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Buckled hems on underlined garments

kswolff | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi everyone,

I am about to make a pair of wool satin trousers and want to underline them in a very light china silk. The pattern is designed in such a way that lining would be tricky (pleated & gathered paper-bag waist w/fly zip).

In the past when I have used underlining, I have occasionaly had a bit of a problem with the hems. When I hem the pants or skirt, there is sometimes a buckling so it looks like the outer fabric is not the same length as the inner fabric and outer fabric develops a kind of horizontal blob. Is there a way to avoid this? I’m interested in solving the problem for this project and many others. I make a lot of garments with lightweight linen for warm weather and like the look of an underlining.

I’m open to any sort of suggestions.



  1. SewTruTerry | | #1

    How are you hemming these garments?  My guess is that you are only using one hem. Using just one hemline will cause the weight of the fabric to pull and cause such a problem.  When I say one hem I am talking about the method of pick stitching several rows of stitches beginning aproximately 1/2 inch from the bottom edge and continue every 1/2 inch or so until you reach the edge of the hem where most people will stitch their only hem line. Therefore that area will hold all of the weight of the hem and cause the area to buldge or show the stress that it is carrying.  It may seem like it takes longer to do but you will get quite proficient at it and before you know it you are putting in the hems faster than by machine. 

    I hope this is clear. Let me know if it is not.

    1. kswolff | | #2

      I think I understand but just for clarity - there are going to be several parallel stitching lines approximately 1/2 inch apart starting from the bottom fold of the hem up to the edge of the turn-up inside. This would translate to 4 horizontal rows of stitching on a 2 inch hem, yes?

      Do you work these in concentric circles around the pant leg? And also, do you catch the outer fashion fabric through the underlining fabric on each stitch or just catch the underlining fabric?

      If I have understood your directions correctly, it does seem that the weight would be distributed much better. If I work fast enough, I might be able to make these up today!

      Thank you!

      1. SewTruTerry | | #3

        Generally there should be 3 altogether including the one that covers the edge of the hem.  And what you are doing essentially is a blind hem on each level if doing it by machine or if by hand a pick stitch where you are not catching the hem and the outer fabric with the same stitch.  I hope this is clearer.

    2. mem1 | | #4

      Do you attach the hem right through to the fashion fabric or just to the interlining?If you are going through to the FF you could use a fusible interfacing to minimize the show through of stitches couldnt you?

  2. rjf | | #5

    Terry's idea for hemming sounds great but in addition, I'd let the lining hem hang separately.  Everything hangs smoother that way and you don't have the fidgety business of pushing it where it doesn't want to go.        rjf

    1. kswolff | | #6

      Letting the hem hang separately is a bit tricky with an underlining though since the fabrics are attached together all the way around before any construction. Are you suggesting I figure out a way to keep the layers separate on the lower part of each leg? If so, is here a method for doing that with a smooth transition from underlining to lining on each piece?


      1. rjf | | #7

        I missed the "underlining" part and was thinking about how I did trousers with a separate lining attached only at the waist line.  Sorry about that.  But if you could push up the lining a little to give it some ease before hemming maybe that would help.          rjf

        1. SewTruTerry | | #8

          As long as the lining or the material that you are using to underline and the FF are pretreated and preshrunk and can withstand the same cleaning process there should not be a problem.  As far as finishing the hem after you get to the edge then I would sew a hem tape to it and then attach the hem tape to the garment.  Again with this method you really only need to catch a thread or two of the outer fabric and not necessary to see the thread on the outside of the garment to make it secure enough to hold.  To see what I mean there is an illustration in Claire Shaeffer's book Fabric Sewing Guide.  My copy is not the newest one but I am sure that you can find a copy in your local library.

          Edited 11/4/2004 5:12 pm ET by Terry

  3. KathleenFasanella | | #9

    I don't expect anybody to believe this (based on past experience) but it may strike a chord if you've tried everything and still have problems.

    I'd say that you are correct in defining the problem, i.e. that the lengths of the lining and shell pieces are "not the same length" nor should they be. However -and contrary to popular belief and practice- the bubbling you describe is because the lining is too short in relation to the outer (shell) piece.

    Now, before the garment hem edges are sewn together ("bagged"), the lining may appear to be too long...but it's a mistake to trim the lining side to match the shell in length. The reason is that when a lined garment is worn -such as a suit jacket or vest- the layer closest to the body clings to it. Therefore, it needs more length to cover the same distance as the outer piece (shell) which is less curve-hugging.

    Remembering that a curved line is longer than a straight line when traveling the same distance, the usual manufacturing convention is to add 1/2" in length to the lining for jackets/vests. I don't know about slacks having never worked in manufacturing those but I'd assume it'd be about the same amount as it's unlikely that the lining piece would be clinging to the same degree a jacket would over the vertical length of the entire garment. To be on the safe side tho, I wouldn't add more than an addl 1/4" for a total additional length of 3/4". I also realize you may be sceptical as this advice runs counter to anything in hobbyist sewing texts but you can find this convention explained and illustrated on pp 154-157 of the entrepreneur's guide to sewn product manufacturing (and also includes sleeve linings).

    I have to admit that professionally speaking, this issue of the lining piece being too short (in relation to the shell) is my major pet-peeve. The reason is that the number one pattern/construction factor that screams amateur at first glance, regardless of the remaining over-all construction quality, is lining length. Usually the designer has cut the shell and lining the same length (less hem allowance of course). On the hanger, it looks fine, on the body it doesn't (you'll see that horizontal blob on long garments, edges curl under or toward the inside on shorter ones). Cutting the lining longer doesn't look as "pretty" on the hanger (tack the excess lining length up on inner seam lines to solve that) but it looks professionally designed once it's made up and pressed nicely. Good luck whatever you do.

    1. kswolff | | #10

      Actually, what you just explains makes perfect sense. I have constructed many many lined garments over the years and use that very technique. It didn't occur to me to use the same idea for an underlining. Sadly, I am very allergic to wool and must line or underline all my wool garments.

      If I cut the underlining 1/2 inch longer in the leg, do I just ease in the difference as I baste the flat pieces together? It seems that it should be eased in from maybe the low hip line to the hem, more or less.

      I have already begun construction on one trouser and will use the concentric hemline technique that was already suggested. However, on the next ones, I will definitely try your technique.

      Just recently I started getting inspired again and this has been a real source of frustation. Thank you, thank you.

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