Underlining and Marking the O Dress

Hello everyone! Today’s post is a few thoughts on underlining and marking the O Dress. I’ve shared tips on underlining before, but thought I’d point out some of the things I learned while underlining this project.

My main fabric is a tightly woven wool, and I’m underlining it with a cotton batiste. Remembering the purpose of your underlining helps you make decisions as you go. For my project, my underlining is to add a soft layer between the wool and my skin. Therefore, I’ll make my choices based on that decision. (If you were underlining to remove sheerness, or to add structure to a flimsy fabric, then you might make different choices when it comes to facings and which pieces to underline.)

In this case, I’m underlining everything. Sleeves, body pieces, skirt pieces. I want to have the layer of soft batiste between my skin and the wool throughout the dress. (If you were underlining for sheerness, you might not care about the sleeves.)

First I cut the dress pieces from the turquoise wool.

Then I cut the underlining pieces from the cotton batiste. I debated doing the other method, where you lie the cut fabric piece on top and use it to cut the underlining, but felt this would be more stable and keep the pieces from ‘growing’ when cutting the second layer.

If you underline with cotton batiste, make sure it’s pressed as flat as possible before you cut. If there are any wrinkles, your underlining will end up larger than your main fabric and create bunching underneath the surface.

I didn’t mark any of the darts on either pieces, but I did clip inwards for the notches.

I machine-basted around all edges. Because these fabrics are both fairly stable and not slippery, machine-basting worked just as well as hand-basting, and it’s much faster!

Remember to run the machine-basting off the edges. Pivoting at the corners can cause the layers to slip!

First, I machine-basted all of the underlining layers to the wool fabric.

After all of the pieces were basted, that’s when I did the marking.

Taking the original pattern piece, I lined up the pattern piece edges with the fabric edges, and pinned through each marking.

Then, I lifted off the pattern piece, pulling the paper over the pin head. (I don’t mind poking holes in the pattern pieces, since these are only tracings of the originals!)

Repeat until the pattern paper is completely free. Keep the pattern piece handy for reference, and mark each marking with the correct shape.

You can either use a fadeaway felt marker, or a chalk pencil. I love my felt trickmarker! But I’ll show you both ways for reference. You’ll want to make sure that whatever you use doesn’t leave permanent marks on your fabric. Although, having the underlining lets you get away with stronger marking methods.

Copy the shape of the original marking. If it’s a circle, draw a circle around the pin-hole. You can leave the pin in while you draw the circle, or you can circle the pin-hole immediately after taking out the pin.

Or, use a felt marker. You can see it so much better!

In fact, if you wanted to be extra-careful, you could mark in chalk so it wouldn’t fade away, and then use the marker on top. When the marker faded, the chalk would be underneath!

Mark the rest of the markings, following the shapes from the original pattern pieces.

Now, you can do the same thing with the other pattern piece (the left/right side). Or, you can use the first piece to mark the second piece. Simply lie the pieces on top of each other, right sides together, and pin through the first set of markings.

Flip over the piece, and mark around each pin.

Done! Both matching pieces are marked. We got to skip the step of marking the wool fabric, and all of the markings are clearly visible on the underlining side. Our underlining is attached, and now we can work with each piece as if it’s a single layer.

Does this seem like a lot of work? I feel that underlining is totally worth it, as it makes your project more comfortable to wear, and extends the life of your garment.

Any questions? Any tips to add on underlining or marking?

Next up: the first sewing step, two buttonholes on the tabs. I have a great tutorial planned to share my favourite method of bound buttonholes!

PS. My presentation is today! I’m nervous, but ready. I’ll let you know how it went!

PPS. If you’re part of the Sewaholic Patterns mailing list, check your email! I sent out a special offer yesterday just for mailing list members. If you’re not on the list yet, it’s not too late. Sign up here. (No spam, I promise. Just occasional notice of sales, new patterns, giveaways, and other fun stuff.)

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23 Responses to Underlining and Marking the O Dress

  1. Suzie March 16, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    Good luck with your presentation Tasia! I’m sure you will blow them away. :)
    Thanks for the further tips on underlining – I have two lovely vintage cottons that I want to make into dresses but they are a bit sheer so I think I’ll have to venture into the world of underlining (new to me) – so all these tips are so so helpful.

    And your mailing list e-mail worked – I’m now eagerly awaiting my own copies of both your new skirt AND the pendrell blouse! Can’t wait!!! :)

  2. Steph March 16, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    Thanks for the great tutorial.

    Just wondering – do linings and underlinings have a different purpose? If a pattern calls for lining, could you treat this as an underlining instead?

