Thursday, 27 February 2014

Underlining: The Unseen Hero

Today is Sew Grateful Sewing Project Day.
Showcase your latest sewing project. Whether it's a project using up that pattern that was a present from someone or that you won in a giveaway or using a tutorial someone has prepared, or even a project inspired by someone in the sewing community... the possibilities are nearly endless!
I have nothing to show and tell at this time but this is the project that I've been putting a lot of time and effort into and hopefully by the end of Sew Grateful week I will finally finish it (fingers crossed). It is an underlined dress, I thought I would blog about this process.


One of my 2014 goals is to do...
Learn and incorporate more tailoring and couture techniques into my sewing (more slow sewing).
That is exactly what I've been doing "slow sewing" or more specifically, I've been underlining a dress. 

Have you ever underlined a dress before? 

You may have interlined a garment under another name. According to Kenneth D. King there is often some "confusion surrounding the terms underlining and interlining" (41). King explains that the two terms are interchangeable and refer to the same technique. Flat-lining, a less used term, also refers to the same technique according to King. Gertchen Hirsch, on a recent episode of It's Sew Easy, just like King defined the terms interlining, underlining and flat-lining as being interchangeable.  

However, my 1980 edition of Vogue Sewing refer to interlining and underlining in different terms. According to Vogue Sewing, underlining is "fabric joined in garment seams to give inner shape or support" (31). Interlining is defined as a "layer of fabric between lining and underlining for warmth" (26). The Vogue Sewing book made no reference to flat-lining.  

My copy of Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing defines interlining and underlining much in the same manner as my Vogue Sewing book. Again, there is no reference to flat-lining here. I wonder if flat-lining is a relatively new term?  

This technique is totally new to me. I working on a vintage Vogue 2103 - a Sybil Connolly design, circa 1969, and underlining the dress is part of the Vogue pattern instructions.
Working on a flat surface, pin underlining to wrong side of each matching fabric piece.  Baste through all symbols and along all lines of construction separately, leaving both ends of thread free for easy removal.  
I'm basically basting the organza to my fashion fabric and treating it as one. Even the sleeve is designated to be underlined. In this project, the underlining will not only add structure to the fashion fabric but it will fill out the gathers and pleats found in the dress. Yes, there are pleats found in this dress. Can you guess where? Besides the two at the back shoulder seam there are also four hidden in the facing. A total of ten darts are part of this dress pattern.  

Underlining holds the promise to improve the look, hand and functionality of the fashion fabric. It will help the garment resist wrinkling (gotta love that!) and help a garment to keep its shape longer. I already love the way it drapes and feels with the underlining basted in place.

Now even though it is a new-to-me technique, underlining has been part of quality garment-making for quite some time. We all know that interlining is often applied to tailored garments but Chanel applied this technique in a special way.
Among the older generation of couturiers, Chanel stands out as a craftswoman who applied the very highest standard of finish to her clothes. Those neat little suits owe as much to superb tailoring as they do to the talented designing. Every example offers a new special tip that could well enhance another garment. For example, her light mohair suits were fully interlined with silk chiffon, very carefully and lightly mounted to the fabric to give a delicate extra substance (Kennett 58).
There are many different types of fabric that you can choose for underling a garment. Just as with interfacing you want to choose a fabric that will work with your fashion fabric to give it the amount of structure that you want to achieve. Common underlining fabric choices can range from silk organza, cotton batiste, siri cotton, rayon challis, cotton flannelette, wool felt, wool flannel, bump cloth and even muslin. 

The Vogue dress I am currently working on is underlined with a nylon organza. It has a bit more structure than silk organza and seems to be working well with the suit weight fabric that I have cut as my fashion fabric.   

Some resources suggest cutting out your underlining first and and then your use your underlining to cut your fashion fabric.  I found a Threads article that suggest basting the interlining to the fashion fabric before it is cut. The article noted that "this is much more accurate than cutting the fashion fabric separately" (42). I did not cut my underlining first nor baste it prior to cutting my fashion fabric just because I did not have the work space to so. I cut my fashion fabric first then the underlining separately using the same pattern pieces. I then pinned them together and basted. It worked out fine.  

Even though my layers are basted together, I opted to use a walking foot. I'll admit that I did have a bit of fear that things might shift as I'm sewing. The walking foot, if anything, gave me some added comfort as I sew.  

Do you have any other underlining tips?  


Vogue Sewing.  (Butterick Fashion Marketing Company.)  New York:  Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1980.  Print.  

Kennett, Frances.  Secrets of the Couturiers.  New York: Exeter Books, 1984.  Print.      

King, Kenneth D.  "You Say Underlining, I Say Interlining: By any name, it's a good way to support fabric."  Threads March 2008: 40 - 43.  Print.   

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.  New York:  Reader's Digest Association Inc., 1982.  Print.  


  1. I have nothing to say about underlining, as I don't think I've ever done it before. Obviously something I'll need to tackle sometime in the future! But I really enjoyed your post on it. And all of your other Sew Grateful posts! You're a very thoughtful blogger. :)

    1. Thanks Heather. This is my first underlined garment that I'm making. I do like how it is turning out and I don't think it will be my last.


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