Friday, May 9, 2008

The BEST way to attach lining fabric to knitting--the OVERCAST STITCH (part 5 of "hand sewing for hand knitters")

We come now to a stitch as useful to hand knitters as any stitch could well be--we come to the OVERCAST STITCH (also called the whip stitch).

This stitch has the fabulous ability to attach a LINING to KNIT FABRIC such that the lining doesn't rip out of the knit garment as soon as the knit garment is stretched.

TECHknitting has already given directions for lining a hat with a Polar fleece headband. which shows the overcast stitch in action, but this post shows the actual details of the stitch itself.

The illustration below shows a green lining being overcast stitched to a blue knitted fabric by a right handed sewer. (Click picture to enlarge.)
The close-up illustration below shows why this stitch works.(Click picture to enlarge.)

Attaching a lining to knitting is a challenge because lining is often made of WOVEN CLOTH, and woven cloth, as we know, does not stretch very much. Knitting, on the other hand, is extremely stretchy. The stitch chosen to attach such dissimilar fabrics has to--

1. hold the woven cloth in place, even when the underlying knitted fabric is stretching
2. not stop the knitted cloth from stretching
3. flexibly connect the woven cloth and the knitted fabric.

The overcast stitch gets a "A+" on all three factors. As stated in a previous post, the overcast stitch "tethers" the fabrics together rather than "nailing" them together. Look closely at the stitch in the close-up above and you'll see that the lining fabric is actually "hanging" from the knitted fabric.  In other words, the overcast stitch is acting as a little string from which the lining is "swinging." This "swing" allows the lining to adjust to the stretch of the fabric.

As the final illustration, below, shows, there is also quite a bit of thread reserve in the overcast stitch--the path of the thread resembles a coiled spring, and this coil of thread has the reserve to stretch when stressed.
And yet...although the overcast stitch works the best of all the hand sewing stitches for attaching a lining, the reserve of thread in this stitch might not be enough to stop the thread from breaking when the knitting is over-stretched.  You can mostly solve this problem by cutting the lining bigger than the garment, then sewing in the excess via little bite-sized bumps. This is called "easing in a lining." An example of easing in a lining is shown in the TECHknitting post mentioned earlier, about lining a hat, headband style, with polar fleece.

Good knitting--TK

This is part 5 of a 5 part series on hand sewing for knitters
Part 1: Starting off 
Part 2: Starting off with a doubled thread
part 3: the running stitch 
part 4: the back stitch
part 5: the overcast stitch (best way to attach lining fabric to knitting) (this post)

(You have been reading TECHknitting on: The over cast stitch--part 5 of "hand sewing for hand knitters.")


Blogger yayix said...

all i can say is WOW!

did you create the step by step instructional images on your own? you must have plenty of "free time".

keep it up!

May 14, 2008 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Ernest de Cugnac said...

I was going to comment on the illustrations too. They are fab!

May 15, 2008 at 4:06 AM  
Blogger Maria_Rilke said...

Wow, you must know a lot about knitting. Do you know anything about knitting stuff for pets? Drop by our wikifido forums sometime :)

May 15, 2008 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Marce (BrownBerry) said...

Thank goodness for bloggers like you!

May 16, 2008 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger The Ultimate Review said...

That's some awesome instructions there, thank you!

May 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM  
Blogger Knitting Rose said...

WOW = thanks for everything that you post - it is very informative and ever so helpful

May 18, 2008 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger A Little Diddy said...

wonderful step by step instructions your graphic photos are perfection! The best I have yet to see in explaining knitting.

May 19, 2008 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger photoshopguides said...

This is an outstanding learning blog. I will bookmark it and see if I can learn from it as I am working on a tutorial blog as well.

May 20, 2008 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger Praers said...

I just finished a purse and am getting ready to line it - thanks for this tip.

May 20, 2008 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

One of my friends who is in my knitting class shared your site with us. I am so glad she did, you explain things so easy to understand. Very much enjoy your subjects.

Getting ready to work on a purse and I will defintely use your tips for when I want to line it.

May 27, 2008 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

I recently lined a knitted tie using blind stitch. Would that be a good stitch to line a felted bag with? Also, does the lining have to be a woven fabric? Do you have any recommendations for nice lining fabrics? Thanks.

