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A to Z of Sewing


Listed below is a dictionary of terms used in sewing.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Acorn: A decorative brass or wooden “handle” which covers the knotted cord ends of a blind.
Appliqué: Decoration or trimming cut from one fabric piece and stitched to another to add dimension.
Alter: Term used to change or revise a pattern or garment to fit an individual.
Armscye: Dressmaking term for armhole, where the sleeve is attached
Arm Scye: The arm hole of a garment, where the sleeve is attached.
Arrowhead stitch: A small triangular stitch used on a seam to add strength at points of strain.
Austrian Blind: A long gathered blind made which is ruched at the bottom.
Awl: Pointed tipped tool for pushing out corners such as when fabric is turned right way.

B

Back appliqué: A piece of fabric used behind a design where the front fabric will be cut away to reveal the fabric beneath it (also known as Reverse Appliqué).
Backing: A quilting term for the back layer of fabric used in a quilt, wall hanging etc.
Backstitch: Either a hand stitch – that is formed by overlapping stitches, first stitch up to front of work, second, back behind first needle position and then up again in front, repeat along the row, OR reverse stitching on sewing machine, used at the beginning and end of a row of stitches to secure in place.
Ballpoint needles: These needles have slightly rounded tips and are designed to part the fibres of knit fabrics rather than piercing them to prevent damaging fabric.
Batten: This is a length of wood to attach a blind, pelmet or valance to a window frame.
Batting: American term for wadding
Basting: Large stitching to temporarily join a seam. It is removed when permanent stitching is done. Basting can either be done by hand or by machine. (Also known as tacking).
Bed Valance: This a fabric skirt covering the bed divan. (also known as Dust Skirt / Ruffles)
Bias: This is the stretchiest part of the fabric. The true bias is 45 degrees from straight of grain (selvedge) – or put simply diagonally.
Bias Binding: Strips of fabric cut on the bias.
Bias tape: A strip cut from the bias of the fabric which can be used to neaten edges and fit around curves. Most bias tapes are double folded, with long edges turned to inside approximately 6 mm (1/4”) and then folded in half.
Binding: Encasing of raw edges
Bird nesting: A name given to the threads caught between the fabric and the needle plate which resemble a bird’s nest. This can be caused by problems with the upper thread tension such as upper thread not going through the take-up lever; upper thread not following the correct path; or improper hooping.
Bishop’s Sleeve Curtains: This style of curtain is made longer and pulled up and draped over the tied section.
Blanket stitch: Used to neaten edge of buttonholes and fabric edges, blanket stitch is formed by looping thread around needle so that a line of thread is on the edge. Can be done by machine or hand.
Blind: A single curtain with a fixed heading which pulls up from the bottom.
Blind hem stitch: This is a stitch that cannot be seen from the right side of the fabric. This is achieved by taking up just 1 or 2 fibres from the garment fabric and more from the hem allowance. Machine blind hemming may leave a ladder like stitch on the right side, but is virtually invisible if a good thread match is used. Machine blind hemming stitches a straight row in hem allowance, and then a catch stitch into garment every 2-3 stitches. Also known as ‘Catch Stitch.’
Block: A quilting term referring to the individual unit used in a quilt top.
Bobbin: Spool or reel that holds the lower thread in a sewing machine; this thread combines with top thread to form stitches on the fabric. The bobbin thread shows on the underside.
Bobbin case: This is the unit holding the bobbin in place in a sewing machine.
Bobbin embroidery: Designs worked with the fabric positioned face down with the specialty thread wound onto the bobbin. Use for threads that are too heavy or thick for the needle.
Bobbling – also known as Pilling: this is the term used to describe the tiny fabric balls that occur after repeated wear. They can be removed with a fabric shaver. The better the quality of fabric, the less it will bobble.
Bodice: The part of the garment that fits the torso (running from shoulder to waist).
Box Pleats: A row of pleats that are folded in alternating directions.
Bolt: Fabric is stored on a roll known as a bolt, and is folded right sides together lengthwise on the bolt.
Bonding: This is the permanent joining of two fabrics with a bonding agent.
Boning: Thin nylon or plastic strips used to stiffen and shape close fitting garments such as bodices.
Border print: Patterns which are printed along one edge, and a narrow strip down the side for hems. Sari fabric frequently has a border print and also often used for skirts, tablecloths and bedding.
Bound Edge: A technique using bias binding that neatens a raw edge.
Braid: A flat decorative trim.
Bullion: A thick twisted decorative fringe.
Bust line: The horizontal line running across the back and around the fullest part of the bust. It is important to get this measurement correct when sizing patterns.
Bust Point: The point on the pattern where the point of the bust should fall.
Buttonhole: A bound slit in the fabric to allow button to pass through for closure.
Buttonhole stitch: Hand stitch used to neaten and strengthen the raw edges of buttonholes. Resembles satin stitch. Most modern machines stitch buttonholes automatically.

