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Tips & Techniques > Trimming Seam Allowances

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Posted by: Fluteplayer

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Member since: 3/23/04
Reviews: 53 (tips: 3)
Skill level:Intermediate
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Posted on: 10/28/04 9:18 AM
Review Rating: Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 1 people   
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I have tried many times to trim seam allowances using a variety of measuring techniques and none of them really were very accurate for me.

On the straight parts (like shoulder seams) I use a small quilting ruler and a rotary cutter to trim the excess seam allowance away. However, on the curvy parts of the pattern, I never seem to get the edge of the ruler in the right place and I end up with seam allowances that are not even.

I recently began stitching out the seam allowance and I find that this is much more precise way (at least for me) and it takes a lot less time for the curvy parts of the pattern.

I use an old sewing machine or serger needle that I have discarded. I put on my quarter inch foot or use my seam guide to determine how much I want to trim away. I then stitch around the pattern the appropriate distance from the edge of the pattern using either the quarter inch foot or the seam guide. If my pattern is to be used on the fold, I fold at the fold line and stitch both sides at the same time, using a few pins or tape to keep the pattern from slipping. I use a small stitch length. You don't need thread. When you are done, the needle will have perforated the paper enough so that the excess seam allowance simply tears away from the pattern. I get perfectly trimmed seams every time.

There is comment suggesting that you shouldn't trim seam allowances before stitching. However, there are some cases where you have to. I am making patterns for leotards. The pattern has a 5/8ths seam allowances, but I want to serge a 3/8ths elastic to the edge and turn under to top stitch. I have to trim the allowance off the pattern or off the garment prior to stitching. I personally find it a lot easier to trim the pattern.

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regine said... (10/5/05 4:44 PM) Reply
My double tracing wheel would do the job very well - the wheels can be adjusted to several widths.
KarenP said... (11/4/04 4:10 PM) Reply
Thanks for the helpful tip. I'm about to sew a t-shirt using a pattern with 5/8" seam allowances. I much prefer a 1/4" sa for knits, so I may give this a try.
drsue said... (10/30/04 10:06 AM) Reply
There are other reasons to remove seam allowance besides just changing the seam allowance width. For one thing, it is much easier to alter patterns which don't have a seam allowance in the way. Also if you are needing to match a pattern on the fabric that goes over a seam such as a stripe for example, the lack of seam allowance makes it very easy to do.
D1Diva said... (10/29/04 2:00 PM) Reply
I also prefer to sew a 5/8 seam and then trim after. Plus, you have more fabric if you want to make a last minute adjustment.
SewVeryTall said... (10/29/04 6:48 AM) Reply
It's sure easier to press a 5/8" seam open than a 1/4". Also, some fabrics need the strength of a 5/8" seam. I only trim seams that require trimming [armholes, necklines...curves] after the seam is pressed open. Another really good reason to trim after sewing and pressing, is grading.
AnneM said... (10/29/04 6:23 AM) Reply
I keep thinking about removing the seam allowance from my pattern pieces, but I haven't dared yet. Perhaps I will mark the sewing line using this method, but leave the seam allowance on - & just mark the sewing lines on the fabric. Do you think it would stay on, or would those little perforations make it fall right off?
drsue said... (10/28/04 10:59 PM) Reply
At first I thought you were talking about trimming seam allowance from you finished seam. This is a good way to get rid of seam allowances if you don't want to keep them on your pattern. I will have to give it a try.
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