Sewing

Sewing Glossary: Terms, Lingo, & Slang

Improve your skills & vocabulary by reading this comprehensive Sewing Glossary to define common techniques, tools, materials, & stitches, related to sewing.

Introduction

Sewing can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby that allows you to make or repair your own clothing, home decor, and more. Whether you’re a beginner or professional tailor/seamstress, all that sewing lingo may be overwhelming.

To better help you follow patterns, understand instructions, and talk to other sewers like yourself, here is a list of common sewing words, slang, and terms that you might come across:

  • Appliqué: This is a decorative technique where a piece of fabric is attached to a garment or project using stitching or fabric glue.
  • Basting: This is a temporary stitching used to hold layers of fabric together before the final stitches are sewn.
  • Bias: This refers to the diagonal direction of the fabric, which has a greater amount of stretch than the lengthwise or crosswise grain.
  • Bind or Binding: This is a strip of fabric that is used to finish the raw edges of a garment or project. It can be sewn or glued on.
  • Bobbin: This is a small spool of thread that is used in the bobbin case of a sewing machine.
Button_Hole
  • Buttonhole: This is a slit in a garment that is made to fit a button through.
  • Darning: This is a technique where holes or holes in fabric are repaired by hand using a running stitch.
  • Dart: This is a triangle-shaped fold in a garment used to shape it to the body.
  • Ease: This refers to the difference between the size of the garment and the size of the body it is meant to fit.
  • Elastic: This is a stretchy band of material that is used to provide flexibility and comfort in a garment.
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  • Embroidery: This is a decorative technique where designs are created on fabric using a needle and thread.
  • Fabric Grain: This refers to the direction of the threads in a fabric. The lengthwise grain runs parallel to the selvage, and the crosswise grain runs perpendicular to it.
  • Facing: This is a piece of fabric that is sewn to the raw edge of a garment or project to finish it neatly.
  • French Seam: This is a type of seam finish where the raw edges of the fabric are encased within the seam, creating a neat and professional finish.
  • Fullness: This refers to the amount of extra fabric added to a garment to allow for ease or to create a desired shape or drape.
  • Gathering Foot: This is a sewing machine presser foot that is used to easily gather fabric.
  • Gathering: This is a sewing technique used to create fullness in a garment by sewing long stitches that can be pulled to gather the fabric.
  • Hem Tape: This is a narrow strip of fusible interfacing that is used to stabilize and neaten the hem of a garment.
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  • Hem: This is the edge of a garment that is folded up and stitched in place to prevent fraying or to give a finished look.
  • Let-out: This is a type of alteration where fabric is added to a garment to increase its size.
  • Mending: This is the process of repairing holes or tears in a garment or other textile item using stitching or patching.
  • Nap: This refers to the direction in which the fibers on a fabric lie, and is important to consider when cutting out patterns to ensure a cohesive look.
Sewing
  • Notions: These are the small tools and supplies needed for sewing, such as buttons, zippers, and interfacing.
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  • Overlock: This is a type of seam finish that is created using an overlock sewing machine, which sews, trims, and overlocks the edges of the fabric all in one step.
  • Patch Pocket: This is a pocket that is created by sewing a separate piece of fabric onto the front of a garment.
  • Piecing: This refers to the process of sewing together smaller pieces of fabric to create a larger piece or project, such as a quilt block.
  • Piping: This is a decorative cord that is encased in a strip of fabric and used to add detail to a garment or project.
  • Pleat: This is a fold of fabric that is stitched in place to create fullness or to allow for ease in a garment.
  • Presser Foot: This is a movable part of a sewing machine that holds the fabric in place as it is being sewn.
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  • Quilting: This is a sewing technique where layers of fabric, batting, and backing are stitched together to create a quilt.
  • Seam Allowance: This is the space between the edge of the fabric and the seam line. It is usually around ¼ to ½ inch.
  • Seam Finish: This refers to the method used to neaten and secure the raw edges of a seam. Some common seam finishes include zigzag stitching, pinking, and serging.
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  • Seam Ripper: This is a small tool with a pointed end used to remove stitches.
  • Seam: This is the line where two pieces of fabric are sewn together.
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  • Selvage: This is the finished edge of a fabric that is produced by the weft threads turning back at the end of each row of weaving.
  • Shirring: This is a decorative technique where rows of gathers are sewn onto a fabric to create a ruffled effect.
  • Slipstitch: This is a type of hand-sewn stitch that is used to join two pieces of fabric together or to close a seam from the outside. It is almost invisible from the right side of the fabric.
  • Smocking: This is a decorative technique where gathers are worked into fabric to create a textured pattern.
  • Staystitch: This is a row of stitches that is sewn close to the edge of a fabric to prevent it from stretching or distorting.
  • Stitch in The Ditch: This is a technique where stitches are sewn in the groove created by a seam, so that they are not visible on the right side of the fabric.
  • Tack or Tacking: This is a temporary stitching used to hold fabric in place before the final stitches are sewn.
  • Take-in: This is a type of alteration where fabric is removed from a garment to decrease its size.
  • Tension: This refers to the balance between the top and bottom threads in a sewing machine. Proper tension results in even, neat stitches.
  • Topstitch: This is a decorative row of stitches that is sewn on the top of a seam or edge.
  • Transfer or Tracing Paper: This is a thin, translucent paper used to transfer patterns or markings onto fabric.
  • Tucking: This is a decorative technique where fabric is gathered into a series of parallel folds and stitched in place to create a textured pattern.
  • Understitch: This is a row of stitches that is sewn close to the seam line on the underside of a garment or project. It helps to keep the seam in place and prevent it from rolling to the outside.
  • Warp: This refers to the threads that run lengthwise in a fabric and are held taut on a loom while the weft threads are woven through them.
  • Weft: This refers to the threads that are woven horizontally through the warp threads to create the fabric.
  • Yoke: This is a piece of fabric that is used to join the front and back of a garment at the shoulders.

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