What You Need to Know Before Sewing Lining into Any Garment

jacket lining Lining a garment can seem like a lot of extra work: buying more fabric, cutting out the pattern again and all that extra pinning and sewing. It’s enough “extra” to make the idea of skipping this step awfully tempting. But some garments really do require a lining to be functional. Here’s what you need to know before starting to sew one.

Why You Should Add a Lining

While it’s fairly obvious why you would line a dress made of sheer fabric, there are many other reasons for adding a lining. It’ll make a garment made from itchy fabric (like wool) more tolerable on your skin. Lining will also hide unsightly seams (like on the inside of a jacket or on light-colored fabric), provide additional warmth and give a garment structure, shape and a better fit. Plus, if a drapey dress has lining, it will skim over the body rather than cling in all the wrong spots. Even if none of these reasons apply to the garment you’re making, it’s still smart to add a lining. It’ll instantly kick your design up a notch into couture territory.

The Difference Between Lining and Underlining

Underlining is another method for achieving results similar to lining a garment. But the two are not one and the same. Underlining involves cutting the pattern from main and lining fabrics, then basting the two pieces together before constructing the garment. Lining, on the other hand, is a mirror of the garment, and it’s sometimes cut from separate pattern pieces and then sewn into the interior of the garment. Unlike underlining, lining is attached to the garment only at the neck or waistband, and it hangs free within the garment. Garments that are underlined can also have a lining.

How to Choose the Right Lining Fabric

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for lining. First, if your main fabric has any stretch to it (like a knit), your lining needs to have an equal amount. If it doesn’t, the garment ultimately won’t fit. If your main fabric is sheer, consider how the lining would look underneath. Do you want it to match your skin tone or the main fabric so it goes unnoticed? Or do you want it to serve an aesthetic purpose? If it’s the latter, you can use a much more unexpected shade — a pop of color or an interesting pattern can be fun, even if you’re the only one who sees it. Fabric content is also important. Natural fibers, like cotton, are the most breathable and provide warmth, making them a great choice for garments. Jackets and coats require a much heavier lining, though, so for these garments, you will want to consider something like faux fur.

How to Size Lining Correctly

Lining needs to be slightly smaller than your garment, so add ⅛” to your seam allowance when sewing. To avoid the lining showing on hems, adjust the hem lining to be ½” to 1” shorter than the garment. If you’re using a pattern that does not provide instructions for installing a lining, consider how the lining will be attached to the garment while still hiding the unfinished edges of the lining. If the garment has a zipper or button closure, install the lining before adding the closure, ideally at the neckband or waistband.
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13 Responses to “What You Need to Know Before Sewing Lining into Any Garment”

  1. Nicola Smith

    Useful but rather confusing.
    I think you mean for the shoulder and neckline to take in 6/8th of a seam rather than 5/8ths. But clearly not at the hem?
    And it’s not great to leave the hem free, maybe in skirt sometimes a dress, although I wouldn’t. But never in a jacket or coat. Id put a pleat in the hem and another at centre back. Otherwise the lining will make it unwearable. Do let me know if I’ve misunderstood!

  2. Maureen

    I have always made my jacket lining larger than the jacket. I agree with the other comments in this regr. Jackets need to have a pleat in the back for when you reach for something your jacket will allow you to. This article is very confusing. You need to clarify this. Accomplished sewers know what they are talking about.

  3. Catherine Brown

    Um, I’ve been sewing professionally as a costumer for over 40 years. A lining needs to be slightly larger, or identical in size, not smaller, or it will pull the garment into weird shapes. And as was noted, jackets, coats, etc., need an additional pleated ease in the center back so the garment wears properly. Sometimes a bottom hem lining can hang “free”, but in that case it needs to be swing tacked to the garment. Also, in a jacket, it can have a pleat for ease at the hem as well as the center back. This article, I am sorry to say, contains inaccurate information.

  4. paula wilson

    I’m not sure what your comment about lining hanging free inside a garment because it’s only attached to the neckline or the waistband. I’ve been making garments including lined jackets and dresses for most of my life (I’m 75) and never have I left the lining hanging unattached like what you seem to be implying. As for changing the size of the seams, I’ve never done that and with a jacket you need to have a pleat down the back that will allow for ease while wearing it and will essentially make the lining a little larger than the jacket. I think there needs to be come clarification on your part as to what those comments mean because it will only cause a lot of confusion and frustration for people who aren’t used to sewing and whose only experience with it has sometimes been some grouchy home ec teacher anxious to find fault.

    • Rita

      Fully agree.
      If a lining hangs freely from the neck and armholes in a dress with nothing else holding it it’ll bunch up at the front.A coat or jacket without a gusset at the back would be like wearing a straight jacket. I don’t really get this 1/8th inch bit. The lining needs to match the garment in the right kind of fabric and should move with the garment – not hang loosely!.

  5. Betty Curtis

    I’m making a small child’s puffa jacket, lined with fleece fabric, the linings just so wrong, I don’t know if it’s to small or big it’s bunching up around armholes pulling the hole thing out of shape it’s driving me mad can you advise please

    • Rachelle Brown

      Hi! The fleece lining will also drive the child nuts because it will “grab” their shirt sleeves and pull them up. For extra warmth do the back and front in fleece and the sleeves in a traditional lining fabric. Or do the whole thing in a lining fabric. Fleece can come in different weights or thicknesses, so you could try a lighter fleece, but I’d go with a traditional lining fabric or a mid-weight lining that is smooth so it goes on and off easily. Don’t be frustrated, you’re learning some great lessons in sewing! R

  6. Hazel Vargas

    Hi. Your instructions for adding lining to a garment (mine is a pair of knit pants with straight legs — not leggings) is to add 1/8″ to the seam allowance. So for example if the pattern includes a 5/8″ allowance, that would make the lining pattern larger not smaller–i.e. the total seam allowance will be 6/8″. Do you mean to add 1/8″ seam allowance to the pattern SEAM LINE? Then that would make the lining seam ALLOWANCE 4/8″ smaller than the stated pattern seam allowance. Is that what you mean? Will this be the same sizing for an underlining rather than a lining? So when sewing the two pieces together, do I use 5/8″ seam line? Would really appreciate your input. Thank you.

    • Kaitlin

      I read this to mean, you cut the lining pieces exactly the same size as the outer shell, and then when you go to sew the lining, instead of 5/8 seam allowance, sew it with 6/8 (3/4″) seam allowance so that the lining is slightly smaller by 1/8 in.

      • Rita

        If you’re wanting to attach it round the neck, armholes etc. that won’t work because your lining will be too tight at the seams. Where your lining meets the garment it needs to be the same size as the garment or else you’ll not be able to attach it smoothly.