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Seam Types

Introduction to Seams
A seam can be defined as : the application of a series of
stitches or stitch types to one or several layers of material.

8 classes of seams are defined in the ISO classification.

Seams are described as :






A seam is load bearing and should be similar in physical

properties to the material being sewn.

Flat Seams
In these seams, sometimes called Butt
Seams, two fabric edges, flat or folded,
are brought together and oversewn
with a zig-zag lockstitch, chainstitch or
covering stitch (Class 600).
The purpose is to produce a join where
no extra thickness of fabric can be
tolerated at the seam, as in underwear
or in foundation garments.
The looper thread(s) must be soft, yet
strong and the cover thread may be
decorative as well as strong.

Superimposed Seams
These generally start with two or
superimposed over each other and
joined near an edge, with one or
more rows of stitches. There are
various types of seams within the SS
A superimposed seam can be sewn
with a stitch 301 or 401 to create a
simple seam. The same seam type
can also be sewn with stitch class
500 (Overedge stitch) or Combination
stitches (i.e. stitch class 516) to
create neat load bearing seams for
lingerie, shirts, etc.

Lapped Seams
Two or more plies of material are lapped (i.e.

with edges overlapped, plain, or folded) and

joined with one or more rows of stitches.
French seaming involves 2 stitching
operations with an intervening folding
operation - a flat, folded seam with only one
row of stitching visible on the top surface,
commonly used for rainwear.

Lapped Seams
The Lap Felled type, involves only one

stitching operation - a strong seam with

fabric edges protected from fraying.
Commonly used for making up jeans or
similar garments.

Bound Seams
These are formed by folding a binding strip
over the edge of the plies of material and
joining both edges of the binding to the
material with one or more rows of stitching.
This produces a neat edge on a seam
exposed to view or to wear.

Ornamental Seams
A series of stitches along a straight or
curved line or following an ornamental
design, on a single ply of material.
More complex types include various
forms of piping, producing a raised line
along the fabric surface.

Edge Finishing Stitching

Finishing the edge of a single ply of material
by folding it or covering it with a stitch.
The simplest of these operations is Serging,
Type 6.01.01, in which a cut edge of a single
ply is reinforced by overedge stitching to
neaten and prevent fraying Includes other
popular methods of producing a neat edge
like hemming and Blind Stitch hemming.

Quality issues & Solutions

Seam quality issues

1. Puckering
2. Seam grin
3. Seam slippage
4. Skipped stitches
5. Unbalanced stitches
6. Uneven SPI

Skipped Stitches


Failure of hook, looper, or needle to enter

the thread loop at correct time

Check machines clearances and timing.

Check needle is inserted and aligned correctly
Use needle with deeper scarf.

Thread loop failure

Change needle size/style

Check thread take-up and check loop formation

Flagging of fabric due to poor presser foot

control or too large a throat plate hole

Adjust presser foot pressure

Change throatplate to match needle

Needle deflections or bent needles

Use a reinforced needle

Check needle clearance and reset needle guard

Incorrect sewing tension in needle or under


Adjust thread tension

Poor loop formation

Check loop formation

Verify thread selection
Check thread twist and thickness

Staggered Stitches


Needle vibrating or deflecting

Increase needle size

Use reinforced needle

Incorrect or blunt needle point

Change needle

Incorrect needle-to-thread size relationship

Change needle thread size to appropriate size

Feed dog sways

Tighten feed dog

Poor fabric control and presser foot bounce

Adjust presser foot pressure

Change feed mechanism

Unbalanced or Variable Stitches



Incorrect sewing tensions

Adjust top or bottom thread tension as

necessary for balanced stitches

Incorrect threading

Check for correct thread path

Needle thread snagging on bobbin case or

positioning finger
Variable thread tension

Polish bobbin case and thread contact surfaces

Reset positioning finger
Change throatplate to match needle
Check for correct thread path
Make sure check spring is properly set
Check thread lube consistency

Variable Stitch Density

Poor fabric feed control

Increase presser foot pressure
Change to a more positive feed mechanism

Seam Grin
When two pieces of fabric are pulled at right angles to the

seam, a gap is revealed between the two pieces of fabric

revealing the thread in this gap.
Corrective actions

Increase stitching tensions

Use a higher stitch rating

Seam Slippage
A fabric related issue.

