Just for a break, I thought I'd share a couple of my favourite ways of dealing with raw edges. About a month ago, I ran head first into a mini debate concerning sergers vs vintage sewing when it came to raw edges. My take on it was, if it's intended to be historically accurate, and/or a vintage reproduction, then sergers just aren't right.
When I think of modern sewing, they don't have to be used either. Most sergers are used in the factory for quick production of off the rack clothing, and by home sewists, who feel it's a nice finished edge. And it is, don't get me wrong. They're a great machine if you like them. But if you're like me, and you don't feel that you can justify the cost of at the very least the last time I checked, $168 and up for something that just encases the edges, then there are other methods of doing this. Some vintage, most in fact, and some modern. And they're not as time consuming as you'd think.
The first and most common method I've noticed that seems to be used by vintage sewists is the cast over edge. That one does take a little time, and it isn't as pretty, though it does get the job done.
However, one of my favourites, which has been nick named the hong kong seam by home sewists, dates back to at least the Victorian era. I haven't gone looking, so it may be older, but the garments I've noticed it on are C19th.
It's fairly simple to do, and it can be done in two ways. First, you sew your pieces together in the usual manner, either by machine or by hand. Then you encase the edge in a bias strip of fabric. For the Hong Kong seam, you do this to each side separately. I'm using black thread just to show the stitches, but in normal use, the thread would match the colour of the material, or at least be complimentary.
Here, if you can over look my crappy photography, is the bias strip stitched to the raw edge. It's then folded over the top of the edge, and without folding the other side, you lay it flat.
Then fold the whole edge so it lays flat against the garment, and stitch close to the edge of the fold. If you're capable you could stitch in the ditch and hide your thread in the crease, but it's usually just done in this manner with small stitches.
As you can see, the stitches catch the long side of the bias tape, or in this case scrap strip of fabric pretending to be bias. Normally on a garment I'd stitch all the way down, and repeat on the other side. This type of binding is attractive when you're doing something such as a sleeveless top without a lining. Rather than risk the edges being seen, it presents a prettier seam.
Also Victorian, if the seam isn't going to be visible, you can simply encase both edges together, in the same manner either by hand or by machine. If doing it by machine, it's still period correct if machines existed at that time, and it only take a couple of minutes to do.
Another edge I like is the French seam. It's used today on thin and sheer fabrics, but I've seen it as far back as the 18th century on silk dresses. It leaves a raised edge, which is both decorative and stronger than the usual seam, and encases the raw edge very nicely. In one account I saw a description that matched this seam, only it was called a Mantua hem. If it is the same, it could be even older than I thought.
It's done in this manner. After stitching your pieces together, you trim both raw edges down to about 1/8th an inch, or .02 centimeters, with right sides together.
You then fold the fabric over, so it encases the raw edge, and brings the right sides to the outside.
Stitch just under where the raw edges rest on the inside, creating a raised seam.
I only did the 1/4 inch section near the right side. Flipped over the raw edges should be totally encased, which both protects them and makes it smooth on the inside. Which is helpful when you're doing a tight fitting bodice.
There are other seams as well. The flat fell seam for example, however I assumed everyone knows this one since it's very basic. One interesting effect that I'm fond of dates back to the Tudor period, which entails covering a seam with fabric tape or ribbon, or some decorative trim. A braid for example can be couch stitched over the seam. It makes it look both decorative, as well as it conceals the seam from view.
If you're creative, it opens up possibilities of cutting your seams at angles, or zig zags, shaping them in different ways instead of the usual up and down seam. Using the binding or trim to cover the seam, thus creating a unique artistic finish.