Chapt 12 - Finishing Edges
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Table of Contents ] Chapt 1 - Fabric ] Chapt 2 - Tools and Equipment ] Chapt 3 - The Sewing Machine ] Chapt 4 - Patterns ] Chapt 5 - Pressing ] Chapt 6 - Marking The Fabric ] Chapt 7 - Preparing to Begin ] Chapt 8 - Seams ] Chapt 9 - Seam Finishes ] Chapt 10 - Stabilization ] Chapt 11 - Control of Fullness ] [ Chapt 12 - Finishing Edges ] Chapt 13 - Hand Sewing ] Chapt 14 - Closures ] Chapt 15 - Body Measurements ] Chapt 16 - Ease In Clothing ] Chapt 17 - Pattern Alterations ] Chapt 18 - Finished Dimensions ] Chapt 19 - Common Terms ] Chapt 20 - Common Costume Fabrics ] Index of Sewing Exercises ]

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The edges of garments are finished by facings, plackets, or hems.


Facings are pieces of fabric sewn to the garment edge, turned to the inside, and sewn in place by hand or machine. Garment edges that are commonly faced are necklines, collars, cuffs, and sleeveless arms-eyes.

There are two styles of facings that are common to the costume shop, fitted and bias facings.

Fitted facings are pieces of fabric that match the area to be faced in shape and grain.

Fitted facing

Bias Facings utilize the stretch of the bias to shape the facing to the edge being faced. The stretch of bias is limited, so these facings cannot be as wide as fitted facings and are restricted on the curvature possible on the edge to be faced.

Bias facing with cord

Several steps are necessary to attaching either type of facing. These are explained below:

ENCLOSED SEAMS are those seams where both seam allowances are covered. in this case, on one side by the facing and on the other by the garment. The seam allowances of any enclosed seam are GRADED (Layered) to reduce bulk which enhances the visual appearance of the finished garment. If the facing has been applied to a curved edge, CLIPPING must be done. The final step in attaching a facing is the UNDER-STITCHING.

Grading is the process of cutting the seam allowance to two different widths.

Clipping is cutting into the seam allowance at right angles to the stitching. This permits the seam allowance to expand or contract to conform to the shape of the surface piece When sewing with heavy fabrics, such as corduroy, denim, or upholstery fabrics, clipping is actually tiny v-shaped notches, which reduces the bulk and allows the facing to conform to the desired shape. It is important to carefully clip, cuts should be right up to, but not through the stitching.

Under-stitching is the process of sewing the seam allowances to the facing. Under-stitching is done to help the facing and enclosed seam lie flat and gives a sharp edge. When correctly placed the under-stitching does not show on the outside of the garment.


Plackets are openings necessary so the garment will go over heads, shoulders, hips, and hands and still fit closely around necks, waists, and wrists. Less common combinations requiring plackets are feet, ankles, and knees.
The insertion of a placket finishes a garment edge. The type of placket used on a garment is chosen to accommodate the type of closures and the visual appearance desired. All plackets restore the garment to its original lines when completed and closures are functional.

bulletInseam plackets are those that are attached on a seam edge, such as CB or CF.

Inseam placket


Slash plackets are used in the middle of a single garment piece, such as long fitted sleeves.

Slashed packet / Continuous lap placket

There are two parts to every placket:

bulletPlacket underlay which is an extension of the garment beyond the seam line that lies on the inside of the garment. The placket underlay is not visible on the surface of the garment when the placket is closed and fastened. Placket underlays are interfaced for added stability. 
bulletPlacket extensions finish the seam edge and are folded to the inside of the garment in most cases. Generally placket extensions are not interfaced.
Placket extension folded back inside garment


Hems are formed by folding the fabric on the garment edge to the inside and by machine or hand sewing it in place. Hems are used on the edges of garments that do not need the support of a facing, these commonly are the lower edges of skirts, trousers, blouses, shirts, and uncuffed sleeves.

bulletMachine Hems are quick to do and provide a great deal of durability Because the distance between the audience and actor is usually great machine hems are very common on costumes. Following are four common machine hems:
bulletShirttail hems are very narrow hems that are top stitched close to the roll line. Shirttail hems are commonly found in blouses and shirts, pajamas, casual clothing, and on very full garments.

Machine hem - shirttail

bulletStandard machine hems have a hem depth anywhere from 1" to 3". These are used where great durability is necessary or when the actor to audience distance is great. The process of marking, pinning, and stitching a machine hem is identical to a hand hem, except the hem edge is top stitched in place.
bulletBlind hems are done on a industrial blind hemmer which uses a clear nylon thread. Blind hems are not as durable as machine hems, but they give the appearance of a hand hem in about half the time.
bulletHollywood or Lettuce hems are ideal for lightweight or sheer fabrics or very full garments. This hem only requires about a 1/4" hem depth, so it is often used if a costume has to be altered. If a stay stitching row is used prior to hemming, the finished garment has a smooth, flat edge. By elimination of the stay stitching, a soft, ruffled edge is produced, thus the name lettuce hem.

Machine hem - lettus/Hollywood

bulletHand Hems take much longer and more skill to successfully produce, but give a soft, tailored appearance. When taking the additional time to complete a hand hem, keep the following in mind:
bulletThe hem should be totally invisible from the right side of the garment.
bulletThe hem depth should be appropriate for the fabric and garment edge. The hem depth should be even all around the garment. A standard rule is, the fuller the garment, the narrower the hem.
bulletHemming stitches should be evenly spaced and securely attached to the fabric, but should not be pulled tightly.
bulletThe type of stitch used should be carefully considered. Take into account (1) nature and weight of the fabric, (2) location of hem on the garment (i.e. trouser hems need to more durable than a street length skirt) and (3) durability.
bulletHand hemming should always be done with a single strand of thread. The hem can be made strong by using small, evenly spaced stitches, not by pulling tightly on the stitches or using double thread.

There are a variety of stitches commonly used for hand hems on costumes. These stitches are explained in detail in the hand sewing section of the book.

Hand hems -blind, lock, cross stitches

horizontal rule

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