Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sewing Technique- Flat-lining

An active stitcher or costume technician can spend so much money on interfacing, they certainly are costly. I have have found over the years that I rarely us them. Of course they are some things in which only interfacing will do. For collars, waistbands, and cuffs are a few examples. But mostly for my creating I only use flat-lining.

I was slightly surprised that not everyone uses this technique. As I found out through private sewing classes that I teach, many had not even heard of it!

I have vastly used this technique in the construction of theater and opera. In classic tailoring it is a must- only it is done by hand. What is Flat-lining? Basically it is a technique used to stiffen or to give a different feel or body to a fabric which does not. I usually use fabrics that are firm and stiff but not heavy, fabrics such as denium, or canvas. Therefore you can go shopping at Joann's or Wal-mart in their bin fabrics! It can be any color or fabric as long as it has the right body.

Note- The most important thing to remember is that you must wash and press the fabric before you use it. You definitely do not want it to shrink!

It can be difficult to explain so I decided to write a tutorial of sorts, with step-by-step photos. Here goes:

1. Chose your fabrics

My Fabrics:

I am using a white canvas fabric and a almost sheer silk I will be making one of my cuffs with lacing. After washing and pressing I am ready to go.

2. Draw pattern pieces on to canvas

These are my three pattern pieces which I have drawn onto the canvas.

Take note of the third piece containing stitching! You will see it again in step 4, I got a little ahead of myself.

3. Place canvas on to fabric. This is the fabric you are wanting to show.

The Pins:

I placed my canvas piece on to the wrong side of my silk. Then I begin pinning - first the center, then the corners, and the sides. Note that my pins are placed perpendicular to my stitching line with the points towards the seam-allowance. Placing the pins in this manner allows you to easily pull out the pins as you stitch.

As you pin, make sure your fabric is smoothed so your fabrics are completely flat.

4. Using a basting stitch, stitch the two fabrics together.

I find it best to stitch along the sides first, lengthwise, then the tops and bottoms. Removing the pins as you stitch. Make sure you stitch 1/8 of an inch outside the stitching line towards the seam allowance.

After stitching all the pieces, press them. Make sure they are nice and flat.

5. Stitch the pieces together.

Just stitch normally right on the stitching line.

Final step

After stitching the pieces together, press. Then finish off your seam allowances as your normally would.

Here you can see the silk has a stiffness which is needed for my cuff. It now has it's own body and form.

This technique can be used with any two fabrics. It just depends what your project is. It is certainly nice not to have to shell out all those bucks for something you can do for less! I find it also works better for me.

Hope this was compressible. Please make sure to contact me if you have questions!

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  1. I always flatline items such as bodices when I want to use a lighter fabric that does not have enough body. I am surprised that people do not know about this. I guess that is what happens when the art of sewing is not passed down properly. Luckily I had a Nana who taught me all her tricks.

  2. Flat lining does not have to be firm, I have seen gorgeous dresses c. 1950's that use silk organza instead.
    Silk organza serves to give the light weight silk fashion fabric a loft and crisp hand that is still very sheer and weightless. It is especially important when a soft chiffon type of fashion fabric is used with drape on the bodice, but the skirt might need to be smoother or shaped fuller.

    p.s. the best fitting gowns I have seen were when the fitting 'muslin' was used as the flat lining--this transfers all of the alterations, so there are no mistakes in the final fit!

  3. Yes Jen! As I stated, "Basically it is a technique used to stiffen or to give a different feel or body to a fabric which does not. " The main point is to alter the body of the fabric!

    In past projects I have even used netting with a light weight silk.

    Oh! I know exacty what you mean about the transfer of the fitting muslin, this is how I constructed my wedding dress!!


    Glad to hear your familiar with this technique!!

  4. Thank You! It's better than I could have ever explained myself. I use flat-lining for corsetry and it's so hard to explain to people who only know of regular lining, or fusible interfacing.

  5. Thanks for such clear instructions. I have been looking for a while. Now I know what to do for all the fabric I bought before I found out that I wasn't a winter (which I thought I was since I was 12) and can make room for my warm Autumn colors. Interfacing is such a rip off just people dont want to sew and sewing a 1/8th seam can be intimidating, Well off to do my purse. Will explore your blog later lots of fun goodies. BTW, love costuming, especially the period pieces. I would love to get dressed up in one of the costumes from Mama Mia loved the 70's disco look I watched the end over and over.