Sewing Glossary


Armhole – A hole on the bodice, where the arm is put through or where the sleeve will be attached.


Back sleeve – The back part of a sleeve that is constructed of two pieces so that there is a seam on top of the sleeve in middle.

Back stitch – Sewing a couple of stitches forward, back and then forward again in the beginning and end of seam to prevent it from unraveling.

Bar tack – A short supporting stitch, stitched with a very frequent zigzag. Bar tack is used for example on the fly of  jeans to attach the fly shield.

Basting – Basting means a long and loose stitch that can be done by hand or by a sewing machine’s long stitch. Its purpose is to either mark the fabric or to keep two pieces of fabric correctly together while they are being sewn.

Batting – A layer of warm but thin non-woven fabric, usually wool or acrylic, in between the shell and lining. Batting is used mainly in outerwear.

Bias band/Bias tape – A separate binding for finishing the fabric edges. Bias tape is cut on the bias, which means that it is cut in a 45 degree angle to the grain line.

Blind stitch – A stitch that is used to attach two pieces together so that the stitch is not visible on right side. Mainly used to secure hems, the blind stitch can be sewed by hand or with a special sewing machine.

Bodice – The garment’s outer shell, the ‘body’ of the garment, for example in trousers the right front and back pieces, excluding pockets, yokes etc.

Bottom of the leg – the opening of a leg where the foot comes out.

Bottom of the sleeve – The opening of a sleeve where the hand comes out.

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

Box pleat – A pleat that is constructed of two pleats close to each other and folded to opposite sides.

Breast pocket – A small inside pocket near a coat’s or jacket’s opening. Mainly used in men’s outerwear, but the breast pocket is becoming more and more common in women’s clothing as well.

Buttonhole – An open slot in the garment that is frequently stitched from all sides. A button is inserted through the buttonhole to create a fastening. Buttonholes are usually stitched by sewing machine, but they can also be stitched by hand.

Button stand – An interfaced panel usually on front of the garment onto which the buttons or buttonholes are placed. Button stand can be constructed of either a separate panel or folded from the bodice.

Button through – The part usually on front side of the garment where the buttons and buttonholes are placed to create a fastening.


Center front (CF) – A vertical line in the middle of a pattern, marking the center part on front side of the piece.

Center back (CB) – A vertical line in the middle of a pattern, marking the center part on back side of the piece.

Clip –  A small slot cut in the seam allowance to reduce bulk especially in outer curves. Its purpose is also to reduce the tension in the seam allowance, make it turn more easily and to make the fabric drape nicely. The seam allowances are most commonly clipped in curved edges and in other parts where there is tension in seam allowances.

Coin pocket – A small patch pocket on the right front pocket of the classic five pocket jeans.

Contour dart – The diamond-shaped long dart on the waistline of dress. The purpose of contour dart is to shape the waist and make it more fitting.

Cuff – A separate panel attached to bottom of the sleeve to make the sleeve tighter around wrist. A cuff can be closed or fastened with buttons and the size and shape of it can vary a lot.


Dart – Triangular or diamond-shaped stitched fold used e.g. on the bust, waist or hip to reduce fullness or to give  shape to the garment to fit the body.

Drape – Little ‘wrinkles’ on the surface of a fabric created for example with an elastic band gathering the fabric tighter in one part. The way that a garment drapes depends a lot on the fabric that is used.

Draping fabric – A relatively heavy and flowing fabric that drapes and falls straight down, not creating any volume or stiffness.


Ease stitch – Long machine or hand stitch used for easing the fabric. The ease stitch is woven in seam allowances and tightened to create more fullness.

Easing – When joining two garment pieces together, one of the pieces’ edges might be slightly longer than the other. In that case, the longer edge should be eased, so that the pieces will align at both ends. However, the fabric should not be wrinkled or pleated around the join. Easing is common on the sleeve cap, and its purpose is to create fullness and softness to the eased side. To facilitate the easing you can use a ease stitch on the seam allowance of the piece in question.

Eye – The other half of a hook and eye fastening. Eye is usually sewn on by hand.

Eyelet – A small round metal ring, that is used for example for lacing, to give breathability or just as decoration.


