How To Finish Raw Edges Of Fabric Without A Serger?

There seems to be a misconception in the sewing world that you need to have a serger or overlocking machine in order to sew an item with nicely finished edges.

I certainly believed this when I first learned to sew! I had no idea about the methods I am going to share with you today that I actually would burn all the edges of my fabric to keep them from fraying.

Please do not resort to putting a flame up to a finished garment like I once did. Instead, read on to learn 6 different methods of finishing raw edges without a serger.

Can You Finish Raw Edges of Fabric without a Serger?

Finish Raw Edges of Fabric without a Serger

Yes. Sergers are a nice tool to have, but if you do not have one and are worried about finishing seams, you do not have to worry about it. We have sorted it out for you.

There are many ways to finish raw edges without a serger. Options include, using pinking shears, creating french seams, sewing a zigzag stitch or mock overlock along the seam allowance, sewing a hong kong seam, or folding the seam allowance into itself and stitching the edge closed.

Read on for a more in depth explanation of how to approach each of these methods.

How to Finish Raw Edges of Fabric without Sewing?

1. Use Pinking Shears For Edge Finishing

Pinking shears are a special type of fabric scissors that have a serrated edge which creates a zig-zagged cut. They prevent your fabric from fraying by cutting the fabric along the bias, as long as the seam allowance being trimmed is in line with either the lengthwise or crosswise grain. They are a simple, yet efficient, method to finish the raw edges of any fabric.

Pinking Shears

Using pinking shears is possibly the simplest way of finishing seams. They function exactly the same as a pair of regular scissors in terms of how to operate. .Once your seam has been stitched, you simply will trim the seam allowance using a pair of pinking shears. It is that simple, just trim, and the shears will do the finishing work for you.

Alternatively, you can save a lot of time by simply cutting out your pattern pieces with pinking shears. This way all of your raw edges will be finished right from the start. This can be helpful in preventing fraying during the sewing process.

One thing to note is that, although this method is the most simple, it may not stand the test of time as well as the other methods. For an item with its edges trimmed by pinking shears, wash on a delicate cycle or by hand to lengthen its lifespan.

How to Finish Raw Edges of Fabric by Hand?

1. Using a Hong Kong Seam

A Hong Kong seam is certainly the method which will give the most professional look to any raw edge. It is very appropriate for finishing the raw edges of an unlined jacket, as it helps in giving a very finished look on the inside. It is also quite suitable for heavyweight woven fabrics.

Hong Kong Seam

Some people may find the Hong-Kong seam to be the most difficult method for finishing raw edges. But with a little bit of practice, learning this technique can be well worth your while.

A Hong Kong seam is created by binding the raw edges of the seam allowance with a bias tape. For this reason, you will need a few yards of 1” wide bias tape (without folds) for this method. You can either buy pre-made bias tape or create your own, if using pre-made simply press it flat first to remove any pre-made folds.

Step 1: Cut two pieces of bias tape to the length (plus a few inches) of the seam being finished.

Step 2: Press your seams open, as we will be finishing each edge independently of the other.

Step 3: Put the right side of the bias tape and one of the raw edges of the fabric together. Sew using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Step 4: Turn your bias tape out so the right side is facing up and press it away from the seam allowance.

Step 5: Now, encase the raw edge of the fabric by folding the binding around the allowance and press.

Step 6: Stitch in the ditch on the right side of the bias catching the folded edge on the wrong side.

Step 7: Repeat steps 3-7 on the other raw edge of the seam allowance.

Step 8: Clean the look up by trimming any excess bias tape and pressing everything once more.

To make the look extra fun and polished, use a bias tape that is patterned or contrasting in color to the fabric of the garment.

2. Using a French Seam to Finish Raw Edges

French Seam

French seams give a very clean, finished look to the raw edges of your fabric. With this method, all raw edges will be hidden within the seam. French seams are best for lightweight, woven material as heavier weight fabrics can create too bulky of a seam for this method to work. A french seam will create a very sturdy seam, however, it is not a preferred method for curved seams.

Step 1: A french seam starts by stitching your seam with the wrong sides of the fabrics together. This first seam should be sewn with a seam allowance that is 1/4” less than what the pattern calls for. For example: if a pattern calls for a 1/2” seam allowance, use a 1/4” for step 1.

Step 2: Trim the raw edges down to a 1/8” seam allowance. The smaller the seam allowance, the less bulky the finished seam will be. This step also ensures that the edges will be fully enclosed inside of the seam allowance in step 4.

Step 3: Press the seam allowance to one side.

Step 4: The final step to sewing a french seam is to sew the same seam again, but this time with the right sides together. Use a 1/4” seam allowance, which is the amount that was subtracted from the seam allowance in the first step.

Now the raw edges will be completely enclosed inside of the seam allowance, creating a very clean and finished look.

How to Finish Raw Edges of Fabric with Regular Sewing Machine?

1. Use a Zig-Zag Stitch to Finish Raw Edges

Zig-Zag Stitch


Another way of finishing seams, and one of the most common methods, is sewing the raw edges with a zigzag stitch. This method is quite easy and can be done on most sewing machines.

