As I progress further into my love of sewing, I find that I am trying to find ways to make my clothes unique. The fabric does help to make it personal, but I am still basing my entire design from someone else’s sewing pattern – beautiful as it is. Using decorative seams is a great way to just add that extra bit of personal touch to make it unique. Decorative Seams by Katrina Walker is a great class that teaches you many unique and common seams that can really spice up a project.
Lesson 1 – Meet Katrina Walker
Using a bit of stabilizer underneath any decorative stitches will really help to prevent puckering of your material, and help you sew in perfectly straight rows.
Just some of the seam techniques this class aims to cover are topstitched seams, embellished seams, how to hide seams, inserts, piping and more.
As per the standard Craftsy class formats, Katrina goes on to tell you about herself and how she came into the world of sewing.
The Swatch Notebook
As part of the class materials, there is a printable set of sheets that helps you create a swatch for each step of each technique, essentially giving you a step by step view to a finished product.
Katrina has already picked a couple of sewing patterns that she thinks will be ideal to use during this class. The first is Vogue 1329.
A few other patterns are Vogue 8744 and Vogue 1293.
Lesson 2 – Topstitched Seams
It is important to sew some samples to make sure that the colours, thickness and materials work together harmoniously. Since you are creating decorative seams, it’s worth trying decorative stitches, not just a standard straight stitch.
If you are doing the decorative stitching it helps to have some tear-a-way stabilizer underneath to get the best results.
Single top stitching is when both seam allowances have been pushed to one side, which you will then topstitch into place. It does not refer to how many rows of stitching has been done: essentially the top stitching is effecting one side of the seam.
The thicker your fabric, the further from the seams the thread will need to be.
If you plan to do more than one row of topstitchimg, it’s definitely worth checking out a dual needle.
Again, double topstitching does not refer to the number of sewn topstitching rows, but rather how many sides of the seam is top stitched. You got it: double topstitching is when both sides of the seam is sewn down to secure the underlying seam allowances.
Flat-felled seams are very common; the best example being in your jeans. The benefit of using this seam technique is that you can conceal any raw edges of your garments. You will need to be confident in edge stitching for this technique; a seam guide foot is helpful in this situation. If you don’t have one, feel free to check out my post on Really Helpful Sewing Tips and Tricks.
Quick Flat-Felled Seam
Prior to joining the two pieces of fabric together, you should fold 1/2″ of the seam allowance over first. When you stitch your 1/2″ seam you won’t need to worry if you stitch the overlaying seam allowance. In the next step, when you fold and press the seam down, you will topstitch the seam down.
Note that this quick flat-felled seam probably shouldn’t be done with thicker fabrics as you will probably end up with way too much bulk in your seams. Having said that, if you are using a thin transparent fabric using this technique over the traditional flat felled seam as you will see the trimmed seam in that case.
This seam is very similar to the single top stitch seam, however one seam allowance is trimmed away to create a bolder effect through a raised effect.
In quilting there is a technique called trapunto, which involves stuffing the seams to give it a raised appearance. This is pretty much the same. You will be sewing a bit of extra padding into the seams and then treating them like a double topstitched seam, capturing and hiding the padding layers.
Lesson 3 – Embellished Seams
Types of Seams
This part of the lesson lasts only 3o seconds and covers a few graphic examples of the seams you will learn.
This involves sewing your fabric wrong sides together – yes you read that right. Trimming the seam down so that it will fit under the ribbon. Edge stitch the ribbon down.
This is a wonderful technique for reversible garments or when you want to strengthen a particular seam.
Lace Insertion Seams
This is a beautiful look, often used in lingerie and heirloom garments. You will sew your lace down, and then actually trim your seam away to leave the lace exposed. You will probably want to use a zigzag stitch that will land either side of the lace border.
This seam won’t be able to deal with a lot of stress since it’s somewhat delicate, however it is a gorgeous look.
Of course, you don’t need to do this look with lace; you can always use ribbon – just like the strap seams – except you cut out of the seams.
Handling Slinky Fabric
Liquid stabilizer gives slinky fabric some stiffness during sewing. Keep in mind that it needs to be washed out – so make sure your material can handle water without changing appearance.
Closed Slot Seams
A closed slot seam looks almost like a reverse piping effect. You get a bit of a peekaboo effect from the seam opening up slightly during movement. If you make your slot seams really wide, you can even hide zippers and buttons behind the layers!
You will need to baste your two pieces of material together, followed by pressing it open. Centre a strip of bias behind a slot seam. Double topstitch the ribbon down. Finally just seam rip the basting stitches down the centre…
Open Slot Seams
In an open slot seam you will always see the strip of fabric down the very centre (as opposed to the closed slot seam where it’s hidden most of the time).
Bundled Fagoting Stitch
This is very similar to a traditional heirloom technique. Often it is mistaken for lace, however it is all stitching that resembles little bundles of sticks. This look inspired the name fagoting stitch: the Old English measurement term for a bundle of sticks was “fagot”.
You will need a tailor tack foot, also known as a fringe foot or a maker foot. It has a little blade that sticks up in the centre, which makes the loops for the tailor tacks.
Use a zigzag stitch that’s just wide enough to clear the bar. Set your tension to very loose. Decrease your stitch length as you want more stitches to provide the decorative look.
When you sew it will look like an absolute mess, however when you open the seam up and pull the pieces gently apart, the thread loops allow the fabric to create a gap. You will then want to use a triple straight stitch – also known as a stretch stitch – and sew right down the centre of the gap; it will tie little notes into the loops. Finally stitch on either side of the seam with a decorative stitch just to finish it off.
