Products books and links Articles and How-To guides Home

Know Your Sewing Terms

It is difficult to follow instructions if you don't understand some of the terms used. In the following list some words refer to the pattern, some to garment pieces, others to sewing techniques or procedures. Many terms can he used interchangeably; many are self-explanatory.

The following explanations are for those used most frequently:

armhole, armseye — opening in garment for arm; line on which sleeve is attached.

bar-tack — stitch used to strengthen, made by a number of stitches taken across fabric, as at the end of buttonholes; at the end of pockets set in a side seam. May be done by hand or by an automatic machine.

band — a strip of fabric used to complete a part of the garment.

bias — direction on a fabric that runs diagonally across the lengthwise and crosswise threads. 1. true bias — lies on a 45° angle; 2.

garment bias — lies between true bias and lengthwise or crosswise threads.

bind — to enclose an edge with a band or bias binding. 1.

bias binding — double or single fold of fabric cut on a true bias; 2. seam binding narrow ribbon-like strip of fabric used for finishing edges, especially hems.

blending seam edges—trimming one seam edge narrower than the other to reduce thickness. Can be done by tilting scissors slightly toward your body while trimming a seam, thus cutting the uppermost seam edge slightly narrower. Also referred to as tapering, grading or staggering seam edges.

blind hem — to hem invisibly.

bodice — upper part of a garment, also referred to as the waist or blouse.

bodkin— large blunt needle with a big eye.

cap sleeve — very short sleeve just covering the shoulder.

casing — usually a strip of fabric applied to a garment, forming a case through which elastic, ribbon or tape can be inserted.

catch-stitch — a stitch formed by threads crossing so as to fasten together two pieces of fabric smoothly. Used mostly on hem edges and facing edges.

clip — to make a short cut into fabric with tip of scissors. It is advisable to clip to within 1/8” of a stitching line or designated point.

dart — shaped tuck sewn in fabric to shape and fit garment to body curves. The fold of fabric is stitched to a point at one end or at both ends.

dart-tuck — the fold may be stitched to a point at one end and the other end is open to release fullness in a portion of the garment.

ease — to adjust a longer piece of fabric to a slightly shorter one in such a way that gathers or tiny tucks are not apparent.

edge-stitch — to stitch 1/16” from a folded edge.

face to place two identical pieces together, right sides together, pin or baste, and then stitch on edges indicated.

facing — fabric applied to an edge of the garment and usually turned to underside of garment. Self facing — facing is cut in one with the garment instead of being a separate piece.

felling — a term used by tailors, for hemming.

finish — to treat a raw edge in such a manner as to prevent raveling.

flap of a pocket flat — piece that hangs loose over pocket opening.

fly closing — a closing so constructed that it conceals the fastening.

french tack — used to hold two pieces of fabric or two parts of the garment close together, also referred to as a swing tack. A short stitch is taken into each piece of fabric, leaving a short space; this is repeated several times, and a blanket stitch is worked over these threads.

gather — to draw up fullness.

godet — a piece of fabric, usually shaped like a piece of pie, inserted in a garment edge to add ease or fullness to the edge.

gore — a shaped section, narrowest at the top. A skirt may have 2, 4, 6, 8 or more gores.

grain or grainline — refers to direction of yarns: lengthwise, crosswise, cross grain, bias grain, with grain, off grain.

gusset — a shaped section inserted in a garment for additional ease and strength. Often used under armholes of kimona sleeves.

hem edge — when used as a direction on sewing guide it means you are to finish an edge by forming a hem. Some openings are finished by using seam allowance to form a narrow hem.

hemline — line of finished edge of hem such as lower edge of a dress, sleeve, etc.

interface — is telling you to place an extra piece of cloth between garment and facing to give strength, shape, or stiffness and to prevent stretching.

interfacing — extra piece of fabric placed between garment and facing.

interline — is telling you to place an extra layer of fabric between garment and lining for extra warmth.

interlining — extra layer of fabric placed between lining and garment.

jabot — frill or ruffle placed at or near the neckline.

join — to place two edges, right sides together, pin, baste, and stitch as indicated.

lap — to place one edge over another.

miter — to join two edges together to form a corner; also, to remove excess fabric from points of a pointed seam before turning, to remove any bulk from inside turned edges of corner.

notch — a V-shaped triangle. The word notch can be used as a noun or a verb. In sewing, when used as a noun it refers to the V-shaped marking on pattern piece or garment piece. It assists in joining garment pieces. When used as a verb it indicates that a V-shaped section or sections are cut out from the seam allowance to remove excess fabric from seam allowance on an out-curved seam before turning; e.g., outer seam edge of a round collar, scallops, curved pocket flaps, etc.

notions — sometimes referred to as findings — dressmaking supplies such as thread, zipper, buttons, fasteners, etc., needed to complete the garment.

opening — a term used interchangeably with closing.

overcast — simple slanting stitch used for finishing.

overhand -- very short over and over stitches used to join or keep two edges together. May be done by hand or by machine (zigzagging).

placket — an opening in a part of the garment made for convenience in putting on the garment.

pleat — fold of fabric laid back over fabric, usually in lengthwise folds. The pleats so formed may be pressed or left unpressed, are sometimes partially stitched and pressed to keep them in correct position.

reinforce — strengthen.

reinforce corner — to machine stitch along seamline to strengthen a slash or corner that will be clipped later. Use one or two rows of stitching of a length of about 20 stitches per inch.

roll-line — line along which roll appears when a lapel or collar is folded. roll hem to roll the edge to form a very narrow hem, usually stitched by hand. Can be machine made.

self fabric — same fabric as garment. shirring — a number of rows of gathers.

slash — to cut.

sleeve cap — upper part of sleeve that's curved to fit armhole or armseye.

stay — piece of fabric, tape or ribbon used in certain parts of a garment to keep it from stretching or to hold pleats, folds, or gathers in a certain position so as to achieve the desired effect.

stay stitching — a line of regular-length machine stitching used to prevent stretching and to hold fabric grain in its correct position.

tack — to fasten two fabric surfaces loosely.

taper — a gradual decrease in width or thickness; a regular decreasing toward a point.

top-stitching — a line of machine stitching or hand stitching along seamline on right side of garment to add strength or design.

turn under and stitch — to turn under about 1/4” on a raw edge and stitch about 1/16” from folded edge. On washable garments a second row of stitching may be placed about 1/8” from the first to keep raw edge firmly in place. Stitch from right side (it tells you to turn edge under). If you have an automatic machine — a flatter edge is produced by placing a row of stay stitching 1/8” from raw edge, then zigzagging, using a stitch long enough to cover stay-stitching as well as wrap over cut edge.

underlap — section of garment, usually a closing edge, which extends under another part.

understitching — a row of stitching along the edge of a faced seam to hold seam allowance to facing. The custom dressmakers do understitching by hand because it doesn't tend to stretch or stiffen the edge. Understitching produces a sharper turned edge and prevents edge of facing from showing.

unit construction -- a procedure for assembling pieces of a garment.

whip — to sew along the edge with fine overcasting or overhand stitches.

Top of Page PREV: How to Adjust and Alter Patterns NEXT: You Are a Beginner Home

Friday, 2009-04-10 2:32