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How To Create A Sharp Seamed Edge With Understitching

You want your home made garment to look more professional? This easy skill will make the difference. No more facing rolling outside the neckline of your garment and you don’t see any stitches. Understitching is simply stitching a line close to the edge of a facing to keep it from rolling toward the outside. And there are no stitches showing on the outside. Bye bye topstitching !

When I started sewing, it seemed like topstitching was the way to go to finish off garments with facing or lining. I’m not such a big fan of a lot of stitches for necklines or pockets. If the stitching isn’t really neat, everyone can see it’s homemade. I often skipped the topstitching part and just pressed the seams, but the facing always rolled out and showed. This is where the understitching comes in. You don’t see any stitches and the facing stays in place. Yes!

Understitching is referred to a lot in garment construction, especially around necklines with facings. You understitch the facing to the seam allowance so the facing stays in place. You might also see understitching around the waist of a lined skirt – the style without a waistband-, and it is also used for pockets of trousers or skirts, for bindings and under collars or straps.

I’ll show you how to understitch.

In the pictures below, I used the understitching on the neckline of a bodice for a little blue cotton dress for my daughter. And I added some pictures at the end of 2 other projects :

  • The facing of collar I made for a flowered summer dress for myself
  • The pockets of a maxi summer skirt made out of a very lightweight vintage fabric

Always choose a thread color similar to the facing or one that coordinates with the facing. Understitches are not to be seen.

  1. Set up your machine for regular sewing with a straight stitch.
  2. With right sides together and the seam allowance, sew the right side piece to the lining piece. The little dress will be blue, so blue is the right side. Both fabrics are from the Madamsew webshop

3. Trim the seam allowance to 1/4". Your fold will even lie flatter if you grade your seams. Especially with heavyweight fabrics I advise you to do this. This means you trim one seam allowance edge narrower than the other. Trim the seam allowance that lies against the FACING to 1/8″. You’ll find out very quickly that if you don’t trim them that way, it will be very hard to catch the short seam allowance with the understitching. On curved seams, clip the seam allowance.

4. Once you’ve clipped and trimmed the seam allowance, you can press the facing away from the garment, along with the trimmed seam allowance and pin the seam allowance to the facing on the right side of the fabrics.

5. Lay the sewn piece out flat, right side up. The seam allowance should be lying underneath the lining. Put this part under your machines presser foot. Edgestitch at approx 1/8” from one end to the other with a straight stitch. This is the understitching. Try to stay as close as possible to the main seam. An edge joining presser foot is a great help for this job! Just snap this foot on your machine, put your needle in the left position, the guide in the crease of the seam. Staying at ⅛” from the seam is so easy!

6. Fold the main fabric and the lining pieces back together along the seam line, wrong sides facing, and press for a sharp edge. From the front, your seam edge should look straight and clean, just like the pictures below. Can't see the lining :-)

Other projects where I used understitching:

1.The Pockets Of A Summer Skirt

2. The Collar Of A Summer Dress:

Understitching is often neglected because when you are rushing to finish a garment in between making dinner and the next domestic disaster, it’s an easy thing to skip. But, it’s so easy and it doesn’t take a lot of time. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll understitch everywhere :)))

If you have any more questions or hesitations about this post, just send me an email

Sewing aficionado and keen sewing blogger/vlogger.
An is Madam Sew’s dedicated creative brain, writing and filming insightful, inspirational content for the sewing enthusiast.

PS: Do share this blog post - just give clear credit to MadamSew, including our original blog post link. Thanks!

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  • Maryagnes Berthe on

    Thank you for all your tips on sewing.

  • Marcia H Baker on

    That’s amazing! I enjoy all of your tips & techniques

  • Anita Heerwagen on

    My mother taught me to do this and it makes such a difference to the finish of a garment! Thank you for showing this, new stitches will appreciate this tip!

  • Anita Heerwagen on

    My mother taught me to do this and it makes such a difference to the finish of a garment! Thank you for showing this, new stitches will appreciate this tip!

  • Sherrie on

    Thank you for this tip!

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