C

Cafe Curtains: A curtain which fits the bottom half of a window but lets in the light at the top. (Also known as Cottage Blinds)
Capped sleeve: This is a very short sleeve that does not extend below the under arm level.
Card: Disk which is inserted into a computerized embroidery machine onto which embroidery designs are or can be saved.
Cased Heading: This is a channel at the curtain top which enables you to thread a curtain rod through.
Casing: A fabric layer that encases either elastic or a drawstring.
Casing: A stitched channel between two pieces of fabric to hold either a length of dowelling or a curtain rod.
Catch stitch: See Blind Hemming Stitch.
Chinese collar: This is a short unfolded stand-up collar which starts at the neckline and stands vertically 2-3 cms (also known as a Mandarin collar)
Clapper: A wooden pressing aid, with different angled sides to help press tailored garments as they are sewn, providing crisp edges, points and curves.
Cleat: A two pronged hook which is fixed to one side of the window frame to secure the cords when a blind is pulled up.
Clean finish: Term used to describe the way the raw edge is finished if not being stitched later: Stitch 6 mm (1/4″) from the edge and press to wrong side then stitch down.
Clip: Term used to trim inside curve to allow seams to lie flat.
Collar stand: A tailored shirt usually has a collar stand around the neck placed between the actual collar and the shirt. This stand raises the collar so its finished edge will fall smoothly back over the neck edge.
Cording: This is a twisted rope that is used in piping or as a drawstring. Cording can be covered with bias fabric strips to make piping.
Cross grain: Cut at right angles to the grain line, across the grain. Border prints are usually cut this way
Covered buttons: A button covered with fabric; usually to match the garment.
Combination Rods: This is where two or three curtain tracks share one set of brackets and used to give windows a layered look.
Contour: With curve. For instance pattern cutting can be cut on a curve which helps garments to fit better such as contour waistbands.
Cornice: Another name for a Pelmet.
Cottage Blind: A curtain which fits the bottom half of a window but lets in the light at the top. (also known as Cafe Curtains).
Cross stitch: Two stitches that cross each other diagonally to form one stitch in the shape of a cross. Usually done by hand but nowadays some machines offer this as a stitch.
Crossways fold: A widthways fold of fabric which accommodates wider pattern pieces.
Curved seam: A seam stitched by machine with two different shaped edges that when joined shapes the garment. Used at bust and waist and hip areas. Also known as a ‘Princess Seam’.
Custom designs: Designs which are created by digitizing artwork or manipulating existing patterns.
Cut Width: This is the width of fabric needed including seams or hems
Cutting line: Found on paper patterns. This is the outermost dark line which is marked with the size.

D

Dart: A tapered fold in a garment/pattern to allow for fullness usually in the bust, waist and back areas which helps to shape garment to body contours.
Density: This is the number of stitches used in a particular area.
Digitising: The changing of artwork which can be read by a computerised embroidery sewing machine via a card (disk).
Directional stitching: 1 All sewing lines follow the direction of the fabric grain – also known as ‘stroking the cat’ (to find the direction of the grain, run finger along cut edge and stitch in direction in which fibres curl smoothly). 2. In dressmaking, directional stitching refers to stitching every seam in the same direction, ie: all seams waist to hem in order to prevent seams puckering or stretching. 3. On a sewing machine, this refers to multi-directional stitching including side to side (not just forwards and backwards). Dolman sleeve: This type of sleeve is an extension of the bodice and can be loose or close fitting (also known as Kimono sleeve) – although we would say that dolman sleeves tend to be longer in length and closer fitting whilst Kimono sleeves tend to have a wide square look with a looser fitting.
Dongle: A security device, which attaches to the printer, between embroidery machine and computer to prevent unlicensed file sharing or misuse.
Double Hem: Folding the fabric over twice in equal amounts i.e. a 2″ double hem would need 4″ of fabric.
Dowelling: A circular length of wood/plastic attached to the back of a blind to keep the fabric flat.
Dust Skirt / Ruffles: A fabric skirt covering the bed divan. (also known as Bed valance).

