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How-to

Two Understitching Techniques

Aug 04, 2014
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In “Understitch by Hand” from the SewStylish Fall 2014 issue, couture expert Susan Khalje shares fundamental hand-understitching techniques to help improve your sewing. In this Web extra, Susan shares two more understitching methods, one by machine and one by hand.

Machine Understitching
Quick to learn and simple to do, understitching by machine instantly gives your garments a professional appearance. Machine understitching can be applied to a garment facing or lining, with the same process applying to both.

1. Sew the facing (or lining) to the garment. Press the facing toward the seam allowances; work your way along the seamline a little at a time. In addition to orienting the seam allowances, this establishes a nice curve before you clip.

machine understitching


2. Clip the seam allowances perpendicular to the stitching line.
Clip as much as necessary for the facing to lie flat against the garment. More clips are better than fewer; they release the curved seam’s tension and give a smoother result. Clip only to about 1/4 inch from the stitching line.

machine understitching

3. Understitch with the facing and garment right side up. Stitch only through the facing and the fashion fabric seam allowances. Flatten the seam allowances (which are underneath) as you sew. Stitch slowly to stay 1⁄16 inch to 1⁄8 inch from the seam.

machine understitching

machine understitching

4. Turn the facing to the garment’s inside. Press the understitching. Slightly roll the stitching line to fall just inside the garment and out of sight when the garment is worn. For added control, tack the facing to the intersecting garment seams and darts.

machine understitching

Press the facing, and then tack in place.

Hand-tack the facing.

Decorative Hand Understitching

Understitching also can serve a decorative purpose on the outside of the garment. Here’s how to combine form and function while showing off your couture sewing skills.

decorative hand understitching

Make decorative understitching stand out with thick decorative thread.

1. Use thicker decorative threads, such as silk buttonhole twist thread, to create these stitches. Decorative hand understitching needs to be absolutely even, so careful marking is a must. Use pins on both sides to mark the exact points where the stitches will go. Alternate the pin placement on the wrong and right sides.

hand understitching

2. Apply this understitching so it’s visible on both sides of the garment. Create a pickstitch on the wrong side, stitch through the inside fabric layers, and create a pickstitch on the right side. The stitch placement alternates on each side. Think of the stitches as a combination of a pickstitch on the right sides and a catchstitch worked from the inside. Work slowly and carefully to maintain the stitch placement and tension.

hand understitching

Decorative hand understitching adds interest and a nice finishing touch.

decorative hand understitching

Have you tried one or both of these methods? What is your “go-to” hand-understitching method?

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  1. User avater MonetViera December 7th

    What a great methods!!!

  2. AnneFrances August 6th

    Both methods are good thought the hand stitching one is surely not actually "under stitching". Shouldn't it be described as pick stitch trim?
    The pictures show both seam allowances (body and facing) clipped at the same place. Surely it is good practice to clip each one separately and stagger the clips. This avoids too much weakening of the seam in any one spot and means there is less risk that the fabric will pull out and the seam will fray.

  3. User avater StinaP August 5th

    I almost always handstitch because I love how soft it keeps the edge. But I never let my stitches show on the outside; I think they belong on the inside!

  4. User avater Hunny August 5th

    I enjoy stitching by hand and mark exact pick stitch placement points with the Judith Neukam-recommended :) new pens on the market the ink of which is easily removed with the heat of a moderately hot iron. Great addition to any sewer's arsenal!

  5. User avater Lady_D August 5th

    I'm definitely in favor of the machine-stitched understitching. It's faster and better looking than my hand stitching will ever be.

  6. User avater SnickerDoodle_Kids August 5th

    I use the first method but do not press the facing until AFTER the edgstitching. I believe it makes the facing roll better towards the inside of the garment.

  7. JingleBelle August 5th

    What was used on the edge of the facing at the hem? It looks like interfacing? Organza maybe?

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