Thursday, August 06, 2009

New Sewists Thursdays - Underlining

I know I'm not going in any particular's really just as the questions come in. All of the posts in this series are filed under "New Sewists Questions" and the subject of the post is also in the title. Hopefully this will make it easier to search the blog for information later on.

Okay onto today's question:

Anonymous asked:
“Could you talk about underlining? How, when, why? I've never done it.”

Claire Shaeffer in her book "Couture Sewing Techniques" defines underlining as backing...and backing is described as: "Layer of support fabric applied to the wrong side of a garment section before the seam is sewn; called the underlining in home sewing."

The Dressmaker's Technique Bible says that underlining, may be placed to the underside of material to give support, either to a small part, such as a collar, or to whole garment pieces, for example, skirt panels.

So first the how....

The Vogue/Butterick Step by Step Guide to Sewing Techniques gives you these steps on how to underline...

1. Cut underlining from the same pattern pieces used to cut the fashion fabric.

2. Transfer all markings from fashion fabric to underlining.

3. With wrong sides together, center the marked underlining over the unmarked fashion fabric. Pin together loosely along traced lines.

4. From the underlining side, run a line of THREAD TRACING along the lengthwise center of each piece of both layers following the lengthwise grain.

5. Check whether the two fabric layers are working together by holding each pinned section over the body to see how the two layers react to the body's contours. If bubbles or ridges form in either the fashion fabric or the underlining, the two fabrics are not molding as one.

6. Remove all pins and, with the fashion fabric uppermost, fold both layers along the thread traced center line. Insert a large magazine or cardboard between the folded fabric. Smooth the fashion fabric over the underlining; pin along the raw edges and construction lines.

7. The underlining and fashion fabric are now relating to each other the way they will be when they are worn.

Hopefully I haven't voided any copyright laws...because I summarized the high points! However, I highly recommend this sewing book and have provided a link to so that you can own your own copy!

The when?

I personally use underlining to strengthen the fashion fabric, to prevent show-through or to assist with its natural properties. For example, if I have a fashion fabric that is a little flimsy and/or drapey but I want to use it for a more tailored garment I add an underlining to the fabric to make it a little more stable and sturdier. Or I use underlining in white garments to prevent seam show through. I also use underlining in linen garments to help minimize wrinkling.

The what?

Fabrics for underlining can be a variety of fibers...I've used silk organza in linen. I've used cotton batiste in linen and cotton & cotton blends and I've used cotton flannel in wool crepe garments (this was recommended by Sandra Betzina).

Okay the floor is now open. Do others have any additional information to add to the explanation above? Personal observations, tips or fabric suggestions? Maybe a book to recommend for personal sewing libraries?

Finally, make sure that you check in next Thursday because I have a guest blogger answering one of the questions submitted. I thought this person had a better knowledge regarding the question asked and they graciously accepted. So stay tuned for more New Sewists Questions and Answers!


  1. When I use interlining, I usually cut the interlining out in the relevant pattern pieces, then lay the cut interlining pieces, wrong sides together, on my fashion fabric. I pin and baste (in the seam line) the interlining pieces to the fashion fabric, then cut the fashion fabric out around the interlining. I find it much easier than trying to make sure everything matches up that way.

  2. Do you use the iron-on tricot stabilizers at all? I saw it demonstrated once on a beautiful, though loosely woven and thin-ish, houndstooth wool being made into a very tailored jacket. The tricot was applied to the wool yardage before any cutting of pattern pieces so that it was treated as one.
    Would that be an entirely different situation from needing underlining?

  3. For me, silk organza is the best underlining fabric. It stabilizes without distorting the drape of the fashion fabric. I use skin tone in most garments. It minimizes wrinkles and gives most fabrics just the right amount of drape. I cut my underlining pieces using the fashion fabric pieces to insure they are the same size. I then pin and baste all edges, then I treat the sewn together pieces as one.

  4. I love this new series! I use silk organza as an underlining very often, and one of my primary reasons for underlining is to get a completely invisible hem. You just sew the hem to the underlining (not the fashion fabric). You can also tack down facings and seam allowances to the underlining. It makes the inside of a garment look so neat!

  5. So far, I have used underlining only to prevent show-through. I made a shirt from a white eyelet, and it really needed something to make it opaque, so I underlined with a white cotton batiste. Overall, I was really happy with the way it worked out.

  6. I am loving this series you are doing!

  7. I like using silk organza to underline pants, particularly silk shantung or dupioni because it one, reduces wrinkling and two it strengthens the seams, particularly in a fitted pant or skirt where there might be more stress at the seams. I'd also use it in a skirt and still add a lining because it makes your skirt look better at the end of the day and gives it a longer life. I use glue stick to temporarily attach it in the seams allowances but I baste through the centers of all darts and I like to baste the cf to keep it from shifting.

  8. Wow!..I just got a mini lesson which I know will come in handy.. Carolyn, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this... You don't find many people that are willing to help those that are inexperienced or new to sewing are such a blessing....

  9. Thanks so much for this answer. I have two follow-up questions: (1) just to make sure I understand correctly, the underlining is not the same thing as the lining, correct? For example, you might use underlining in a skirt, but then also add a lining to finish it? and (2) if the underlining and the fashion fabric are of different fibers (for example, silk organiza underlining and linen fashion fabric, how do you decide how to wash the finished garment? I also always wonder this about linings as well.

  10. Unrelated to the do you like The Dressmaker's Technique Bible? Worth investing in. I don't want another basic how-to.

  11. This may be an incredibly dopey question, but (gulp) here goes: how is underlining different from interfacing?

    Many thanks for your wisdom!

  12. Underlining just gives so much more body to most garments.

  13. I appreciate this series that you are doing. I always pick up a tip or two or more.

  14. Perfect timing for me! I bought the end of a bolt of a beautiful semisheer silk/cotton blend, white with black dots and waves last weekend, and I bought some cotton batiste to underline it with, but I wasn't sure how to *do* it. Now I do, thanks so much!

  15. Great series!

    I had been eyeing silk organza at Jo-Mar's for awhile but couldn't wrap my mind around it's use. You really break this down, thank you.

    Follow-up - Underlining and interlining are the mean the same thing? Just semantics?

    Angie R.

  16. Thanks again for this tip. I just decided to make a few sheer blouses and needed to know how to keep the fabric from sliding all over the place and this gave me some ideas. Thanks again.

  17. This is great. You did a post some time ago, maybe last year about underlining a garment and I have since used that technique for several garments.

  18. I absolutely adore this refresher on backing and to remind us how useful it is. I use it for my clients when they bring me fabric that isn't quite as full of body as some of my grande dame figures need, or if the only available fabric is light-weight or drape-y, then I can always count on a backing to rescue me and make the garment have backing.

    It's one of those wonderful techniques that made vintage garments stand and hang just perfectly.


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