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Understanding sewing seams and their elements

As we discussed in a previous article, a seam is the result of joining two layers of fabric by a line of stitches.

Every day, in the textile industry, a wide variety of seams are used to make the clothes that we see on the streets, and those ones that we have in our own closets.

The most well known are French Seam, Welt Seam, Felled Seam, Open Seam, Bound Seam, etc… and there are more! (see book 101 Sewing Seams).

In this new article, we’ll analyze each component of a seam… you’ll be surprised by the many parts that it is made of.

Parts of a Seam

Every sewing seam is made up of several components:

Structure: how the fabrics are folded and/or joined, giving the three-dimensional shape to the product. 

Seam Allowance (SA): the border around a piece of fabric (or pattern) that protects the stitches from pulling away from the seam. 

Fabric Edge: the border of the fabric piece.

Topstitch: a row of stitch that shows on the outside of the garment.
Some types of topstitches are: Edge Stitch, Basic Topstitch, Double Topstitch.

Stitch: a loop of thread that goes through the fabric, and it is made with a needle. 
 The way the thread loop is made will define the type of stitching. The most common stitches are: Lock Stitch, Chain Stitch, Overlock Stitch, and Cover Stitch.

Stitching Line: a line of thread made by a continuous series of stitches. 

Seam Line: the edge of the union between two fabrics.


Thread: the most essential element to make a seam and the most forgotten.
In addition to its resistance, other significant attributes are: color (matching, coordinate, contrast), finish (matte, shiny), and thickness.

Band: also known as “piping” or “binding”. It is a folded strip of fabric sewn along the seam. Many times this trim is cut on the bias.
This group includes bias binding and folded tapes (or folded elastic tape).

Tape: a strip made of yarn that most of the time is knitted. This group includes: ribbons, grosgrain tape, satin tapes, laces, and elastic lingerie.

Corded Piping: also called “piping”. It is a piece of cord wrapped by a strip of fabric. The fabric can be cut on the bias, made of knit or woven, and it could be made with tape too.


Length: the total distance made by a stitching line.

Width: the space between the seam heading and the topstitch (or the edge of the seams allowance, if the seam does not have topstitch).

Depth: the thickness (or fineness) of a seam, depending on the structure and the fabric quality.


Right Side (RS): same as fabrics, the “good” face of the seam is the side that is visible from the outside of the garment.
The topstitches are re located on this side of the seam.

Wrong Side (WS): also called “backside”.
From the inner side of the seam, we can see how it’s finished: unpolished, serged, folded, faced, etc.

When seams are well polished on the wrong side, they can be used as “exposed seams“. This means that the wrong side of the seam is used as the right side.


The properties and features of seams are closely related to the structure, the fabric, and the stitch/topstitch used to make the seam.
The combination of these 3 elements will directly affect factors such as:

Being aware of the parts that make up a seam and all their possibilities allow us to use them as a creative tool when designing and developing any textile product.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any comments or questions, please let me know in the comment box.


Belu Chi

Belu Chi

Technical Designer at ABC Seams®
Expert in apparel development and technical communication. Former Product Developer at Burberry.

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Belu Chi

Technical Designer at ABC Seams®

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