Maw & Mo Sew Along: Facings, Edge Stitching, & Under Stitching

It’s starting to feel like we’re on a marathon!  This is the next installment… see part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

Today we’re going to review the instructions for the facings on Simplicity Cynthia Rowley #2305.  When we got to this part, Madelyn and I talked a lot about the different ways a neckline can be finished.  One of the ways to tuck in the raw edge of the fabric is by attaching a facing.  A facing is a narrow strip of fabric, which helps to produce a cleanly finished neckline edge after it is attached to the bodice neckline and tucked to the inside of the garment.  If you look at your store bought clothes, you will often find facings on your unlined dress necklines.

The pattern will direct you to the fabric that is the facing.  In this case, there were two pieces that needed to be attached together.  You’ll remember from a previous post that we already fused the interfacing to these pieces of fabric.  Once they are connected at the side seams, they form a circular loop that mirrors the neckline of the assembled bodice.  Don’t forget to press open the seam allowance — you’ll see the difference between the right side that is pressed and the left side that is unpressed.

facings for Simplicity 2305

Next, we’re going to edge finish the outer edge of the entire neck facing.  In other words, if you lay your facing on your work table, it will look like an oblong doughnut.  The edge finishing will happen on the outside perimeter of the doughnut and the doughnut hole will eventually be joined to the neckline of the bodice.

There are a few ways to accomplish edge finishing and I prefer to turn under the hem for cleanly pressed look.  It might seem like a rather futile thing, finishing part of a garment that no one will see except you, but these are the finishes that separate the “homemade” look from the professional couture look.  To achieve a crisp, clean line, it’s best to sew (with a regular stitch length) a single line 1/4″ inch from the edge.

edge finishing

edge finishing

Then, being super, duper, über careful, with your steam iron you will press the slim edge of fabric right along the line of stitching.  When you’re pressing, you’ll want to watch your fingers first (because the iron will be really close!) and then you’ll want to marvel at how the stitch line makes a nice, crisp fold.  When you get around the curve, the fabric will ruffle and buckle a little bit.

edge finishing

The final step of edge finishing is to stitch the narrow edge of fabric.  Most of the time I use a straight stitch for this, but sometimes I have used a zig zag, which I did for my Washi dresses.

edge finishing

edge finishing

I love that clean edge!  Ok, now that we’ve conquered edge stitching, it’s time to attach the edge finished facing to the bodice.  With right sides together, place the facing over the bodice’s raw neck edge.  I like to line up the shoulder seams first because even though there are notches, since none of us ever cut fabric perfectly, your notches are not as exact as the shoulder seams.  Pin the whole thing in place.

attaching the facing to the bodice neckline

Facing for Simplicity 2305

This is my favorite part of the Maw & Mo Sew Along!  Madelyn got really stuck with the narrower openings… until we made sure that she removed the accessory tray to utilize the sewing machine free arm.  Every sewing machine has a free arm which enables the fabric to pass under and around the machine for narrower tubes of fabric including necklines, waistlines, and sleeves.

removing the sewing maching accessory tray

sewing with the free arm on a sewing machine

To attach the facing, you’ll follow the standard seam allowance for this pattern on the 5/8″ seam line.  Once I’ve stitched all the way around the doughnut hole, I like to overlap at the starting point by just a couple stitches and then back stitch a couple stitches to secure the seam.

attaching the facing to the bodice

A common pitfall is that the shoulder seams that were pressed open become bunched or curled as the fabric moves through the machine.  When I get to that point, I make sure my needle is DOWN into the fabric to anchor what I’ve been stitching, lift the presser foot, and flatten out the shoulder seam allowance so that all the layers of fabric will travel through the machine smoothly.

attaching the facing to the bodice

attaching the facing to the bodice

When you’re done stitching, you will have successfully joined the facing to the neckline of the bodice!  Hooray!  We’re aiming to turn the facing to the inside of the bodice so that the wrong side of the facing is touching the wrong side of the bodice.  However, the physics of fabric aren’t going to let us get away with that so easily!  When fabric is curved, you have to give it a little room to fold in on itself and the best way to do that is to clip notches in the seam allowance.  These notches let the fabric fold in on a curved seam while also allowing the fabric to lay flat instead of buckling with too much bulk on the inside.

