Wednesday, February 2, 2011

At One Fell Stitch

I make no secret of the fact that I was trained as a theatrical costumer. True, my current creative outlet is historical reenacting, a field in which historical accuracy is highly prized--including the methods by which one constructs one's garments. However, I also make no secret of the fact that I don't really enjoy sewing. As such, you'll be able to pry my sewing machine out of my cold, dead fingers about the time Santa relocates his workshop to the frozen plains of Hell. Machine sewing is sturdier than (my) hand stitching when it comes to long seams, and is invariably neater and quicker. I have immense respect for people who construct garments entirely by hand...but I'll probably never be one of them. There are a few things, though, that I insist upon doing by hand. One of those things is lining installation.

A popular method I've seen for lining garments is bag lining, which involves making your lining and outer layer separately, sewing them together with right sides facing, and then turning the garment right side out. This method, while quick and machine-able, has never really worked for me. I've used it before, and it can be done to look well on a historical garment, but I find that the lining tends to want to roll to the outside, and be visible around the edges. Instead, I prefer to install my linings by hand, wrong sides together, with a fell stitch.

In this method, I construct my lining and outer layers separately, and then press the seam allowances around the edges to the inside. I try to make the lining fractionally smaller than the fashion fabric, so that the lining won't roll to the outside. After that, line up the main seam lines, and stitch away! Threads magazine has a great tutorial here.

Another stitch to be used in the same method for period garments is mentioned on page 8 of Linda Baumgarten's Costume Close-Up. It's called le point a rabattre sous la main, give or take a few accent marks. (Sorry...not a French-speaker). On principle, it works similarly to a fell stitch, but it's not as invisible. On the wrong side of the garment, the stitch is angled to look like a whip-stitch. On the right side, a tiny stitch is taken through the front of the fashion fabric, like a wee little running stitch. The needle comes back up through on the wrong side, catching a few threads of the lining on the way. Wash, rinse, repeat. A larger version of the photo above can be seen here, which illustrates the look of the right and wrong sides of a garment lined in this method.

I hope you find this interesting, if not helpful. As always, any questions, feel free to contact!


  1. Wow, that was really helpful. Thank you, Katie! I'm having that problem with a Civil War coat I'm trying to construct. The lining is showing on the front and I don't like it. I will definitely try your way. ^_^