E

Ease: The amount of excess provided for ease of movement in a garment. There is often wearing ease AND designer ease. Wearing ease is calculated to allow garments to move with the body etc. Designer ease is the style element and varies according to the designer’s wishes
Ease stitch: This is simply a row of slightly longer than usual stitches just within seam allowance, used to make a larger or curved piece of fabric fit on to another by evenly pulling in the extra fabric without making any gathers or tucks in the larger piece of fabric.
Edge stitching: A row of stitching on the edge of a garment, usually 3 mm (1/8”) from edge.
Emblem: Embroidered design with a neatened edge which can be used on a garment for
Embroidery: Decorative stitches used to create a pattern on fabric.
Embellish: The addition of decorative stitching, appliqué and trims to a sewing project or garment.
Entredeux: A French word for ‘between two’ – this is a lacy trim or stitch that has heavily embroidered holes. The Entredeux tape is used in between two fabric pieces to provide a decorative joining piece. Entredeux stitch can be made using a wing needle which leaves holes as it stitches.
Envelope Curtains: These curtains are static and don’t pull back and the bottom inside corners are pinned back to let light in.

F

Fabric diagonals: A fabric that is printed on a diagonal. Check that a fabric has this if you want to match diagonal prints.
Face: The outside or ‘right’ side of a fabric, the side you see when the garment is finished.
Facing: A garment section that is turned to the inside to hide raw edges of seams without hems, such as necklines, front edges, armholes.
Fat quarter: Originally a quilting term but also used for wearable art. Fat Quarters are cut differently and measure a ‘squared’ ¼ yard of fabric (18 x 22”) rather than the usual long cut across the width ¼ yard (approx 9 x 45”).
Feather stitch: A machine stitch used to join non-fraying pieces of fabrics to each other.
Feed dogs: These are the teeth under the throat plate on a sewing machine that go up and down to move the fabric along whilst sewing.
Festoon Blind: Festoon blind is ruched from top to bottom.
Fill stitch: A group of running stitches which are used to cover an area of fabric.
Finger pressing: Used on small areas of fabric, simply use your fingers to flatten the seams open.
Finial: A decorative end for a curtain pole.
Finished Width: The actual width after the treatment is finished and all allowances have been used.
Finishing: The term used to finish off the edge of garments, such as neatening seam allowances, removing excess stabilizers etc.
Fix stitch: The small stitches on the spot that are done at the start and end of a seam to stop it unraveling (also known as ‘Lock stitch’).
Flat felled seam: A very durable seam created by sewing the wrong sides of the fabric together and then trimming one of the seams and turning the other seam allowance under and stitching over the trimmed seam. Good for jeans and reinforced seams.
Float: Long satin stitches that lay on the top of a design.
Fold line: This indicates that a paper pattern piece needs to be placed on the fold of the fabric so that two identical halves are cut as one thus avoiding centre seams.
Flagging: This happens to fabric that has been hooped incorrectly which causes an up and down motion resulting in thread birdnesting and does not allow stitches to form correctly.
Frame: The holding device for an embroidery hoop.
Free motion: Embroidery that is done free hand by lowering the feed dogs on the sewing machine, so that the work can be moved in any direction at any speed. Usually worked with the fabric in a hoop and using a darning or embroidery foot. Stitch length is determined by how quickly the work is moved, quickly for long stitches, slowly for small stitches.
French seam: This is a seam finish that encloses the raw edges so that the reverse side is neat. To create, stitch a 1 cm (3/8”) seam with WRONG sides together. Trim to 3 mm (1/8”), turn through and press with seam on fold and RIGHT sides together. Stitch again taking 6 mm (1/4”) seam. Press again. an enclosed seam which is very narrow and ideal for sheer fabrics where seams are on show.
Frill: A longer length of fabric gathered or pleated onto an edge for decoration.
Frog fastening: A narrow fabric tube which forms a loop to fasten with a round button. Also know as a ‘Rouleau Loop’
Fullness Ratio: This is the ratio of fabric width to the width of the window. Curtains are usually at least twice the window width.
Fusible: The term used to describe a fine mist of adhesive on fabric or interfacings that when pressed with hot iron, sticks them to another fabric.
French curve: A tool used for creating curves for pattern design.

