Sewing a facing onto a garment neckline can be a tricky task, especially if you want to achieve a perfect and professional join across the top of a zip at the centre back. In my latest video and blog post I share the tips and techniques that I teach in my classes: How To: Sewing a Facing (with invisible zipper).
To enable you to attach a facing onto a garment you will need to have sewn up the required seams (generally shoulders and centre back) to create a circle around the neck. The neckline of the garment will need to be stabilised to prevent stretching, complete a stay stitch (stitch length 1.5mm in the seam allowance (1/2″ (1.2cm))) or use strips of fusible interfacing around the neck edge.
You will also need to prepare the corresponding facing pieces. You may have a one piece facing that will extend from the centre front of the garment through to the centre back, or a facing with seams at the shoulders (like the example here). Cut the facing out of the fabric and mark notches. The facing will need to be interfaced on the wrong side of the fabric. This will help to support the garment and create a neat finish around the neckline. Use a lightweight woven interfacing for best results.
If you are working with an overlocker or serger I would recommend finishing the edges of the shoulders and centre back of the facing before sewing them together on the sewing machine. Do not trim any fabric off as this will affect the seam allowances.
Stitch the facing together at the shoulder seams (be careful that you don’t flip the back pieces and sew the centre back to the shoulder), match notches and markings. Press open. If you are working with pinking shears or a overcast / zigzag stitch on the sewing machine finish the edges of the fabric.
You may also finish the larger curved (bottom) edge of the facing with your choice of finishing method.
Invisible zipper with facing
The placement of the invisible zipper is important to help achieve a perfect finish at the centre back. Place the invisible zipper 1/8″ to 1/4″ (3mm to 6mm) lower than seam allowance along the neck edge of the garment (depending on fabric thickness). This will help to prevent a bulky opening at the top of the zipper once the facing has been attached.
Measure down the extra amount on top of the original seam allowance and mark with chalk when inserting the invisible zipper. If you are new to working with invisible zippers and want to learn how to introduce them into a garment check out my YouTube tutorial: How To: Sewing Invisible Zipper.
Position the facing onto the garment with the RIGHT sides of the fabric together, matching the raw edges of the fabric. Match the shoulder seams or markings (make sure the seam allowances are open). Use a clover fork pin to create a perfect match, check out our YouTube tutorial to learn how: How To: Sewing a Facing (with invisible zipper).
Next match the centre front of the facing to the centre front of the garment. Work from middle point to middle point of the pinned sections to ease the layers of fabric together. If you have a discrepancy between the layers of fabric, check the width of the seam allowances on the facing and body of the garment, are these correct? Did you remember to stay stitch or interface the neck edge of the garment? Because the garment neckline is curved the edge features the bias of the fabric, this can stretch with handling.
Ease the layers together as required. You are welcome to baste or tack the two layers together if this makes the process easier.
At the centre back fold the zipper out flat and match the centre back of the garment to the centre back of the facing.
Sewing a facing
At the sewing machine start sewing across the top of the zipper, using the seam allowance requested by your pattern. Stitch around the whole of the facing, working accurately. You are welcome to draw the stitching line onto the fabric if required; use chalk or a removable pen.
When you near the end of the facing you will need to make sure that you sew over the zipper at the same point on both the start and end of the zip. I often position the start of the zipper against the end of the zip whilst sewing to check this is correct, alternatively draw a marking onto the fabric.
Before moving on to trim and grade the facing I recommend that you check the top of the zipper. Check that the facing matches at the top of the zipper. If this doesn’t match un-pick one side and re-do.
Trimming & grading a facing
Once you are happy with the facing and how it has been sewn over the top of the zip it is time to trim, grade and clip into the seam allowances. The amount that you need to trim and grade will depend on the fabric you are working with. Lightweight fabrics may only require clipping but as this is a case by case situation I have explained the whole process in this tutorial.
