I have a photo fiesta for you today, showing the various types of seam treatments I have used inside the humble SCA T-tunic. This is a basic medieval garment that is worn as underwear or layered for warmth.
The T-tunic is made up of various rectangles and triangles that fit together in complicated ways. I like to use a square underarm gusset, which makes assembling each tunic a little like folding origami, mixed with thumb wrestling.
When the side seams are finished, the square gusset appears as a triangle and has plenty of “give” to allow the arm to move freely up and down.
Over the years I’ve used a bunch of techniques to finish the insides of the tunic. Here are some details with my thoughts!
Overlocker / serger
This is the quickest method by far, but does not wear very well, especially in a child’s tunic. My tunics double up as winter nighties (the ones made of flannelette, anyway) and so they get a *lot* of wear.
Gussets: Easy to do
Gores: Need to hand sew the point before serging, but it can be done — with practice.
Straight stitch with zig-zag edge
This is just like the serger, except that you must sew the seam and then tidy the edge in two separate passes, so it takes a little longer.
The benefit here is that my sewing machine makes a sturdier straight seam than my serger, so the garment stays together better. Is is also easier to sew a curve, or make an adjustment before finishing the edge of the seam.
It looks pretty yuck on the inside, though.
Gussets: Easy to do
Gores: Yep, no worries.
Flat-felling the seam requires a straight stitch seam, then some trimming, some folding, pressing and finally hand-sewing the edge to the main fabric of the garment.
Benefits? Pretty darn good-looking on the “good” side of the garment. Very hard-wearing seam, and probably the reason this was very commonly used in medieval times.
Downside: Lots of work, really. It’s fiddly! I have trouble with hand-sewing these days, so this is becoming a major factor for me.
Gussets: More difficult. You need to decide which way to fell the seam (left? right?) and be consistent. I choose to fell away from the gusset.
Gores: Yep, no worries — this is the best way to do gores, really. So medieval. Love.
Pressed open with edges overcast hemmed
This is like flat-felling, except instead of trimming one edge and folding over to one side, you fold and hem both sides.
Twice as much hand-sewing. OUCH.
This is also not as sturdy a seam as the flat-felled variety. So why would you do it? It is Super Pretty!
No, really. It is. I did this for a teen-sized tunic (see above), and it looked so beautiful I did it on a kirtle with 8 gores. Never. Again.
Gussets: As easy to do as regular zig-zag edge, because both edges fold away from the seam.
Gores: Mmmm, it is a fiddle to do it, but I have. It is a pretty big fiddle, actually.
My favourite is the French Seam because it requires hardly any hand sewing, but it looks absolutely superb on the inside.
The French seam sews wrong sides together first, you press, trim and enclose the first seam allowance and then sew another seam to finish.
This is a bit of a fiddle to execute but looks so tidy on the inside! It requires you to be more focussed, or it is easy to forget to sew wrong sides first. Intersections are no trouble unless you are in the gusset area, in which case, get your thinking hat on.
It also gives a medieval-looking finish on the outside, which is important to me with re-enactment.
The main down-side here, is that you can’t really use this technique with a very bulky fabric, like a thick wool. It works just fine on medium weight linen, and lighter weight fabrics.
Gussets: If you are good with spatial stuff, you can do this much like on a serger, just remembering the two steps to finish each seam as you go. You need some patience, and probably some scribble paper to work things out. One day I might write this up with pictures. It is very hard to explain without doing!
Gores: I just worked out how to do this. I will have a tutorial coming soon! In short: don’t sew all the way to the point. Then flat-fell the point of the gusset. You can do it! 😀