Sewing Glossary

 

A

Armhole – An opening at the side of a bodice allowing the arm to go through a sleeveless garment. In garments with sleeves, the sleeve is sewn to the armhole.

B

Back sleeve – The back part of a two-part sleeve, which has the seams running down from the shoulder and the underarm.

Back stitch (or back tack) – Reverse stitches sewn at the beginning and the end of a seam. A few back stitches will prevent the seam from unraveling.

Bar tack – A short support stitch achieved using a very short zigzag stitch, used e.g. in jeans and outerwear.

Batting (or interlining) – A warming layer between a shell and its lining used mainly in outerwear. Batting is thin non-woven fabric, most often either wool, acrylic, or cotton. Batting is sewn using the patterns for the lining without pleats or darts.

Bias binding – A strip of fabric used to finish fabric edges. The bias binding encases the raw edges inside itself. Bias binding is cut on the bias, i.e. cut at a 45-degree angle compared to the grainline.

Binding – A strip of fabric used to finish fabric edges. The binding encases the raw edges inside itself.

Blind stitch – A type of stitch sewn either by hand or by using a blind stitch on a sewing machine. Attaches pieces of fabric together so that the stitching is not visible on the right side. Often used for turnups of skirts and pant hems.

Bodice – The garment pieces covering the torso. E.g. the front and back pieces of shirts, and the top pieces of dresses and overalls with a waist seam.

Box buttonhole – A regular rectangular buttonhole used e.g. in shirts, blouses, skirts and pants.

Box pleat – a pleat formed by two folds next to each other, with the folds opening outwards creating a box-like pleat in the middle.

Button extension – An extra piece drawn on the pattern for the button through, overlapping at the front of the garment

Buttonhole – A slit made in a garment to push through a button for fastening. Finished with short stitches all around to prevent the edges from fraying.

Button band (or button stand) – A panel onto which the buttons or buttonholes are sewn. The button stand can be a separate panel sewn on to the edge of a garment piece or formed from the button extension.

Button through – Fastening usually at the front of a garment created with buttons and buttonholes.

C

Center back (CB) – A vertical line marking the center of a pattern or a garment at the back.

Center front (CF) – A vertical line marking the center of a pattern or a garment at the front.

Clip – A small cut made with scissors into the seam allowances e.g. at a curved edge of a seam with the purpose of preventing the seam allowances from pulling or puckering.

Collar stand – A narrow panel sewn between the neckline and the collar with the purpose of raising and giving structure to the collar. A collar stand without a collar is called a stand-up collar or a mandarin collar.

Cuff – A panel sewn to the sleeve opening. The cuff can be either closed with no fastening, or open with a fastening. The shape and size of a cuff can vary quite a bit between garments.

D

Dart – A triangular or diamond-shaped (contour dart) section sewn on fabric with the purpose of removing fullness from the garment, adding shape to it, and contouring the body. Used mostly at the waist or the bust.

Drape – Drapey fabric is rather heavy with regard to its thickness, therefore falling straight down instead of being stiff or light and air.

E

Ease – The final measurements of a garment minus the measurement on the size chart. The ease makes the garment comfortable to wear, makes it possible for you to move wearing the garment, and affects the look of the garment. Altering the ease creates different types of garments – from tight-fitting to very loose-fitting and airy. Garments made of stretch fabrics can have so-called negative ease, in which case the measurements of the garment are smaller than the body measurements.

Ease stitch – A line of stitching done using a long stitch length, which helps in creating ruches. Also used for easing a longer piece to align with a shorter one. 1 – 3 lines of ease stitching are sewn within the seam allowances of the piece, and ruched or eased by pulling the bobbin thread(s).

Easing – When sewing two garment pieces together, the edge of one piece may be slightly longer than the other. This requires the longer edge to be eased when sewing, so that the edges of the two pieces will align without forming any ruching. Easing is often used on sleeve caps and can be achieved with the help of a few lines of ease stitching. Easing adds some roundness and softness to the seam.

Eye – Fastening sewn onto a garment by hand, paired with a hook. The hook and eye are usually sewn on the inside of the garment to accompany a zipper closure. There are many types of hooks and eyes, and they come in various sizes.

Eyelet – A small metal ring used e.g. as ventilation holes or as passages for cords and ribbons.

F

Facing – A panel imitating the shape of the garment edge, hidden inside the garment. Facings are used to finish edges without resulting in visible seams on the outside of the garment.

Finish – Hand stitching or machine stitching done on the edge of a garment piece with the purpose of preventing the raw edges of the fabric from fraying. Finishing is usually done on a machine e.g. on a serger or using the zigzag stitch on a sewing machine.

Fly – A wide panel on the right side of a garment covering the zipper of a fly-front zipper opening used e.g. in jeans.

