Behind the Seams is series in which Laney and I share little techniques that aren’t included in the pattern instructions. Often a few tricks can really improve the sewing experience and help garments achieve a professional, ready to wear look. We hope you’ll find these tips as helpful as we have and please share some of your own with us too!
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I bet most sewist have run into the miserable predicament where you fall in love with a print fabric that is completely the wrong weight for your project. I’m finding this particularly maddening with quilting cottons. There are so many talented designers creating quilting cotton, but that fabric is just a miserable weight for anything requiring drape or bottom weight heft. Somehow it manages to be both thin and stiff! You can certainly make lovely dresses or button up blouses, but I just find it looks awkward as much else. Unfortunately I haven’t come up with a good solution to the quilting cotton debacle, but I have found some relief in the knit arena.
In short, underlining knits with self or scrap knit fabric has allowed me to make light knits with minimal recovery more robust. I’ve also found it handy to strategically underline some areas of a project such as a fitted bodice, while leaving the rest of the garment unlined so the fabric is free to drape and flutter in the wind (a particularly important feature of a good maxi dress in my opinion).
I tried underlining a knit for the first time when sewing my Voodoo Maxi Dress. The main fabric is a most delicious ITY (interlock twist yarn) knit purchased from Grey’s Fabric. The fabric simply had to be a long maxi of bohemian, Frida Kahlo persuasion. My only concern with this plan was the thinness of the ITY. With bras, tummies, and all the other things we negotiate in this life I really wanted the bodice to have a little more heft. And so underlining knits entered my life. Although I haven’t found this technique described in a sewing book, I don’t think it is outside the realm of reason. If you can underline a swim suit then why not a dress?
To underline my Voodoo Maxi Dress I choose a thicker knit from my stash. I cut the front and back bodice pieces in the both floral ITY and the thicker purple underlining knit, but chose to leave the skirt and sleeves without underlining to feature the beautiful fluidity and drape of the ITY.
I was a bit concerned that the ITY might stretch and sag over the more stable underlining so I shaved 1/8 inch from all edges of the ITY floral bodice pieces. This extra trimming was probably unnecessary because despite being thin and clingy the ITY had good recovery. In any case the removal of 1/8 inch didn’t cause any damage. Reading a little further into swimsuit linings it seems that in some cases you cut the lining and shell from the same pattern piece which I think is further evidence for cutting identical pieces when lining an everyday garment.
Once my fashion fabric and underling was cut I pined the ITY and underlining layers together and constructed the dress as I normally would treating the bodice ITY and underlining fabrics as one layer. While serging the bodice side seams, I did double check that all layers (2 layers of fashion fabric and 2 layers of underlining) were caught within the seam.
More recently I underlined the knit ribbing on my Vlisco bomber. For this project I put extra effort into sourcing purple notions (zipper and ribbing) to complement the beautiful wax print sent to us by Vlisco. Color matching is no easy feat when shopping on the internet so I got lucky when my first order of purple ribbing arrived and the color was just right.
While the color issue was sorted, the ribbing weight was much lighter than I had envisioned which made me worry that it would stretch out overtime resulting in floppy cuffs and waistline. My solution: underline. As with my Maxi Dress I was ably to use scraps from my stash, this time I opted for a black rayon spandex blend. It did just the trick.
For cuffs and waistbands, which are often folded in half to create a finished edge, you will want to make sure the fashion fabric and underlining are the same size. If anything, the underlining should be a touch smaller in this situation because the fashion fabric (ribbing in this case) has to travel around the outside of the fold. If the underlining is any larger than the ribbing it will bunch up inside the cuff or waistband making for a lumpy finish. From my experience sewing the Vlisco bomber it was easy to trim away any extra underlining when the cuff or waistband was folded in half. I just made sure everything was lying smoothly when folded before I attached it to the jacket. I suppose the underlining could still bunch up inside the ribbing even if it is cut to the perfect size, but I just haven’t found it to be a problem when wearing my bomber, and I like the extra heft the underlining provides.
Have you ever experimented with underlining knits? How did it work for you?