Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lining, Interlining and Underlining: Purpose and Fabric Choices

Lining, interlining and underlining are all techniques available to those of us who make our own clothes. Personally, I love a lined garment. Do not use these terms interchangeably. Each term has a specific meaning and transforms your garment in a different way.

Lining is essentially a second inner-garment made of thin material that is sewn inside-to-inside so that all seams are hidden.
  • It provides warmth and a smooth drape. 
  • It can also protect the body from uncomfortable fabrics and it makes wearing a slip unnecessary.
  •  Jackets, coats, capes, are the ones most often lined, although pants, skirts and dresses can be lined as well.
  • A partial lining conceals only part of the inner garment (usually the upper back of a jacket).
  • Lining finishes necklines and armholes for you

Interlining is similar to batting in that it is a layer that sits between the main fabric and the lining fabric. It is added to a lining for warmth, is usually handled as a backing for the lining. As such, it is attached to the lining sections before they are assembled and stitched into the lining seams.
  • In tailored clothes, the interlining is loosely-woven wool.
  • There are also special lining fabrics (winter coat lining is one example) that are backed with finishes, allowing them to act as both lining and interlining.
  •  I've always read that a flannel interlining is the most popular choice for interlining coats because it is easy to find (do preshrink extensively). There are very thin versions of Thinsulate but it may not drape enough for the wool/mohair fabric.
  • Interlining can give the garment stability.They also drape better. It is a luxury technique that can be the difference between a good garment and a great one.
  • One disadvantage to interlining is that it can add bulk to the garment.(I find this is especially true with boxy styles rather than elongated styles).

Underlining is fabric that is sewn with the main fabric of the garment wrong-side-to-wrong-side. Together with the main fabric, it is treated as a single fabric.
  • Cut each pattern piece out of both the main fabric and the underling fabric 
  • Then put the two fabric pieces together and treat as a single pattern piece 
  • This can be a really good solution for sheer fabrics since, when sewing seams together, the seam allowance can show through the garment.
  • Underlining pockets is a must when using a main fabric that is sheer- otherwise the pockets are made of flimsy fabric
  •  Because of this, it contributes to the shape of the garment.

Fabric Characteristics to Look for in Selecting a Lining Fabric:

  • It is best to choose a lining fabric the same weight or lighter than the main fabric.
  • Look for a "slippery" fabric so that the main garment can move easily
  • Generally, you want something slippery for a dress lining, like one of the non-static polyester lining fabrics, cuprammonium (Bemberg) rayon (the worst of the rayon processes for pollution), silk habutai, etc. One of the inexpensive silks would be my first choice.
  • Lining should lie smooth and flat against the body so the garment as a whole follows the shape of the body
  • Patterns are designed for particular shell fabrics and don't look right when made up in something with a different drape and hand
  • Synthetic fabrics can create static in the garment
  • Cotton fabric comes in many colours so it is easier to match colours, if you are worried about your main fabric being see through.
  • Some people recommend using cotton muslin to line garments (again, it depends on the drape you want and how it works with your chosen main fabric.)
  • I like cotton voile to line cotton dresses or else poly lining fabric.  And super thin shantung silk for really fancy dresses.

    If you want to avoid lining a garment:

    • I make extra big facings.  They're big enough to provide the stability of a lining and cover up some of the stitching mess. 

    Care tips:
    • Some linings can make ironing difficult because they can wrinkle excessively. You may have better luck with steaming your garment or dry cleaning it.
    • Making alterations to a lined garment is more time-consuming than to unlined garments but is well-worth the effort
    • Be sure to prewash both the main fabric and the lining fabric (as well as the zipper).


    1. yes lining definitely makes a great difference to a piece of clothing item, I can usually judge the quality of a piece of garment by the way the lining is constructed. Lining is also quite tricky to sew on for some items. Especially bags. Thanks for taking the effort to put together such a well researched article.


    2. Lining makes the garment last longer. I love lined pants and jackets.

    3. Sometimes I sew lining into jackets that I buy. I find the difference between a high priced item and an affordable item can be lining.

    4. Thanks for this helpful overview! I'm usually too lazy to line anything but jackets, but slowly I'm coming around. What do you think about lining only the knees/elbows/etc., like the parts of a garment that get worn and stretched a lot? I've heard of this technique but never tried it myself.

    5. I've never really understood the difference between the three. Thanks for the info.



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