch your seams as you are used to then trim them down slightly. However, you have to leave an allowance to ensure that you can make your zigzag finishing stitches on the fabric or garment.
Step 2. Thread your sewing machine with the type of thread you would like to see on your garment or fabric. When finishing your edges, you can use threads that are similar to those in the rest of the garment or ones that contrast.
Step 3. Set your sewing machine to the zigzag stitch setting. Most sewing machines have zigzag settings. It will be easy to find. Just keep it at the standard or regular size of the stitch.
Step 4. Position your fabric or garment on your sewing machine ready to sew. Align the edge of your fabric to your sewing machine needle and presser foot. Position your presser foot ready to start sewing.
Step 5. Start sewing gently. Check if your stitches are as you want them to be. If not, adjust your sewing machine settings You can also change the position of your fabric or garment if the stitches aren’t falling in the right place.
You can use an overcast foot to properly align your fabric or garment on your sewing machine as you sew. An overcast foot helps to enhance your sewing accuracy and the neatness of your sewing process.
Step 6. Press your seams open or to one side to make your finished product attractive and neat.
3. The Serged Finish
You’ll need a Serger or an overlocker to apply a serged finish on your garment. It applies a pattern of thread on the edge of the fabric to reinforce it and prevent fraying.
You don’t need to do much if you are applying an edge finish on a Seger. Just set the Serger as required and apply the finish on the edge of the garment according to your design.
A Serger or overlocker makes the job of applying edge finishes quite easy, hence the reason why it’s commonly found in professional settings such as cloth factories.
That said, not every tailor or designer has the luxury of a Serger in their workshop. In that respect, the rest of the finishes in this list can be done using a normal sewing machine or by hand.
Method 1. Using Your Serger
Step 1. Bring your fabric or garment to the serger ready to sew the seams.
Step 2. Align your fabric or garment on the serger and start stitching. Stitch about one inch on the fabric or garment then pull it off the serger gently but fast.
Step 3. Take your thread tail at the beginning of your fabric, lay it on your fabric along the other serger threads.
Step 4. Bring the fabric back onto the serger and proceed sewing as you hold your thread tail in your hand. Sew to the end of the fabric. The thread tail that you are holding may cut off as you sew this time.
Step 5. Now, flip your fabric over to bring the bottom side up. Bring this side to your serger and align it for sewing under your serger sewing needle.
Step 6. Sew about one inch along the opposite side of your fabric then cut off your serger. You will have successfully finished off the edges with a serger. Cut off all the tail threads remaining on your fabric.
Method 2. Using A Darning Needle
Step 1. Stitch your fabric edges with a serger. Make sure to leave a little longer tail threads on your fabric or garment.
Step 2. Take your darning thread and insert it through the looper stitches you have made with the serger. Insert the thread tail nearest to the needle through the needle eye.
Step 3. Insert the needle one inch through the looper threads to the end of the thread. Make your finishing knot and cut off any excess threads on the needle. Do this all-around your garment if you have several edges that need finishing.
Step 4. You can add glue to the finished thread tails if you feel that they are not tight enough on the fabric.
Method 3. Using A Sewing Machine
Step 1. When you sew your fabric or garment with a serger to finish the edges, there are long thread tails left.
Step 2. Set your fabric on the sewing machine with the thread tail placed over the serger stitch and sew it firmly onto the fabric.
Step 3. Repeat all around the fabric or garment for edges that you have finished with the serger.
Method 4. Using Seam Sealant
Step 1. Sew your fabric with a serger and leave a thread tail that is a couple of inches longer than the fabric.
Step 2. At the end of the fabric apply a seam sealant.
Step 3. Fold your thread tail and clip it on the corner where you have applied the seam sealant.
Step 4. After you have allowed enough time on your seam sealant, remove the clips from your fabric and you will have finished the serged edges of your fabric.
Method 5. Tying Threads
Step 1. Sew your fabric with a serger and leave an inch long of thread tails.
Step 2. Unravel the serger threads at the end of the fabric so that you have your thread tail and a loose strand of the fixed threads.
Step 3. Make a knot at the edge of the fabric with these threads. Repeat for the rest of the fabric edges that are serged.
Step 4. Cut off the rest of the threads that are left hanging on the fabric.
4. The Edge Stitch Finish
The edge stitch is as simple as it sounds as it involves applying a simple running stitch close to the edge of the seam.
An edge stitch finish is usually applied in combination with another finish to reinforce the seam. Ensure that you only sew on the inside of each seam allowance and that you use a thread that matches the color of your seam and fabric.
You can hand stitch the edge-stitch or use a sewing machine for a more professional look.
Method 1. Using A Sewing Machine
Step 1. Identify the point of your fabric at which you need to finish sewing.
Step 2. Align your fabric on the sewing machine so that this point lies directly below your sewing needle for perfect stitching.
Step 3. Set your sewing machine to sew a zigzag stitch at standard width and sew it along your finishing edge.
Step 4. At your edge point, fold up a quarter of an inch. You can use a measuring gauge to measure the exact quarter inch that you need for your fold. If you have a long fabric to work on, you can hold the fold in place using long pins.
