Quick facing tips for a pro finish
Let’s talk about facings! From dresses to blouses to neck and sleeve edges – even hems! – facings are a great way to finish our garment edges. They’re also a detail that can make the difference between a homemade look and a pro finish. Don’t get me wrong, I love a homemade look, but I like to achieve it from a style angle, not from a skill angle and love to improve my skills as part of my sewing. In that spirit, I’m sharing my best tips for achieving a professional finish on our facings:
- Fabric choice
If you’re brand new to sewing facings, chooing a fabric that’s generally easier to sew with and press like a cotton poplin or cotton lawn, will make your first facings much more comfortable to sew as opposed to slinky silkes that like to slide around. Also, I find small prints are more forgiving than solid colors when it comes to blending my handiwork into the garment. Like a “choose your own adventure” game, being intentional about what kind of sewing experience you’d like and then choosing fabric to support that adventure can be really empowering.
When cutting out your fabric, taking extra care to cut as smoothly and precisely as possible around the neck edges of the main garment and facings will help keep things even. Don’t forget to snip any notches or mark them and any circle markings with a water soluable pen.
In all the facings I’ve sewn, I see that the interfacing I’ve chosen makes a big difference in how my facing looks and feels on my body. I personally don’t like really stiff facings, I like mine to have just a bit of body but move with the garment. I’ve made the mistake of using too heavy of interfacing for my fabric, and the facing almost seems to be moving separate from the garment. After lots of experimenting with interfacings, I pretty much always use the lightest weight interfacing I can find! This is the interfacing I stock up on (here it is for sale on Minerva):
It says it’s “designed for the softest, lightest and most sheer fabrics” which for me works nicely on all my light to medium weight projects. The only time I use something heavier is if I’m using a heavy fabric like a denim, heavy twill, or want a deliberate stiff stand up type of look.
Truth: I’m often tempted to skip the Staystitching step when it comes to facings. Tell me I’m not the only one who fights with this temptation! 😉 But over and over I see that when I skip the staystitching, I pay with a more difficult sew which makes things teter on the messy side especially around curves.
What’s staystitching? It’s a line of stitching sewn just within the seamline on a single layer of fabric that helps to stabilize the seam. It also serves as a “clip to” point or more accurately “don’t clip past this line” point when you’re sewing facings to curves. When I sew my staystitching, I usually shorter my stitch length to about a 2 and sew *just* within the seam line: for example, if my seam allowance is 5/8″, I try to staystitch right between 5/8″ and 4/8″. That way, when you sew your final seam at 5/8, the staystitch is not seen from the right side.
Grading is another step that is tempting to skimp on but I have a handy scissor tool that makes grading so much easier! My pelican bill embroidery scissors! These make it so you can cut each layer without worrying about accidentally trimming both layers and they’re just so nice to use. Here’s a pair online so you can see.
What exactly is grading? It’s when we trim the excess seam allowance away using graduated lengths for each layer. This way, the bulk of the seam allowance is distributed more evenly, which makes your facing lay smoother!
For grading, I always reming myself that I need to trim my facing side seam allowance shorter than the garment side seam allowance. That way, when I understitch, the garment side seam allowance is longer which covers the facing side seam allowance. Which takes us to….
I love understitching! It’s so practical! My best tip here is to not backstitch at start and finish but to instead pull your threads to the under side and hand knot. This way, your understitching is as neat as possible.
What exactly is understitching anyways? It’s a line of stitching sewn on the facing side which attaches the seam allowance to the facing and prevents the facing from popping to the right side. It’s sewn close to the seam and is a must for a pro finish. I personally understitch from the right side of my facing/garment, and I finger press the seam to the facing side, pulling gently to make sure the seam is tight and flat. This is where grading the garment side seam allowance longer supports you.
Pressing is like the quiet wallflower at the party. I think sewing often gets all the acclaim, when in reality, we press nearly as much as we sew 🙂 When it comes to facings, pressing is the superstar ending! If it’s a neckline, you can use a pressing ham if you have one, to be considerate of the garment shape. A press cloth is a must in many cases where your fabric might pick up iron marks. I find even my poplins can mark!
I made my press cloth out of a large scrap of white cotton lawn that I serged (or you can zigzag) the edges of. It works great! You can also find press cloths of varied weights and features in with the notions of your favorite shop.
As far as when to press your facings, I press:
- After sewing my facing to the garment, before grading. I press it flat.
- After understitching. I press the facing to the wrong side, using my press cloth here.
8. Finishing details
When it comes to tacking down the facing so it doesn’t flip up, I’m a bit lazy here! As long as my fabric allows (is a print or a forgiving solid) I machine tack my facings at the shoulder seams and side seams, stitching in the ditch of the seam from the righ side. Ok, it would be nicer if I hand tacked them from the inside, and I would do this if I was using a silky or didn’t have exact thread color match or wasn’t feeling lazy. Both work, in my humble opinion!
I hope these facing tips are helpful! Do you have a tip to add? Feel free to comment below and share yours!