Using a zig-zag stitch is really quite simple and can help prevent holes in seams caused by fraying of raw edges. There are a few different options to this method depending on your personal preferences.

Option 1: The first option (and also the quickest) would be to sew your item as usual but instead of using a straight stitch, use a zig-zag stitch. If you opt for this option, a long and narrow zig-zag would be preferred to keep the seam looking as straight as possible. Press your seams to the side after stitching.

This way of using a zig-zag adds no extra work to the sewing process. That being said, using a zig-zag stitch in replacement of a straight stitch will never quite leave a seam looking as crisp and neat as it could with a straight stitch. For this reason I prefer any of the other options for this method.

Option 2: Start by sewing your seam as usual, using a straight stitch. Once the seam has been sewn, press your seam allowance to one side. Now, sew the seam allowance together along the edge using a zig-zag stitch. The fabric may fray a small amount, but will not fray past the line of the zig-zag stitch. If you desire, you can trim the seam allowance, getting as close to the zig-zag as possible, to minimize fraying.

Option 3: Option 3 is similar to option 2, but will allow you to press your seams open. I like to press seams open whenever possible because I think it gives the cleanest look. For this reason, option 3 and 4 are my favorites for the zig-zag stitch method, even though they may take a little bit longer than the others.

Again, start by sewing your seam as usual, using a straight stitch. This time, press your seams open, instead of to one side. Now, instead of sewing your seam allowances together, you will do a zig-zag stitch down the edge of each seam allowance, independent of each other. Once again, you can choose to trim down the edge as close as possible to the zig-zag stitch if preferred.

Option 4: The last way to finish your garment’s raw edges with a zigzag stitch, is to sew the edges before stitching the seams. This method also allows you to press your seams open and will prevent any fraying during the sewing process. If you choose this method, remember to keep the stitch within the given seam allowance.

2. Finish Raw Edges Of Fabric With a Mock Overlock Stitch

Mock Overlock Stitch

Almost all modern sewing machines now come equipped with mock overlock (also called overedge or overcast) stitches. This method will most resemble the finish you would get if using a serger. Using these types of stitches works well for smaller projects, as the machine can run much slower when doing this stitch. Additionally, most machines will require a special presser foot to successfully sew this stitch.

Step 1: Exchange the regular presser foot for the overlock presser foot compatible with your machine.

Step 2: Read your machine’s manual and do some test stitches to become familiar with the overcasting stitch options that your machine provides, since many machines have more than one option.

Step 3: Sew your seam as usual, using a straight stitch. Press the seam allowance to one side.

Step 4: With seam allowances together, sew along the edge of the raw edge using the overlocking stitch of your choice. This stitch will bind the edge of the fabric to prevent it from fraying.

Alternatively, you can skip step 3 and go straight for the overlock stitch. If you choose to do so, you must consider the seam allowance given for the pattern and potentially make changes if the overlock stitch is not wide enough.

3. Turn and Stitch To Finish Raw Edges of Fabric

Turn and Stitch

The turn and stitch method of finishing seams is probably one of the oldest ways of doing it. This method is basically doing a hem on the seam allowance to hide the raw edge on the back side of the seam allowance.

If you have a sewing machine that does not have a zigzag stitch, you can always choose this process to finish your fabric’s raw edges. This method is great for stable fabrics that press well. Let us take a look at it.

Step 1: Sew the seam as usual, a straight stitch, using the correct seam allowance. Press the seam open.

Step 2: Start with one of the seam allowance edges, they will be finished independently of each other. With the right side of the seam allowances pressed open and facing up, fold the raw edge towards the backside. Fold it so the seam allowance is about 1/4” wide, and press.

Step 3: Taking the folded edge to the sewing machine, sew a straight stitch down the length of the fold. Make sure that all other parts of the garment, other than the folded edge of the seam allowance, are not being sewn.

Step 4: Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other side of the seam allowance.

No matter what type of fabric you’re using and the item you’re making, you can choose one of these 6 methods to finish off your raw edges. Any of these methods will keep your edges from fraying and will help create a piece that looks clean and well finished. Which method will you try first?

How Do You Seal Fabric Edges Without Sewing?

If you want to finish the raw edges of fabric without using a serger, sewing machine, or even stitches, then you can use a pair of pinking shears. It is one of the simplest ways of sealing fabric edges without sewing that you will ever come across. These shears cut the edges uneven, which makes it difficult to fray. Using this method is suitable for woven fabric, which is not washed much often.

What Stitch To Use To Keep Fabric From Fraying?

When you are thinking of preventing the fabric from fraying and using a stitch to finish the raw edges, it would be best to go with a zigzag stitch. This stitch is commonly used for securing the seams on a material. Adjust the setting of the stitch to the default, and start sewing.

However, it would help if you practiced scrap fabric stitches before going on to the final garment. It will help to get the perfect setting for your stitch. Most of the machines come with an overcast stitch, and you can also go for this stitch for a more professional look.

Will Zigzag Stitch Prevent Fraying?

Yes, the zigzag stitch is the most common way to stop the fabric from fraying. You can adjust the setting of the stitch to default and then go on with the sewing. It would be helpful to practice on scrap material before stitching the final fabric. It will also help you achieve the right setting of the stitch.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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