When grading a seam you must trim the seam allowance that is furthest away from the top of the garment (when the garment is being worn and the facing is sitting inside the garment). In this example it will mean that the seam allowance of the facing must be trimmed smaller than the seam allowance of the garment body.
Trim the facing seam allowance to approximately 1/8″ (3mm) and the garment seam allowance to double the first, 1/4″ (5mm).
Clip into the curves to release the fabric and create a flat finish once the facing is pressed to the inside. The number of clips required will depend on how curved the neckline is a bigger curve = more clips.
As we are working with a concave shape you will need to clip straight into the seam allowance. I personally clip into the seam allowances separately and stagger my clips so as not to create an area of weakness in the seam.
Understitch a facing
Once the neckline has been clipped and trimmed as required it is now time to understitch the neckline. Understitching will be completed on the facing side of the neckline, approximately 1/8″ (3mm) from the seam that joins the neckline to the body of the garment. When completing understitching ALL of the seam allowances should be pushed TOWARDS the facing so that they are caught up in the stitching.
This technique will help to hold the facing down towards the inside of the garment and create a neat, flat finish.
Start stitching on the machine AFTER the zipper and STOP before the zipper at the other end. Use a standard 2.5mm stitch length on the sewing machine. I personally use an inside edge of my foot to enable accurate stitching (1/8″ (3mm) away from the seam between the garment and the facing). If you don’t have a suitable edge on your presser foot you could try using an appliqué or open toe foot (see if you have one of these in your machine accessories box) alternatively move the needle to enable you to use the outside edge of the foot as a guide.
Press the facing towards the inside of the garment. From the facing side make sure that you can see a tiny bit of the right side of the garment visible around the neckline. This will make sure that you cannot see any of the facing from the right side of the garment. Use a pressing cloth if required.
Finish the facing around the invisible zipper
There are two dressmaking methods that I generally teach to finish the edge of the facing along the invisible zipper. I also personally use another method that I will share in a up and coming video – for a slightly more professional technique.
The first method is to complete the finishing by hand. This is the easiest method and most suited to new dressmakers wanting to achieve a beautiful finish on the outside of the garment.
Start from the wrong side of the garment. Fold the centre back seam and zipper towards the inside (the zipper will want to sit like this naturally) along the stitching line. Complete the same for the facing, fold the seam allowance towards the inside.
Fold the facing down on top of the zipper. The fold line along the top edge will be where you pressed previously, with the facing not visible from the front of the garment.
Pin in position. The facing should end about halfway down the centre of the zipper tape. Make sure that the facing is sitting flat from the shoulder through to the centre back and you don’t have any extra fabric present.
This will be hand sewn in position using a invisible slip stitch. Watch the tutorial on YouTube showing you how this is completed: How To: Sewing a Facing (with invisible zipper).
Another method is to finish the edge of the facing on the machine. For this method take the back of the garment with the zipper open, RIGHT side of the fabric facing up. Fold the facing RIGHT sides together on top of the zipper with the centre back edges matching.
Stitch on the sewing machine from the top of the neck edge down through the centre of the zipper tape to the bottom of the facing. You need to be careful how close you sew to the zipper on the zipper tape. This depends on the size of the zip you are working with as generally the zipper pull needs space to move along the teeth in larger zips.
With an invisible zip you can sew about halfway down the zipper tape (approximately 3/8″ (1cm) away from the edge of the fabric, when using a 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance).
To achieve a neat finish you will need to remove the top corner. This will create two new angles, remove these corners as well. Depending on your fabric you may need to grade the seam allowances.
Turn the corner around and use a point turner to poke out the fabric. Press.
Stitch by hand across the bottom of the facing to hold it onto the zipper if required, use an invisible slip stitch.
Finally attached the facing to any suitable seams on the inside of the garment, here I am working with the shoulder seams. Stitch with a figure of eight tack. Check out the video to see this in action: How To: Sewing a Facing (with invisible zipper).
There you have it, a perfectly finished facing with an invisible zipper. I really hope you enjoyed this post and the corresponding YouTube tutorial. If you have any questions please shout!