  3. Veronica March 16, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    I’m looking forward to see how you deal with the seam finishes. I have a wool suit I’m planning to make and want to underline the skirt the same reasons you are underlining this dress. But haven’t figured out exactly how to finish the seams without a serger.

    And good luck with your presentation!

  4. Claire (aka Seemane) March 16, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    The dress is gonna be great when it’s finished (I love the fabric colour – blues are my fav :)).
    Oh, and good luck with your presentation!!

  5. sallyann March 16, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    Good luck with your presentation – preparation is the key – and you have no doubt done it all – to the same degree of perfection that you do everything.
    I underlined a silk top with cotton batiste so that it would be nice and cool for the summer.
    Now I am a fan of underlining.

  6. msmodiste March 16, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Break a leg! I’m sure the presentation will go amazingly well.

    I have a newbie question. In the last photograph, the piece on the right looks like the underlining piece is a bit bubbly and larger than the fashion fabric. Is that just an illusion from the photograph (i.e. could be smoothed out?) or is underlining rather forgiving?

  7. gina March 16, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    I am working on button holes right now, need this tutorial really bad!!!!! Oh Thank you so much!!!!!!

  8. Tasia March 16, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Thanks, everyone! I have a couple of hours to get ready before my actual presentation starts, thought I’d jump in and answer some of your questions!

    @Steph: Linings and underlinings have a similar purpose, but the main difference is that linings cover up the insides of your garment after all of the darts etc.are sewn, while underlining is attached first, so all of the darts and seams are made through both layers. It all depends on the dress construction. Sometimes, linings are used to finish the edges of armholes, necklines, etc. If you wanted to underline, you’d have to come up with another way of finishing the edges. Also, underlining doesn’t hide the darts and seams, so your dress won’t look the same from the inside. However, if you’re working with sheer fabrics, underlining is nice because it hides the dart seams, so you don’t see two darts (one from the lining and one from the main fabric.)
    Does this make sense? Take a look at this post to see the inside of an underlined dress:
    You can see how the edges are finished with facings, and all the darts and inside seams are still visible.
    I hope this helps!

    @Veronica: Seam finishes are really tricky in underlined fabric. I have to admit, I have a serger, and usually use it for all of my seam finishes. It’s just so fast and tidy and cuts off the scrappy part for me! On this project I tried to come up with other ways to finish the seams, but I’m going to default to the serger. There are too many strangely-shaped seams to do much else. If the seamlines were straight, there’s a cool method you can do with underlining that finishes the edges and joins the underlining in one step! But that won’t work for my dress.Here’s the link to how to do it!

    @msmodiste: Ah! You have a good eye. It’s mostly the photograph, as even though I ironed the batiste like crazy, it still looked wrinkly even when it was flat. The piece on the right is closer to the window, so the light ‘lights up’ the wrinkles more than the other side. It’s much more even and flatter than it looks, trust me! Is underlining forgiving? From my experience, that depends on the fabric. With the sheer chiffon I was using for my Pendrell, I wanted the underlining to be absolutely perfect, as I feel like chiffon is very unforgiving, due to the shine, the sheerness, and the lack of ‘give’ in the fabric. with this project, wool is naturally ‘springy’ so compared to the cotton, which is not stretchy at all, it’s OK if the wool is a teeny bit smaller as it will stretch out on its own. Ideally, we want it to be completely flat. Or, if you’re curving the piece around the body, some books have suggested shortening the underneath piece, so it ‘wraps’ around the body better. This is hard to explain in words, but picture a paperback book rolling inwards. The cover and inner pages get longer, the back cover is shorter. If you cut the fabric pieces like this, then they’ll form a curve around the body. (Complex, I know!) Does that make sense or is that even more confusing? That’s more important for tailoring, or very stiff backing fabrics. Not so important for cotton batiste. Good question though!

  9. Katie W March 16, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Hi Tasia,
    When I made my Lady Grey coat, the tutorial that Gertie posted recommended cutting away the underlining fabric from the seam allowances to reduce bulk. This seems especially important if you have a midweight wool for your main fabric. I’m interested to see if you find the seams to be too bulky, because doing this trimming step with all of the pattern pieces took FOREVER. I was hating sewing that week, and I’d love an excuse to skip that step in the future!