Step 5. Make sure to make your fold into the wrong side of the fabric. This ensures that your right side of the fabric or garment remains clean as you will also sew the finish from the wrong side.
Step 6. Align your fold onto the sewing machine and start sewing on it. Get as close to the edge of the fold as you can. Remove the pins as you sew.
Step 7. After you have finished sewing on the fold, iron it. This ensures that you have a flat and neatly finished edge for your fabric or garment.
Method 2. Using A Serger
Step 1. Bring your fabric edge to your serger. Sew along this edge to the end. Make sure to make a firm finish at the ends of the edges of the fabric.
Step 2. Fold up a quarter of an inch on the wrong side of the fabric and sew the fabric on your serger from the wrong side now.
5. The Bound Seam Finish
This type of finish is best used alongside a Hong Kong finish. Instead of stitching your edges, you will use a series of carefully applied and pressed binding tapes on the inside of your seam to achieve a professional finish to your garment.
You can purchase these binding tapes from any local supplier but pay close attention to their thickness in relation to the fabric you are working with.
The binding should ideally be of the same color as your fabric or contrasting color if you are more adventurous.
Step 1. Sew a plain seam on your fabric.
Step 2. With a hot iron, press the seams open.
Step 3. Get a different lightweight fabric preferably silk or polyester from which you will cut a bias strip of fabric that is a couple of inches longer than the seams you just stitched. You can choose to use the same fabric or a different color fabric to cut the bias strip for the bound finish.
Step 4. Place the bias strip on one side of the seams on the fabric. Make sure that you have the right sides together. The right side of the bias strip facing down and placed on the seam whose right side is facing up to match the cut edges.
Step 5. Sew a quarter inch from the cut edge of these two fabrics.
Step 6. Iron the stitches to keep them firm and press upwards until the edges almost meet.
Step 7. Fold the remaining part of your bias strip but don’t let the cut edges meet.
Step 8. Press and fold the entire length of the seam allowance.
Step 9. Press the fold up and make sure that it covers the initial stitching leaving the actual seam line stitching untouched.
Step 10. Turn your fabric so that your seam allowance faces up. Stitch in the ditch through all the layers of the seam.
Step 11. Repeat for the other side of the seam to make a bound seam finish.
Step 12. Now, press the seam edges that are now bound to remove any puckering on the fabric or tears.
6. The Turn Stitch Finish
This a traditional finish that is still used to finish dresses, men’s trousers and pretty much any garment with light fabric.
To apply this finish, just turn the edges of your seam allowance and apply a simple running or backstitch and iron the seam down.
Ensure that both folds are of the same width to achieve a professional look to your finish. Use a thread of the same color as your seam.
This finish is pretty easy to apply but requires some precision when it comes to folding the edges of the fabric.
Step 1. Finish your edge by stitching the seams normally.
Step 2. Open the sides of the fabric to expose your seams then press the seams open.
Step 3. Pick one seam and fold it under. Tuck it in so that it aligns next to or as close as possible as the stitch line. This makes your seams half their original size. Repeat for the other seam
Step 4. Press the seams tightly in place.
Step 5. Bring your folded seams to your sewing machine and stitch the turned seams one side at a time.
Step 6. When you finish stitching on the last seam, you have completed a turned stitch edge finishing.
7. The Scalloped Edge Finish
This type of finish is best done by hand and on thick woven fabrics. It’s more a decorative finish as it’s done using contrasting thread and quite elaborate in its appearance.
To apply the finish, just enclose the edge of your fabric with a blanket stitch of a contrasting color.
You can use this finish on handmade tablecloths, handmade blouses and other hobbyist projects. The scalloped edge makes the design stand out in addition to preventing the edges from fraying over time.
However, this type of finish does not look professional on most garments and requires a lot of thread.
Step 1. Design the scallop shape that you want to be featured on your fabric or garments. You will need some materials for this process. A scallop is part of a circle. To design your scallop shape you need a round item, marking pens or chalk, scissors, ruler or tape measure, and a sewing machine.
Step 2. Measure the length of the edge that you want to scallop. This helps you to know how long the scalloped edging you want to add will be.
Step 3. Using your round item, trace scallop patterns on your garment. Before you get them to the garment, make sure to test the shape you want elsewhere to help you avoid making mistakes on your fabric or garment.
Step 4. Add a fabric onto the edging of the fabric you want to be scalloped with the right sides facing inwards.
Step 5. Draw a line above the edge of your fabric. Make sure that the distance between the edge and the line is enough to fit the scallop shapes that you want to make. Place your round object on the fabric and start tracing the scallop shapes with your marking pens or chalk on the fabric.
Step 6. Bring your fabric to your sewing machine to start stitching your scalloped edges. Align your fabric so that you will sew exactly along the curved edges of the scallop patterns that you made.
Step 7. When you finish sewing the scallops, trim off the excess fabric around and above your stitching. Cut as close as possible to the stitching without unraveling it.
