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Understanding Underlining

Underlining can solve a variety of everyday sewing problems.
Underlining can solve a variety of everyday sewing problems.

Underlining can solve a variety of everyday sewing problems.

by Sandra Betzina
from Threads #68, pp. 37-39

Have you ever found a fabric that was the perfect color but too lightweight or drapey for the garment you wanted to make? Do you avoid some pastel or white fabrics because you know the seams will show through on the right side? Well, these are just two of a handful of everyday sewing problems that are easily solved with underlining. Read on to find out why and how to add underlining to your toolbox of everyday sewing tricks.

Why underline?

This multipurpose technique gives you more
control with fabrics and more options for their use.
Underlining can:

• Stabilize loosely woven fabrics
• Strengthen delicate fabrics
• Eliminate seam allowance show-through
• Hide hand stiching
• Add warmth to garments
• Add bulk to fabrics
• Reduce wrinkling


Underlining vs. lining
Let's clear up one point first: lining and underlining a garment are two different procedures, and depending on their purpose, one or both can be used in a single piece of clothing. Usually cut from a slippery fabric, lining is attached only at the garment's waistband or neck, and sometimes its hem -- otherwise, it hangs free in the garment. It's generally used to give a finished look to the inside of the garment, prevent seams from raveling, reduce wrinkling, help conceal some figure faults, and make a garment easier to slip on and off.

Underlining basics
The steps for applying underlining are the same for every combination of underlining material and fashion fabric.

Underlining basics
1. Cut fashion fabric and underlining from same pattern pieces.
2. Pin fabric and underlining together down center only, along straight grain.
3. To adjust for turn of cloth (amount of space taken up by fabric's thickness when folded) along straight grain, place hand over pins, fold fabric over hand (underlining's overlap shows amount of adjustment needed for turn of cloth), pin fabric and underlining near adjusted edges, and baste. Average turn of cloth will be 1/8 to 1/4 in. (or more, depending on fabric's thickness).


Underlining, on the other hand, is cut from the same pattern pieces as the fashion fabric and is attached before construction begins. Then, as the garment is constructed, the underlining and fashion fabric are handled as a single unit. Most often, underlining is cut from fine cotton batiste (see Sources for underlining fabrics), light- to medium-weight cotton broadcloth, or silk organza. But a variety of other materials can also be used to underline a fashion fabric.

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Comments (14)

Southernstitch Southernstitch writes: For the turn of cloth, look at the picture on the first page. It shows that the underlining now pushes out from behind the fashion fabric by 1/8 to 1/4 inch after it's draped over the hand. You will baste the sides exactly as you see it when it's draped over your hand, with the fashion fabric just that little bit over the edge of the underlining.
Posted: 11:09 am on August 13th

SueBee8 SueBee8 writes: To NinaC about cool, breatheable linings:
Hi,
I live in hot-in-the-summer Nebraska (today´s forecast high will be 94 deg.). A few weeks ago Hancock Fabrics had their big sale on all their linen. I bought blouse-weight pure (white) linen to use as an underlining or lining for a translucent linen skirt fabric.
Linen, ramie, and maybe hemp (and maybe bamboo?) are the coolest fabrics you can wear in hot weather. A lightweight linen is therefore probably the coolest lining fabric you can get. A caveat: I haven´t actually made the skirt yet, but my linen blouse and shorts are the coolest clothes I own, hence my reasoning. I hope this helps you out.
Cheers and happy sewing!
Posted: 12:14 pm on July 22nd

Maxtork Maxtork writes:
Posted: 1:36 am on February 7th

granolacowgirl granolacowgirl writes: This was great information. Thanks. I have underlined before, but it's been years and this article gave me the confidence to go for it on a beautiful but flimsy fabric.
Posted: 7:28 pm on June 10th

NinaC NinaC writes: I am looking for a cool breathable lining to use for my garments. Any fabric suggestions?
Posted: 7:03 pm on April 14th

Allysonsews Allysonsews writes: Can someone let me know if you would or would not underline a normal-weight wool gabardine for a pair of slacks? I underline most everything with batiste or organza, but I've never underlined a pair of pants and am wondering if it's a useful step? I plan to line them with silk charmeuse. If you would recommend underlining them, would you recommend a light-weight batiste or silk organza?
Posted: 12:24 pm on February 26th

Sewist2010 Sewist2010 writes: I think it's a very interesting, but I, too, am comfused.

Where do you baste? Just inside the seam allowance? How big should the stitches be? Do you shave off 1/8 of an inch to accomodate the turn of the cloth? Where does one do that, exactly?

I went to the fabric link suggested by the author, but the exact product she mentioned doesn't come up if you copy and paste it into the search link for Vogue Fabrics? Which of the batistes does she suggest? Some are $29 a yard.
Posted: 6:42 pm on January 22nd

patty_zoe patty_zoe writes: What should I use to line really, really nice italian wool? I am going to make trousers, perhaps crepe de chine?
Posted: 4:49 pm on October 4th

patty_zoe patty_zoe writes: I bought a really, really nice piece of medium winter weight imported italian wool to make trousers, but what should I use to line? I was going to do the hong kong finish, but I don't think that it will work for slight fit trousers. Help.
Posted: 4:40 pm on October 4th

tessy38 tessy38 writes: This question may be in the wrong area but will try anyway. I have several knit pants and sweatpant that stretch out at the knees, I have read somewhere to sew a lining in the knee area to correct this. Do you know what the procedure would be and what type of lining to use. They are mostly cotton knits.

Thank you,
Theresa
Posted: 9:35 pm on June 16th

tessy38 tessy38 writes: This question may be in the wrong area but will try anyway. I have several knit pants and sweatpant that stretch out at the knees, I have read somewhere to sew a lining in the knee area to correct this. Do you know what the procedure would be and what type of lining to use. They are mostly cotton knits.

Thank you,
Theresa
Posted: 9:34 pm on June 16th

kathlann kathlann writes: This is a wonderful article. I have some very stubborn lightweight tafetta that I am using to make a light coat for a summer wedding. Now I know what I have to do to make it look right.
My understanding of 'turn of cloth' is: Your underlining is meant to be a fraction smaller than your fabric to allow for both layers to sit correctly when you have your seam stitched and pressed open. Hope I got that right!!
Posted: 9:01 am on May 16th

momee momee writes: I still don't understand.
Posted: 6:36 pm on April 21st

AZwanKenobi AZwanKenobi writes: I love this article, but still don't understand how to adjust for the turn of the cloth.....
Posted: 6:07 pm on April 5th

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