How to Add a Lining To Your Sewing Project (Expert Tips!)

how to add lining

How to Add a Lining To Your Sewing Project

Adding a lining is an advanced skill all sewers should learn. Lining a bag, dress, skirt, or jacket adds stability and can also increase comfort and warmth. Although it may seem daunting, adding a lining is not as difficult as you might think. 

It must be said, however, that writing a how-to about putting in a lining is challenging. I began by reading multiple articles on the subject, and after decades of sewing, I still didn’t understand some of them. I think for this article, I will try to list simple steps to follow. I apologize ahead of time if it still seems hard to grasp.

Consider the Finished Product

My first piece of advice is to consider how you want the finished garment to look. What kind of lining do you have in mind? Some questions to consider include:

  • Will the lining hang loosely like a garment in a garment, or will it be attached to the inside like a second layer of the main fabric?
  • Do you need to line the sleeves of the dress or top or just the body?
  • What kind of fabric will work best for the item to be lined?
  • Are you lining formal or casual wear?

Adding Lining To Handbags

I’ll be talking primarily about garment linings in this article, but I want to mention bag linings briefly. I recently crocheted a large bag to take to the farmer’s market, etc. Since it is crocheted, things can easily stick through the stitching and be lost or damaged.

My solution was to use a fairly dense, stretchy fabric as a lining. Since the fabric was stretchy, all I had to do was cut out a piece big enough to fill the bag and hand stitch it around the edges. That how easy a lining can sometimes be.

Cut the lining from the same pattern if you’re making a fabric bag from a pattern. Don’t line the handle. Sew the body lining pieces together as a second bag, then insert the lining inside the main bag, wrong sides together. Turn the top edge of the lining under on the inside of the bag so it is not visible from the outside and pin it in place. Slip stitch by hand, or topstitch by machine.

 With some patterns, you may be able to join the purse body and lining with the right sides together, then stitch around the top seam, leaving a small opening to pull right side out. Slip stitch the opening shut, and you have a professional-looking lined handbag. This method is actually called “bagging” and will be mentioned again for garment lining.

The Best Lining Fabrics

Many types of fabric can be used for linings. But some are more common or appropriate for formal or casual or for lining a bag versus a garment. 

Natural fibers are generally recommended for linings since they feel better against the skin and are more durable. The expense can be a factor when lining some types of garments, however. Visiting any but the most elite garment shops will reveal that polyester is as prevalent as silk. Sateen may not be as luxurious, but it can help keep your budget alive and well in the long run.

  • Cotton: Cotton is great for casual summer jackets and dresses. It’s lightweight, breathable, and available in massive color/print choices.
  • Silk/Crepe de Chine: There’s nothing like the feel of authentic silk against the skin. Silk is used to line dressier jackets and formalwear. However, silk is pricey and can be hard to obtain in the correct color. As mentioned above, many professional sewers will use a sateen-type fabric instead.
  • Wool flannel: Wool fabric is not necessarily a good choice for a lining in direct contact with the skin. It tends to collect static and can be itchy, greatly lessening comfort. However, it is used for lining outerwear, such as heavy winter coats. 

Wool can also be used as an underlining–a layer between the outer fabric and a softer 

cotton flannel or other lining fabric. Wool insulates and adds warmth, even when wet, 

making it ideal for winter wear.

  • Thinsulate: Thinsulate can also be used as a lining or underlining for maximum warmth. It’s used in sports jackets or coveralls, but consider how much bulk will be added before using this material.
  • Fleece or furry: Fleece is warm, insulating, and can be used to line casual denim or other heavier-weight fabrics. It can be extended to fold onto the outside around sleeve, hood, and pocket edges for an extra splash of color or style. 

Types of Linings and How to Use Them

Bagging Method

The bagging method is used to line a garment as one would line a handbag. Cut out the lining the same as the pattern for this method. Do not cut out facings unless you want them as an extra piece to cover the lining at garment openings.

