How to Sew Flat Felled Seams Two Ways: Machine and Hand-Stitched

Flat felled seams offer a beautiful, neat seam finish, with the raw edges of the fabric completely enclosed.  Because there are two lines of stitching, the seam is also reinforced.  Here, we demonstrate two ways of finishing felled seams: machine stitched and hand stitched.  

Use felled seams to create a neat finish for an unlined garment such as the unlined option of the Overland Cloak, or to create durable seams for shorts or trousers.  

This version of flat felling is also known as run and fell, and it is sewn with the right sides of the fabric together (as opposed to jeans, which are flat felled with the wrong sides together, and have two lines of stitching showing on the exterior).  

Machine stitching vs. hand stitching

The decision to finish a felled seam by machine or by hand is largely personal preference. 

The main benefit to machine stitching the seam is that it is much faster.  Hand stitching is quite time consuming, however the process can be relaxing and meditative, and the result is beautiful garment, sewed slowly with intention. 

Seams finished with a machine will show a line of stitching from the outside, which can be incorporated as an interesting finishing detail with neat contrast stitching. Hand-felled seams can be almost invisible. 

How to sew felled seams

Note - we recommend cutting out your pattern pieces with some extra width added to the seam allowances when using this binding method, since 3/8 (1cm) would be very fiddly to trim, turn, and stitch.  We recommend cutting your garment using a 1/2"-5/8" (1.25 - 1.5cm) seam allowance.

1.  For both methods, begin by sewing a seam with the specified seam allowance.  


2.  Trim off one side of the seam allowance so that it is half the width of the untrimmed seam allowance.  Note that the side of the seam allowance that will be trimmed off will be the direction the seam will lay, so take this into account when planning which direction you'd like your seams stitched on.  


3.  Fold the wider seam allowance around the trimmed seam allowance and press.  The raw edges of the trimmed seam allowance will be fully enclosed.  


Continue using your chosen finishing method, machine or hand-stitching (below).

Machine sewing option

From the inside, edgestitch the folded over seam allowance in place. 

From the inside, two lines of stitching will be visible (the darker thread on the left is the original seam, and the grey thread on the right is the felled seam:

From the outside of the garment, the edgstitching will be visible as a single row of stitching:


Hand sewing option

We'll use a whip stitch to hand stitch the felled seam. 

Begin by bringing the thread up from behind the folded over seam, close to the edge.

Then, take the needle down through the main fabric, catching a couple of threads of the fabric, and bring it up at an angle through the folded over seam allowance.

Continue stitching the felled seam in place, keeping your stitches as even as possible, and maintaining an even tension so that the seam lays flat and doesn't pucker.  If you catch just a thread or two of the fabric, the whip stitches will be almost invisible on the right side of the fabric.  Or, choose a longer stitch for a decorative effect.

Here is the completed seam from the wrong side, showing the tiny, angled stitches.  On the left, the stitches are in a dark blue so that they are visible.  On the right, the stitching continues using a matching thread colour:

And here is how the hand-felled seam looks from the outside.  At the top are the contrasting, dark blue stitches.  The bottom half is stitched using a matching thread, demonstrating how the hand stitches can be almost invisible:


And that's it - felled seams two ways!  We hope you enjoy using this versatile seam finishing technique.   

Read more Twig + Tale sewing tutorials here: