When to Underline your Sewing

why underline sewing

Adding an underlining is one of my favorite tools in my sewing arsenal.  It’s so simple to do  – just cut all your pieces out of two different fabrics and use them wrong sides together as one. Easy as pie (which is a phrase I’ve never quite understood because baking a good pie isn’t actually that easy. Maybe easy as eating pie? Because I can easily eat a lot of pie.).  If you don’t regularly underline projects or are new to sewing, you might be wondering “When should I underline my sewing projects?” Underlining is great for garments when your main fabric is:

pink vegas outfit

1) Loosely woven
Anything that fits you snugly has tension on its seams. If your fabric is loosely woven, it can pull at the seams, separating the weave of the fabric, and eventually pulling apart. Underlining prevents this because you have the strength of the underlining fabric added to the seam. I underlined my Pink Brocade Peplum top as it’s snugly fit but the brocade was fairly loosely woven.

Autumnal floral pencil skirt wool

2) Clingy
I love wearing tights all winter long. The drawback is that skirts often stick to my legs and bunch and cling. I don’t have many slips, which would solve this, although I would still have to worry about the slip poking out the bottom or being visible at the skirt slit. I underlined my Autumnal Wool Pencil Skirt to solve this problem. The underlining acts as a slip sewn into the skirt without the hassle of lining it.

pink lace tee with white collar

3) Sheer or lacy
If you want to sew a garment out of lace, but don’t want your goods underneath visible to the whole world, you’re going to need to underline the lace. It can be done in a contrasting color, to make the lace design really pop, or a similar color to make it more subtle. Consider underlining only part of the garment, like I did on the collar on my Pink Lace Tee, to visually emphasize a particular feature.

Underlined Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat

4) Visible on the underside
Underlining is often a great choice for coats or jackets that are unlined. Often the wrong side of your fabric won’t be that pretty. By adding an underlining, you can have a garment that is beautiful inside and out, like my Robson Trench Coat.

hand embroidered jacket back

5) Needing extra warmth, bulk or structure
An underlining that is strictly to bulk up another fabric is often called an interlining, particularly when it is in a jacket or coat and particularly when that jacket or coat is also lined. I underlined (or interlined) my Embroidered Bomber Jacket with a layer of flannel because I used a lightweight wool outer and wanted a warmer jacket.

So, what’s your favorite garment that you’ve underlined and why did you underline it?

Comments 23

  1. I’ve never actually done any underlying, though I really should try it – for skirts that need lining i just do an actual lining, because then the lining can stick to the stockings. BUT, I do a vent on my pencil skirts and I really can’t be f’d learning how to properly draft and sew a lining for that.

    Also – “easy as pie” is silly, because pie pastry is very difficult, I agree. I also have never understood the term “clear as mud?”. If I say yes, am I saying that I understand what you said, or that I didn’t (because mud is not clear)?

    1. Clear as mud is used ironically – ie that the explanation has not made the situation clear at all, hence ‘clear as mud’.
      Hope that helps :)

  2. Great post! I recently tried underlining for the first time, because I was sewing a dress in silk dupioni that pulled a little at the seams (as silk will). The underlining wasn’t too difficult, and I’m really glad I put in the extra effort because I think it really made a difference. I sure spent a lot of time hand basting, though.

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  3. Great post. I have only underlined my anise jacket in the past but I am planning a lace dress which will be underlined in a contrast fabric. I love your Robson coat – such a great idea to underline with pretty fabric!

  4. Ooh, can I pick two items? The first is a white eyelet dress underlined in robin’s egg blue. I love it. I saw similar dresses in Paris that summer, but they were lined with the same colour as the shell and I couldn’t help but think how boring they were. The second is my tweed cape, underlined for both warmth and to reinforce the seams.

    I’m underlining another dress and I’m using this tutorial where you cut the underlining larger so you can finish the seams at the same time: http://www.fromthesehands.net/journal/2010/10/5/underlining-and-seam-finish-in-one.html

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      I love the combo of white eyelet and robin’s egg blue. That sounds lovely! And I’m a sucker for tweed and capes. Finishing the seams with the underlining is a great idea. Thanks for sharing that!

  5. I like your post about when to underline a garment. Perhaps you could share how to underline a garment. I actually called myself underlining a knit dress, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it right. I didn’t hand baste, I used the longest baste stitch on my machine (hate hand stitching). Help, thanks.

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  6. I’ve never underlined before, I don’t think. But this was an interesting post, and now I feel I’ll have to try it. I have lined several things – a steampunk coat, a dress, and done lining (and maybe interlining) on some corsets. How is underlining different from regular lining? You said you “use the two pieces as one piece of fabric”, is that is main thing? Normal linings I guess get stitched together first and then attached to the outer layers?

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      An underlining is different from a lining in that the underlining is treated as the same piece of fabric as the main fabric while a lining is sewn up separately. Linings are often attached to the garment at multiple points (like the collar, hem, and cuffs of a jacket) but are otherwise like a second version of the garment hanging inside the main garment. Underlinings get sewn along with the main fabric into every seam. If you look closely at pictures of my Robson Trench you can see that there is a seam allowance that includes the main fabric and the underlining (although the underlining is hidden by the fact that the seams are pressed open) between each piece. If you look closely at pictures of my Embroidered Bomber you can see that the lining (remember the underlining/interlining is hidden by the lining in this case) hangs free of the main jacket at each seam. Hope this helps!

  7. I liked seeing all your excellent examples, Erin! I’ve just lined a couple bodices on dresses, not underlined. And I had sort of had a lining on the skirt of a vintage dress. The pattern called for panels of lining rather than fully lining the skirt. There was a vent in the back so maybe that’s why. The skirt was quite fitted like the great red dress you’re wearing with your fabulous coat. Nice explanation of underlining v. lining.

  8. My dress for my sons wedding has a cotton knit lining underneath a lacy sequined fabric. Even with shape wear it clings in the back at my waist and shows every lump and bump. I think the problem will be solvedf I can stiffen up the lining across the back. Could I some how add an interlining?

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      Without seeing the construction, I’m afraid I don’t know how to help. Have you tried wear a slip underneath it? Sometimes having a slippery bottom layer helps prevent clinging to lumps and bums.

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  12. Great article!
    I’m making a floor length dress in a drapey fabric and want to pin roll the hem. I know how to underline the top half of the dress but where the skirt attaches to the waist seam where would I stop the underlining? Would I have it hanging loose until the knee and then have the lining as long as the fashion fabric?

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      It’s a matter of personal preference and the desired function of the garment how long to make underlining or interlining. For example, I’m currently sewing a maternity coat where I’m interlining the bodice and sleeves but leaving everything below the waistline without (it will be fully lined as well) as I don’t need any extra bulk or warmth over the belly. Part of this decision is driven by the fact that it is mean to be a spring coat – if it was for winter wear I would probably interline the garment throughout.

      What you have described sounds like a totally fine approach to your particular garment. I’m assuming you are putting an underlining in to keep the dress from being too sheer? Since it will also be lined, an alternative is to leave the underlining out of the skirt – it’s hard to say exactly because it depends upon the dress design and the fabric you are using. The only thing I would add is that you might want to pink the bottom edge of your underlining so that it is less likely to create a visible line where it stops.

  13. About to start my first woollen coat, which I will be lining. Someone told me I should interline it as well to give a more professional finish but worried whether my machine and I will be able to cope with thicknesses! Any suggestions for lightweight interlining ?

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      The type of fabric that you use will greatly impact what type of interlining you might benefit from. A heavy melton wool probably doesn’t need an interlining because it’s already fairly wind and waterproof. A lighter-weight wool might benefit from an interlining, but it also depends upon how warm you want it to be – will you be wearing it in a midwestern winter? or a west-coast springtime?

  14. I have a pretty heavy cotton blend cable knit fabric (looks like I could have knitted it myself!) that I’d like to make into a dress. I’ve been wondering how to support this level of heaviness and drapeyness, and I think underlining might be the answer! Do you have any suggestions for a good fabric to underline this? Thanks in advance!

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