G

Gather: A technique for gathering longer lengths of fabric into a smaller length. Used to create fullness or allow several pieces of fabric of different lengths to fit together. This is done by stitching one or two rows of long basting stitch and leaving long threads at either end. If working on a sewing machine, pull up bobbin thread.
Godets: Usually triangularly shaped fabric inserts added to increase the swing and fullness of a skirt or dress.
Grain line: This is the direction in which the threads are woven. The straight grain runs parallel to the fabric selvedge. Crosswise grain runs at right angles to the selvedge (across the width).
Grade seam: This eliminates bulk from the seams; trim the outer seam allowances to 6 mm (1/4”) and the under seam allowance to a scant 3 mm (1/8”).
Guide stitch: Stitches used to align embroideries when using several hoops or that assist in fabric placement for appliqué.
Gusset: A piece of fabric sewn into the seamline to provide fullness.

H

Hardware: Equipment for the computer such as digitizer and modem.
Header: The extra fabric above a cased heading which forms a frill.
Heading Tape: A wide woven tape that has slots for curtains hooks and includes the gathering cords.
Hem: The fabric which is turned up on the edge of the garment to provide a neat finished edge.
Hem allowance: Amount of fabric allowed for the hemming.
High bust: This is the measurement taken above the full bust measurement under the arms and around the back and chest. If this measurement is more than 5 cm (2”) larger than the full bust measurement then dress, jacket and top pattern size should be selected by the high bust size and alterations made to fit the fuller cup.
Hip point: The point on the pattern where the hip comes.
Hong Kong seam: A seam finishing method of binding the seam allowance to encase raw edges. On lightweight fabrics, both seam allowances can be pressed to one side and then bound together. On medium and heavier weight fabrics, press seam open and bind each seam allowance separately.
Hook and Eye: A two-part closure that consists of a hook and a loop.
Hoop: Made up of two rings, one slightly smaller than the other, that fit together to clamp fabric tightly in place.

I

In-seam: The inside leg seam that runs from crotch to hem.
Interfacing: A fine fabric used between layers of fabric in a garment to provide stability and shape. Used in cuffs, collars, plackets, waistbands.
Interfacing: A lightweight fabric sewn in between the layers of a garment to help hold its structure. It comes in two types: sewn in place or iron on (fusible).
Interlining: Another fabric layer, usually cut and sewn as one with main fabric, to provide support to main fabric. Also known as Underlining.
Inverted Pleat: A flat pleat with the extra fabric to the wrong side.

J

Jabot: The tail section of Swags and Tails.
Jumper: A small plastic device for ‘jumping’ over thicker seams with the sewing machine such as jean hems. Also known as a Hump Jumper.
Jump stitch: the long stitch or thread between embroidery stitches in machine embroidery, formed when the stitching moves to another area of the design before continuing. The jump stitches should be cut away once the design is stitched out.

K

Kick Pleats: Similar to box pleats but folds are further a part and don’t butt together at the back.
Kimono: Term used to describe a traditional Japanese dress. The basic kimono is a square-cut body with square-cut sleeves and has remained much the same since the 10th century.
Kimono sleeve: This type of sleeve is an extension of the bodice and can be loose or close fitting (also known as Dolman sleeve) – although we would say that dolman sleeves tend to be longer in length and closer fitting whilst Kimono sleeves tend to have a wide square look with a looser fitting.
Knife Pleats: A row of folds all in the same direction.

L

Lambrequin: A pelmet which extends down the side of the window.
Lining: Used to finish the inside of a garment to hide seam construction, prevents ‘see-through’ and help garment to hang better.
Lock stitch: The small stitches on the spot that are done at the start and end of an embroidery or seam to stop it unravelling. Also known as ‘Fix stitch’ and ‘Loop stitch’.
Loom state: Refers to fabric that is straight from the loom that has overgone any finishing or dying processes. Loom state cloth will shrink, and needs to be prewashed before using.
Loop stitch: See Lock Stitch.

