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Sheer Genius: How to Sew Lining

Lining a garment can seem like a lot of extra work: buying more fabric (which can also add additional cost), cutting out the pattern all over again, and of course, the extra pinning and sewing. It’s an appealing step to skip. Unfortunately, some garments really do require a lining to be functional, and most will greatly benefit from a lining. Fortunately, lining a garment is really not that difficult!


While it’s fairly obvious why you would choose to line a dress made of a beautiful but sheer fabric, there are also many other reasons for adding a lining. Lining will make a garment made of itchy fabric (like wool) more tolerable, 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. A drapey dress with a lining will skim over the body rather than clinging in all the wrong spots. Even if none of these reasons apply to your garment, adding a lining instantly kicks your garment up a notch for a couture effect.

Underlining, which involves cutting the pattern from your main fabric and your lining fabric, and then basting the two pieces together before constructing the garment, is another method for achieving results similar to lining a garment. However, they are not the same thing. Lining is a mirror of the garment, 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 hangs free within the garment. Garments that are underlined can also have a lining.

When choosing fabric for your lining, there are a few things to keep in mind. If your main fabric has any stretch to it, make sure your lining has an equal amount; otherwise the garment ultimately won’t fit. If your main fabric is sheer, consider how the lining looks underneath it. Do you want the lining to match your skin tone or the main fabric? Lining that is more for aesthetic purposes, like in a jacket, can be a much more unexpected shade. A pop of color or an interesting pattern is always fun, even if you’re the only one that can see it. Fabric content is also important. Natural fibers provide the best breathability, of course, as well as the most warmth, so smooth cotton fabric is a good choice for most garment linings. Jackets and coats will probably require a much heavier lining like faux fur.

Your lining needs to be slightly smaller than your garment; add 1/8″ to your seam allowance when sewing. Also, to avoid the lining showing on hems, adjust the hem of the lining to be ½” to 1” shorter than the garment.

If you are 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, you’ll want to install your lining before adding the closure. A neckband or waistband is a good place to attach a lining.

Adding a lining will almost always be worth the extra steps. Have you added a lining to a garment?



Interesting that this came up today just as I was reviewing a few beautiful cottons I have in my stash for summer, one is a beautiful airy cotton Sari fabric which would require some kind of lining to be wearable, alas I have never lined a garment so it just sits in my stash until I aquire the skill.


I thought lining had to be slightly bigger than the garment? For ease’s sake. Or is that just for jackets and coats?
Also, although I much prefer a cotton lining, I prefer to use a slippery lining for winter skirts and jackets – it doesn’t stick to hose and glides over sweaters and shirts without “sticking”.

gillian Sutherland

I’m making a linen jacket for a friend, who’s attending her niece’s wedding in July – having the linen in my stash, I suggested it would be ideal for the time of year,also it would compliment the detail of the dress (pink dupioni silk) – I suggested a pink lace overlay, and the topped it with the idea of having a lining in pink habotai silk as a tie-in of colours and luxury. I felt the pink lining would look lovely even though it would be seen only when the jacket is taken off. So far, the gamble has been a success. Also, the ruffle, which, in my opinion was too stiff in linen, looks fabulous too – pink lining fabric(the habotai) with some black lace to double. It ought not to work, but does! Narrow black satin ribbon at the join finishes the sleeve detail beautifully. This is my first attempt at a jacket.

gillian Sutherland

The linen is black, by the way.

Sandra Short

Does the pattern need to be put on the lace the same way as the satin with the grain

Roberta Chezik

I am trying to line a lace jacket what material is the best

Kate Hallberg

Roberta- there are so many factors involved with choosing a lining and they all depend on the lace fabric, the color, the plan for the garment and who knows what else. There’s a huge difference between expensive handmade Italian lace, that 70’s bonded knit from your aunt’s stash and an inexpensive but nicely done machine made cotton spandex, between casual and couture.

What do you have and what’s your goal?

Shelley Price

Perhaps I’ve taken the “smaller lining” sentence out of context, but I’d feel better if there was some clarification on this point. I’ve sewn for more than 40 years, and I’ve sewn professionally. Generally, lining is supposed to slightly LARGER than the garment so that it doesn’t pull at seams or full body areas (such as bosom) when the wearer moves. The old maxim for linings is “Better an inch too big than a 1/4-inch too small.”

Wynne Donovan

I need to make a dress to attend a beach wedding in June. It will be very hot, so I was looking for a light, breathable fabric. The pattern I have picked will need to be lined in order for the dress to lay nicely ( a little form fitting). The fabrics I am leaning toward are light and a little shear. What is a breathable lining that will help the fabric lay nicely?

Ebony Elice

Hi. I’m in need of some lining advice. I have a commercial pattern New Look 6341, and I’d like to use white crepe backed satin for the high-low skirt but would like to line it. In my Google searching, I found that a lady also chose to line her skirt, but her lining was not pleated as the outer fabric for the skirt was, understandably. I would like to know how to do the same because when I fold my pattern to the pleat lines, it does not make the rest of the pattern lie flat so I can get an accurate read of a pattern for lining. Please advise. I’d much appreciate it. Thank you.



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