December 15, 2008 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

In general, is it good practice to split plies when sewing knit stitches?

I can see why sewing this way would be more invisible than going through the "regular" holes formed by knitting, but how about strength? Does the yarn hold up?

December 22, 2008 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Kim: the blind stitch is more fragile than the overcast stitch, but has the advantage of being less obvious.

Hi Dawn: I have 15 year old lined sweaters that were sewn through a split ply--children's sweaters which have been subjected to severe use --and they have stood up well to the test of time.

--Thanks for writing.


January 10, 2009 at 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Hi, I am wondering if the overcast stitch is the way that mass produced knitted hats are lined? I want to line my knitted hats as close to the knitted hats you will find at the stores.

September 29, 2009 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Lisa--commercial linings are attached to commercially knit caps in many ways, but none of them are the overcast stitch, because the overcast stitch is a stitch which can ONLY be worked by hand. Some commercial linings are sewn in with blind hem stitches, which has the same "tethering" effect as the overcast stitch, while many linings are sewn in using an ordinary serger stitch, but using a "wooly" nylon or other stretchable thread. Various other stitches are used, too, but they are stitches only on commercial sewing machines, and I don't know the names of these. Good luck with your lining!


September 29, 2009 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger KelliGoogle said...

Thank you for this. I made a scarf to my husband's specifications from a beautiful merino with a garter stitch border but the first time he wore it in the rain, it became a tight little knitted tube. Am currently lining it in polar fleece. Makes it warmer and covers the back which is not as attractive as the front.

January 6, 2010 at 4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,This is a great piece. thanks. Although I have one more question. Could tell me how can I attach a hand knit piece to a fabric as a part of a dress, like include in construction?

October 6, 2010 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--this is an interesting question, and the answer depends very much on what you are trying to attach to what, and why. An example: Knitting attached to woven fabric where one is the lining for the other is a completely different issue that knitting being one part of the garment, and the woven fabric being another part,such as a dress with a knitted bodice and woven-fabric skirt. The reason these are different (very!) things is that in the first application (kitting/woven fabric sandwich of some kind) the knitting is no longer expected to be stretchy--so any method of sewing can be used. By contrast in the second application, the knitting IS expected to remain stretchy, and therefore, the method of attachment (and the amount of ease allowed in the woven fabric) must take this into account.

If you e-mail me ( with further particulars, I can answer more fully.

Best, TK

October 7, 2010 at 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Mary L said...

Would polar fleece be good for lining a Christmas stocking too?

Thanks so much for your blog. You help me more times than you know!!

Mary L

December 30, 2010 at 5:56 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Mary: Polar fleece would be fine for an Xmas stocking in my opinion! Polar fleece is very easy to work with, so it is the default lining around here, for most purposes.

December 30, 2010 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Jessica-Jean said...

Is there any difference between the overcast stitch and the whip stitch? They seem the same to me, but I'm probably missing something.

Thank you for your helpful posts.

March 6, 2011 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Jessica-Jean--The whip and the overcast stitch are the same thing--you are quite right, and this stitch has at least one other name besides, which is hem stitch --TK

March 7, 2011 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Roberta said...

Thank you! Couldn't figure out why they both looked the same but had different names--will be using grosgrain ribbon to line the ribbed bands on a reverse stockinette cardi that rolls (of course!) to the outside in an attempt to counteract the rolling. So glad I found your blog, it's invaluable.

May 18, 2011 at 3:57 PM  
Anonymous KathleenW said...

Does anyone know where I could purchase premade liners for knit sweaters? Thanks everyone.

May 18, 2011 at 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Ebbie said...

I have a question. If you were to cut the lining fabric on the bias the lining fabric should be a little stretchier, would that be better for lining sleeves where you want the the stretch?

August 28, 2011 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Ebbie: certainly cutting fabric on the bias increases the stretch of it, so try that, for sure, if it is fabric (woven fabric, I mean) lining which you want. Otherwise, consider a knit fabric lining-such as the thin polar fleece (the thick would be too grabby for a sleeve) or a slick knit fabric, such as a sport stretch, interlock or even a thin lycra. The advantage to the knit lining is that it will stretch a LOT more than woven fabric cut on the bias, the disadvantage is that knit linings are harder to sew. Good luck! TK

August 28, 2011 at 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just attached a lining to a crocheted blanket. Thanks to your advice it has worked brilliantly.

