How to Finish Sleeve Seams Easily (5 Helpful Tips)

To serge or not to serge? That is the question when it comes to finishing sleeve seams. A serger machine is the best possible option when it comes to completing this task. But if you do not have one of those machines, finishing a sleeve seam may not be as easy or as enjoyable.

Tip #1: Flat sewing a sleeve seam is not the best way to go about finishing that particular task. The flat method may be easy to do but it can leave your sleeves looking bulky, baggy or ill-fitting.

How to finish sleeve seams: The easiest way to do a sleeve seam is to turn to your serger machine. Once you have it all set up you can press toward the sleeve to make sure the look stays the way you want it. You may want to narrow the seam allowance when you use this machine.

To find out more tips on how to finish sleeve seams just continue to read our article. It explores the issue to find you the best tips possible. These tips should make your sewing sleeve seams a lot easier and keep your shirts, blouses, etc. looking good.

Tip #2: Topstitching is not a recommended stitch to use. A felled seam on men’s shirts recommended. The thinking behind that tip is that the felled seam is stronger than other versions.

How to Finish Sleeve Seams


There are probably a few different methods to finish an arm sleeve seam. Here is just one method that may help you out:

  • 1. Assemble your sleeve and get ready to insert them into the armpit opening.
  • 2. With right sides matching, insert the sleeve into the armhole making sure to match notches. Then double-check to make sure the two circles match up and align together. Pin the sleeve into place.
  • ​3. Next, you need to align the sleeve cap with the armhole then pin it into place. To fine-tune that alignment you may pull the thread tails.
  • ​4. Now you can either use your machine to baste the sleeve or use your hand sewing expertise. This choice is up to you and whichever is easiest and best. Start sewing with the sleeve on the top as this will avoid puckers and other sewing issues if you sew on the bottom.
  • ​5. After you finish basting, use a regular stitch and stitch length to attach the sleeve to the armhole. When that is done, remove the basting stitches.
  • 6. Use pinking shears to finish the seams clipping the inner curves on the underarm seam.

Tip #3: pressing towards the seam will give your seam cap a fuller look. Then if you press towards the sleeve shoulder the sleeve head should appear flattered. Deciding which way to press will depend on what clothing item you are making and how you want it to look.

Finish Armhole Seams


There are a few different methods to use. Each method though usually works for a specific clothing item. Two different methods will be placed here to give you a good idea of what you should do on your clothing projects.

1. The bodice shoulder seam

  • Step 1: Fold the bodice in half starting at the shoulder fold lines. Make sure the right sides are together.
  • Step 2: Pin the bodice back so that the shoulder edge of the back bodice is between the shoulder edge of the front folded bodice. Don’t worry if the edges are not the same. Right sides should be together still and you should arrange the back folded bodice to have a 3/8 inch allowance from the front armhole’s raw edge. Pin every layer together.
  • Step 3: Now it is time to add your stitches making sure your bodice doesn’t drift.

2. The armhole seam

  • Step 1: The only fabric you need to deal with here is the front bodice layers. There should only be two. Pin the armholes and also pin the back bodice away from your sewing area to keep it from interfering with your work.
  • Step 2: Now you pin the front bodice lining to the shell going along the armhole edge. Keep the right sides together.
  • Step 3: At this point, you just sew away using the correct stitch. One word of warning watch that you do not sew the back bodice to the seam.

Tip #4: To get the most out of your seam finishing, and have them last a lot longer, finish the raw edges. The reason for this step is to protect your seams from unraveling or fraying after washing or heavy use. You do not have to do this it is just an added touch.

Some Hints on Finishing Seams When You do Not Own a Serger


Not everyone likes to upgrade their sewing. Some sewers like to think or take their time when sewing. Using a machine speeds up that relaxing element and doesn’t give you enough time to unwind.

For those people who do not own or want to use a serger, here are tips to help you finish seams:

  • 1. Turn to pinking shears - this is the easiest step you can take when you are finished sewing your seams. The pinking shears are to be used before pressing and the clipping helps to stop unraveling of raw edges.

For best results, woven fabrics that do not get used or washed frequently are the best fabrics to try this tip on.

  • 2. Use a zig-zag stitch - almost all sewing machines have this option and if you do not own the pinking shears mentioned in #1, then this is a good option. Usually, the default stitch setting works the best but do a test or three to see for yourself which length works for you.

There are two methods of zig-zag stitching you can do. First, you can use this stitch after you sew your seam or two, you can use it before sewing your seam with a regular stitch.

  • 3. Go old fashion and turn & stitch - this is an old hand sewing technique that was used often before sewing machines became popular. Since the Singer Featherweight doesn’t have a zig-zag stitch, and there may be other sewing machines lacking this option, the turn & stitch is a good option to use.

All you do is sew your seam leaving the appropriate seam allowance. The turn about 1/8 of an inch of the raw edge down and sew there. Do both sides of the seam

  • 4. The machine overcast stitch with a twist - many machines have this stitch style built into their stitch pattern options. To use this option you do need the overcast foot.

The twist is that you use an all-purpose foot and sew on the seam allowance. After that, you just trim away any excess you see. Just make sure not to trim the overcast stitches while you are at it.

  • 5. Bound Seams - these are also called Hong Kong seams and this method is another simple one to use. The best clothing to use this on are unlined jacket sleeves. Also, this method does not affect the drape of the jacket or clothing item.

If you want to give your clothing item and sleeve seam a little something extra, this is the method to use. Bias tape is also needed to get the look and finish you want.

  • 6. French seams - if you are worried about the strength and durability of your children’s clothing seams, this is the right option to turn to. The reason for that is that you sew your seams twice boosting their holding power.

For best results, use on straight not curved seams. Also, the french seam is good when you use lightweight woven or sheer fabrics

So you can see, sewing seams and finishing them are not that difficult. The hand sewing options may take a little more time but you can still produce some great finished seams using these top 6 methods.

But if you want to save yourself some work, use a serger and use the extra time for something else.

Tip #5: You do not need to finish the seams on every clothing item. Knit fabrics should not fray so those clothing items made out of that fabric do not need to have their seams finished.

Some Final Words

Finishing seams can be a chore if you are not that experienced at sewing. But with the above tips, you should be able to get perfectly finished seams as long as you continue to work at it.

The good news is if you are not that good at finishing seams there is a serger machine waiting for you to ask it to help. Machines do make sewing clothing a lot more simple and easier to do.

Either way, you can produce great seams with a little skill and practice.

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