Before I started putting the robe pieces together, I tested out some ideas for seam and edge finishes. I was looking for a good compromise between durability, attractiveness, and lack of bulk.
For the raw edges, I looked at applying binding and different overcast treatments. I wanted to work with supplies I already had, so I wasn’t able to get exact color matches. I chose several bias tapes I thought might work and two colors of nylon serger thread. I liked the way the blue tape looked, but none of the others. I played with different settings on the serger to get a nice decorative edge that completely covered the raw edge (already starting to fray). While both the white and the purple were a nice match for the plaid, only the purple completely covered the edge. The purple is Wooly Nylon and the white is Guetermann’s textured nylon. The wooly fills in the edge much better than the textured. I decided to go with the purple wooly nylon edge because it was best of the less bulky overlock finishes.
Since raveling was going to be an issue with the material, I went ahead and finished the raw edges on all of the cut pattern pieces. I left the edges that were going to be inside a seam unfinished while I decided how to sew them.
Next, I took some more scraps and tested out a few types of seams
Seam 1 – Bound seam
There are a number of options for what to bind the seam with. I could make my own bias tape out of the robe fabric; I could use seams great; or, I could use a pre-made tape from a package. I already looked through the packages I had on hand when looking at edge finishes and couldn’t find a color I was happy with. Seams great would work, but for something that is going to show, it is too sheer to look right. So I moved on without even testing bound seams.
Seam tests right side
Seam tests wrong side
Next, using my regular sewing machine, I tried out 2 different kinds of enclosed seams.
Seam 2 – Mock French seam
I really like the way this looks from both sides. Having two rows of stitching makes the seam more durable. The extra weight from having essentially 3 layers of fabric stitched together actually makes the seam more structural. The very lightweight fabric really is pretty shapeless, so the extra stability really helps.
Seam 3 – Flat felled seam
The flat felled seam has the same advantages as the mock french. The main difference is that it is started with wrong sides together and trimmed and stitched from the right side. Technique aside, it’s slightly less bulky and slightly wider. I’m familiar with flat felling from other projects, so for me, this is the easiest one to consider.
I have never used the serger for any other seam than a 3 or 4 thread overlock. I knew that I could go that route and it would be fast and easy. I really wanted to try something else for this project though.
Seam 4 -2 Thread flatlock with serger
This seam is really fun to do. It’s cool to make what appears to be a plain overcast edge, but then pull the two pieces of fabric apart and have them lay flat with a neat decorative join. I’m glad I tried doing the sample first, though. It just didn’t look as “finished” as the enclosed seams. It would be really fun to use on a thicker material, like a neoprene or fleece.
The winner: Flat felled on the regular machine.
BONUS Technique: Covered Cord
I came across a neat idea while I was browsing my copy of Serger Secrets. One of the examples illustrates a technique where a serger can be used to make decorative covered cord. I probably never would have thought of this on my own, but now that I know about it, I am sure I will find all kinds of ways to use it. This will definitely be the go-to choice for belt loops.
It’s super simple to do, too. Just cut a length of gimp or thick thread. I used white crochet thread.
Set up the serger:
- Needle position: right
- Stitch length: 1mm
- Stitch width: as narrow as your machine will go. Mine is 4.5mm
- Presser foot: a gimp foot is recommended. I don’t have one, so I used my cording foot instead. I think anything with a channel on the sole of the foot would probably work.
- Thread: decorative thread in the upper looper, all-purpose in the needle
- Stitch finger: rolled
- Tension: set for 2 thread rolled edge
Make a few inches of chain. Pull the chain threads towards the back of the machine. Slip the cord under the presser foot so it feeds through the channel and exits just to the left of the needle. Add the cord to the other threads and hold them together to start. Then just hit the pedal and watch it go. Magic!
Next time: putting it all together.
Find Part 1 here