You’ve conceived, designed, and constructed your masterpiece garment, and now it’s time for a much-anticipated public unveiling. But once you’ve got it on, what do you see? Unsightly and unprofessional facings and linings peeking out at you, practically mocking you! Maybe you shouldn’t have skipped the part in the pattern instructions that said something about understitching.
Um, underwhat? Not understanding (or never learning) this underused but highly effective sewing technique could be why people blow right by its mention in those instructions.
Quite simply, understitching is stitching a line as close as possible to the edge of a facing (or lining) to keep it from rolling toward the outside. It keeps the facing firmly on the inside of your garment without any visible stitches showing on the outside, especially around necklines, armholes, and pockets. Understitching is perfect for sleeveless dresses or tops and it will keep the facing from riding up around the waist of lined skirts.
This technique will keep your facing edges looking sharp and give your garments the polished and professional look they deserve, so let’s walk through the steps. We want to make sure that the next time you make an entrance, “OMG!!!” will be used on Instagram in praise and not pity.
To begin, sew the main fabric to the facing fabric, right sides together. If needed, grade your seam allowances. Trim both seam allowances by half, and then trim the seam allowance for the lining by half again. At this point clip or notch any curved seams like necklines and armholes, staggering the clips on the layer’s curves to just above the seam line.
Want to know more about grading seam allowances? Check out this helpful video:
Video Source: You Tube/Cindy Moore
Sewing Machine Action!
Next, use your fingers to press the seam allowance towards the facing, making sure it’s on the facing side of the seam line. Position the fabric on your machine with the right side up with the main garment fabric to the left of the needle and the facing/lining to the right.
Place the facing right side up under the presser foot of your sewing machine and straight stitch about a 1/8” to 1/4″ away from the seam line. You’ll be sewing through the lining and both seam allowances, so compensate for the added thickness by sewing with a 0.5 extra stitch length over your usual stitch. Sew in a detailed manner, carefully navigating curves and making sure not to straighten or stretch the fabric as you sew.
As you sew, gently pulling the two pieces of fabric away from one another will help the seam allowances to stay tucked under the facing/lining once completed. At this point you might want to stop and check if your seam allowances are still positioned correctly under the facing/lining.
Continue sewing until you’re done. Don’t worry if you’re not able to get all the way to the end of your seam as you sew … just go as far as you can. Backstitch at either end to make secure.
Once you’re done sewing use your iron to press the facing/lining to the inside of the garment so it’s not visible from the outside and you’re finished! You should have a neat line of stitches on the right side of the facing/lining. On the underside you will see the understitching and the seamline running parallel to one another.
Now that you’ve walked through the steps, let’s bring it all together with this video that’s packed with excellent understitching tips and tricks.
Video Source: You Tube/Sew Essential
While not a particularly complicated technique, successful understitiching takes some skill with the sewing machine. Beginners are encouraged to hone your sewing and machine skills before attempting your first understitching project. Practice, practice, practice! One you’ve mastered this technique, your garments will be runway ready!