Guide to Facings and Under-stitching

Part Six

When making your own garments at home, it’s likely you’ll come across the need to insert a facing pretty quickly. In this instalment of my top tips series I’m going to explain what they are, how to attach them and how to under-stitch to get a really professional finish.

If you prefer to see things in action in a video, check out my latest Youtube video to see examples and tips on how to sew.

To avoid confusion, if you missed part 5 of this series which focused on interfacing, I suggest going back now to cover that. Facings and interfacings are different things so it’s important to understand the difference.

What are facings?

Facings are smaller bits of fabric that are on the inside of garments and they give a really nice, neat finish to the raw edge of the fabric. Usually you would use the same fabric that you have used for the main, outside part of your garment.

They are mostly used around necklines, arm holes and at the top of a skirt or pair of trousers instead of a waist band but can also be used at hems of dresses and tops to give some extra weight and hang nicely.

They are also important to provide structure and shape to a garment and prevent it from stretching out. If you inserted a facing at a neckline for example and didn’t attach interfacing to the facing first, it would stretch out and not sit nice and flat against your chest.

Do I need to attach interfacing to facings?

If they are at the neckline or being used in place of a waist band then absolutely yes! There can be quite a lot of strain and stress at those parts of a garment and you need the strength and stability of the interfacing to support that.

If the facing is at the sleeve or bottom hem then you may not need to use it, usually your pattern instructions will tell you.

Trimming, grading, clipping and notching the seam allowances

It’s likely that to get the facing to sit flat with a smooth curve shape, you’ll need to trim, grade, clip or notch the seam allowances.

  • Trimming means simply just cutting them down until they are very narrow - maybe about 5mm. If the seam line is quite straight and you have a light weight fabric then trimming will be fine.
  • Grading is similar to trimming but it’s when you cut one seam allowance down more than the other. This is best used on thicker, bulkier fabrics. You have to be careful not to cut the other seam allowance by accident. You can get these special duck bill scissors that help to hold the other seam allowance out of the way, but otherwise your regular scissors and a bit of care is ok.
  • Clipping is where you make small cuts in the seam allowance at a right angle to the stitch line. This is needed on curves like necklines, where the seam allowance will be stretched once the fabric is turned the right way out. Pictured below left.
  • Notching is a bit like clipping but instead of making small slits you actually have to cut a little wedge or triangle shape out of the seam allowance. This helps to reduce bulk and make a curve sit much smoother and flatter. Pictured below right.

What is under-stitching?

Once you have tidied up the seam allowances as necessary (trimming, grading, clipping or notching) it's time to under-stitch the facing to ensure that it stays on the inside of the garment.

Under-stitching is a line of stitching, sewn with the sewing machine, that will be visible on the inside of the garment only and it holds the seam allowances and facing together.

Before under-stitching, its best if you press the seam allowances and facing up and away from your main fabric.

Then with the right side of the fabric up, sew a line of stitching close to the seam line between the facing and the main garment. You need to stitch on the facing and make sure that you are also sewing through the seam allowances that are underneath.

Once you have sewn the under-stitching, you will notice that almost automatically the facing rolls towards the inside of the garment and after a press with the iron it will sit lovely and smooth.

Neatening the facing

The final touches on the facing are then to finish off the raw edge by either using a zig zag stitch, overlocking it (if you have an overlocker), attaching some bias binding or creating a narrow hem.

To ensure that the facing doesn’t move around too much as you wear the garment you can then secure it in place with a few hand stitches on the inside of the garment.

Or it may be that the design and style of the garment has you top stitch it in place, so that there is a visible line of stitching on the outside of the garment.

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