M

Mandarin collar: This is a short unfolded stand-up collar which starts at the neckline and stands vertically 2-3 cms (also known as a Chinese collar).
Marking: Temporary marks made on fabric to aid positioning of pockets, buttonholes etc and on embroidery, used to determine how to hoop fabric.
Machine tacking: This is a loose tension stitch done by machine used to temporarily hold fabric in position before stitching permanently (see Basting).
Machine embroidery: Decorative stitching created by using decorative stitches on a sewing machine such as satin stitch and zigzag. Mid to top range machines have a number of embroidery stitches built-in. Also term used to denote embroidery pictures and motifs.
Metafil: A needle with an elongated eye for use with metallic decorative threads.
Mitre: A method of neatly folding fabric or trim at corners.
Mitring: A way of folding the excess seam allowance to achieve a less bulky, sharp corner.
Monogram: Letters, usually initials, embroidered for decoration.
Mounted sleeve: This type of sleeve is set into the armhole with a seam on the shoulder end (also known as a set-in sleeve)

N

Nap: The term for the pile of a fabric. Determine whether a fabric has nap by brushing the fabric in one direction to see whether it changes colour or shade when brushed one way or other. NB: It is sometimes hard to determine if the fabric is very light. If it is textured or has a one-way pattern, follow the ‘with nap’ layout which requires all pattern pieces to be placed in the same direction so the pile or nap will all run from top to bottom etc. (Also known as Pile).
Needle threader: A tool with a looped wire which pulls the thread through the needle eye.
Network: The method of linking computer to digitizer to embroidery machine using a modem.
Notch: 1. Triangular or diamond shaped marks on the cutting lines of paper patterns used to match seams together at sides, back and front etc. 2. Triangular shapes cut OUT of outer curved seam allowances so that when turned through the fabric will lie flat.
Notions: The American term used to describe haberdashery; frequently used on paper patterns.

O

Overlock: An overcast stitch which encases the edge and helps neaten raw edges. Also known as ‘serging.’
Overlocker: A purpose-made sewing machine that overlocks fabric, cutting the edge and sewing in the same pass. Can be 3-8 thread and be used for a variety of creative stitching although most well known for seam neatening. Also known as Sergers.

P

Pattern: The template need to create an item. Commercial patterns provide tissue pieces.
Pattern layout: Diagram found on commercial pattern instruction sheets which indicate how to lay out pattern pieces on the fabric.
Pattern match: This describes the technique of matching patterns on right and left edges, for drapes etc and is used when working with specifically patterned fabric, checks or plaids. Cut each piece on a single layer of fabric. Lay cut piece next to remaining fabric so that next section can be placed with pattern matching at key points (bust, hip etc). Remember when cutting two of same pattern piece, the second one should be placed face down on the fabric to ensure a left and right.Pelmet: A decorative way of concealing curtain tops and tracks. This is usually a flat panel which can be painted or covered with fabric.
Pelmet Board: A horizontal wooden shelf from which a pelmet or valance is hung.
Peplum: A flared ‘skirt’ attached to jacket or top at waist creating a fuller style at hem.
Peter Pan collar: This is a small, flat round cornered collar without a stand. Popular for women’s and children’s garments.
Petersham: A heavy duty waist banding, usually black and reinforced with a line of stitching to prevent it folding or rolling when worn.
Pick stitch: This is a decorative hand stitch used on collars, cuffs, front facings etc. An alternative to top stitching.
Pile: Surface texture to fabric. Only some fabrics, like velvet, have a visible pile; when brushed it will look a different colour. When cutting out, ensure all pattern pieces are laid in the same direction on the fabric so that the pile is going in it’s natural direction. (Also known as Nap).
Pilling: also known as bobbling, this is the term used to describe the tiny fabric balls that occur after repeated wear. They can be removed with a fabric shaver. The better the quality of fabric, the less it will pill.
Pintuck: Raised narrowly sewn tucks in fabric that add decorative detail.
Piping: A decorative cord with flange or plain cord which can be covered with bias binding and then sewn in seams to create a crisp neat edging. (See cording).
Pivot: A way of turning the fabric without losing the stitch position; leave the needle in the fabric, raise presser foot and turn fabric to new stitching position. Lower presser foot and continue.
Placket: An additional section of fabric that is added to openings such as neck, sleeve or cuff.
Plastron: a chest piece of interfacing that fills the hollow between shoulder and bust. The shape varies depending on the bust size. It is usually made from tailor’s canvas and interfacing.
Pleat: A fold in fabric that is inverted or folded outward to make tucks in the fabric. They reduce a wide amount of fabric to a narrow amount whilst adding fullness. Pleats can be left open, or partially sewn.
Point turner: A tool with a pointed end used to push out points and corners.
Pre-shrinking: It is advisable to pre-wash fabrics before making up into garments or furnishings to pre-shrink and wash out any treatments. Pre-washing can also mean that fabric becomes washable when made into a garment as the shrinking has already been done!
Pressing: Pressing involves placing the iron on the fabric, holding for a moment, lifting and replacing on another section – without moving the iron back and forth as you do when ironing.
Pressing cloth: A clean cloth that is placed over fabric whilst pressing and ironing to prevent marking. This can be used damp for steam pressing or dry. An organza press cloth is ideal as it withstands most temperatures and is transparent.
Pressing ham: This ‘ham’ shaped stuffed cushion is used to support the fabric to the right shape whilst ironing for curved areas such as darts, sleeves and princess seams. Also known as a dressmaker’s or tailor’s ham.
Prick sitch: A stitch used on fabrics such as velvet, it is a very small backstitch sewn with right side uppermost. Hand zip insertion is often done with prick stitch.
Princess seam: A seam stitched by machine with two different shaped edges that when joined shapes the garment. Used at bust and waist and hip areas. (See ‘Curved Seam’).
Puckering: This is caused by tight stitches on the fabric usually caused by incorrect tension, seams that are cut on bias inaccurately or a needle that is the wrong size.

