Flat lining
Sewing,  Tutorials

Couture explorer: Flat lining and hand felled seams

My latest obsession is Edwardian style. I love delicate lace insertions and pintucks in those pretty blouses. Then I saw the modern version of the 1898 Walking skirt by Bernadette Banner and decided that that was something that was both historically inspired and wearable. On a whim, I decided to use the historical sewing methods following Bernadette’s example. This include flat lining the skirt and making hand felled seams. Of course, these are methods that are used even today in couture garments. So, it’s time for another post in my series of Couture Explorer!

Flat lining

Flat lining is very simple lining method that was widely used in the old times. It can also be used to underline fabrics to improve drape or to make sheer fabrics opaque.

What you do, is that you cut the same pattern pieces out of both the main fabric and the lining fabric. In my skirt, the main fabric is wool and my lining fabric is cotton shirting. You place the fabrics on top of each other and threat them as one from there on.

Flat lining in progress.

It helps to baste the pattern pieces together so that they don’t shift.

What can go wrong? Well, I noticed that my usual method of cutting pattern pieces wasn’t accurate enough. Sometimes my lining went a couple of millimetres over the edge of the wool and that caused me problems later when I was finishing the seams. So, make sure that the lining edge matches the main fabric edge and trim away any excess fabric.

Furthermore, if your main fabric is thick it makes sense smooth out the lining and check the edges after you have sewn a seam, before proceeding to the next seam. It may be, that the lining fabric needs to be just slightly smaller than the main pattern piece due to the thick outer fabric.

Hand felled seams

Felled seams are familiar from jeans. The most common way to do felled seams is to do them with a machine. However, hand felling makes a beautiful seam finish that can be completely invisible from the outside.

Without flat lining, you could fell both seams together to the same side. With the flat lining I felt it was better to fell both sides of the seam separately even if that doubled the amount of sewing I had to do.

Pinning the seam allowances for felling.

First I trimmed the seam allowances of the cotton lining to about 3 or 4 mm. Then I turned the edge of the wool and pinned that in place. That was delicate work since my seam allowance was just 13 mm and the fabric frayed a lot.

The finished hand felled seam.

Then I hemmed the turned edges with tiny slip stitches. I only picked the lining fabric so that the seam line doesn’t show on the right side.

The hand felled seam finish doesn't show to the right side.

At the beginning the hand sewing went slowly. Then I used a tip from one of the Bernadette Banner’s historical sewing videos and pinned the end of the seam to my trouser knee. That allowed me to stretch the fabric straight and keep my turned seam allowance straighter. I had over 7,5 metres of hemming to do, so I had plenty of time to improve my method. I tried short and long needles and decided that the mid-lenght was the best.

About thimbles and holding a needle

I was a bit unsure what was the best way to hold my needle. While sewing my right hand automatically started holding the needle between my thumb and index finger and pushing the needle with my middle finger while my left hand held the fabric taut.

Halfway through my sewing, my middle finger started getting sore from all the needle pushing. I picked out a silver thimble that passed me from my great mother-in-law. However, that felt really cumbersome.


So, again I picked another tip from Bernadette and fashioned this little leather thimble. Basically, I just wrapped a piece of leather around the tip of my middle finger and marked the place for the seam. Then I stitched around with my sewing machine using my walking foot and a leather needle. The whole thing took less than five minutes! (I don’t know why I hold my needle in a such a weird way between my thumb and my ring finger in the picture below…)

Pushing the thimble with my middle finger. But I do hold a needle weirdly between my thumb and ring finger...

Using the leather thimble is like using my finger without a thimble but without pain. With this, felling the rest of the seams was child’s play.

Above is the picture of the skirt with all the hand felled seams properly finished and the placket inserted for the centre back opening.

Remember to come back to the blog later to see the finished skirt! Subscribe to the notifications if you haven’t already done so to get a reminder when I post! Thank you for reading and happy sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: