Tips for Sewing Crisp Curved Seams
Ah, curved seams. It’s a sewing technique that nearly every garment sewing pattern requires. That’s because anything with a neck hole, armholes or high-low hem requires that you sew a curved seam. A curved seam can be incredibly frustrating, or it can be the one element of your handmade clothing that makes you beam with pride. Today, I’m showing you a few simple simple tricks that can make nearly every curved seam, slight or dramatic, look crisp and professional.
I’ll be demonstrating this technique on an awesome pattern that is not quite ready for the Indiesew shop. I can’t wait to tell you more about the pattern in the coming weeks and show you the cheery, lemon-yellow finished product! The pattern pieces I’m working with here are the sleeves and sleeve facings. Let’s dig in.
Pin. A lot.
As with any seam that is not straight as an arrow, I recommend pinning more than you think is necessary. This is especially important when you’re sewing very curved sleeves into armscyes (a fancy word for armholes). The more you pin, the less chance that your fabric will shift while sewing, and the less likelihood of puckers. Around very dramatic curved seams, I recommend pinning every inch.
Ease While Sewing
Often with curved seams like sleeves and armscyes, your two pattern pieces might not be exactly the same length. This is usually intentional to allow for the movement of your arm at the shoulder, and requires a technique called easing. One way to ease a seam is to gently pull your shorter pattern pieces while sew the two pattern pieces together. Easing your curved seams will make sure both pattern pieces lie flat against each other, which will produce a crisp seam, free of puckers.
Clip Your Seams
With every curved seam, slight or dramatic, I clip my seams. Why? Well, let’s find out. Below is a photo of a curved seam, prior to pressing.
When you attempt to press your seam open without clipping the seam first, this will likely be the result when viewed from the right side of the fabric
Do you see how the seam isn't a crisp line when pressed? Let’s take a closer look at an unclipped seam looks like when you fold and press the pattern pieces wrong sides together.
When your seams aren’t clipped, the fabric contained in the seam allowance cannot stretch around the outside of the curve, hence small wrinkles form as you see above. The wrinkles will become more dramatic with larger seam allowances.
There are two different methods for seam clipping, both of which result in crisp, clean, picture-perfect seams. The first method I'll demonstrate is the pinking method.
With pinking shears, grade (a fancy word for trim) your seam allowances down around your curved seam. I usually grade down to about ⅛”, taking extra care not to snip on or below my stitch.
Your pinked seam allowance should look like this:
If you don’t have pinking shears, you can easily snip small triangles out of your seam throughout the entire curved section. To do that, use small scissors (I use my thread snips) to cut one diagonal line to about ⅛” from the stitch.
And then cut another diagonal line from the opposite direction to meet the first, again snipping ⅛” from the stitch. Clip a triangle into your seam every 1/2" or so.
Now, iron your clipped or pinked seam according to the pattern instructions.
If required, fold the two pattern pieces, wrong sides together and iron again.
Now, admire that crisp, clean curved seam. Notice, there are no small wrinkles because the clipped or pinked seam allowance can stretch around the outer curve!
As always a hot, steam iron works wonders for getting your curved seams pressed to perfection!
The Caroline Dress by Mouse House Creations is a great pattern to practice your curved seams. The bodice is fully lined, making your clipped seams entirely invisible!
Don't forget to enter The Year of Free Sewing Patterns giveaway! Yes, that's right. We're giving away an entire year of free sewing patterns with the hopes of inspiring one lucky winner to convert to a handmade wardrobe. Enter here and read more about why we're doing this. But hurry! The contest ends at 10pm MST tonight!
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