Facings are an area of sewing technique where there are strong differences of opinion. Some people dislike facings. I think facings give a lovely high quality effect, much easier to get a good uncrinkled edge finish than with a bias facing strip. But some people think a facing is unfashionable, and facings do need to be sewn with care. They are usually used to finish curved edges, so much clipping and notching is needed to get them to lay flat.
This post is in two sections :
– external teaching sources,
– my own list of the steps involved in sewing a facing, as an example of building up to a complex sewing skill from smaller components.
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Here are some teaching sources
If you need to see diagrams/ photos or watch videos, these sources of advice are free :
Faced slash-slit opening (Sewingplums)
Photo tutorial :
from Patterns for Pirates, with optional video.
This includes both pattern drafting and sewing for plain facings (including hem facing) and combined neckline-armhole facings.
Facings construction – from the University of Kentucky, click on download link, with drawings.
Sarah Veblen’s facings class at Pattern Review (not free), with photos.
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Making a facing uses a hierarchy of skills
Analyse the parts of a skill, so you can build up to a complex activity.
Neckline facing as an example :
The neckline is a very visible feature of a garment, so it’s worth taking the time to finish the edge well.
A. Stay stitch the main fabric neckline in 4 steps (see post), to make sure the neckline does not stretch out of shape.
B. Assemble the main body shoulders.
I. make the main fabric shoulder seams :
– pin/ baste.
– finish seam allowances.
– press seam open.
C. Assemble the facing.
I. attach interfacing to the facing pieces (optional, method of attachment depends on type of interfacing).
II. make the facing shoulder seams :
– pin/ baste.
– trim seam allowances to about 1/2 width.
– press seam open.
III. finish the outside edge of the facing piece.
D. Attach the facing to the main body.
I. make the neckline seam joining facing to body :
– pin/ baste facing onto main garment, right sides together and matching shoulder seams and garment centre lines (Centre Front and Centre Back).
– stitch : make sure the fabrics are not pulled out of shape/ distorted while stitching, as the distortions will be made permanent. This may need many little pivots, even every 2-4 stitches.
II. process the neckline seam so the area is less bulky and lays flat :
– trim and grade seam allowances : trim both seam allowances to about 2/3 width, then trim seam allowance closest to facing to 1/3 width. [Result – the seam allowance bulk is graduated, with fewest edges possibly showing against main fabric if the facing seam allowance is the one trimmed narrower.]
This trimming and grading may also be important along the front opening edges of jackets and coats.
– clip : clip often enough that the edge curve lays flat and unstrained when turned out to right side.
– press seam allowances towards facing : place the main fabric flat and wrong side up on your pressing surface, place the iron on the main fabric, pull on the facing fabric and move the iron with just the edge over the stitching line. These moves press the seam allowances to the side and make sure you do not press small pleats into the facing. Depending on the curve, you may need to press in short sections.
– understitch seam allowances onto facing. With main body of garment to left of machine needle, right side up, seam allowances are underneath and to right of needle. Stitch to the right of and close to (less than 1/8"/3mm) the neckline seam. (If you can move the needle, move it to the right, so you can run the centre of the presser foot along the main neckline seam.) Pull the two fabrics apart. Make sure the facing fabric lays flat and undistorted while stitching around the curve. Constantly feel underneath the fabrics just in front of the presser foot, to make sure the seam allowances remain lying to the right. Take it slowly, especially around sharp curves. To keep the facing fabric flat, you may only be able to stitch a short distance at a time.
– final press with facing turned in, main seam just inside neckline edge.
III. hold the facing to the main body at the shoulder seams :
– pin/ baste.
– stitch-in-the-ditch along shoulder seam from right side (couture methods use hand stitching).
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Doing this entire process needs frequent changes between work stations – handwork, machine, iron, and between different hand positions. I like to stand and move around, some people prefer a chair on wheels to get from one point to another.
Practice by gradually building up skills and combining them until you can do the whole process without finding it daunting. For example a complete learning sequence might be :
1. practice all the most basic skills.
Even these basic skills have sub-components which you may need to become familiar with. I have not described the steps that are needed to build up to the most basic steps listed above. A complete beginner needs to start by learning to use a sewing machine.
For example ‘stitch’ is not just putting your foot to the pedal :
– mark the stitching line or, when at the machine, choose a reference point for positioning the stitching,
– move to machine,
– check that machine is set up correctly for this stitching, including turning on, threading, choosing machine settings, perhaps changing the presser foot,
– lift the presser foot,
– position the fabric for stitching,
– lower the presser foot,
– stitch, including back stitching at beginning and end, controlling the speed and direction, and removing pins if any,
– remove basting if relevant,
– trim threads.
Similar lists could be written for ‘finish seam allowances‘ or ‘press seam open‘.
Whew, when you analyse these activities into the steps involved, it’s obvious that sewing to make something is very complex. So take it all as slowly as you feel comfortable with !
2. practice groups of basic skills which make a major component.
Here there are 3 groups :
– two types of open straight seam (on body and on facing),
– processing the neckline seam around an inward curve. Each step of doing this is a separate skill, so take it slowly. If you need more practice, start with doing these processes on a half circle seam. Move on to a full circle seam when you feel ready.
3. combine these 3 component groups of skills into making an entire facing.
You may already feel confident about some of these steps. If so just practice the basic skills and combined components that are unfamiliar.
Practice all this before doing this multi-part process on a garment, where making a mistake may matter. Make as many samples as you need at each level. Enjoy feeling confident about what you can do before you move on 😀
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Celebrate each step as you get to the point where you feel confident to do it on a project 😀
Well done for conquering this major skill for making many necklines.
♥️ 👍 ♥️ 👍 ♥️
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