What are facings? Facings are used to give a professional finish by finishing the raw edges of a garment. You’ll find facings on:
- Hems of skirts, dresses, jackets and sleeves
- Openings of jackets and coats too.
They can be purely functional, in that they keep the garment clean and professionally finished, or that can be decorative too. As decorative facings, they may also be cut as a bias strip in a contrasting fabric and stitched to the garment edge.
Facings can be cut to size or ‘grown on’ and folded over to the wrong side.
Whichever way a facing is cut, it is stitched on with right sides together, and folded over to the wrong side so that the right side of your chosen fabric is visible when you take a peek inside.
- You may need to stay stitch or tape an edge before attaching a facing, to make sure it doesn’t stretch out.
- Facings are cut on the same grain line as your garment, so that no twisting occurs.
- Facings provide support as well as being a great way to finish a garment, therefore it is important to consider how you would stabilize the facing – iron on interfacing or sew-in interfacing?
- As the multiple seam allowances of the garment and the facing can end up quite bulky, it is important to grade the allowances so that there is less bulkiness.
- If a heavy fabric is being used – such as on coats and jackets – be sure to use a grown on facing if it is a straight edge, as this will help to eliminate a bulky front seam.
Neckline facings can be shaped to match the seam edge being faced.
- A garment with a centre back opening would have one front neck facing and two back neck facings.
- A garment with a centre front opening would have one back neck facing and two front neck facings.
- Also, the front opening of a garment – say a jacket as an example – could have a neckline facing and a grown-on front edge facing.
Neck facing only
This is the most widely used facing, and is cut to the same shape as the neckline. It is essential to make sure the width of the facing is the right amount for your garment; too narrow and it could pop out and be visible, too wide and it could be quite restrictive.
I usually opt for 6cm (2 ⅜ inches) at the centre front and narrowing down to about 4cm (1 ⅝ inches) on the shoulder and centre back.
Once drawn and cut out, you would decide whether the facing needed interfacing, and apply if so. Then you sew the font and back facings together at the shoulder seams (with right side together), press the seams open, and then lay the facing on top of the garment, again right sides together, and carefully pin to match the seams up.
Using your chosen seam allowance, stitch along the stitch line. Press the seam open, and then up into the facing. Turn the sewing so that it is right side up and retain stitch close to the previous stitch line, on the side of the facing. This will keep everything nicely in place.
Front and neck facing combo
For those pieces which have a front (or back) opening, you can face all in one piece, rather than having a seam in you facing at the centre front neckline, and attached it to the back neck facing at the shoulder seams.
Again, you would measure the amount of facing you need on your original pattern. I would go for 6cm (2 ⅜ inches) down the centre front, depending on the garment type of course. I would blend this line into a 6cm (2 ⅜ inches) facing at the front neckline, with a neat cover rather than a sharp corner. Then it would continue up to the shoulder seam where I would use my 4cm (1 ⅝ inches) on the shoulder and around to the centre back.
The all in one front and neck facing is seamed with the back at the shoulder.
For jackets and other garments with a straight edge, the facing can connect up to the neckline facing as a one piece ‘grown on’ facing. What does this mean? It means that your front panels wouldn’t be cut along the seam allowance of your front edge, but instead, extended outwards to incorporate the facing too.
This isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and is a great way to lessen the number of steps involved. However, it is only possible on a straight edge.
To make the pattern, you fold the pattern at the from edge under. Draw the facing onto the pattern, and trace it through to the under paper using a tracing wheel. When this paper is folded back out, you can see that you have a symmetrical facing area which is exactly matching the neckline of your garment.
Finishing the facing edge
In a manufacturing unit, the raw edge of the facing would mostly be overlocked to prevent fraying. If lining is not going to be attached to my facings, I like to edge stitch them or if a very clean finish is required, bind them with bias binding.
As someone sewing at home with limited supplies, you could also use pinking shears and a line of stay stitching.
Headsup: Neckline facings can also be cut all in one with armhole facings, for when garments have no sleeves and need a nice finish. I’ll cover that below in the Armhole Facings section.
If you are making a garment that has no sleeves, you will need to add a facing to your armhole, to have a nice clean finish.
This armhole facing could be cut as:
- One piece with only one seam at the underarm
- As two pieces with seams at the underarm and shoulder
- As two pieces incorporating the neckline facing too, and seamed at the shoulder and underarm also.
Armhole Facing Notes
- Armhole facings should be stabilised with interfacing for added support.
- Use the suggestions early on in this piece on finishing the raw edge of the facings.
One Piece Armhole Facing
To make the pattern for a one piece armhole facing, you would line up your front and back patterns at the shoulder, and tape together. Mark in a line – at a consistent width – all around the armhole, from back side seam, up to the shoulder and around to the front side seam.
Trace this off, add seam allowances and cut out. This is your one piece armhole facing.
You now need to cut one pair in fabric and one pair in fusing. Once the fabric is interfaced, you can sew the side seams of the facing together. Lay the facing on top of the garment, right sides together, and stitch using your chosen seam allowance.
You then press the seam allowances open, then towards the facing, and retain stitch from the right side of the facing, through the seam allowances.
Two Piece Armhole Facing.
- To make the pattern for your two piece armhole facing, you use both your front and back garment pattern pieces but unlike before where you connected them at the shoulder, you can just trace off the shapes individually. Make sure the width of your facing is consistent though.