  1. Construct the entire lining as you would the outer garment. There will be no facings at the neck or armholes in sleeveless garments. Leave any zipper seam open to be tacked under later. This can be your opening for turning as well.
  2. With right sides together, stitch the lining to the garment’s edges, leaving an opening to pull the garment right side out.
  3. Turn the garment right side out and slip-stitch the opening closed. Press.

Although it may seem simple, the bagging method can become confusing. It is often necessary to turn the garment in and out several times to attach different sections. There is also no extra ease for the lining in the arm hole area, and hem placement may not be as desired. 

Still, bagging is an excellent way to line simple dresses and children’s clothing. Bagging may not be the best method for patterns with collars or other extra pieces.

Hand Setting Method

When cutting out a lining pattern for hand setting, add a ¼-½ inch to the lining’s top shoulder edges. This will give more ease and comfort under the arms, where the lining will hang slightly below the outer fabric. Add a similar easement to the sleeve lining edges where the seam will be.

  1. Assemble the body and sleeves of the lining separately. Leave an open seam for zippers, which will be turned under and hand stitched.
  2. Machine stitch the body lining around the neck. If there’s no collar, sew with right sides together, then turn right side out. If a collar will be added, stitch with wrong sides together about ¼ inch from the raw edge.
  3. Slip the sleeve lining over the garment’s sleeves. Machine stitch the lower edge of the sleeve lining to the garment sleeve, right sides together. If you cut the sleeve lining a little shorter than the main sleeves–a half inch is good–it will pull a bit of the main fabric inside for a hemline.
  4. Pull the lining off the outside and tuck it inside the sleeve.
  5. Turn the garment inside out and hand stitch the sleeve lining to the body lining so it is loose inside the outer garment layer.
  6. Set the lining hem length by hand. It may be machine tacked down so that it is turned up inside the main body’s hem, or it can be hemmed separately 1-2 inches shorter than the main body’s hem so that it hangs loose but invisible.

Although it is a bit more time-consuming than bagging, hand setting is a much easier method for beginners. There is also the plus of having more control over the easement beneath arms and the choice of hemlines.


Detachable linings are most often used for all-weather outerwear, such as coats or coveralls.

They are made by cutting out the body only of the pattern, cutting the arm and neck openings larger, and shortening the lining by several inches. 

Detachable linings do not usually include sleeves, but it is not totally unheard of. If you add sleeves to a detachable lining, be sure to add as much easement to the sleeve pattern piece as to the body armhole.

  1. Assemble lining pieces according to pattern directions.
  2. Finish edges with binding tape or matching bias tape
  3. Add loops at shoulders and sleeve ends.
  4. Place buttons on the garment interior to match loops so the lining can be attached and detached as needed.

Detachable linings are not difficult to make. However, they are best used only on loose-fitting clothing, as they do add bulk. 

Channel Style Lining

I admit I have never attempted a channel lining. They are extremely time-consuming, with lots of hand sewing involved. Channel linings are used to add structure to easily-frayed materials, such as boucle or tweed. 

Channel linings are appropriate for a slouchy look, such as is found with a cardigan-style jacket. But the style can also be used for more formal clothing by more experienced sewers.

The secret to channel lining is using outside fabric with a large enough weave not to show very much of the quilting. There is an online video that explains the process pretty well by a lady named Angela Wolf, a fashion designer and online instructor.  

The Importance of Ease and Other Tidbits

Some patterns are more fitted than others. There may be a need to add an inner pleat to the back lining of a jacket or skirt lining so that it doesn’t pull too tightly as the body moves. As a rule of thumb, add some easement if there’s any question. 

Add 1-2 inches to the back lining of a jacket or skirt. Add the same amount to the front of a skirt if needed. Line up the side seams and fold the extra into a pleat at the center back of a jacket and the center back and front darts on a skirt.

The inside lining of a skirt can also be gathered, creating the effect of wearing a half slip beneath the garment. Skirt linings should be attached around the top before adding the waistband. If a lining is added to a premade skirt, hand sew or stitch-in-the-ditch along the bottom of the waistband. 

Turn under and stitch around zippers, or leave a large enough lining opening that a narrow hem along the lining will suffice and not become entangled when taking the garment on and off.

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