Understitching a Facing, Neckline, or Lining

understitching a facing

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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39 Responses to Understitching a Facing, Neckline, or Lining

  1. Cathy Kenyon-Owens says:

    I’ve been sewing for many years but have always been fuzzy about understitching. Now I’m happy to say I know exactly what to do. Thank you!

  2. Susan Haroian says:

    I use under stitching wherever I am turning fabric to the inside of something ie: when making a “box” for a zipper pocket in a bag lining or exterior. The top of a bag to turn the lining inside etc. I use under stitching in all my sewing–garment–home dec–bags etc. It makes projects have crisp edges and look more professional.

  3. R.F.Sterner says:

    That was a very clear and productive explanation – Thank You

  4. caroline says:

    Thank you for posting this. In the last photo it looks as if there is stitching on the right side of the print fabric. When trying to visualize what you have written there wouldn’t be any stitching on the print fabric, correct? I wish there was a video.

  5. Denise A Domingue says:

    Understitching is a real plus on facings. They stay on the inside of the garment even without tacking. It definately gives a finished look to a garment.

    If you have a garment that the facing is rolling to the outside you can go back in and understitch it and that will usually solve the problem.

  6. Karen says:

    I didn’t realize that what I have been doing with troublesome linings/facings was called under stitching, it was just something that I did when the lining or facing insisted on lying in a way that it could be seen instead of being hidden. Thanks for the explanation — now I know that what I was doing is an actual sewing technique 🙂 It does make arms and necklines look much neater and more professional.

  7. Pamela says:

    I am an inexperienced sewer, practically a beginner and my results never look good enough to be out in public! One reason is my necklines with facing or bias tape are never smooth. THANK YOU SOOO MUCH for explaining the process and for SHOWING how it’s done.

    • Michele says:

      Can you explain to me how to get my binding on my neck line with a collar? The instructions are telling me to under stitch

  8. Pamela says:

    My goodness! Now I understand why my necklines never look good! Most of my patterns don’t mention understitching them. You clear explanation and photos are perfect. Thanks so much.

  9. Paula De Leon says:

    Thank goodness you are here to explain! I keep coming upon terms I just don’t know on my “New Look” sewing pattern. I’d never be able to complete this dress without your clear descriptions and excellent picture examples!

  10. Gail A Kretchman says:

    I’ve been “understitching” for years, but never knew what the technique was called. Thanks for identifying it.

  11. WheelyBad says:

    Thank you, that is genuinely the best explaination of under stitching I’ve ever read. It makes so much sense now. Have pinned this and the previous article on stay stitching, both are actually a lot easier than I thought, I won’t be scared of either when I see them in the instructions and like you I can see the advantage of doing either even when not instructed to. Thanks again ?

  12. D. Joy Summers says:

    I had never heard of it before. Thanks you made it easy to understand, implement and the why of it.

  13. Althea Lockwood says:

    A great informative article I now understand top stitching, however if top stitching an article made with jersey knit fabric or any stretch fabric, will this be done using a zig zag/stretch stitch .. tia

  14. Linda Ouye says:

    Thank you for the informative explanation on understitching. It explained relevance, and the technique, and was excellently illustrated. Appreciated.

  15. Lisa says:

    Thank you for your time and research. I’m new to sewing and I just purchased a pattern that includes this step. The information you provided is very helpful.

  16. charlotte says:

    This is so clear…I have sewn for years, but never really “got” how to trim and stitch that neckline facing which always seems to creep to the outside. Thanks for the clarity.

  17. Mary Brock says:

    Thanks so much for the article about under stitching. My mother taught me this technique more than fifty years ago. I’ve ALWAYS used it whether called for instructions or not but to be honest I never totally understood why but your article did such a nice job of explaining. I’ve always had facing and lining joins stay in place which always helps with that crisp finished look. Thanks again, have a great day.

  18. Dee says:

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

  19. 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!

    • LaNell Mueller says:

      3at50, that is exactly what you do. Try it, and you will be surprised at how much better your facings will look. It keeps things from looking “Homemade.”

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  21. 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.

  22. Maria says:

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

  23. ammaraz says:

    easy to understand tutorial! thanks!

  24. bre says:

    This is so helpful!

  25. 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!!!!!

  26. 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!


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

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

  29. 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!

  30. 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!

  31. Cindy says:

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

  32. 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!

  33. Ellen M. says:

    Great explanation – thanks!

  34. Pat Rose Thompson says:

    Thank you! At last!

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