Facing – A panel that is used for finishing e.g. armholes, neckline or other curved edges without showing visible seams on right side of the garment. Facing is attached inside a garment like a lining.

Finish – A stitch on the edge of a garment piece. The purpose is to prevent the edges from fraying or unraveling. Edges can be finished with an overlock stitch or with a regular sewing machine zigzag stitch.

Fly – A folded part in front of trousers or skirts, that hides the zipper. This type of zipper construction is most common in jeans.

Fly-buttoning – A button through construction where the buttons are hidden under a fly.

Fly shield – A separate panel behind the zipper that prevents the zipper from touching the skin. Fly shield is used in the fly zipper construction, and it is most common in jeans.

Framilon band – A thin and translucent rubber band that is used the same way as a regular elastic band but is slightly stiffer and slimmer.

Fray – The fabric’s edge might fray when it is not finished. Fraying means that the single threads start to loosen and point out in the edges.

Front sleeve – The front part of a sleeve that is constructed of two pieces so that there is a seam on top of the sleeve in middle.


Grainline – A line marked in the pattern that demonstrates how the piece should be cut from the fabric. The pattern is placed on the fabric so that the grainline is aligned with the fabric’s selvedge (the warp).


Hem – Seam construction that finishes the fabric’s edge by turning it twice and securing it with a stitch. Mainly used on bottom edge of a garment.

Hook – One way of fastening a garment. The hook is usually sewn on by hand and it consists of two parts; the hook and the eye.


Interfacing – A separate fabric that is fused on the wrong side of the bodice fabric. Interfacing supports the piece and prevents stretching.

Inverted pleat – A pleat that is constructed of two pleats close to each other and folded so that the pleats’ folds are against each other.

Invisible zipper – Thin and unnoticeable zipper that is concealed behind the edges of two garment pieces. Most commonly used in light skirts, trousers and dresses.

Iron – Straightening or shaping a fabric using heat from an iron. Fabric is laid on an ironing board and stroked with the heated iron.


Join – The place on right side of a garment where the two garment pieces are joined together creating a ‘ditch’ in between them.


Keyhole buttonhole – Buttonhole that is rectangular from one end an rounded from the other end, to help the button shank set on its place neatly. This type of buttonhole is mainly used in outerwear and jeans. It can be replaced with a regular box buttonhole.


Lining – Lining is the garment’s inner part under the bodice. Lining allows the garment to drape and fold nicely, prevents it from sticking to skin, facilitates dressing by making the inside smoother, protects the garment from the inside, prevents stretching, insulates and reduces the translucency of a thin fabric.


Neckline – The hole on top of the bodice, where the head will go through or where the collar will be attached.

Notch – A small slot cut onto the seam allowance to mark where the two garment pieces will be aligned with each other. A notch is marked on a pattern by a small line in a 90 degree angle to the pattern. In some cases the notch can also be slightly diagonal. Mark a notch on the fabric edge by using scissors to cut a short slot on the same spot where the notch is in the pattern. Be careful not to cut the notch too deep over the seam allowances.


Overlock stitch – A stitch that finishes the fabric edges and prevents fraying. Overlock stitch can be made with an overlocker.


Pattern – Pieces of paper that are used for cutting the garment pieces. Patterns tell the shape of the garment pieces and all the marks that are necessary for aligning the pieces together.

Pilling – The unwanted bumpy surface that appears on the parts of the garment that are scrubbing against each other or against another object.

Pintuck – A very narrow pleat that is sewn from front side, a couple of millimeters from the fold when the fabric is folded.

Piping – A decorative lace or a panel attached in between two garment pieces and sewn simultaneously with the join seam.

Pleat – A part of the fabric that is folded and sewn on. Pleats can be used almost anywhere, but they are common for example at the waistline, neckline and bottom of the sleeve.

Press – Pressing means the forming of a garment with an iron, using heat and steam. For example men’s suits are pressed to the correct shape after sewing.


Right side – The front side of a fabric that will be used as the outside of a garment. Sometimes it might be impossible to tell the right and wrong side from each other due to their similarity.

Rivet – A metallic piece that can be attached to a garment for support, for example in the pocket openings of jeans. It can also be decorative.