September 29, 2011 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger Ann Marie said...

Thank you SO much for your helpful information on "tethering" vs. "nailing"... and on a multitude of other knitting topics! I visit your site often, and always come away with exactly the information I am looking for. And not just that, but also the "why", which intrigues me just as much as the "how." Thanks for your wonderfully composed illustrations, as well.

August 24, 2012 at 5:46 PM  
Blogger Jason Koh said...

Is it time now to address …

"the issue of how to cut the lining, how to provide "ease" in the lining (ie: how to make the lining enough bigger than the knitting so the lining has some "give" to it), how to seam the lining and how to hem the lining" ?

Looking ahead, I am planning to line a knitted pouch with silk.

November 16, 2012 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Jason--you'd think it would be time, wouldn't you, since it has been several years, but I keep juggling that post around, waiting until some related material gets posted, so...sadly, it's all still on hold. One day. Sorry to be disappointing, TK

November 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

I'm working on an infant dress which includes silk lining. The dress is finished. Trying to line the dress was so frustrating until I read your blog instructions. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

February 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Jane said...

Hello - this is a tremendously useful post, thankyou so much! I have knitted a colourwork blanket for my goddaughter, and want to line it to prevent tiny little fingers and toes catching on the floats behind the work. For about half the post I was getting really excited about polar fleece... but then I read about the flammable aspect and am a little worried. Could you perhaps recommend any other fabric option that might be more suitable for lining a baby blanket?

Many thanks!

October 26, 2013 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Jane--I guess the first question is whether the yarn for the blanket itself is flammable--does it contain a synthetic component? If so, adding a flammable lining really would make no difference--since the blanket itself would burn readily if ignited, it ought to be reserved for day time use, when the parents are awake and alert. If the blanket is wool (and thus flameproof) you can go online to see if you can find flameproof fleece (it does exist, it is for firefighting clothing, but it is hard to find). Another choice would be a knit wool jersey, but this has to be hemmed before it is used as a lining.

(Once you start thinking about the flammability of clothing, you can really get yourself worrying!!)

October 27, 2013 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Ashley B said...

great! :) thanks! <3

December 9, 2013 at 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Cordsoror said...

This is really helpful! I like lace tops but would rather line them than search through my drawers for something to wear underneath.
I knitted a strapless top for my sister and lined it with a stretchy bandeau bra. I used something like alternate stem stitch to secure it, but wasn't pleased with how much thread showed on the other side. If I make another, do you think the overcast stitch would be durable enough for that type of application?

December 10, 2013 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Cordsoror--the overcast stitch is a wonderful stitch to combine with knitting because of the reserve thread factor--this stitch will stretch slightly when the knitting is stretched. So, yes, I do think this is a good stitch to attach lining to knitting, even for a lace garment to be lined. Naturally, there are all degrees of sewing--if the garment were mine, I would choose to sew on the lining with a great many very small stitches, to avoid having the thread show on the front, Good luck! TK

December 11, 2013 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Nidhi said...

I've been searching for ways to attach netted sleeves to knitted fabric. You've given me something to work on, thank you:)
I have done a whole lot of knitting but no sewing at all. Do you think it would be better to have the netting attached to a bit of fabric first and then sewed on to the knitted piece?

April 4, 2014 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Nidhi--not sure what you mean by "netting?" There are several different fabrics which go by this name, ranging from commercial yard goods to hand-tatted netting, and also including crocheted and knitted netting. Write back and we will take it from there... Best, TK

April 7, 2014 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Nidhi said...

Like a bridal veil net for example. So using that material for sleeves but attached to a bulky knitted sweater. I hope that was a clear example:) Something in sheer material as opposed to thick yarn.