- You would then prepare these two pieces as your would the one piece, and sew together at the shoulder seams and the side seams. Press the seams open so that they lie flat and are less bulky.
- Lay the facings on top of the garment armholes, right sides together. Make sure both the shoulder seams and the side seams are matching up nicely, pin and stitch using your chosen seam allowance.
- Press, and retain stitch as above.
All in One Armhole and Neckline Facing
This is a much simpler way to make a facing, but a lot trickier to sew and implement. It takes practise. The first time I attempted this, it was a disaster! 🙂
Also, it does require some hand sewing to get a beautiful finish, but trust me, its worth it!
HEADSUP: It requires you to have not yet sewn your shoulder seams together
The pattern piece itself is simple to create. You trace off the top part of the front and back pieces,making sure to follow the neckline, shoulder, armhole. Trace 4-5cm along the side seam and square out a centimetre before curving the line upwards, following the armhole line slightly and then across towards the neckline.
We need to make sure it is not intercepting the bust point, otherwise a dart may be required to suppress the fabric. Do the same for the back, remembering where your garment opens and allowing for this.
It is a good idea to have the facing sections a millimetre or two smaller than the garment pieces. Similar to how we would make a collar, if the facings are slightly smaller, they will naturally roll under when attached to the garment, for a nicer finish.
Once you have your pattern pieces for the front and back, cut them out, stabilise them and sew them together at the side seams only. (Unless your garment opening is at the side seam.)
- Press the seams open so they lie flat.
- Now place the garment inside the facing, with the right side facing each other.
Pin together around the neckline and armholes, leaving your shoulders open.
- This is important. (It’s where I messed up time and time again as a beginner!)
- Now, stitch around your necklines, stopping and backstitching at the shoulder seam points. Also sew around the armholes, again stopping and back stitching at the shoulder seams. Note that your shoulder facings and shoulder garment sections are still lose and flapping about.
- Grade and clip in your seam allowances, as the curves will look better when clipped.
- Press the facing seams and retain stitch along the neckline and armholes on the facing side, and as far as you possibly can towards the shoulder seams.
- Turn the facing through so wrong side of the garment is now facing the wrong side of the facing, and press nicely.
- Place the right sides of front and back shoulders together so that the facings sides are facing outwards on both sides. Stitch along the shoulder seam as per your chosen seam allowance, and then trim the seam allowance. Carefully press this seam allowance open, and make sure they are tucked inside the facing, so not visible.
- Trim the shoulder facing seam allowance down to 6mm (2/8 inch). Tuck the back facing shoulder inside, towards the front. Turn the 6mm seam allowance of the front shoulder facing over, so that you have a lovely clean edge, and hand stitch the folded front facing edge to the back facing piece.
- This sounds more complicated than it is, but is so worth putting into practise for the more professional and clean finish it will give you.
A waistline facing is super easy and helps to neaten up a skirt. It can be cut in the same fabric, or something contrasting, depending on how much of a feature you wish to make it. If you are creating a heavier winter skirt, you might want to add a more lightweight facing so that it isn’t so bulky along the waistline.
The pattern for a waistline facing is cut much in the same way as a neckline facing, in that we trace it off as a shaped facing. To do this, we trace along the waistline edge, back and front, and approximately 8cm (3 ⅛ inches) down the side seams. I like this wider facing on my skirts as it stops it from rolling up, but you are free to chose your own facing width of course.
- Don’t forget to consider where the zipper opening will go!
- Cut this out in both your chosen fabric and your stabiliser.
- Sew the facing together along the side seams if you have a centre back opening, or just the one side seam if you have a side seam opening. Press the seams open.
- Lay the facing on top of the garment, right sides together, and stitch with your chosen seam allowance along the waistline. Press the seam allowance up into the facing, and retain stitch.
- Turn the facing down and press for a nice finish.
When attaching the facing to the zipper opening, use a needle and thread to hand stitch it for a much neater finish.
Hems are usually finished by turning and stitching, or pin hemming. Sometimes however, we’d like something a tad snazzier. This is when a hen facings can come into play.
In the same way that we cut a shaped neckline facing, and a shaped waistline facing, we would also cut a shaped hemline facing.
To do this, we disregard any hem allowance incorporated into the pattern (often 2-4cm) and add only our usual seam allowance 1.5cm (⅝ inch). We trace this new hemline, and extend up the side seams a couple of centimetres and run the line parallel to the hemline.
Cut in chosen fabric, stitch together at side seams and press open. Place right side of facing on top of the right side of the hem and stitch using your chosen seam allowance amount. Press the seam, retain stitch along the facing side, and press upwards.
Finally, hand stitch the edge of the facing to the garment, so that it doesn’t drop down and become visible. You could also use a matching thread colour and machine stitch the edge of the facing from the right side of the garment.
It is also possible to add facings in other ways. A yoke on a shirt could be called a facing, when it is cut as a pair. A garment opening that uses a placket, could also use a facing underneath.
A design detail which needs containing could use a facing underneath as the ‘containing’ element.
Facings are fantastic ways to give a professional finish to our creations, and I strongly recommend trying out the different variations here.
At some point in the future, I’ll go into making a tailored jacket with a contrasting facing collar / rever. Some of the effects are rather fun!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.