Monday, October 06, 2014

Tutorial: Hong Kong finish + underlining in one step

A slim fit wool skirt such as the Charlotte really begs to be lined.  Adding a layer of smooth and slippery fabric makes a wool skirt more comfortable to wear (especially with tights) and extends the life of the garment. Sewing a lining is fairly simple, however, there's another technique that serves the same purpose: underlining.  

In general, underlining is used to stabilize fabric, add weight and "heft" to a lightweight fabric, or add opacity to a transparent fabric.  Using normal lining fabric, such as Bemberg, lightweight silk or even cotton batiste to underline a garment gives the same benefits of a a skirt lining, with a bit less bulk. Typically, the underlining fabric is cut to the exact size of the pattern pieces and sewn to the fashion fabric at the very edges.  The pieces are then dealt with as a single layer.  Since the seams edges will be visible on the inside of the garment, the raw edges are finished together, either with an overlock stitch or a Hong Kong finish.
Enter the combined Hong Kong finish + underlining method.  By cutting and sewing the fabric and underlining in a slightly different way, you get a beautifully finished seam and underlining all at the same time.  It takes some patience and accuracy in cutting and sewing, but the results are so worth it! Ready to dive in?  Let's get started!
In addition to everything else you need to sew a skirt, you'll also need an accurate clear ruler, marking chalk (I LOVE this Clover roller chalker) and your rotary cutter.
For this tutorial, I've made a little "mini" version of the skirt Front so the big picture is easier to see.  Start with cutting out the front and back pieces in fashion fabric.
Lay the pieces on your well-pressed lining fabric.  Use a few pins or weights to keep the fabric from shifting around.  Then, along the vertical seams only (side/ back seams), mark an additional 5/8" seam allowance.

Very carefully, cut the lining fabric using the new guidelines at the side/ back seams, and cutting at the normal cut line for the horizontal edges.  Here's what it looks like:
Now, with right sides facing, pin the side seams of the lining and fashion fabric.  Obviously, the lining fabric is wider, so they will not lie flat.
Find yourself a 1/4" presser foot and carefully sew EXACTLY 1/4" from the raw edges.  

Turn the fabric inside out.  Both right sides should now be facing out.
Wiggle the lining/ fashion fabric so that the lining fabric goes exactly around the edge of the fashion fabric without creasing the fashion fabric.  Carefully press.  

Once pressed on both edges, the fabric and underlining pieces should be even, with no bunching, pulling or creasing.  Since you haven't trimmed any of the fashion fabric from the sides, you can sew the pieces as normal, with a 5/8" seam allowance.
Sewing darts for the skirt needs a little special attention for underlined fabric.  First off, mark the dart legs and vanishing point.  Draw a line connecting the vanishing point to the middle of the dart.  This is your sewing guide.
Sew down this marked line (the middle of the dart), beginning your stitching a centimeter or so away from the vanishing point and sewing toward the raw edge.
Fold the dart along the sew line and sew as usual.
Press over a ham.

Continue sewing the skirt as usual.  If you've added a kick pleat, there are just a few more steps.  Clip the seam allowance right above the curve and finish the rest of the pleat as described in my earlier post.
For the hem, I used rayon seam binding to finish the edge and then used a blind stitch (only catching the underlining) to hem.
With a beautiful finish like this, it will be hard to keep from showing it off!  


  1. yeah this tutorial kind of blows me away! i've heard of a hong kong finish but hadn't seen it in action or grasped how it was done. thanks for making it crystal clear! very cool.

  2. Wow. Great tutorial. Very clear pictures every step of the way. I have a really hard time visualizing how things are going to work and this could not have been more clear. I'd never heard of this before. Very very nice.

  3. Thanks Nicole. You know, I imagine you sewing wearing a cape, you are that kind of superhero to me!
    great tutorial and exactly the kind of thing I want to learn about.

  4. Wow! I would never have thought of that. I just hand-stitched my underlining fabric to my fashion fabric for a pair of pants. It was relaxing, but I love this method for skirts. I think I'll do the darts the way you suggest.

  5. Beautifully demonstrated. such a lovely finish!

  6. Lesley Scott4:09 PM

    I just wanted you to know I tried this straight away and the finish is fabulous. I would send the photos I took, but it seems I can't in comments?
    The darts I made on the inside as per usual and made the lining tucks rather than darts - ditto. Will now proceed with the fabulous lace pencil skirt of my dreams, thanks Nicole.

  7. Thank you very much! Pinned it to my 'sewing to measure' board.

  8. Great tutorial, I'm afraid that I am a little too fond of underlining and am using in all sorts of garments that I probably shouldn't be using it on!

    I am just in the process of making a wool a- line skirt and I have got this idea about having zip pockets on the front. The wool has a drape to it that I think will sag, so I think I'll underline instead of line.

    This is my first time reading your blog and I will look out for other posts,



  9. Absolutely brilliant tutorial - crisp, clear and easy to follow. Thank you. More please!