Just like neckline facings, armhole facings are a great way to add a clean, tailored look to a sleeveless garment. Facings are usually used on more medium to heavy weight fabrics that have more structure. Armhole facings in particular, provide a more elevated look that may not be appropriate for casual wear but are rather applied to more tailored garments. They are commonly found in business-wear on structured dresses, tailored vests and sleeveless tops.
Armhole facings are comprised of a back facing and a front facing. You should always cut two of each front and back patterns since you'll need a facing for each armhole (unless you're sewing a one-shoulder garment).
As always, the facing is sewn together and clean finished first, then it is attached to the garment. Armhole facings can be a little confusing for the sewing beginner because:
1. The two armhole facings have to be the mirror reflection of one another, and
2. The front and back facing patterns are a similar shape which can get a little confusing when sewing the front and back together properly.
Going back to the basics, always remember that anytime you sew a seam, the face of both fabric layers should always be touching- this essential rule will come in handy when aligning the armhole facings.
When it comes to differentiating between the front and back facing pieces, always remember that the back facing piece is always larger/longer than the front. When putting together the armhole facing, making sure the two facing pieces being matched (front and back) are a different size and the right sides of the fabric are touching will confirm that you are sewing the facing correctly.
Cutting and Sewing an Armhole Facing
Drafting an armhole facing sewing pattern is quite easy and very similar to that of a neckline facing. You can use the garment's patterns as a starting point. Learn how to draft an armhole sewing pattern from scratch here.
1. Fold the fabric parallel to the selvage edge so that the face side is touching. You need to cut on a double layer of fabric because armhole facings requires two of each front and back patterns. Align the grain line of the facing patterns to the fabric's selvage edge and pin the front and back armhole facings.
For proper alignment, make sure the grain line is parallel to the selvage edge as pictured above.
2. Cut along the front and back armhole facings through both layers of fabric making sure that the curved edges are smooth and both facings are cut precisely to the sewing patterns.
You should have two mirror reflections of each front and back facing pattern.
3. Remove the pins and separate the facings. Match one of the front facings with a back facing and pin them together at the shoulder seam making sure the right side of the fabric is touching as shown above. Apply the pins perpendicular to the edge. Repeat this process with the other front and back armhole facing.
If you get a little confused about which facing is the back and which corresponds to the front, keep in mind that back armhole facing pieces are always a bit longer than front ones. Remembering this will help not only when it comes to pinning and sewing the facings, but also when aligning and sewing the finished facings to the garment's armhole.
Note: All facings are usually backed with interfacing for more stability. For the purpose of this tutorial, our facing does not have interfacing. Keep in mind that you should always add interfacing, usually cut out of the same sewing patterns, to back the inside of each armhole facing.
4. Just like you did with the shoulder seam, match and pin the bottom side seams. Pin perpendicular to the edge, ensuring that the face of both fabric layers are touching. Repeat this step for both facings.
You should have two reflecting armhole facings each having a back and a front side as pictured above. When pinned, the wrong side of the fabric should be on the outside. If the two facings' bottoms are not pointing in opposite directions but rather the same direction, then you aligned and pinned them incorrectly.
5. Sew the shoulder seams and side seams at the proper seam allowance- in our case, 1/2" seam allowance. Don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitch.
6. Once all seams are stitched, iron the facings' seams open as shown above.
7. At this point, finish the outer raw edge of each facing. Don't wait until you've sewn the facing to the garment to clean-finish the facings' raw edges- this is more difficult and less convenient to do when the facing is sewing into the armhole. We used a serging stitch to clean finish our facing which is the easiest, least expensive option if you own an overlock machine. You may use a zig zag stitch on your home sewing machine but make sure the tension balance is adjusted properly and the zig zag stitch is set at a dense setting.
For a higher quality finish, you may fold the zig zag-ed edge in once and machine stitch, use a baby hem or add binding along the raw edge.
Make sure you do not clean finish the inside edge of the facing- this edge will be sewn to the garment's armhole edge and does not require clean finishing.
8. Align the facing's shoulder seam and side seam to the garments shoulder seam and side seam respectively, making sure the face side of the facing is touching the right side of the garment. Place a pin through each seam as shown above. The seams are always the first area you should align and pin.
Always ensure that the seams are aligned and matched perfectly as shown above before pinning the rest of the facing.
11. Clip the fabric at the seam allowance along the curved areas of the armhole's edge for tension release. Use a wedge clip for the most curved area of armhole. Add a few notch clips along the less curved edge to release additional tension.
Clipping the seam allowance will allow the armhole facing to be easily folded toward the inside of the garment, maintaining a smooth flat edge throughout.
12. Once the seam allowance is clipped for tension release, iron the facing's seam with the facing pointing away from the garment. Make sure the seam allowance is pointing towards the facing as shown above.
13. Machine stitch on top of the facing, at about 1/8" from the seam. This is called under-stitching and will ensure that the facing is aligned towards the inside of the garment, maintaining a smooth, flat edge. The under-stitch is applied through the seam allowance at the back to keep it pointing towards the facing permanently- this is what keeps the facing pointing towards the inside of the garment when the facing is complete.
As pictured above, under-stitching should be applied evenly along the facing's seam. It will take some practice to achieve a smooth stitch along the most curved areas. Don't be afraid to stop and turn the fabric under the presser foot as you sew to re-align the fabric for a smoother stitch. The more you practice the easier understitching will become.
Here is what the under-stitch should look like on the back of the facing. As noted above, the seam allowance is permanently stitched towards the facing.
14. Flip the facing to the inside if the garment, rolling the edge inward slightly and iron along the armhole's edge for a flat, smooth finish.
15. Align the facing's seams to the garment's seams both at the shoulder and side seam. Place a pin through each seam line as shown above.
16. Use a hand sewing needle and thread to tack the facing in place at the seams. Sew a few loop stitches connecting the facing to the garment's seam allowance as shown above. Make sure you don't sew through the face of the garment. The stitches should only be visible on the inside of the garment and on top of the facing at the side and shoulder seams.
17. Repeat this step on both sides of every seam as displayed above. This will ensure that the facing stays on the inside of the garment during wear and through continual wash cycles.
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