Q

R

Raglan sleeve: This type of sleeve is attached to the garment by a seam that runs diagonally down the front neckline to the underarm and up to the back of the neckline.
Raw edge: The edge of the fabric that has not been stitched or finished.
Reinforce: A term used to describe stitching over an area again to strengthen the seam. Used in areas of most stress such as crotch.
Reverse appliqué: A piece of fabric used behind a design where the front fabric will be cut away to reveal the fabric beneath it. (also known as Back Appliqué)
Resizing: the ability to change the scale of a design or pattern to fit.
Right side: The side of fabric that you wish to use as the outside; the side with printing or design. For some fabrics, such as linen, silk or polyester, it is difficult to distinguish the right or wrong side, in which case it doesn’t matter.Revere collar: flat V-shaped collar often found on blouses.
Rise: This is the distance from hip to waist. Rise measurement is taken from the waist down to the upper leg side.
Rolled collar: This type of collar is softly rolled where it folds down from the stand (as opposed to a collar with a pressed crease at the fold).
Rolled hem: A very narrow hem finish. Fold raw edge under 3 mm (1/8”) and stitch. Trim close to fold, turn under again along. stitching and stitch again.
Rotary cutter: A cutting tool which is ideal for cutting long straight lengths of fabric. Looks like a pizza cutter with a circular blade.
Rouleau loop: A narrow fabric tube which forms a loop to fasten a round button. Also know as a ‘Frog Fastening’. Ruffle: A decorative gathered trim made from a piece of fabric usually cut on the bias.
Running stitch: An easy hand stitch used to hold layers together. Made by running the needle through to back and up to front repeatedly along the seam line. There are gaps between stitching on both sides.

S

Satin stitch: This is a shortened, tight length zigzag stitch which creates a close line of stitches to cover raw edges. Used as a decorative stitch or to attach appliqués.
Seam allowance: The piece of fabric between the fabric edge and the stitching. This is usually 15 mm (5/8”) for dressmaking. And 6 mm (1/4”) for crafts.
Seam line: The line on which to sew when putting a garment together and it is this seam line that must be matched when putting the garment together and not the raw edges.
Seam ripper: A cutting tool used to undo seam stitching. Also known as ‘A quick unpick’.
Selvedge: This is the bound side edges of the fabric which doesn’t fray. (Also known as Selvage)
Separating zip: A zipper that comes apart in two separate parts so the garment can open completely. Used on jackets and sportswear. (Also known as Open-ended zip.)
Serging: An overcast stitch which encases the edge and helps to neaten raw edges. Also known as ‘overlocking’.
Set-in sleeve: This type of sleeve is set into the armhole with a seam on the shoulder end (also known as a mounted sleeve).
Sew-through button: A flat button with holes through which to sew onto the garment. Use on lightweight garments.
Shank button: A button which has a loop on the back to provide space between itself and the garment. This shank enables fabric to pass through button and lay flat. This technique can be copied using sew-through buttons – simply create a shank by wrapping thread under the button.
Shrink: See pre-shrinking.
Shirring: Rows of machine gathering to take in fullness.
Shoulder pads: Felt or foam shaped pads that are inserted into the shoulders of garments to give shape. Especially used in tailored garments and come in perform shapes and sizes.
Slash: Refers to a cut opening in the garment e.g. neckline or pocket.
Slip stitch: A stitch used to turn under edges and to close gaps left for turning garments through. Stitches are barely visible on the right side.
Slit: An open part of a seam on a garment which is found on skirts.
Snips: Small cutting tool like scissors used to cut thread.
Spool: The thread holder on a sewing machine OR a reel of thread. Also known as Spindle.
Software: These are computer programs and cards rather than hardware which includes modems and digitizers.
Speciality threads: These are threads used for embroidery that have a special effect. This can be metallic, neon, variegated, thicker woolen threads etc. Usually made from synthetic materials like rayons and metallics.
Spindle: The thread holder on a sewing machine. Also known as the thread Spool.
Stabiliser: Woven or non woven material used beneath and hooped with the embroidered fabric to provide stability and support. These come in lots of different styles including fusible, soluble, tearaway and in various weights.
Stash: Collection of fabrics awaiting use!
Staystitching: This is a line of stitching done to stabilise fabric and prevent it from unwanted stretching prior to seaming. Usually done just inside the seam line on curved edges.
Stitch in the ditch: This is a method of attaching facings or bias binding to the underside by stitching on the RIGHT side. Stitch in the seam by pulling fabric tight to left and right.
Straight grain: This is what the grain line follows: the warp threads.
Straight Stitch: These are single forward stitches.
Stroking the cat: Stitching in the direction of the grain (to find the direction of the grain, run finger along cut edge and stitch in direction in which fibres curl smoothly).