Seam – A seam joins and attaches two pieces of garment to each other. There are a multitude of different seam constructions to be used in different parts of a garment.

Seam allowance – The outline of the garment piece that remains between a seam and the edge of the piece. The width of seam allowances can vary a lot.

Selvedge – The finished sides of a fabric.

Set-in-sleeve – In the set-in-sleeve construction the sleeve and the sleeve cap are finished separately and after that sewn together.

Shoulder pads – Padded pieces that are attached on the shoulders of a garment to give shape and body to the shoulder line. Shoulder pads are usually used in coats, jackets and suits.

Sketch – Sketch is a black and white technical drawing of a garment that shows the shape, seams and details of a piece of clothing.

Skipped stitch – A longer, incorrect stitch in a seam made with sewing machine. Sometimes a wrong needle/fabric combination or broken needle could create skipped stitches.

Sleeve cap – The round part on top of a sleeve where the sleeve will be attached on the shoulder part in the armhole.

Sleeve head – A curved panel fastened inside the garment on the sleeve cap. The purpose of a sleeve head is to support, lift and round the sleeve cap, which allows it to drape and flow nicely. It also prevents the seam allowances from sticking through the bodice fabric. It is usually used with shoulder pads in suits, jackets and coats.

Slit – An open part in the fabric that could be either in a seam or cut onto the fabric with scissors. Slits are made e.g. for zippers, vents and pockets.

Snap button – A hidden fastener that is used to fasten two overlapping edges together. Snaps consist of two halves; the ball and socket. They are attached to each other by pressing. Snap buttons can be stitched by hand or riveted with special tools.

Stand of a collar – A separate panel between the actual collar and neckline that usually overlaps on front and is fastened with a button.

Stay tape – A fusible tape with glue surface on both sides. Tape attaches two pieces of fabric together with glue, supports and prevents stretching.

Steam – Steam helps press a fabric. Steaming is also a way to form a garment or seams.

Stitch – A thread sewn onto the fabric, that attaches two pieces of fabric together.


Top collar – The upper side of a collar that will be on top of the under collar. Top collar could be slightly bigger than the under collar.

Topstitch – A visible stitch on the right side of the fabric. The purpose of a top stitch can be to attach, support or to decorate.

Trim – The seam allowances can be trimmed to reduce bulk. This means that the seam allowances are cut narrower with scissors.

Tuck – A narrow pleat that is stitched from the edge of the fold when the fabric is folded.

Turnup – A construction that finishes the edge of a garment by turning the edge once and stitching it on. The raw edge is usually first finished with an overlock or zigzag stitch. Turnup is usually used in the lower edge of a garment or in the the armholes.


Under collar – The under side of a collar that will remain hidden under the top collar. Under collar could be slightly smaller than the top collar.

Under sleeve – The under part of a sleeve that is constructed of two pieces so that the seams are on both sides of the sleeve cap.

Understitch – A stitch that helps a facing or lining to lie flat and stay inside the garment. Understitch is invisible from front side. It attaches the seam allowances on facing or lining.

Unravel – The fabric’s edge might unravel when it is not finished. Unraveling means that the single threads start to loosen and point out in the edges.

Upper sleeve – The top part of a sleeve that is constructed of two pieces so that the seams are on both sides of the sleeve cap.


Velcro – Velcro is a two-piece tape. The two sides are attached to each other by pressing. The rougher side is called ‘male’, and the softer side of the tape is ‘female’.

Vent – An open part sewn on a piece of clothing for functional or decorative purposes. A vent could be used on a sleeve or the back seam of a skirt or dress.


Waistband – A separate panel sewn onto the waist of a garment.

Warp – The vertical threads on a woven fabric.

Weft – The horizontal threads on a woven fabric.

Wrong side (WS) – The back side of a fabric that will remain inside the garment and is not meant to be visible. In some cases the wrong side can be used as the right side and sometimes it might be impossible to tell the right and wrong side from each other due to their similarity.


Yoke – A separate, small pattern piece for example on back side of jeans or a skirts’ waist.


Zigzag stitch – A stitch sewn with a regular sewing machine. Zigzag stitches go diagonally from side to side. It is mainly used for finishing raw fabric edges.

Zipper slit – An open part in a seam, onto which the zipper will be sewn.