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Line and Underline in One Step

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Like most sewers, I occasionally find myself completing a project at the eleventh hour. On one such occasion, I was faced with finishing a jacket that needed both an underlining for support, and a separate lining for a neat interior. Instead of panicking, I came up with this solution, which omits the lining and uses the underlining, applied in an unconventional way, to hide the seam allowances. It’s a very straightforward method that’s well-suited to a wide range of garment types (including multipanel jackets, skirts, and pants), works with most lightweight to medium-weight fabrics, and requires no special pattern pieces. And because you don’t construct the lining as a separate unit, you save lots of time. Even with a bit of topstitching to hold the underlining in place, this technique cuts construction steps without compromising the durability or appearance of the finished garment.

Neat and tidy on the inside, garments with an underlining that also lines are lightweight, uncomplicated, and nicely finished.

Neat and tidy on the inside...

Handsome on the outside, this jacket (author’s design) gains shape and soft structure from its combination lining and underlining.

Handsome on the outside


Pair the underlining to the fashion fabric

When choosing an underlining fabric, take into consideration how much support, slipperiness, opacity, or warmth the inner fabric must provide. Fabrics I’ve used successfully include traditional, silky linings, organza, batiste, flannel, and lightweight polar fleece. For fashion fabric, I avoid heavy or lofty types, which create undesirable bulk where the seam allowances are pressed to one side. I’ve also made fully reversible garments by using two equal-weight fabrics for the outer shell and the underlining.

Revise the garment construction slightly

My underlining technique finishes most interior seams as you sew, but because there is no separate lining to attach facings to, you must clean-finish facing edges, using your preferred method. I also clean-finish the armscye and sleeve cap seam allowances before setting in the sleeve.
Collars and cuffs should be interfaced as usual. Consider using a slightly lighter interfacing than normal for facings, since the underlining on the body of the garment adds a layer of fabric in faced areas. Don’t hesitate to interface placket edges if necessary, or to add a sleeve heading.

Once you’ve underlined the garment body following the directions below, set in the sleeves, and attach any collars, facings, or cuffs, then sew the hems.

Topstitch to anchor the underlining

As you can see in the photos below, I topstitch parallel to all the seams to anchor the underlining and seam allowances. This step is critical, as it provides stability; it also gives the appearance of flat-felled seams. If you don’t like topstitching, edgestitch close to the seam, using matching thread.

Underline a garment quickly and cleanly

Start at the center back seam  Topstitch the underlining in position

Prepare pattern pieces for sewing. Begin with a pattern that has been altered to fit; with this technique, it’s difficult to make fit adjustments during the sewing process. Cut the fashion fabric and underlining fabric, using the major pattern pieces for both. You don’t need underlining fabric for facings, collars, pockets, or cuffs. Interface the fashion fabric as needed, and complete any surface details such as darts, pockets, or embellishments before lining.

Start at the center back seam. Stack the back pieces of fashion fabric, right sides together, with center back seam allowances aligned. Do the same with the underlining pieces, then lay these on top of the fashion fabric. Pin, then sew all four layers together along the center back seamline. Trim all the seam allowances to a scant 1/4 inch and press them flat, as sewn. Open out the fashion fabric and press the seam allowances to one side.

Topstitch the underlining in position. Open out the underlining fabric so that one layer covers the seam allowances, and press in place. From the garment right side, topstitch the underlining to secure it to the fashion fabric, and to enclose and cover the center back seam allowances.

Complete the remaining seams, working from the center back toward the front. Sew subsequent seams in the same way, in the order shown below. Then sew the shoulder seams conventionally and clean-finish the seam allowances.

Complete the remaining seams

This article first appeared in Threads #111, pp. 50-51.

Photos by Sloan Howard. 

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  1. Love_it | | #1

    Thank you. I would roll a french seam on the inside of the jacket to give more support at the top shoulder seam to prevent stress and give the jacket long wearability.

  2. waterfox | | #2

    Love the instructions. I like to line most of my garments because it gives it a better fit and look and the garment hangs so much better. This will save me loads of time. Question- what about doing the same thing for pants?


  3. LottaTroublemaker | | #3

    Thanks a lot, this was a great tutorial! Bookmarked so I can look it up again when I'll try it the first time! :)

  4. User avater
    yousewsmart | | #4

    @Love it ~ I agree that the shoulder seams could be finished a little better. The french seam would certainly do it or a hand-stitched flat-felled seam on the inside so that the fashion fabric was covered by the lining fabric. The shoulder seams are so short it wouldn't take THAT long to do.
    After the sleeves are inserted, the armscye seams should be trimmed and flat-felled also or at least bound with bias tape...anything would be better than the fashion fabric showing on the inside of the jacket, unless you don't mind it looking like a fifth-grade school project.

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