Fly shield – A panel used on the wrong side of the zipper in a fly-front zipper opening, with the purpose of preventing the zipper from catching skin or underwear in between the zipper teeth.

Front sleeve – The front part of a two-part sleeve, which has the seams running down from the shoulder and the underarm.  

G

Grading seam allowances – Seam allowances can be graded (trimmed), for them to be as invisible as possible on the outside of the garment. Grading is done by cutting one seam allowance about 5 mm/ ¼” narrower than the other one.

Grainline – The line marked on the pattern that shows which way the pattern should be cut from the fabric. The pattern should be laid on the fabric with the grainline parallel with the selvage.

H

Hand basting – Sewing long running stitches onto fabric. The purpose is to attach pieces together before sewing the actual seam with a sewing machine. Hand basting is always removed after machine sewing.

Hem – A seam construction finishing typically the bottom edge or a vent of a garment with the edge folded over twice and stitched in place close to the open edge of the fold.

Hook – Fastening sewn onto a garment by hand, paired with an eye. The hook and eye are usually sewn on the inside of the garment to accompany a zipper closure. There are many types of hooks and eyes, and they come in various sizes.

I

Interfacing – A special two-sided fabric with glue on one side, fused on the wrong side of the main garment fabric with the purpose of supporting the garment piece and preventing it from stretching out of shape.

Inverted pleat – A pleat formed by two folds next to each other, with the folds turned inwards (towards each other) creating an open pleat in the middle.

Invisible zipper – A thin, unnoticeable zipper left hidden under the edges of the garment pieces. Often used in skirts, pants and dresses made of lightweight fabric.

Ironing – Smoothing out or shaping fabric with the heat of an iron.

K

Keyhole buttonhole – A rectangular buttonhole with one rounded end helping the button shank set in its place neatly.  Used e.g. in outerwear and jeans but can be replaced with a regular box buttonhole.

Knit fabric – Fabric made by looping threads into interconnected horizontal rows or vertical columns.

L

Leg opening – The opening at the bottom of a pant leg where the foot is pushed through.

Line drawing – A black-and-white simplified drawing of a garment which shows the shape, seams and details of the garment.

Lining – An extra layer inside the garment, often made of different fabric than the main garment fabric.

M

Machine basting – Machine basting is used to attach a piece or a construction in place before sewing the actual seam. Machine basting is done at about 5 mm/ ¼” distance from the edge of the piece using a sewing machine. Machine basting doesn’t need to be unpicked, unless it is pulling or visible on the outside of the garment.

 N

Neckline – An opening on the garment bodice for pulling the garment over the head, and to which the possible collar is sewn.

Non-woven fabric – A fabric made of fiber, with the fibers attached to each other chemically, mechanically, or with heat without a weave. Many interfacings are non-woven.

Notch – A short line marked on the edge of a paper pattern according to which a short cut is made into the fabric with scissors. Notches are used to make it easier to match garment pieces together.

P

Pattern – A paper “template” used when cutting fabric. A pattern indicates the shape of the garment pieces and includes markings needed in aligning them.

Pilling – The formation of unwanted neps on the surface of a garment caused by abrasion.

Piping – A decorative cord or binding attached in between two garment pieces and sewn simultaneously with the seam.

Pleat – A fold sewn into a garment, creating fullness and adding ease. There are many types and various sizes of pleats.

Pressing – Pressing means shaping a garment using an iron. E.g. men’s suits are pressed, in other words, ironed into shape using the heat and the steam of an iron. Pant creases in the middle of front and back legs are achieved by pressing.

R

Right side – The right side of the fabric, meant to be visible on the outside of the garment. Sometimes the wrong and the right side are hard to tell apart because they look similar.

Rivet – A metal piece attached to a garment for decorative purposes, or to give it support e.g. at a pocket opening. Rivets come in various shapes and sizes.

Ruching (or garthering) – Ruching adds fullness and volume to a garment, and it’s commonly used in ruffles, at sleeve caps, and at the waist of dresses. Ruching can be done by sewing lines of gathering stitches, or with elastic band.

S

Seam – A seam joins or attaches two or more pieces of fabric together. There are many different kinds of seam constructions.

Seam allowance – The section in the fabric between the stitch line and the edge of the piece, making it possible to join pieces together. The width of seam allowances can vary greatly, but most often it is 1 cm/ ⅜”.

Selvage – The tightly woven edge of a fabric that prevents the fabric from fraying.

Set-in-sleeve – A sleeve is called a set-in-sleeve when the side and shoulder seams of the garment and the underarm seam of the sleeve have been sewn prior to attaching (setting in) the sleeve into the armhole.

Shell – The outer, visible layer of a lined garment made of a fashion fabric.

Shoulder pads – Pieces of separate padding on the shoulders of a garment with the purpose of giving structure to the garment and shape to the shoulder. Often used in coats, jackets, and men’s suits.