T

Tacking: See Basting.
Tailor’s tack: A way of marking placement points on garments for buttonholes, darts, pockets etc. A hand stitch, use a double length of thread to make two very loose loopy stitches through tissue pattern and both fabric layers. Snip the loops and pull fabric apart gently, snipping thread between layers so that some thread is in both fabric pieces. Always use a contrasting thread so Tailor’s Tacks can be seen easily.
Tension: Tautness of the stitch which comes from the pressure being exerted between the needle and bobbin. On a sewing machine there are two types of tension – thread and bobbin.
Toile: This is a garment made from cheap fabric such as Calico and is used to ‘prove’ a pattern and to make sure the pattern fits perfectly. This is important to do when using expensive and delicate fabrics where alterations would mark like silk wedding dresses.
Topstitching: A row of stitching that should be visible on the finished garment. Top stitching can be decorative and/or functional as it also serves to hold facings in place.
Tuck: A larger version of Pintuck – a fold in fabric that is stitched down.
Turn of the cloth: This refers to the amount of fabric that is taken up in the fold when fabric is folded into two or turned through to right side. Particularly important to consider when dealing with bulky fabrics.
Tracing wheel: Used with carbon paper, it is a little serrated wheel that when rolled over the carbon paper, transfers the colour to fabric to mark placement lines for darts, pleats etc.
Trim: 1.Thin decorative strip such as ribbon or lace that is placed on a garment. 2. Term used to describe cutting away excess fabric from seam allowances.

U

Underlining: Lining used to add body to a garment, placed between main fabric and interfacing. Also known as Interlining.
Understitching: A row of stitching through seam allowances and facings, very close to seam that attaches facing to main garment. Used to stop lining or facings from rolling out.
Universal needle: A needle which has a slightly rounded tip. Used for woven and knit fabrics.

V

View: Found on paper patterns and refers to the variations in style of the garment.

W

Wadding: Flat material used to stuff and pad, usually cotton, wool or fiberfill. (Also known as Batting).
Walking foot: A presser foot for a sewing machine that allows even sewing over lots of layers or thicker fabric as it helps to grip the fabric layers and ‘walks’ it through when sewing. A menacing looking foot that is very useful!
Warp: Term describing the way the threads run lengthways through a woven fabric. Also known as ‘lengthwise grain’.
Weft: Term describing the way the threads run at right angles to the length of a woven fabric. Also known as ‘cross grain’.
Welt: A method for covering raw edges of a pocket. This is the visible part of the binding on a buttonhole or pocket opening that looks like a lip.
Whipstitch: Strong over-edged hand stitch used for joining two edges together.
Wing needle: A wide wing shaped needle which is flared at the sides to purposefully leave holes in fabric as it stitches. Use a wing needle on woven fabrics for heirloom stitching.
Wrong side: This is the side of the fabric without the design – the side to be used as under or inside.

X

Y

Z

Zigzag stitch: A stitch that goes diagonally side to side to produce a decorative finish to a seam or join two layers next to each other.