April 10, 2014 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Nidhi--sewing is not my speciality, but I have done a fair amount. If it were me trying to work the example you mention (bridal veil netting to a bulk knit) I would first hem (a very narrow hem) the fabirc, then I would pleat at least part of the netting in little tiny pleats, and sew it to the knitting, using the overcast stitch, each stitch holding down one mini-pleat. This would add sufficient ease to the netting (which is usually quite stiff) to allow the sleeves to move with the wearer, without tearing out of the knitted garment or straining in any way against the sewing, when the wearer moves their arms. The amount of ease is up to you to determine, as well as the area over which the pleats extend-the arm cap needing the most pleating, the underarms the least (or none) while determiing the rate and area covered by the transition zone is where the artistry of designing clothing comes into play. A good place to get some ideas would be from a sewing pattern (Simplicity, Vogue, etc) which has net sleeves attached to a garment--you could use the sleeve pattern as a starting point for the pattern to cut for your netting sleeves, giving due regard to such matters as the difference in armhole shape from your sweater to the garment shown in the pattern. Another idea would be to bring the knitted garment finished, sewn at the shoulders but NOT sewn at the side seams, to a tailor or seamstress and ask for advice on cutting a pattern for the netting sleeves.

Hope this helps. best, TK

April 12, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Nidhi said...

Gosh, I just remembered to check for your reply. The garment I was to work on is having a delayed start so I'm so sorry to revert so late but thank you so much!

April 26, 2014 at 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Jane from NC said...

I just finished a small blanket for new Grandbaby. I put flannel on back to help hold shap and give a little extra warmth. Wish I had seen this before I lined mine. This would have worked so much better. Thanks for next time! So glad I found you.

August 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have attempted to sign in 5 times and am tired and testy. Please tell me when attaching a lining to a baby blanket do you use single or double strands and have you addressed the issue of ease allowance? I knit the blanket (first attempt at intarsia) and dont like the back so bought silkesence for lining.

August 24, 2014 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Dear Anon--I am sorry you had trouble signing in. Although I wish it were otherwise, that is a feature of the google-provided blog template, over which I have no control.

As to your question: Silkessence is1) a woven fabric, which 2) has no built-in stretch. Therefore, you must HEM the fabric to prevent it from unraveling and--as you correctly point out, you must allow ease. If it were mine, I would block the blanket as big as it will go, then make the finished sze of the lining (in other words, the lining after hemming) a good 3/4 of an inch bigger than the blocked blanket. I would then pin the corners, then the mid point, on all 4 sides (8 pins). Next, I would divide each stretch in half again (16 pins) and so on and so on until the while thing bristled with pins and all the extra ease was pinned to the blankets in little bite-sized nibbles all around the edge. I would then sew the hemmed lining to the blanket using the overcast stitch and a doubled thread. With a doubled thread, if one thead breaks, another is still on-duty. Plus, silkessence is a very slick fabric, with no thickness, so the threads will be exposed to harder on the surface of the lining than if you were using a thicker fabric, such as polar fleece.

Unless the blanket is quite small, the lining will "parachute" (sag) on the back when the blanket is in use, so it makes sense to tack the lining to the blanket in a few spots--maybe on the motif conrners if the blanket was made in blocks, or in some pattern consistent with the blanket design some way.

Best regards and good luck, TK

August 26, 2014 at 2:56 PM  
OpenID purlgamer said...

Thanks for the great information!!! attaching a pocket to a handknit sweater, and my sewing references were no help. I should have known to check here first!!

September 8, 2014 at 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how do you cut the lining pieces out to allow some "give"?

November 1, 2014 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--that is a huge question which requires a sort of mini-course in tailoring to answer, so there's not a way I can respond in the context of a comment. However, the reason to use FLEECE fabric (as recommended in the post) is because fleece does not require to be cut larger particularly if you choose quite thin fleece. The reason is, fleece need not be hemmed (and therefore requires no seam allowance) PLUS, fleece stretches, and therefore needs no tucks, darts, gussets and other tailor's tricks to make the lining fit the item.

November 1, 2014 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Thank you!!! You are amazing! So concise. So clear! Thank you for sharing!

January 9, 2016 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Kaitlyn Da Silva said...

Thank you. You've saved a curling scarf from a frogging. I do have question though. Would you suggest sewing the lining to the piece while the whole thing is stretched and tacked to a mat, or while it's free and smaller. I don't want a bubble of lining in the back, but I don't know what repercussions there could be to sewing while the piece isn't tacked down.

January 27, 2016 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Kaitlyn--I recommend sewing the lining of something stretchy (polar fleece is best) but meauring/cutting when the scarf is unstretched. That way, the lining and scarf will stretch together.

January 27, 2016 at 9:13 PM  

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