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How to sew a princess seam

Princess seams are shaped seams which are designed to fit the contours of the body. They can be on either or both, the back or the front of the body. The seam can begin either at the shoulder or at the arm hole and can either stop at the waist or continue down the body shaping the full length of the garment over the waist and hips. So this How to Sew a Princess Seam should help you.

The typical princess seam will curve outwards over the fullest part of the bust or back and then curve inward to shape the waist and if the seam extends down towards the hips then the seam will curve outwards again to accommodate the body’s contours.

Before beginning your project it is important to check the pattern size. Some commercial dress patterns come in sizes which allow for different cup fittings, A, B, C, D etc. This can be very useful, however it is always worth making a toile or muslin first. This is a trial garment or part of a garment to check for sizing. If the fabric you have chosen for your dressmaking project is expensive then making a toile from a cheap calico or plain cotton could save you a lot of money. When you get the princess seams to follow the shape of your body precisely you can create a very elegant shape.

Princess Seam – Step1

It is a good idea to put a row of stay stitching for reinforcement inside the seam lines on the centre bodice piece. Some fabrics have a tendency to stretch a bit when handled and this will help prevent movement of the fibres.

Princess seam fabric pieces

Princess Seam – Step 2

With the side panel on top of the centre panel with the right sides together pin along the seamline, match any notching you have and spread any ease evenly. Baste stitch this seam in place and remove the pins. You want to avoid any gathering or puckering. If it is necessary you can clip into the seam allowance but not the full depth of it.

Princess seam basting

Princess Seam – Step 3

Machine stitch the seam, being careful to ensure that the underside of the fabric is laying flat.

Princess seam sewing

Princess Seam – Step 4

Remove the basting stitches and cut more notches along the curve of the seam to allow the seam to shape the bust when pressed flat. Do not cut into the line of stitching.

Princess seam pressing

Princess Seam – Step 5

Press the seam open on the wrong side of the fabric. If you have a tailor’s ham use this for pressing to ensure the seam retains the correct curved shape.

Princess seam bust front


Princess seam bust curve

How to sew a flat-felled seam

A flat-felled seam is an easy technique to master and very useful. It gives a very strong seam finish to a garment. It is often used on trousers and denim jeans as well as shirts for extra durability. It can also be used as a decorative seam finish as it is formed on the right side of the fabric.

I’ve used two different cotton fabrics and a contrasting thread so hopefully its easy for you to see what’s going on and how I’m making the seam

Step 1

With the wrong sides of the fabric together, stitch along the seam line. Take the full width of the seam allowance. On most commercial patterns this will be 15mm or 5/8 inch, but please check first as they can vary. Press the seam open.

Step 1 - How to sew a flat-felled seam - Sewing Avenue
Step 1 – How to sew a flat-felled seam – Sewing Avenue

Step 2

Trim the inner seam allowance to about 3 mm or 1/8 inch. Take care not to cut into the sewing line. You should be able to judge this by eye, there is no need to measure for exact accuracy.

Step 3

Press the outer seam allowance under by 6mm or ¼ inch; making sure you keep it uniform all the way along all of your seams. Be careful to press like seams in the same direction as one another (e.g. both shoulder seams should be pressed towards the front).

Step 3 - How to sew a flat-felled seam - Sewing Avenue
Step 3 – How to sew a flat-felled seam – Sewing Avenue

Step 4

Stitch this folded edge to the garment using a top stitch. Top stitching usually uses a longer stitch length than a seam line stitch. Take a note of the stitch you are going to use, either straight or decorative and ensure you keep using the same one through out the whole garment. This can be colour matched to your fabric or you can use a decorative thread or stitch for added effect.

Step 4 - How to sew a flat-felled seam - Sewing Avenue
Step 4 – How to sew a flat-felled seam – Sewing Avenue

I like to use different types of seams to achieve different looks on the projects that I make. The flat-felled seam is a useful technique to master for use on shirts, especially men’s formal or dress shirts. It gives a clean, defined look with its rows of straight topstitching. It is also a good choice for children’s wear as the extra line of stitching add a lot of strength to the seams. Sports wear often uses visible, decorative seams too for both durability and decoration. If you are making sports clothing in a stretch fabric though, be sure to use the correct stretch stitch on both the seam line and the top stitching. A zigzag or flat lock stitch can look good here.