  10. msmodiste March 16, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    @Tasia: That explanation makes perfect sense, thank you! :)

  11. Tasia March 16, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    @Katie W: Good point! I wish I could let you guys ‘feel’ the fabric through the computer. It’s tightly woven, but light to medium weight. Probably closer to light weight, as wools go. It’s lighter than denim, more like suit-weight but heavier than that really fine suit-weight. See – so hard to explain! Because both layers are so light, I don’t think I’ll have to cut away the underlining fabric. In fact, I want the underlining fabric to go into the seam allowances to keep it in place, so I can remove the basting. Otherwise, i’ll have to hand-stitch it to the outer layer? That would take forever! Very important on coats, and also if the underlining layer is heavy. Like hair canvas. Hair canvas won’t fold in half, it’s too springy, so you’d have a hard time pressing your seam allowances open if it wasn’t trimmed out of the way.
    But I’ll test and let you know!

    @msmodiste: Great! :)

  12. K March 16, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Underlining is my best friend. I love working with wool and nice soft cotton batiste is so much nicer than slippery lining! Underlining also gives heft and weight to the garment and it feels much more professional and couture.


  13. Ashley March 16, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Good luck on your presentation!! I’m sure you’ll do amazingly!! :D
    Ashley x
    ps. yes I got your email. I had been tempted for a while by the Pendrell, but kept telling myself I had enough patterns to work through. Your cheeky special offer sent me over the edge and I caved for both patterns!! :) x

  14. Amy K March 16, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Quick question: I noticed in some of your photos that the batiste looks a little raised at the seam – like if you smoothed the fabric with your hand, a bump would form there, as if the batiste wants to extend beyond the seam. This happens to me every time I underline and I always stress about it. But looking at your photos, it looks as if it’s to be expected. Am I right? Can I stop worrying about it? Thanks!

  15. Tasia March 16, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    @Amy K: Hi Amy! This is sometimes due to the photos, sometimes due to a little bit of extra batiste like you mentioned. It’s hard to get both layer exactly perfect every time (but it would be nice!) For this project, the wool is ‘springy’ and stretches a bit, the batiste does not. So when the dress is worn, the wool will ‘give, the cotton will not, and there won’t be any bulges, The goal is to get the layers as flat as possible, but I wouldn’t sweat it if they aren’t 100% flat and perfect. Yes, you can see mine aren’t! But they are much closer to flat than they look in the photos. Just think about the fabrics you’re using. If you were underlining with, say, a hair canvas, you can’t have any bumps as they won’t smooth themselves out. If you’re underlining with shiny fabrics or sheer fabrics, flatness is more important, as the shine and sheerness will give away any bumps or extra fabric humps. But on fabrics with give, or fabrics that will shape around the body better, you have a little more room for imperfections. On my Twin Spruce Dress I didn’t really think about the edges that much as it was my first time underlining. And it was just fine, because the fabrics had give (rayon and cotton) and when worn, any bunches work themselves out. It also depends on the fitted-ness of the garment! A full skirt, underlined, has more room for error than a fitted bodice or yoke.
    If your underlining layers are off, think about what it will do on the body. Hand-basting instead of machine-basting helps keep the layers more even, too, but is very time consuming!
    A comparison of hand-basting vs. machine:
    I hope that helps!

  16. K-Line March 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Another fabulous tutorial. I totally wish I lived in your neighbourhood. I’d be crashing your sewing sessions all the time! :-)

  17. Tasia March 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    @K-Line: Wouldn’t that be fun? Instant second-sewing-opinion! And bonus access to all kinds of scraps, trims and threads :)

  18. Steph March 17, 2011 at 2:48 am #

    Thanks Tasia!

  19. jadestar March 17, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    Good luck with your presentation!
    Have just ordered both the Pendrell blouse and Crescent skirt using your special offer. Thank you. I can’t wait!!! :)

  20. Stephanie March 17, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I LOVE underlining. It is one of my favorite sewing techniques. It is so much fun to use when sewing with sheer fabrics to change the color or pattern. Can’t wait to see how this dress turns out!

  21. sulovesew March 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    I am going to try your method of marking pattern on fabrics, it looks totally easy and accurate. Thanks for sharing and good luck with the business plan, I am sure you will kick butt :)

  22. Bruna March 27, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    I loved the tutorial
    I have on my blog a tutorial sequins dress and a vest.
    I’m following you!



  1. V2903 – Musings and Modifications « VickikateMakes - July 26, 2012

    […] 10 minutes of chapter 6 of the Couture Dress class on Craftsy has loads of useful information.  Tasia and Gertie have both posted about the use of underlining […]