Skipped stitch – A long, incorrect stitch in a seam sewn on a sewing machine. There a several reasons to why skipped stitches occur, but a bent, broken, dull or wrong type of needle is often the cause.

Sleeve cap – The rounded part at the top of a sleeve piece, sewn to the shoulder section of an armhole.

Sleeve head – A curved piece sewn to the sleeve cap with the purpose of adding structure to the sleeve, drape to the shoulder, and covering seam allowances. Often used in coats, jackets, and men’s suits.

Sleeve opening – The opening at the bottom of a sleeve where the hand is pushed through.

Snap fastener – A fastener consisting of two parts, the ball and the socket, that are attached to each other by pressing. Snap fasteners are either hand sewn to the fabric or riveted using e.g. a hammer.

Stay-stitch – A line of stitching sewn to the edge of a garment right after removing the pattern pieces. Stay-stitching is done with a normal stitch length at about 5 mm/ ¼” distance from the raw edge.  The purpose of stay-stitching is to prevent the edge from fraying and stretching out of shape before sewing the actual seam or construction and it doesn’t need to be unpicked after the seam is sewn.

Stay tape (or clear elastic) – Thin and transparent elastic tape often made of polyurethane and mainly used to support the shoulder seams of jersey garments, but also used for other supporting purposes.

Steam – Using steam when pressing makes it easier to get a smooth garment. Steam can also help in manipulating the shape of a garment.

Stitching – A line of stitching sewn on top of a fabric or a seam, usually visible on the right side of the garment. Stitching can be used for joining, supporting or decorating purposes.

Stitching in the ditch – Sewing along the stitch line on the right side of the garment.  The purpose of stitching in the ditch is to sew the construction on the wrong side of the garment in place as invisibly as possible.

Stitch line – The part on the right side of a garment where two pieces are joined with a seam. The join of two garment pieces.

Stretch out of shape – Fabric or the edge of fabric can stretch out of shape. This can be prevented by stay-stitching or interfacing the edge of a garment piece right after removing the pattern pieces.

Stretch percentage – A term used for referring to the amount of stretch in a fabric. To find out the stretch percentage of a fabric, cut a 10 cm/ 4” swatch (or mark a 10 cm/ 4” wide area with pins) and stretch it in the direction of the weft on a cutting mat or against a ruler. If the fabric stretches (without force) e.g. to about 14 cm/ 5½”, the stretch percentage is 40%.

T

Tape interfacing – Fusible stay tape with glue on one side. Tape interfacing is used for supporting seam allowances e.g. at zipper openings and vents, as well as turnups, hems, and button stands.

Top collar – The upper collar piece, visible on the outside when the garment is worn. The top collar is often slightly bigger than the under collar. The size difference depends on the thickness of the fabric.

Turnup – A structure finishing a garment edge. Often a skirt, pant, or sleeve hem has an edge that has been turned up once to the wrong side and stitched in place. The raw edge of a turnup is usually finished first.

U

Under collar – The under piece of a collar, hidden under the top collar piece. The under collar is often slightly smaller than the top collar. The size difference depends on the thickness of the fabric.

Under sleeve – the under part of a two-part sleeve, which has seams running down from either side of the sleeve cap

Understitch – Stitching done on the wrong side of the garment with the purpose of keeping the seam allowances on the wrong side and supporting the seam.

Unravel – The edge of a fabric can unravel. Unraveling means that the single threads start to loosen and point out in the edges. In some cases, the instructions may ask you to deliberately unravel the fabric to achieve a frayed look.

Upper sleeve – The outer sleeve piece of a two-part sleeve, which has seams running down from either side of the sleeve cap.

V

Vent – An opening on a garment, e.g. on a skirt hem or a sleeve, with the purpose of adding functionality or working as a decorative detail.

W

Waistband – A separate panel sewn to the waist of e.g. pants and skirts, and sometimes also dresses and overalls.

Warp – The vertical threads in woven fabric, running parallel to the selvage.

Weft – The horizontal threads in a woven fabric.

Woven fabric – Fabrics made by weaving warp and weft threads perpendicular to each other. Different methods of weaving are used to achieve different types of woven fabrics.

Wrong side – The reverse side of fabric, not meant to be visible on the outside of the garment. In some cases, the wrong side can be used as the right side, and sometimes the two are hard to tell apart because they look similar.

Y

Yoke – A part of a garment common at the back of jeans, or over the shoulders of coats and shirts.

Z

Zigzag – A stitch sewn on a sewing machine with the thread going diagonally from one side to the other, thus forming a zigzag pattern. Zigzag is used e.g. to finish raw edges of woven fabrics and to topstitch stretch fabrics.

Zipper opening – An opening in a seam or cut into the fabric, into which the zipper will be sewn.