Angela has always taught me the importance of mastering basic sewing techniques. Get the foundations right and your handmade garments will look professionally made. Get them wrong and they will look more Becky from home eccy! One such technique is understitching. In this article we'll talk you through what it is, why it is important and how to do it.
What is Understitching?
Necklines and armholes can be finished in a variety of ways. Two common techniques are to use a lining or a facing. Understitching is a row of stitches that attach the lining or facing to the seam allowances. If you look inside your ready to wear garments (the well-made ones at least) you will spot a neat row of stitches close to where the lining/facing joins the garment.
Understitching is only ever seen from the wrong side. However, it is visible and therefore it is worth striving for a neat finish.
The purpose of understitching is to keep the lining or facing in place inside the garment. Skip this step and you could end up with the insides being visible from the outside. Not a good look!
Understitching is an easy technique to master so well worth taking the time to do.
Firstly sew the main fabric of your garment to the lining or facing using the relevant seam allowance. I have used a contrasting thread to make it easy to see the stitching in these photos.
Next, you will need to grade your seam allowances i.e. trim one slightly narrower than the other. Trim them both to half their original amount then trim the lining or facing allowance in half again.
In any curved areas clip to, not through, the stitching line about every 1/2". This will enable you to manouvere the curve into a straight line during understitching making it much easier. It also helps the fabric to shape round the curve and lie flat rather than appearing bulky.
Now you are ready to understitch. Position your fabric with the seam allowances underneath the lining or facing.
I have lifted the lining up in the image below so you can see what I mean.
Position your fabric so the needle is about 1/8" from the seamline on the lining side.
Use your fingers to gently ease the lining and fabric apart as you stitch back tacking at the beginning and end. This will help to ensure the seam allowances remain tucked under the lining or facing.
You won't be able to sew right to the end of the seamline at certain points on your garment. Where this is the case just stitch as far as you can then back tack to secure.
The End Result
When you're finished it should look like this. In the image below you can see the right side of the lining has a neat row of stitches running parallel to the seamline.
From the wrong side, you can see two parallel rows of stitching. One is the seamline and the other is your lovely understitching.
The lining or facing should naturally roll to the inside of the garment. Press the lining or facing in place gently rolling it to the inside as you go and you will be left with a lovely neat finish. No lining poking out and a handmade garment worth shouting about!
Have fun sewing!
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