Lesson 4 – Decorative Inset Seams
Overview with Samples
Just like in the last lesson, there is a 30 second overview of examples.
If you are using a bold pattern and fear the pattern clashing at two seams, using piping is a great transition piece; it creates enough of a visual break to allow you to join the two pieces.
You will need:
- a strip of bias – 1 1/2″ width works in most cases;
- Cord as a filler;
- Sewing machine foot – such as zipper foot or a specialty piping foot.
Katrina goes into depth about the required materials and tools, and just how and why they are used. I found this really helpful; once you know why you are doing a certain step in a certain way, you can much easier adjust that technique to suit your own needs.
Essentially you sew your piping cord between two layers at the seam.
You want to sew your double piping so that it acts as one, rather than two floppy single piping units. Sew your first piping to the strip of bias fabric which will be used for the second piping. Insert the cording for the second piping, and stitch that piping closed. Finally stitch on your other fabric piece.
If you are using thick fabric, try basting first to make sure that the piping is sewn as desired.
Grosgrain and petersham ribbons are often used in this style of seam. In fact I have several peek seams on dresses in order to cover the zippers. Of course you don’t need to use ribbon to do this effect; you can use folded bias strips to achieve the same look.
This technique is not taught, however after seeing the examples it is fairly self-explanatory.
Continuous Prairie Points
You will need a strip of fabric, which will need to be four times the desired height of the prairie point. Katrina uses the example of four-inch wide strip, with prairie points to be made at 1″ high. Incrementally mark distances along the strip. Cut these lines to the centre, which will allow you to fold an outside point to a centre point. You will then fold the triangle again, before folding the point to face the other direction. For each subsequent point, you will flip it once again then fold the fabric down, and repeat.
By flipping and folding each point, you will end up with each point overlapping in the same direction the entire length.
Sewing and Inserting Prairie Points
Baste your prairie points at the bottom, removing the pins as you do so. Because prairie points can be a bit bulky, consider using a welt seam to use that bulk as a feature.
To reduce bulk, take a piece of bias and securing that to the prairie points, you can then trim your prairie point seams and sew the bias strip into the fabric seams.
For a different look, you can also press your prairie points down through the centre; it creates a look of almost open bells or tulips.
Lesson 5 – Decorative Panels
Usually a diamond motif, it’s an easy to way to add decorative features to a panel.
Cut a strip of fabric that will be the width of your diamond plus 1/2″ for seam allowances. Join the strip to two border panels, both of which should be much wider than your center strip of fabric.
Joining the Strips
Line the diamond square up with the border piece of the next panel, and join. Then repeat.
Finishing the Panel
Trim your panel to the ideal height; this usually involves cutting the tops off the border pieces.
To help stop the decorative panel to keep it’s shape, you can use some lightweight fusible interfacing.
Creative Uses for Seminole Piecework
Katrina shows an example of the liberty jacket by Linda Lee. She used seminole piece work to create a design effect. Since it’s a single layer garment, she even shows you how she hid the seam allowances on both sides to keep a professional look.
I love this look – it’s featured in the orange and blue dress that Katrina has behind her in a couple of the lessons.
Cut strips for tucks on the straight of grain rather than the bias. They would be two times the width of the desired height plus your seam allowances.
Determine the next location of the tuck – including the width of the tuck itself in the measurement – cut your fabric and then add your tucks once again.
Adding Horizontal Tucks
Make sure that your tucks are spaced consistently and that they are pointing in the same direction. Pin the layers together to make sure that the panels match during the sewing process.
Lesson 6 – Seams in Action
Creative Seams Show and Tell
Katrina shows the example dresses that were featured behind her in the pervious lessons in much more depth. The first example covers the prairie points, followed by seminole piecework, and finally the faux tuck dress that I adore the look of.
Altering the Pattern
Whilst you can alter your original pattern pieces, it is still a good idea to preserve your originals to fall back on – either from mistakes or future use; trace your pattern pieces.
Determine the stitching lines, not the cutting lines. Cut the pattern pieces as desired, and add the seam allowances where necessary.
I love how behind Katrina in the introduction she has displayed a couple completed sewing projects that use the recommended sewing pattern. It was wonderful to see how she made the dress vary so much from one design.
I really laughed when Katrina states, “if my husband is lucky I’ll make some lingerie”. I just found it so amusing.
Katrina points out mistakes when she sews along, also stating that she is going fast to show you the technique rather than to create the perfect finished piece.
Techniques like the seminole pieceworks can be used in situations when you don’t have enough fabric – such as scraps.
I didn’t really have any cons with this class.
- Swatch notebook in PDF, which contains layout to create swatches for each step of a technique. Also includes instructions for each technique.
- Supplies and resources PDF, which covers recommended supplies for the swatch notebook, as well as sewing machine feet and tools.
- Metric Conversion Chart, which comes with all Craftsy’s sewing courses.
Most sewing projects will only ask you to sew serval types of seams, such as the standard single topstitch. Whilst they might work, you are honestly missing out on a wealth of opportunities to take your replicated sewing patterns to a whole new level.
Katrina teaches in a clear and precise manner that’s very easy to follow along in the class Decorative Seams: Techniques and Finishes. Beginner sewers will have a great number of techniques to practice with right from the start of their sewing adventures, whilst intermediate and advanced sewers will greatly benefit from the class to make their garments be every much unique and glorious.
I found this class very enjoyable, and definitely worth the investment.