I haven’t been sewing for too many years, but one thing I noticed when I first started was a movement to #topstitchallthethings. I’m telling you, it didn’t matter what group I was in, if you were sewing, you were topstitching. What I later discovered was the lost art and technique of understitching.
Understitching is the process where the seam allowance is sewn down to the lining or facing or your project, but does not include the main fabric/layer. The stitching is visible only on the lining side. This tacking down of the seam allowance keeps everything in place without the need to topstitch. I’ve put together a little tutorial to demonstrate the technique.
For today’s tutorial I’m using the pink fabric as the main, and the white as the lining. I’ve also selected a clashing red thread to help with visualizing.
First sew your pieces RST using the desired seam allowance for your pattern.
Now head to the iron. It’s time to press. Press the seam allowance towards the lining.
I like to turn my project right side up and press from this side towards the lining. Make sure the seam allowance is still laying against the lining. You can see it peeking through the lining here. After some good pressing, head back to the machine, it’s time to understitch!
I like to turn my fabric wrong side up to keep from mucking things up, but you can totally stitch from either side. Here we are going to stitch the seam allowance to the lining. This line of stitching should be between 1/16” – 1/8” (1.6 – 3 mm) away from the original seam. I usually lengthen my stitch here too, just like if I was topstitching.
When you are finished, there should now be two rows of stitching visible. The original seam and the seam you just stitched.
This is the view from the right side of the fabric. You should only see stitching on the lining side.
All we have to do now is press one more time. Here is the final view from the right side. Notice how crisp the seam is and that there isn’t any lining trying to peek out. The understitching worked!
Tadah! You can understitch! My favorite thing about understitching is how it makes so many things seem more classy and polished. There is just something about looking at a top and recognizing that it is looking great because of some fabulous understitching.
If you want to take a stab at using this new skill, check out these Itch to Stitch patterns that include understitching in their construction. Be sure to share what you’ve made in the Facebook group or on Instagram!