Understitching a facing, neckline or lining

All about understitching.  What is it, why and how do you do it?

Following my earlier article on staystitching, Anne Bell left a message on the Facebook page to say she would like to learn more about Understitching.  Me too Anne, so I've read lots of articles on the matter and carried out a few tests.  I admit, sometimes when it came to the instruction for understitching on a pattern, I've skipped it because I didn't really understand what they were asking or why it was needed.  So at last, a guide to understitching a facing, neckline or lining.

What is understitching?

Definition -assists a facing or lining to stay to the inside and un-seen. It is stitching that is sewn as close to the seam line as possible holding the graded seam allowance to the facing or lining.

None the wiser? Let's have a look at what it does.  In a lined garment, the understitching is there to keep facings and linings from peaking out, especially around necklines and armholes and around the waist on a lined skirt to stop the lining riding up.  It also means that when turned and pressed, the seam line tends to favor the inside of the garment.  It will give a nice neat and professional finished look from the outside.

The understitching itself is not visible from the outside of the garment, it's part of its foundations, a little like the staystitching.

How to understitch

All about understitching.  What is it, why and how do you do it?

Grade seams if necessary. Trim down both seam allowances by about half, then trim down the lining or facing seam allowance a little more. Clip curved seams such as necklines and armholes.

All about understitching.  What is it, why and how do you do it?

Press seam allowance towards the facing or lining using your fingers only.  We'll press with an iron once its finished.

All about understitching.  What is it, why and how do you do it?

Sew with right side upwards.  Sew 1/8th inch away from the seam line, through the lining and both seam allowances.  Sew with 0.5 extra stitch length over your regular stitch to allow for the extra thickness if necessary.

Press now with an iron, allowing the facing or lining to sit well onto the inside.  You'll usually see a little bit of the outer fabric turned over and this helps to get the very best finish.

All about understitching.  What is it, why and how do you do it?

On lofty or thick fabrics you can use a triple zig-zag stitch as the understitch too.

Having given this a real test now on some scraps of fabric, I can really see the benefit and how it creates a beautiful finish, keeping the lining or facings from peeping out.  I'll certainly be doing this when patterns call for it in future – and maybe even if they don't!

Don't forget, if you have any sewing requests or questions, do ask – you can pop on over to the Facebook page for a chat.  I'm still new to sewing so can't promise to solve all your sewing problems, but I will try!
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21 Responses to Understitching a facing, neckline or lining

  1. Dee says:

    Still don’t understand do u sew seam allowance then under stitching next to it

  2. 3at50 says:

    Same for me! I’ve been sewing for years; never understood this, so I just skipped it. Somehow, your explanation turned the light bulb on. Basically, you’re just sewing the facing down to the seam allowance!

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  4. Jen says:

    honestly I still am in the dark. I’m looking at my fabric and don’t see where I am supposed to do this or anything. I am so frustrated I am ready to throw this whole pattern out and say screw it.

  5. Maria says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I finally understand=)

  6. ammaraz says:

    easy to understand tutorial! thanks!

  7. bre says:

    This is so helpful!

  8. Karen Poole says:

    Wow thank you so much!!! I have been sewing all my life and I knew how to sew a facing down so it doesn’t curl to the front but right now I’m working on a project that said “understitch” the lining…. I was at a total loss!! I had no idea what to do, I didn’t like that feeling! I’m not used to not knowing what to do and most commercial pattern give a section of definitions and this one did not. So thank you!!!!!

    • Deby Coles says:

      It’s a step I never really understood and always skipped, but now I know how to do it and what a difference it makes, I’m looking for the chance to do it everywhere! Glad this was helpful for you.

  9. Camila says:

    This is great information. I’ve done that but because I had seen it, not because I knew why was that for LOL. I’m not much of a sewer but I like sewing from time to time! I’m glad to follow your blog!!! Pinning!


    • Deby Coles says:

      Glad you found it useful Camila. I admit that until I actually looked at this in detail, did some examples on scrap fabrics etc, I wasn’t sure what it was for or how it worked. But I’ll certainly be looking for opportunities to use it around necklines and armholes in the future even if the pattern doesn’t as for it.

  10. Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing at All Things Pretty. Happy 2014!

  11. What a lovely finish I have a project in the works and I hope it ends up looking this neat.

  12. Gillian Sutherland says:

    Cheers – clear definition and explanation. Sometimes the explanations make it clear as mud, so it’s good to have plain English used – ta!

  13. Felicia Balezentes says:

    Even though I have been sewing a long time and understand the importance of understitching, I appreciate your explanation and photos. For a long time, I cringed when a pattern called for it, but now I wonder why some DON’T call for it!

  14. Cindy says:

    That is such a nice finish. I love it. Can’t wait to try that out myself. Thanks so much Deby!

  15. Janee says:

    This is a really good explanation. The other thing that really helps with understitching is to let the facing/lining edge to curve naturally, in the shape it will have when completed, as you stitch – this will allow the facing to lay against the inside of the neck edge the way it should. While you’re stitching, it may feel like the garment side of the seam is bending the wrong way and bunching up, and it should – because that means the facing/lining side is curving properly while the garment side is curving in the opposite direction. I wish I had photos to show – it truly makes a difference!

  16. Ellen M. says:

    Great explanation – thanks!

  17. Pat Rose Thompson says:

    Thank you! At last!

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