To clip notches, you’ll want to use a small pair of sharp scissors (large shears can be unwieldy so most seamstresses prefer a smaller set) and being very careful not to clip through the line of stitches, you will clip little triangle notches in all the areas where the curves are greatest.

clipping notches on curved seams

To minimize the bulk even further, you’ll want to trim down the seam allowance.  I choose a halfway point although some seamstresses will be extremely exact and measure out 1/4″.  Again, being VERY careful not to clip into the stitch line and also being careful not to clip any less than 1/4″ from the stitching line.  If you trim too much of the seam allowance away, it starts to reduce the strength of the seam.

clipping notches on curved seams

Now it gets exciting!  We get to see what our finished neckline is going to look like.  We’re going to turn in the facing to the inside of the bodice and press the entire neckline to create a smooth and clean neckline.

Pressed neckline facing

But wait!  There’s more!  It’s really easy for the facing to roll back outward when you’re wearing the garment, so we now do something called under stitching.  Simply put, under stitching is when you stitch that narrow piece of seam allowance (the stuff we just clipped and trimmed) to the facing.  You will not see this stitching on the outside of the garment, but doing this will help create a flat neckline and also keep the facing from rolling back outward.

At this point, you should have pressed a nice, clean seam with the facing on the inside of the neckline.  We’re going to re-open that, so make it open like butterflied chicken breast!  I like to press the clipped and trimmed seam allowance towards the facing to flatten out the seam line just a bit further.  It helps with the stitching.  You don’t need to pin any of this down if you press it well.  You’re going to stitch the seam allowance to the facing about 1/8″ away from the neckline seam line.  Take your time!  And if your stitching line is a little wobbly, it’s totally OK!  Under stitching is a really imperfect thing… the most important thing is to make sure that you stitch cleanly.  That’s it.

under stitching

Don’t forget to turn your facing back to the inside and press it again for a final, clean finish!  Whew… if you’re still hanging in there after this post… GOLD STARS!!


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  • Russell Conte - Great photos and very good instruction! If I might be so bold, I’d offer up another technique for interfacing and finishing the facing that will give you a dynamite finish. Instead of fusing your interfacing to the wrong side of the facing first then turning the outer edge under and stitching, place your fusible interfacing and your facing face sides (right sides) together. Then stitch the interfacing to the facing along the outer edge, about 1/4″ from the edge. Trim and notch as necessary. After you’ve done this, turn the facing and interfacing right side out and press. This provides a finished outer edge, reduces bulk, and takes your finish even further into the realm of couture.

    This technique works well with woven and tricot interfacings. It may work on the pressed fiber type you are using, but it is not as stable.

    Also, a quick note to anyone using interfacings – make sure you preshrink them before applying them, otherwise your garment will suffer from chronic pucker… And stay away from those pressed fiber interfacings! I know they’re cheap, but your garment will suffer the consequence. Good quality knit (tricot) and woven interfacings will always provide a much more stable and stellar finish.ReplyCancel

    • Mary Ann Williams - Thanks for the tip, Russell! It’s always so great to learn about more ways to finish edges. Sewing is awesome. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Madelyn - Oh my goodness, you are too funny! This video is hysterical 🙂 I love the censored part too… sewing is so racy 😉 I had to rewind a few times through the middle where you merged your talking… At first I thought my computer was on the fritz! 😀 I’m so sorry I’m just *now* catching up… last week was just too busy for words. Love this!ReplyCancel

    • Mary Ann Williams - Ha! I tried to do a blurred frame but am still figuring it out. I realized how much we talked about all of this. I couldn’t condense an hour of video chatting and I discovered that I rambled A LOT. Thank you for being so patient with me!! 🙂ReplyCancel

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  • Helen - Genius instructions – thank you. I’m trying to make a Simplicity pattern and having not done much sewing before their instructions, although good, don’t have the detail and the intermediate pictures like you provided. Thank youReplyCancel

  • Maw & Mo Sew Along: Stitch in the Ditch : School of Moxie - […] This is a continuation of the Maw & Mo Sew along:  part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7. […]ReplyCancel

  • Maw & Mo Sew Along: The Skirt : School of Moxie - […] to last step in finishing Simplicity 2305!  See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part […]ReplyCancel

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