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Seams on linen

MattieMal | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi to everyone!  I’m going to ask what I hope is a quick question for you.  I am a truly new sewer and I am getting ready to make some drawstring shorts with linen fabric.  I already did this once and learned the hard way that linen ravels and I have a hole in my newly made shorts that I have only washed one time.  Question is, on this next pair, would I sew the seams with seam/overcast stitch or would I overcast all the raw edges and then sew the seams?  (I do not own a serger.)

Thanks for your time and have a great day!    Mattie



  1. solosmocker | | #1

    I would overcast all the edges of the pieces before putting together. Just sub the word overcast stitch, but what I do is serge outside edges of all pieces before assembly, stitch,press to one side, then topstitch the seams about an 1/8 of an inch away from the seam on the outside. This makes them very sturdy. I sew with a lot of linen and use this technique often. Linen can be a stinker till you get the hang of it. I absolutely love it. I prewash all my linen to soften it up. With the method I described and the prewashing, I can throw all my linens right in the washer and dryer. If you like the prewashed look as I do, don't even iron them. Just pull them from the dryer and hang. Of course you can give them a good hard press if you like that look, too. But they end up showing the wrinkles more in my opinion. Another hint on linens-I use it for unlined jackets. Again I serge all the edges, stitch then do a Hong Kong seam finish in a contrasting or print fabric. I throw these in the wash too! Just me! Never have had a problem.

    1. autumn | | #2

      I just bought some linen/polyester to make a dress, but I've never sewn on linen before. Would a French seam work? Or would it be too bulky? I used to know what a Hong Kong seam is, but I've not used it recently enough to remember. Please describe.

      1. Megh | | #3

        A French seam would be too bulky, and probably wouldn't lay flat unless you top-stitched it down. 

        A Hong Kong finish is beautiful finish.  It is similar to putting binding on a quilt.  You'll need a light-weight fabric to either complement or contrast your fashion fabric.  If you're ever in doubt about what to use, select a lighter color than your fashion fabric.

        Cut bias strips (use the bias so the finished product will not pucker) at least 7/8" wide.

        Press your seam (first flat, to set the stitching, then open the seam and press - if you are not keeping the seam allowances pressed to one side).  Stitch a bias strip, raw edge of the strip aligned with the raw edge of the fabric one quarter inch along the edge.  Fold the bias fabric over the edge, pin it down neatly, and top stitch in place.  You will want to make sure that your top stitching catches the back edge of the bias strip.

        1. solosmocker | | #4

          Just a variation on Meg's response-I stitch in the ditch rather than topstitch, again as Meg said, making sure you catch the underneath fabric of your strip.

          1. Josefly | | #15

            I love the look of the Hong Kong finished seams. What is your experience in pressing garments with them? Do they need to be pressed from the inside always?

          2. solosmocker | | #16

            To keep the shine down I almost always press from the wrong side. I like to put a strip of paper, usually brown paper bag, under the seam befor ironing it open. That way it does not transfer to the front. If you are doing the Hong Kong finish, make sure the fabric you wrap the seams with can take the same heat from your iron that the linen will. I have had good luck with lightweight silks,usually left over lining fabric.

          3. Josefly | | #18

            Thanks. I will try the silk you mentioned. I'm getting soooo much from this forum.

      2. SewNancy | | #11

        I love using Hong Kong finish on the inside of unlined jackets, but on a dress a triple zig zag is probably sufficient and the least unobtrusive. I also would not use Seams great as it is nylon and I years ago had it melt onto a linen outfit after ironing. Not good.
        Good luck with your sewing. My tip to you is press, press, press! as you sew. One of the best ways to have your clothing look good is learning how to press properly and to spend the time doing it during construction. Press all your seams as sewn to meld them before you press open.

    2. Teaf5 | | #6

      Before pre-washing linen, make sure to zigzag or overcast the ends of the fabric length, or you'll end up with hundreds of long strings wrapping the whole into a tangled mess....speaking from experience, here!

    3. FLOURTOP | | #12

      Just read your Hong Kong seam finish. What is this? I just bought some linen that I plan to serge the seams . But I do want to know what that is all about. Thanks, Sally

      1. diday | | #13

        It's like folding and sewing piece of bias tape over the edge of your fabric for a finish, only better. Here's a how-to illustration and picture of a finished jacket using the Hong Kong method.http://www.timmelfabrics.com/seamfinishes.htm

        1. FLOURTOP | | #14

          Thankyou, That is interesting and I will try it. I have a new serger that is fun, But I do like the look of the hong kong seam. Thanks again, Sally

    4. Loie | | #17

      What is a Hong Kong seam?

      1. solosmocker | | #19

        If you type Honk Kong seam into the search window at the bottom left of the page you will find many discussions and explanations of this beautiful seam finish. I love to use it on linens.

  2. JennyNZ | | #5

    I sew a lot in linen (natural fabrics being my favourite to wear...wool, linen, silk).

    I have an overlocker but as space is limited (doing renovations) I choose not to set it up.  When I sew linen I finish the edges that won't be seen with a triple zig zag stitch and then "pink" the edges.  The last pair of trousers I made from linen actually wore thin before the seams were damaged.  Obviously if the seams were to be seen I woulds either bind or french seam them, but for everyday clothing...I go for the fasted method :-)

    If the seam can be pressed as one I triple zigzag after the seam is done, and if it is to be opened up I typically would triple zigzag before the main seam.

    Linen can show the seams when ironed, so I try to make it a habit to always (even once the garment is finished and being worn all the time!) to iron the garment from the inside.  I hate that shinny seam look.

    All the best.


  3. Desiderata | | #7

    Hi MattieMal,
    Since you are a beginning sewist, I would suggest clean finishing your seams with a 3-step zigzag or serpentine stitch. The 3-step zigzag is a common utility stitch on most machines. A regular zz stitch might cause your seam to curl.
    May I suggest also, before cutting into your linen to first wash it for pre-shrinking. Zigzag the cut edges of your fabric and wash it at the temperature you will use for future washings. Iron it while still slightly damp.

    Here are some pictures of the stitches mentioned.


    Hope this helps.

  4. MaryinColorado | | #8

    Hi!  Check out a product called "Seams Great".  It is a sheer bias that I love.  Instructions are on the pkg.  Also, you may want to try a Linnen blend like Rayon linnen.  Everyone has excellent tips here that I agree with, so nothing to add to the great advice allready here.  Good luck.

    1. User avater
      artfulenterprises | | #9

      Seam Great is a wonderful product...use it often. Just one cautionary note: the package says not to apply high heat to this product. If you use it on linen which is generally pressed at a very high setting, you might want to keep that in mind. Just a thought!

      1. MaryinColorado | | #10

        Thank You!  I haven't sewn on linnen for quite a while.  Love Seams Great, probably wouldn't have read the package again thinking I knew what I was doing....you saved the day as I hope to make a linnen jacket for summer.  So glad you sent the reminder! mary

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