Understitching is one of those magical sewing techniques that are simple to understand and apply, and which will immediately lift the quality of your sewing from a polite “Did you make that?” to the much more impressed “No Way! You made that?”
I’ve spent a fair bit of time recently in my offline life explaining what understitching is, why it’s important and how it works, so I thought I would show you why you should understitch and how to do it, as I have used this technique in Briabaloo and intend to use it a lot more in future patterns.
What is understitching?
Understitching is a line of straight stitches which attach the seam allowance to the facing. It’s most often used on necklines or arm holes and on open edges which have separate facings or plackets (such as inset pockets). It will keep the lining fabric in place and out of sight on the inside of the garment, giving a perfect, smooth finish to the outside.
How to understitch
Step One – attach the facing
Sew your facing to your outer piece using the normal seam allowance. Trim or grade the seam allowance and clip the curves as described in your pattern instructions. (Trimming or grading the seam allowance will reduce its bulk and clipping the seam allowance will give you a smooth curve after turning and pressing. Don’t skip these steps.)
Step Two – press
Press the facing away from the garment, then turn over and press the seam allowance towards the facing. Press well and carefully. (Please forgive the state of my iron – I hadn’t realised how fluffy it had become, I promise to wipe it down before the next time I’m photographing. Look after your tools. *ahem*)
Step Three – topstitch
Open the garment back out and, making sure the seam allowance is positioned underneath the facing, topstich the facing to the seam allowance using a mid-length straight stitch, 1-2mm from the seam line, making sure to catch the seam allowance underneath. The understitching stitches will only be visible on the inside of the garment, they won’t show on the outer fabric. I like to use the inside edge of my satin stitch foot or use my blind hem foot (Janome Foot C) to help achieve a neat stitching line.
Step Four – Admire your new skill
Turn the facing to the inside of the fabric and give it a final press if necessary. The understitiching will keep the seam line in position just out of sight, and will keep the lining fabric from creeping into view.
Understitching is a simple technique, but one that requires skill and practice to perfect. The actual process of understitching requires a keen eye, some good pressing and a lot of of care to make sure that the seam allowances stay in position under the facing while stitching. Whether you’re using a proper facing or a bias strip facing, understitching is the secret to a well turned, smooth neckline edge.
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