When you’re first learning to make your own clothes it’s easy to mess up the seams. You might not even notice until you’ve gone all the way along, at which point it’s frustrating to face unpicking the whole thing. Fortunately there are practical solutions you can apply. These will also help when you buy clothes from shops only to discover they’ve been badly made. It doesn’t take long to fix a seam and it can make a garment look much better.
When part of a seam is damaged but you don’t want to unpick the whole thing, the first thing to do is to isolate the damaged section. Mark it off with chalk and then use cross-stitches to seal the ends before beginning the unpicking process. When you break the thread that runs along the seam, placing a small dab of glue or clear nail varnish against the end will stop it running. Be careful not to get this on the main part of the garment, where it may stain.
When you’ve unpicked the damaged part of the seam, pin it carefully to make sure the fabric is neatly aligned. Bunching often occurs where hems overlap unevenly. If you’re using fabric that could be damaged by pins, fabric tape offers a gentler solution.
Once the seam is aligned, don’t rush straight to your machine. Instead, tack along the seam. This will keep it neat and stop fabric bunching up again at one end of the damaged section. Take it slowly when you apply the machine – it’s important to get a good result first time as repeated reworking can damage the fabric and weaken the final result.
One of the trickiest problems with seams occurs when misalignment leads to fabric bunching up on one side whilst the other side remains straight. This leaves you with two options. You can unpick the full length of the seam, which might be necessary if the imbalance is distorting the garment, or you can unpick just the damaged part and attempt to make it look neater.
To tidy up a rumpled seam like this, you should take the same basic approach you would to dealing with excess fabric in any area of a garment. Instead of allowing haphazard bunching. straighten it out and then make a series of small, neat darts (you might only need two or three) on the side where there is excess fabric. Tack them into place and then machine-sew the seam again. Once it’s done, with the garment inside out, run an iron across the seam to flatten all the darts in the same direction.
The results of this approach won’t be perfect but will look much better, and with many fabrics the difference will be almost invisible from the outside.
One of the first things anybody new to sewing is told is to use plenty of fabric for seams. When things go wrong, you’ll understand why. It’s a lot harder to rebuild a narrow seam than a wide one.
Unfortunately, many store-bought clothes these days have tiny seams. This means you may not be able to employ the techniques described above. An alternative is to use tailor’s webbing as a stitch-free solution to binding a seam after unpicking. This can give a much neater result, but remember to patch-test first on a hidden bit of the fabric to make sure it doesn’t stain. Always secure webbing-bound seams with single blanket stitches at intervals to provide support.
Though they can be fiddly and require patience, these techniques are quick to use once you get the hang of them. Soon you’ll find it easy to tidy up problem seams and you’ll be able to produce much better looking clothes as a result. Even experienced sewers make mistakes. It’s how you fix them that matters.