examples of fabrics used for interfacings and linings

Interfacings and linings

This A-Z guide to interfacing and lining fabrics – from clothes-press – covers the different kinds of underlying fabric layers used in clothing, fabric properties and main uses in sewing.

Clothing is often made up of multiple layers of fabric. There are four kinds of underlying fabric layers that you may come across:

  • Interfacing – used to stabilise and stiffen the garment fabric where it’s needed such as on the wrong side of facings and collars.
  • Lining - this is a separate layer of silky fabric sewn inside a garment. It hides raw edges, internal seams and darts and provides a slippery surface which makes clothes easier to get on and off and more comfortable to wear.
  • Underlining - stitched to the inside of a garment to stop darts and seams from showing on the right side of sheer (semi-transparent) fabrics and to add support to loosely woven fabrics.
  • Interlining - a separate layer of soft, fluffy fabric that’s inserted between the inside of a garment and the lining. Most often used on coats and jackets to add warmth and padding.

Interfacing fabric types

Interfacings can be woven or non-woven, sew-in or iron-on and come in a range of different weights. What you will most likely come across in fabric shops is iron-on, non-woven interfacing. The most common colours for interfacings are white, cream, grey and black.

Non-woven interfacings

  • Iron-on interfacing - this gives a firm but soft base and can be light-, medium- or heavy-weight. Lightweight iron-on interfacing is best used for lightweight cottons, wools and polyester fabrics. Medium-weight is best for light- to medium-weight crisp cottons and cotton blends. Finally, heavy-weight interfacing is used for waistbands and for medium- to heavy-weight cotton fabrics and blends.
  • Knitted iron-on - also called stretch iron-on. This is a stretchy interfacing which is used for cotton and polyester jersey and knits.
  • Sew-in interfacing - again, this is a firm but soft fabric and can be light-, medium- or heavy-weight. Lightweight sew-in is used for lightweight cottons, velvets, polyesters and metallic fabrics. Medium-weight is best used for light- to medium-weight corduroys, velvets and metallic fabrics, and heavy-weight sew-in is used for heavy-weight wool, gabardine and coating fabrics.

Woven interfacings

There are a whole load of different traditional woven interfacings used in tailoring and couture garments. Have a look at McCulloch and Wallis’s comprehensive selection if you are interested in that kind of thing.  Iron-on non-woven interfacings are more generally used in home dressmaking but, for completeness, the more common woven interfacings include:

  • Hair canvas - this is a heavy-weight canvas. It’s used mainly in tailoring of coats and jackets.
  • Iron-on cotton interfacing – commonly used for backing cotton and woollen fabrics. It’s made in a variety of different weights and is generally available in either black or white.
  • Lawn - lightweight cotton fabric used on both lightweight wool and cotton fabrics.
  • Organdie - this is a very lightweight cotton fabric suitable as an interfacing for fine and transparent fabrics.
  • Organza - a very lightweight, transparent stiff, silk fabric that’s sometimes used as an interfacing on very fine, sheer fabrics.

Lining fabric types

You can buy lining material in a wide range of colours so you can either choose a colour that matches the garment fabric (go for a darker rather than lighter tone if you can’t find a good match) or can pick a contrasting colour if you prefer. Lining fabrics usually have a silky surface and are generally made from silk, polyester, viscose, acetate or rayon. When you’re choosing a lining fabric, make sure that its washing care requirements are compatible with the garment fabric – it would be a bit of a pain to put a dry-clean-only silk lining into a machine-washable cotton jacket. Good options for lining fabrics include:

  • Acetate - a lightweight, soft synthetic fabric which drapes well and has a shiny, lustrous surface. Tends to be dry clean only.
  • Habutai silk – also called China silk. Plain-weave, glossy silk fabric with a soft handle. Hand wash or dry clean.
  • Polyester lining – lightweight, soft plain-weave synthetic fabric which is often made in the style of habutai silk. It has a shiny surface and drapes well. Generally machine washable on a gentle cycle.

Underlining fabric types

There are no specific underlining fabrics as it really depends on what’s suitable for the garment you’re making. In general, underlining should be soft and lightweight so as not to interfere with the drape of the garment. If you’re backing a lace fabric, then satin, crêpe-de-Chine or a lining fabric are all good choices.

Interlining fabric types

  • Cotton domette - also called lightweight domette. Soft, fluffy, coarsely-woven cotton fabric used as an interlining for curtains but also for tailored garments, wedding dresses and millinery.
  • Fleecy domette – also called icewool, macfleece and eskimo. Soft knitted fabric, generally a wool-acrylic blend, that’s used to add warmth to dresses made from lightweight fabrics and to pad jackets and quilting.
  • Polyester wadding – this is a bulky lightweight padding available in various weights and is generally used for quilting.
  • Wool - soft fabric made from pure wool or a wool-acrylic mix is sometimes used as an interlining on wool jackets and coats.

Where to find more detailed information on fabric types

Online resources

  • Google images – I find this is the best place to get a quick idea of what any of the fabrics look like

Books for more in-depth information

  • The Sewing Book – of all the general sewing books I’ve read, I think this one has the best guide to fabric with excellent photos

Read more on clothes-press

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