Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finishing Seams on Lined Garments: What's Your Take?

Seam finishing is one of those intensely personal things: some high-tech sewists love their sergers, others are minimalists with a set of pinking shears. Some can't stand the sight of an unfinished seam (even if it's going to be covered up with lining), others are more relaxed. But I think most of us are pretty flexible, and tend to adapt our techniques to the task at hand. (If you're new to seam finishing altogether, check out this great comprehensive post.)

I've often heard that if your garment is to be lined, you don't need to worry about finishing the seams to stop fraying. (Though it's worth noting that the lining won't stop the seams from fraying, it will just shield you from having to look at the fraying!) But I've always interpreted this to apply only to garment interiors that are completely enclosed; in other words, a garment with a free-hanging lining (like the Lady Grey coat) would still require seam finishing since it's open at the bottom.  There's always a chance the lining could flip up a bit when you're twirling about to show off your swishy peplum!

Last winter's coat project!
The tailored coat I made last winter also had a free-hanging lining, and I spent plenty of time thinking about the seam finishes. Here's what I decided: since the wool cashmere I used for the outer coat was very tightly woven (almost felt-like), I did nothing to finish its seams. But since the silk charmeuse lining was very fray-prone, I finished it with my serger. I'll be taking a similar strategy with my Lady Grey, and evaluating each fabric independently: my fashion fabric is a moderately loosely-woven wool and the rayon lining has a tendency to fray, so both will need to be finished. I like my serger for these kinds of fabrics. After I cut and mark the pieces, I just disengage the blade on my serger and finish them all before I start sewing.

What's your strategy for seam finishes on lined garments? Do tell!


  1. For what it's worth, I just took apart a lined corduroy jacket. The unexposed seam allowances on the corduroy were raw, as were the rayon lining seam allowances.
    epending on the fabric and the serger (3-thread, 4-thread?) finished seems can show through the fashion fabric. And raw edges that are covered with a fully finished lining will not fray unless we're talking a very loosely woven fabric.

    It's the friction against the body that aggravates the fraying, and with lining prevents that. It's like when hikers wear a sock liner to prevent blisters: the rubbing occurs between the sock layers rather than between sock and your foot (or the shoe and your foot).

    I limit my serging to exposed raw edges.

  2. Oh dear, I shouldn't type this early in the morning...

  3. On the coat I recently finished I did the same as you; I assessed each fabric individually. I didn't finish the boiled wool at all, but I zig-zagged the edges of the silk lining fabric as exposed or not, it was probably going to fray. I don't know if it was essential for me to finish the linings edges, but it gives me peace of mind!

  4. I love, love, love French seams - but if that seam is going to be hidden and protected, why bother? I like your logic, though, of thinking about the durability of fabrics on a project-by-project basis and also being alert to potential exposure mid coat swing!

  5. It depends on the fabric. If it's not ravelly, I'll leave it be. If it is, I'll finish it. I made a fully lined coat where the lining was attached so no seams showed. But because the outside of the coat was a bouclé, I finished the edges with a hong kong finish. The lining was a very skittish brocade. I serged the SAs after sewing it.

    With unattached linings that might show the SAs, I'll generally use a hong kong finish on the exposed seams.

  6. I often don't finish seams on lined garments. Not because I don't like a finished seam. I have finished those seams in the past and found that the combination of the finished garment seam and the finished lining seam created some bulk I didn't like. They were also more likely to show through. Now I look at the fabrics and make a decision, but most often I don't finish.

  7. I have never made a coat or jacket, but on lined dresses, say holiday dresses for the girls, if I use an appropriate easy finish. Taffeta dresses were pinked and the lining finished with zigzag or serge. I don't want the bulk of a french seam, but I still care about the neatness.

  8. If something is lined, I leave seams unfinished, because I don't want a press line from a bulkier overcast edge when I press the seams open.

    I love french seams, and think that especially with stringy edges on chiffon or gorgette, a french seam is much much simpler than overcasting (which will leave edge fringe anyway).

    I love the jackets I have purchased that only have facings and bound seams, especially when contrast binding is used. I think it's a great construction detail that can really accent a garment made with a stretch woven, but I have two corduroy jackets finished that way as well and they are somewhat fitted and polished for work wear. I'm excited to try more bound seams myself since I already love using binding instead of facings on summer wovens.

    I look to what finish would be traditional for RTW, and then ask myself if a different finish would enhance the garment, and how impatient or lazy I am about it.

  9. I tend to either leave unfinished or pink with the pinking blade of my rotary cutter. No bulk. Haven't noticed any bad fraying.

  10. Like you, I tend to analyze the garment construction and fabric before deciding on a suitable finish. One project I'm working on right now is evening wear: an unlined gown (it's slinky, so any lining would inhibit the silhouette!). Because the fabric is light, I'm opting to hand overcast all the edges as a finish, rather than serge. Serging, as much as I love it (and will probably use it on my lightweight, somewhat fray-prone wool for the LG coat), sometimes leaves too much of a ridge on the outside.

    For most projects, I opt to serge the seams if it makes sense. Some get bound finishes, and occasionally I will do a French seam. Most lined projects that aren't open, I don't bother to finish the inner edges.

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  11. I've never actually made anything that has a lining before, so I'm not sure what I'll do with the coat...In previous cases with fray prone fabric, I've either done french seam (with chiffon) or zigzag or pressed the seam open and top stitched on either side.

    Like many, I'll probably evaluate the fabrics when I finally get them.

    Most likely, it will be a simple zig zag on the outer fabric (which is looking like it will be felted wool, if there is such a thing) and either a zig zag or french seams or topstitching or some whacked out combination of those...

  12. I like to serge my raw edges. I know it is not necessary with many fabrics but the job is fast. I have also been known to leave the seams raw. If the fabric is not going anywhere it is a waste of time to serge the edges. I guess it depends on the fabric, but for me there are only three options. Leave it raw, serge it, or whip stitch by hand.

  13. I pink the seam allowances on anything that will have lining and looks like it might fray a bit, serge anything totally exposed and leave be things I know will not fray at all.

    So for my coat I'm planning to pink the lining and leave the wool as it is. My serger plays up far too often for me to risk using it when I don't absolutely have to, quite frankly.

  14. i generally line my garments specifically to avoid finishing my seams (i would say this is out of laziness, but honestly, cutting and sewing a lining is way more time consuming than serging a few seam allowances so who knows what i am thinking here?), unless the lining is free-hanging... then i will serge the allowances and press them flat.

    i LOVE LOVE LOVE the look of bound seams... and honestly, i would love to do that for the outer wool fabric of my coat, but i think it would be too time-consuming. and the color is going to be hard to match, and i'll be damned if i get stuck making a thousand yards of bias tape :B i will likely just serge everything per usual. both of my fabrics need to be finished because they are pretty ravely.

  15. Standard practice in RTW is that if the seams are completely enclosed within the lining then no seam finish (saves money on labour and as explained above fraying is less of an issue). In a lot of formalwear that is dry clean only, even dresses where the lining is separate at the bottom are only serged up to the waist.

    But having done a lot of alterations on RTW, most linings fray, some pretty badly. Often a garment can't be let out in the lining because the seam allowances have frayed to a bare minimum, or sometimes the seams pull apart completely from strain after having frayed from being left unfinished.

    So if you want your garment to be more durable and able to be let out in the future, finish the fabrics that are likely to fray even if they are enclosed in the garment lining.

  16. Pretty much the same as yours... dependent on fabric.

    My seam finish of choice for the cottons I generally wear is a french seam, and of course swishy lining fabric gets the same treatment. I have a pair of pinking shears for the rare occasions when I pull out wool or similarly un-ravelly fabric.

  17. Thanks Gertie! What a timely post. I think I'm going to serge the lining - or at least parts of it - and leave the fashion fabric (which is also felty wool and non ravelly) to its enclosed devices!

  18. Since both my wool shell and lining are fray prone, I'll be serging them all before sewing. This will be the first project I'm using my serger on so I'm also excited to use it. heh

    I do have a question for anyone serging their shell fabric. How much seam allowance are you leaving on, 5/8" or something smaller? I'm wondering about bulk and if it wouldn't be better to have smaller seam allowances.

  19. I'm going with the evaluate each fabric type independently. I don't think I'll have to do anything to my wool for the coat, but the lining may need to be serged, but I'm also not opposed to simply using the pinking shears on the lining if it looks like it's going to fray.

  20. An exception to unfinished edges might be a very loose fashion fabric shell, which would need to be serged around the edges immediately after cutting to stabilize the textile while you work on the project.

    Applying a very lightweight tricot interfacing strip (1" wide) down the seam allowances is another way to prevent fraying edges. It also stabilizes the seamline before sewing. For lining pockets it's great to use where the seam might pull out when worn, there even a serger won't do.

  21. Thank you so much for the link to SMS. My machine is an old SInger treadle and I have no serger so seeing all the different ways to finish an edge has certainly helped. Of course it's just added 2 more rows of stitching to each seam :o)

  22. The case-by-case method works for me; the fabric and the laundering method determine the finish.

    If I'm going to machine-wash something, I will finish all seams in a fabric that will fray.

    Just a note on seam finishes showing through: in my experience 3-thread overlocking produces a flat finish. I do it on linen, and I press the seams flat (as they were sewn) and THEN press the seams open. The edges don't make themselves known on the exterior.

  23. Don't the instructions for the Lady Grey call for the SAs to be pressed to one side and then top-stitched? In that case, is any other finish required?

  24. I am going to pretend I am couturier and spend hours hand overcasting! Hurray for pretend!

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  26. I'm glad that Peter typed so early in the morning, because I enjoyed his comment the best- what a great first comment! Totally makes sense.

    And LAP- I forgot about coats with the bound edges- that is so amazing in the look and feel. I tend to get pretty hot, which then to leads to the lining fabric sticking to my arms, so I PREFER unlined jackets.

    I wish I would have read this before I just sewed my latest jacket because I lined it when the pattern instructions didn't call for lining. Maybe I'll take it apart and bind the edges and take out the bulky lining. It's making the shell pucker in weird places- yes, I think that's what I'll do! YEA! I 'm so excited now. I was really starting to despise the jacket, and now it will look amazing and fit right!

  27. I also recently took apart a garment--a lined men's vest--and the insides were pretty helpful (seeing where interfacings were, etc.). There were no seam finishes.

    On some of my other rtw garments that have lining not attached at the hem, I have seen both seam tape and turned in hem finishes, usually blindstitched.

    Like you, my shell fabric is loosely woven and silk, and could fray, especially since I'm cutting the seam allowances down so there won't be a lot of leeway. I hope the serged edges don't create bumps on the outside.

    Your red coat is just breathtaking!

  28. I tend to serge my lining seams, for extra strength. Although it's true, if you overpress you'll see little serge-marks on the right side. For the main fabric, I don't finish the seam allowances if they'll be encased in the lining.. but I will if there's a chance they might show.
    Love your red coat from last year - it's gorgeous!!


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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