Keep These Seam Finishes in Your Bag of Tricks
Seams are arguably the most basic part of sewing and finishing seam allowances is essential to creating a well-made garment. Choosing the best method depends on the fabric used and the function of the garment. Finishes can range from beautifully bound seams that make a jacket look as good on the inside as on the outside, to a quick pass with a serger that can trim and bind with thread both seam allowances at the same time. There's a place for each and everything in between. Seam finishes don't have to be complicated. They simply have to do the job and, in most cases, the less you do the better. I'd like to put in a plug for a couple of basic finishes – pinking and zigzagging – that are often overlooked or trumped by more elaborate options.
If you've set aside your pinking shears because you think they're passé and difficult to use, or, if you think a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine can't compete with the complex stitch produced on a serger – maybe you just need a refresher on how to do them effectively and why they're are often the best choice when all you really need to do is prevent the fabric from fraying.
Pinking is an easy, clean way to deal with seam allowances on stable, tightly woven fabrics. I especially like to pink seams when using crisp, smooth fabrics like taffeta, for example, because there's no added bulk from thread or binding and the saw-tooth edge creates less of a "ridge" on the right side when the garment is pressed. With less stable fabrics you can add a row of straight stitches on the seam allowance only for extra security.
To pink a seam effectively and painlessly, trim away each seam allowance separately on the very edge taking off just a tiny strip of triangles at the most. This will keep the edges straight and even with less stress on your hand because the shears seem to work better when used just along the edge. For the most painless method, try a pinking blade on your rotary cutter. You can easily cut along the very edge of a seam allowance with or without using a ruler.