Step 8. For the fabric left around the scallop stitching, you can cut small shapes such as triangles to ensure that your fabric remains neat as you finish off your edge.
Step 9. To finish off your scalloped edges, turn your fabric and edging to the right side out. Make sure that the threads and small shapes made aren’t visible from the right side. If there are any, trim and press so that it is neat. You can also add fusible tape between the fabrics to keep them neat and flat.
8. The Overcast Seam Finish
This finish is an improved version of the zigzag finish. It’s best applied using a modern sewing machine that has an overlock stitch.
To apply the overcast stitch, just set your sewing machine on an overcast stitch of your choice and stitch the entire length of your seam.
Trim any extra fabric to the edge of the finish to complete the finish. The overcast finish is universal, meaning it can be used on any type of fabric or garment.
Method 1. Overcast Stitch Finishing With Sewing Machine
Step 1. Change your normal universal foot on your sewing machine to an overcasting foot. The overcasting foot has a straight-edged guide on the right side to ensure that your stitching is straight. It also has a bar that holds your fabric or garment keeping it stable on the swing machine.
Step 2. On your sewing machine, select the overlock stitch settings.
Step 3. Bring your fabric to the sewing machine and align it against the overcasting foot guide. Start your sewing machine and sew to the end of the fabric with your overcast stitch. It is a firm stitch that holds the edges of fabric preventing it from unraveling. And, making a beautiful edge finishing.
Method 2. Overcast Stitch Finishing By Hand
Step 1. Fold the fabric edge as thin as possible making it as tubelike as possible. Your fabric is ready to be overcast.
Step 2. Thread your needle with any type of thread that you can use for sewing.
Step 3. Start your overcast stitch. Bring your needle to the front from the back of your fabric. The thread will come over the folded fabric edge.
Step 4. Repeat this stitch all over the edge of your fabric to the end. Make a tight knot at the end and finish off your hand stitching.
9. The Heated Edge – For Polyesters
This finish is only possible if you are working with polyester fabric. It’s not the best of finishes and requires some patience to achieve a uniform finish.
It’s done using a mild heat source skimmed on the edge of the fabric to harden it and prevent it from fraying.
Only use this method if you are short of options or don’t care about the aesthetics of your garment.
Step 1. You will need a mini soldering iron, an electricity source, a piece of fabric, and wax to make your heated edge finishing possible.
Step 2. Plug your mini soldering iron into your sockets and let it heat up. The mini soldering socket has two heat settings. You can use it at 10 or 20W.
Step 3. When it is hot enough, plunge it into your wax and scoop a little.
Step 4. The wax will then melt due to the heat of the soldering iron.
Step 5. Pour the wax onto your fabric edges.
Step 6. Fold your fabric edge over the melted wax and press it down with your finger firmly.
Step 7. Let it rest for a while until the wax dries and keeps the fabric edge folded in place.
10. Fringed Edge Finish
You will need a drawn thread attached to the end of your garment to achieve this fringed finish. This is more of a decorative finish and is used in conjunction with other edge finishes to prevent fraying.
It’s commonly used on blouses, tablecloths and other accessories.
Step 1. Prepare your fabric for the fringed edge finishing. You will do this by making it as straight as possible. Draw a straight line on the point of your fabric where you want the edge to be.
Cut off the excess fabric from the line you have drawn on your fabric. Repeat all around your fabric or only for the edges that need finishing.
Step 2. Measure how long you want your fringes to be. Measure from the edge of the fabric and draw a line from the edge of the fabric into the fabric. Mark all around the fabric for the length of the fringes you need.
Let the mark you make determine the length of your fringes be parallel to the edge around the fabric. The longer the line is away from your edge, the longer your fringes will be.
Step 3. Start sewing on this marked line that determines the length of your fringe. You can use a zigzag stitch to sew on this mark all around the fabric.
Step 4. Find and pull loose the thread just above the sewn line. If you can’t get it with your fingers, you can use tweezers or needlepoint to pull it out.
Continue pulling the threads from the fabric making fringes along the edge of your fabric. Repeat this all around the fabric to produce the fringes to finish the edge of your sewing.
What Is Edging in Sewing?
Edge sewing refers to any type of stitch or finish applied at the edge of a fabric to reinforce the seam or for aesthetic purposes.
There are several methods and techniques used for edge sewing depending on the desired outcome, type of fabric, type of seam and other considerations.
In most cases, edge sewing is done to prevent the edges of the fabric from fraying.
What Stitch Do I Use to Keep the Fabric from Fraying?
There are many types of stitches you can use to prevent your fabric from fraying but they must be combined with an appropriate edge finish and seam for the best outcome.
Zigzag stitches are commonly used on edge finishes to prevent the fabric from fraying. However, a simple running stitch combined with a good edge finish can do the trick as well.
Will Pinking Shears Stop Fraying?
Using a pair of pinking shears to finish your edge will not give a hundred percent protection for the edge. What it does though is to reduce the surface area that a single fray will reach and therefore reduce the damage.
This is why you should combine a sheared edge with another edge finish for the best results.