Understitching is one of those funny things people often don’t see the relevance of. I have even found it skipped in several commercial pattern instructions. Now I’m not sure if that was deliberate, maybe the pattern writers assumed that everyone would already understand the value and place of understitching or whether they had just missed the point themselves. Who knows?
But, understitching really is one of those processes that you shouldn’t avoid. It will elevate your sewing from ‘homemade’ to ‘handmade’ and give you a much more professional finish and make your clothes sit a lot better too.
As with so many terms in sewing it kind of does what it says on the tin. Understitching holds another part of the garment underneath so it doesn’t bounce out and reveal itself, particularly neck facings.
I have come across several methods for understitching but this one I find is the easiest and most effective.
Once you have attached the facing to the neck or waist line, layer and clip into the seam allowance.
Layering or grading the seam allowance ensures that the seam allowance fades out into the rest of the garment rather than ending in a big step of fabric which can often be visible from the right side of the garment, especially after pressing.
Clipping into the seam allowance enables the seam allowance to fold back on itself and releases the tension on the outer edge of seam. Each clip in the seam allowance needs to be right up to but not through the row of sewing.
Turn the facing and garment out to the right side, but don’t press them first. The trick with under-stitching is to sew it first into the correct position. If you press the facing first and it’s not quite in the right position it can make it harder to get it corrected.
Lay the garment and facing flat with the right side uppermost. Spread them flat with your hands and make sure that all of the clipped into bits of seam allowance are pushed towards the facing.
We will be stitching through the facing and all of the seam allowances, but NOT the garment.
If the facing is attached down the centre back or front don’t worry about getting in too close to the corners. Start about a 5 – 8 cm away from the corner but make sure all the seam allowance is towards the facing.
Line up the machine needle about 2mm away from the seam line onto the facing.
Sometimes it can be easier to line up a marker on the foot with the seam and then swing the needle into the correct position.
Start sewing through the facing and all the seam allowances spreading everything flat and away from the seam with both hands as you go.
Allow the facing to dictate how it all sits by keeping that flat and letting the garment bunch up as it needs to to follow the curve of the facing.
Remember to lift up the facing and check that all of the clipped seam allowance is still pushed towards the facing.
Finish as you started about 5 – 8cm from the corner, or if sewing in a circle, back to the beginning.
The action of spreading it all smooth and flat with your hands as you sew – no pinning, means that the facing and seam allowances are joined very close to the seam. Because of this the main garment fabric has to roll over the depth of the attached seam allowance and therefore when the garment and facing are pressed you should be able to see a very thin line of the garment fabric above the facing.
Understitching means you can achieve a really neat and clean finish to an edge or opening of a garment.
I hope you give this method a go, do let me know how you get on.