Don’t have a serger? 5 SIMPLE ways on how to finish a seam on a sewing machine

In this article, I want to show you how to finish a seam on a sewing machine- 5 simple ways.

Ask me I should know because I ‘ve been sewing for 15+ years and I still don’t have a serger because I’me getting by just fine!

These are the easiest and most straight forward ways to neaten your seams on a sewing machine so, I would say to any true beginner to start with these.

The only thing is you’ll have to be mindful of the fabric you are working with. So that you can use the right technique for the fabric to avoid bulk (if you don’t understand what this means; don’t worry you will know once you read the rest of the article).

How will I as a beginner know which technique will work on which fabric?

It will, unfortunately, be down to your trial and error BUT I find that the, more you sew the more you start getting a feel for what works. So don’t worry, we all figure it out as we go along, it won’t be long till you find out- trust me!

Still, in the meantime have a read of the different techniques in this article, and I have noted some pointers around this here and there. So, there’s a start.

5 SIMPLE ways on how to finish a seam on a sewing machine
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#1 Zig zag stitch

The zigzag stitch method is one of the easiest ways to do the seam finish. I was shown this method in my early days of sewing. It paid off very well. It’s simple; you have to switch the stitch style to zigzag on your machine. I find that the stitch length and width need to be altered slightly to get the right narrowness of the zig zag. If it’s set too wide, then it just doesn’t look as good.

There are two ways to use it. One is where the seam is closed and set to one side. The other is with the seam open and then there will be zigzag running along two sides.

Zig zagged seam closed
Seam closed
Zig zagged seam open
Seam open

Why have a closed or an open seam?

It comes down to the fabric, if the material is heavyweight then it’s preferable to press the seam open so that it doesn’t create bulk on the area. Similarly, with lightweights, you can get away with closed seams as it won’t look as bulky on the seams.

What is meant by bulk?

What happens is when we get a build up of fabric layers, the layers create volume in an area which is what we refer to as ‘bulk.’ When there’s bulk in the seam, it looks and feels unpleasant so, this is why it’s good to be conscious of how heavyweight or lightweight your fabric is- helping you to determine whether to press the seam open or not.

(1a) Zigzag with seam pressed open

1. After you sew your seam press the seam

press the seam before zig zagging

2. then, open the seam and press with the iron to set it.

press seam open

3. Then zigzag stitch along the two edges

Zig zag along the raw edges- seam open

(1b) Zigzag with seam closed

1. After you sew your seam press the seam.

press the seam before zig zagging seam closed

2. Zig zag along the edge.

Zig zag along edge- seam closed

3. Press seam to one side- usually towards the back.

Press closed zig zag seam to one side

#2 Overcast stitch

Overedge foot

The overcast stitch is the way to go if you are somebody who seeks perfection because it’s the closest way to get the look of a serged seam. Almost all sewing machines will come with an overcast stitch- used in conjunction with an overedge foot.

If you don’t have the overedge foot, you can try with a regular foot. However, the overedge foot does make a difference because I find that it stops the edge from curling up. I know this is almost an insignificant difference, but it’s worth knowing if the edge curling issue is something that bothers you.

Edge finished with overcast stitch

#3 Straight stitch and pinked

This one is also another simple method because for this one you won’t need to change the stitch style instead use the regular straight stitch that you will sew the rest of your project with. However, you will need a pinking sheer to stop the fabric raveling which, can be easily found at any old craft/ fabric store.

The seam needs to be pressed open then you run a row of straight stitch on either of the seam sides. Keeping stitch about 1/8” away from the raw edge. Then pink either edge.

Again, just like the zig-zag seam depending whether you have a lightweight fabric then this method can be done except that you may be able to get away with keeping the seam closed.

Stitched and pinked edge finish

#4 Folded and straight stitched

Another straight forward way to finish your seams and the way you do it is, you stitch your seam then you would press it open- with this technique always press the seam open. As the edges will be turned then, of course, you create layers, and if we’re to not press seam open rather have a closed seam then it would be unpleasantly bulky so, definitely press seam open on this one.

Next, after pressing seam open, I like to run a temporary stitch (basting stitch) of about 2/8th inches from the edges. Here’s what that looks like:

folded seam finish- basting

After, fold along the stitch line (using it like a guide):

press along basting line- folded seam finish

To finish off, you will simply sew nearby the two edges which will look like this:

folded seam edge finish

Indeed as you may have guessed this technique will be best on lightweights only. That said I would avoid this technique for fabrics that you want to have a good drape, and much prefer to use it on a sturdier one. With the turning creates weight and drapey fabrics are supposed to flow and, this could ruin that effect from showing through.

Other types of edge finishes done using the sewing machine:

Seeing as we’re on the topic of discussing ways to finish a seam on a sewing machine, I thought it’s worth mentioning about the other options. By bringing them to beginners attention, I think it’ll help you get familiar with the different techniques.

So, which ones are they;

  • Bias bound seam
  • French seam
  • Hong Kong stitch

I would say that these are more suitable for somebody that has an intermediate skill level or a beginner that has done some sewing here and there. However, if you like a good old challenge then give these a shot! As they are more intricate techniques. That can add more interest or further personalization.


So that’s the five simple ways of how to finish a seam on a sewing machine. Remember that depending on your fabric, whether it’s lightweight or heavyweight or has more drape and fall is what will determine if you should have your seams pressed open or not.

Use your judgment, touch the fabric- hang it against your body to see how it falls; these are some of the simple tricks that I do to learn about my materials.

Let me know if you have any questions about this topic, by leaving a comment below.

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