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Garment Facings

Working with garment facings can be the bane of our (sewing) existence if not done with a little pre-planning and care. For something so functionally utilitarian and usually so artfully obscured inside a garment, it is surprising how much it tells all about how well the garment is constructed.

Facings contribute much to the completed, finished look of your garment. The mark of a well-made article of clothing is to have the inside appear as finished, neat, and complete as the outside. To get facings to stay neatly on the inside of the garment and not roll to the outside presents a series of sewing steps to consider while utilizing a variety of sewing techniques.

The following steps may help to achieve that nicely finished facing:

Interface, Pre-finish Facing Outer Edge, Hand baste, Machine Stitch, Trim, Clip, Press, Under Stitch, Tack Down

Facings perform best when lightly interfaced. To do so will stabilize the facing fabric, prevent the finished garment edge from stretching out of shape, and gives added strength, support, and durability to the hard-working garment edges. A light-weight, sewn-in interfacing may be used or even an iron-on fusible one. It is best to try out the interfacing type by using different scraps of fabric and different facing types to test how the facing will perform. Typically, the lightest-weight interfacing works best, even organza or chiffon will function well as a sewn-in variety to retain a soft fashion fabric’s weight and drape.

The outer facing edge, the part opposite the edge to be seamed to the garment fabric, often is pre-finished by trimming the edge to 1/4" (if a pattern’s seam allowance for all edges to be stitched is the traditional 5/8") then pinking, serging, or zigzag stitching the edge (facing edge lays nicely flat), or straight-stitching 1/4" from the facing edge (prevents fraying in some woven fabrics), turn under and press. Then top stitch over the resultant facing edge. The latter of the two methods is somewhat least favored as the turned under outer facing edge tends to show as a slight shadowy line on the outside of some garments, depending on the fabric type used. Also a firm pressing on the outside of the finished garment may inadvertently allow the facing underneath to become more visible through the right-side of the garment than desired.

To ensure added success when working with facings, hand baste the facing piece to your garment, right-side of the facing to the right-side of the fashion fabric, before machine sewing as this prevents the facing from wandering a bit during handling and does save time in the long-run from having to reposition the facing piece several times while stitching the seam.

Machine stitch (facing side up under the sewing machine’s presser foot) carefully on the pattern’s recommended stitching line for that will produce a resultant seam allowance of typically 5/8”. It is necessary to trim or grade (to cut off in graduated layers), the resultant seam allowance so slightly half remains to encourage both seamed layers to lay flat when subsequently turned to the inside of the garment. The seam allowance is then clipped to the seam line every few inches (or even every few quarter-inches for a very rounded curve) to allow for the facing to easily turn smoothly to the inside of the garment and to reduce bulk in the seam allowance.

Lightly press all seam allowances toward the facing, using a pressing ham or sleeve roll, to ensure a clean, crisp edge. If a pressing ham or sleeve roll is not available, then cut long strips from plain white construction paper or even from a clean paper grocery sack to insert between the facing and garment when pressing the seam to avoid having pressing lines show on the garment’s right-side.

The facing is often under stitched very close to the seam line, on the facing’s right-side, through all seam allowance thickness. This will allow the facing to stay put, not peek out, and roll easily to the inside of the garment ensuring a smooth finished garment edge.

To further secure the facing from peeking out of the garment edge while wearing, sometimes it is necessary to tack down the facing with a few hand stitches to a shoulder seam allowance, back neck or front seam allowance if the pattern calls for one, or to any lined part of the garment, if lining is used.

If it seems like many steps, perhaps, but easy steps nonetheless, and the extra effort it takes shows in the wearing of a finely finished garment.

Sew happy, sew inspired.


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Content copyright © 2013 by Cheryl Ellex. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.



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