Sewing 101: Underlining

The bones of a 1950s Christian Dior dress, shot by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue.

Inside a 1950s Christian Dior dress, shot by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue.

Underlining is a sewing technique used to stabilize and strenghten fabrics. It also adds bulk to the main fabric reducing potential wrinkling. Not to be confused with lining as both techniques can be used together in one single garment.

  • Cut an underlining piece for all your main pattern pieces, ie. front/back/sleeves…
  • Your outer fabric and underlining will be cared/laundered together so therefore you need to always use fabrics that match those requirements.
  • If you are using lightweight or sheer fabric you should consider underlining all adjacent pieces like collars, waistbands, facings. That will maintain a concise look for your garment

In some cases the use of underlining will eliminate the need for interfacing.  If not, fuse or stitch the underlining instead of the outer fabric.

  • To sew your underlining to your outer fabric, join them together, making sure you pressed the fabric before hand, sandwich them together and pin around the edges.Make sure all the pieces are laying flat and you are respecting the grain.
  • Baste the layers inside the seam allowance. For lightweight and slippery fabrics I recommend hand-basting. Otherwise just make your machine stitches the longest setting. Some machines have a pre-selective basting stitch. Be mindful that those pre-settings will move the needle from the central position. You don’t want to go over the seam allowance.
  • Once the underlining and the main fabric being joined, treat them as one and off you sew your garment as usually.
  • I’m intrigued! Are you working on something fancy?

    Underlining is magical! A more ‘couture’ option for joining it to your pattern pieces (if you’re using organza – which is transparent) is to hand baste right on the stitching line. This allows you to match the lines of basting when you’re putting the garment together and then sew over the top of the basting with the machine. Tweezing the basting out is not fun… But the precision is worth it. I might do a post on this technique.

    It also provides a nifty place to catch-stitch your seam allowances down. Or can stop a big piece sagging (like a woollen pencil skirt back) There are so many reasons to underline!

    • When I wrote this I was working on my practice wedding dress. I love using couture techniques on my projects.

  • These are all very good tips! I just underlined the lace for my wedding dress this weekend and this is exactly what I did.

  • I used an under lining on my faux leather jacket that will hit my blog next week. The fabric really needed the support, but it also saved the project because I could catch stitch all the seams open. That darn faux leather just would not stay pressed.

  • Carmen Ross

    I have hand basted cotton batiste as an underlining to some of my projects before, and the results were beautiful. I am a big fun of underlining.