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Tutorial: How to sew a flat felled seam with a felling foot

This is lesson number two today in flat felled seams for Celebrate the Boy month! Lesson one covered how to sew flat felled seams without the use of a specialty presser foot. But if you do have one, or are thinking about getting one, here’s how you’d do it.

Why use a felling foot?

Well, the end effect is pretty similar, but using the foot ensures that your seams really come out looking perfect. There’ll be no wobbliness or unevenness in width, which can sometimes happen without the foot if you’re not very careful. Even though the two techniques look similar in the end, the procedure is pretty different.

Your tools

Tools needed:

  • A felling foot (also known as a “lap seam foot” sometimes).
  • A measuring tool (we like a clear gridded ruler)
  • Fabric shears
  • Pins
  • A marking implement (here we have a chalk pen)
  • The two pieces of fabric to be sewn together
  • An iron

Mark a cutting line.

Pin your fabric together, just as you normally would, with right sides together. Now take your measuring tool and your marker, and draw a line parallel to the edge along one side of the seam allowance. This is where you’ll be trimming one side of the seam allowance.

Now, the distance from the edge is going to vary, depending on your machine and foot, so you’ll need to read the instructions. We use a bernina with a number 71 foot, and that tells us to cut off 1cm. So we’ve marked off 1cm here.

Trim one side of the seam allowance.

Now trim just one side of the seam allowance along the marked line. Now you should have your two edges pinned together, but the one underneath extends out 1cm further than the one on top.

Fold and press.

With the edges still pinned together, fold the wider edge over the shorter one and press.

Sew down the first edge.

Now it’s time to sew the first line of stitches with the felling foot. Start by sewing a few stitches. Leave the needle down, and lift the presser foot on your machine. Use your hands to carefully guide the edge of the fabric into the groove of the presser foot, as shown. Lower the foot. Now as you sew, the foot acts as a guide, keeping your seam straight!


Press the seam flat. You’ll notice that the raw edges are all neatly pressed under now.

titch down the second side.

Stitch again with the felling foot, using the same technique to guide the edge of the fabric into the groove of the foot. Look how neat that stitching looks! It helps to gently pull on the fabric on the right and left of the foot as you sew, to keep it from bunching in the seam.

Here’s the seam from the right side.

And the wrong side. Again, either of these sides can be used on the outside of a garment, it’s up to you which look you prefer.

If you missed seeing the other related tutorial, check out how to sew a flat felled seam without a special foot. And once again, don’t forget to stop by the giveaway I’m doing for the Negroni men’s shirt pattern for Celebrate the Boy!

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.



February 18, 2011 #

I bought a felling foot a while ago, but honestly have been afraid to try it. Thanks for the great instructions. I have one question, though, and that is how does it work on a curved seam like the armhole? All the instructions I’ve seen for using a felling foot demonstrate it on a straight seam, and so I’m a little nervous about trying to work it around a curved seam. Do I need to do anything different?


February 18, 2011 #

Generally, the felling foot is best for straight seams, because it can get bunchy on curved ones. I recommend using the non-specialty-foot felling techniques for curved seams. (The Negroni pattern explains one of these special techniques for the armhole construction, or try the book Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin.)


February 18, 2011 #

Ah, okay, that’s good to know. Thank you!


February 18, 2011 #

Thank you for both tutorials. I learnt to do them by hand, as a kid. Good to have a more modern update:-)

Karen Lyles

February 18, 2011 #

Now I just need the foot!


February 20, 2011 #

Thank you so much for this tut ! I have avoided this technique all of my sewing life because it “seamed” intimidating. Now that I see it explained – I think I will give it a try!

Phillip LaFollette

September 13, 2011 #

I have seen other videos on flat fell seams. I was given the impression that the material entered the felling foot and was automatically folded over. Now I know better and can now proceed and practice, practice, practice! Thank you for a very informational and clear directions.


May 13, 2012 #

Fabulous tutorials ! Can you plse tell me where you purchased the gridded ruler in the picture…


June 9, 2014 #

Hi Lesley, this is called a gridded ruler. Quilting shops usually have various types.


October 2, 2013 #

Thanks for this information. It looks very easy.