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Tips for Sewing a Lapped and Appliquéd Seam

The Decades of Style 1930s Butterfly Blouse has lapped and appliqued shoulder seams.

One reason vintage garments are so interesting to home sewers is that they often feature meticulous and ingenious techniques. A favorite method I discovered is the lapped and appliquéd seam.

A lapped and appliquéd seam enables you to accurately join garment pieces with curved edges. The seamline curves may be pronounced and in opposition, but this seam treatment results in a smooth, neat finish with visible edgestitching.

To sew this type of seam, fold back the seam allowances along the edge of the cut garment piece that will be the uppermost on the finished garment. Place the folded edge on top of the garment piece it will join by aligning the fold along the seamline of that lower piece. Edgestitch through all layers close to the fold.

Where to find these seams

The lapped and appliquéd seam is rarely seen in contemporary and commercially available garment patterns. I have come across it in at least two designs from the Decades of Style pattern company, the #3005 1930s Butterfly Blouse  (read our review of this design here) and the #4014 1940s Belle Curve Dress.

Decades of Style #3005 Butterfly Blouse with yoke seam, belted and on a dress form
Decades of Style #3005 Butterfly Blouse has curved lapped and appliquéd seams at the shoulder.


Close-up of lapped and appliqued seam on blouse shoulder
The edgestitched seam is useful for joining curved garment pieces with precision.

I’ll share a process and some tips to achieve accurate results with the lapped and appliquéd seam treatment. It requires some machine basting and a few more steps, but the finished look is worth it. Take your time for an exact finish.

Steps for lapped and appliquéd seams

1. Machine-baste along the seamline of the overlapping garment piece. Make your stitches 4.0 mm or 5.0 mm long.

White machine basting along a blue garment piece's seamline
Baste along the seamline.

2. Using the basting as a pressing guide, fold under the seam allowance, clipping where necessary. Press the work thoroughly to get a sharp crease along the curve.

Folded seam allowance along the seam basting line on a garment piece
Fold the seam allowance to the wrong side along the basting.

3. With both garment pieces wrong sides up, align the raw edges of the seam allowances. Pin through all layers, perpendicular to the seamline.

Lapped and appliqued seam: align and pin seam allowances of two garment sections
Align the seam allowance edges as you pin.
Lapped and appliqued seam: Use multiple pins to keep the curved garment edges aligned
Use as many pins as you need to keep the curved garment edges aligned.

4. With wrong sides up, baste the pieces together. Baste in the center of the seam allowance, using the fabric’s raw edges as a guide. Remove the pins ahead of the presser foot as you go.

Lapped and appliqued seam: Baste through the seam allowances.
Baste through the seam allowances.

5. Turn the work to the right side, then edgestitch the pieces together. Stitch through and close to the lapped fold. If your fabric is lightweight, use a shorter-than-usual stitch length of 1.5 mm or 2.0 mm.

Lapped and appliqued seam: edgestitched close to the fold
Edgestitch close to the fold.

6. Remove the basting stitches. Carefully pull the threads from the lapped garment pieces. Then press the lapped and appliquéd seam.

Lapped and appliqued seam: basting stitches removed and edgestitching remains
Remove the basting stitches, leaving only the edgestitching.


For more fascinating and useful sewing techniques from vintage garments, check out “How Did They Sew That? Inset Fabric Bands” and “How Did They Sew That? Edged with Elegance.”


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