Happens mainly in 2 types of fabrics :

fabrics with low no. of warp & weft yarns.

fabrics where C.F. yarns are used in the


The fabric on either side of the seam

distorts as the fabric yarns slide away
resulting in a permanent gap.

Corrective Actions

Increase seam allowance

Use a higher stitch density

Opt for a lapped fell seam

Seam Pucker

Tension pucker

Feed pucker

Shrinkage pucker

Inherent pucker

Fabric flagging

Tension Pucker
Caused by high thread tension during sewing.
More pronounced when synthetic threads are used.
These threads on account of high stretch

properties elongate more during sewing.

After sewing the threads recover from the stretched
state pulling the fabric with it.

Thread tensions have to be kept as
low as possible.

Feed Pucker
Encountered when sewing very fine fabrics.
The plies of fabric tend to slip over each other

resulting in uneven feed leading to pucker.

Remedy :
Opting for advanced types of feed
systems like compound or unison feed.
Puller feed is more cost effective.

Shrinkage Pucker
Wash pucker - during the wash process the thread in the seam

shrinks, pulling the fabric with it. More so when using cotton
Ironing pucker - normally happens when synthetic threads are
used. The heat destabilizes the molecular structure of the
thread causing it to contract.

Choosing threads with low shrinkage properties.

Inherent Pucker
Normally seen when sewing densely woven materials.

This occurs because the needle forcibly displaces the

warp & weft ends of the dense weave to a significant

These displaced ends are pushed upwards to the
surface of the fabric and appear as pucker.
This is also know as 'STRUCTURAL JAMMING'

Opting for finer needles & threads
Opt for a chain stitch in place of a lock
Reduce stitch density
Biased stitching

Fabric Flagging
A machine related issue

the throat plate aperture enlarges due to wear & tear

while sewing the needle pushes the fabric through the

aperture before penetrating the fabric

this can also happen when the needle size (thickness) is
changed and if the throat plate is not changed accordingly.
throat plates must be changed at regular intervals
after checking for wear & tear
throat plates must be changed in accordance with the
needle size even if there are no signs of wear & tear.
Needle Size
Throat plate
aperture size

- Nm 60 65
- Nm 100 120


80 90 100 110 120

140 160 160 200 200

Garment / Seam properties

Seam Engineering
A garment is made up using a series of different seams.
Therefore, a thread should be chosen for specific seams to ensure
maximum benefits.

Seam appearance
Is the seam attractive, consistent, and neat?

Seam strength

Seam stretch

Have the correct seam type and thread selections

been made for the item being sewn?
Does the seam allow stretch especially in high
elongation fabrics viz : knits, lycra blends

Seam durability

Do the properties of the seam, thread, and fabric

lend themselve to the desired length of use for the
item sewn?

Seam Strength
Critical factors :

Thread strength

Stitch type

Stitch rating

Seam type

Fabric type

Needle size & point

The seam is sewn at right angles

to the direction of load.

Seam strength = SPI X STS X 1.5 - lockstitch

SPI X STS X 1.7 - chainstitch
for a seam with a density of 16 spi & a thread with a 1100 gms STS
seam strength for lockstitch = 16 X 1100 X 1.5 = 26,400 gms.
= 26. 4 kgs
seam strength for chainstitch = 16 X 1100 X 1.7 = 29,920 gms.
= 29. 9 kgs

Seam Strength
Seam Type

A lap felled seam is the strongest of all seam types because the
fabric is lapped upon itself and shares the stress load along with
the thread. However, the lap felled seam makes a bulky seam.

A butt seam is designed to maintain a flat profile, but in this type

seam the thread bears the entire load of stress in the seam.

Stitch Type

The lockstitch is the most common stitch used, but the most easily

Chain and overedge stitches offer more extensibility, which leads to

more resistance to stress.

Stitch Density

Seam strength is usually proportional to stitch density.

Increasing stitches per inch gives a stronger seam up to a point.
Sometimes it is more economical to use a stronger thread.

Seam Stretch
Critical factors

Thread extensibility

Stitch type

Stitch rating

Fabric Type

Seam stretch is expressed as a % .

The seam is sewn parallel to

the direction of load.

Seam Durability
Defined as the ability of a seam to withstand
abrasion during :

Distress garment washes like stone, sand, golf ball etc.

Normal machine wash

Day to day wear & tear of a garment

Durability factor for various substrates :





Core spun :


CF Nylon :