Sewing Glossary

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appliqué - Pieces cut from fabric, felt, or other materials that are then sewn onto a foundation fabric.


backing - The underside or lining in quilting.

backstitch - One or two firm stitches at the very beginning or end of a row of stitching.

ballpoint needle - A sewing machine needle with a rounded tip that stitches knit fabrics without splitting the fabric.

bar tacks - A series of stitches used for reinforcing areas of stress, such as pocket openings or the bottom of a fly opening.

baste - A large running stitch done to temporarily hold pieces together during both fitting and construction.

bias - The diagonal direction between the straight grain and the crossgrain. True bias is at a 45-degree angle.

binding - Finishing the raw edge of a garment by attaching a narrow strip of fabric that folds over to enclose he edge.

bobbin - A round spool holding the thread that forms the underside of a machine stitch. 

boning - Plastic strips slipped into sheaths that are sewn into a garment to give support and body contouring.


casing - A flat open tube of fabric through which tape, elastic, or trim can be threaded.

clip - To cut into a seam allowance to mark a placement or allow a curve to spread and lie smooth.

crosswise grain - Fabric threads running from selvage to selvage.


dart - A triangle shaped tuck stitched into a garment that allows a fabric to shape to the contours of the body..

drape - The way fabric falls on the body.


ease - An allowance added to a pattern for movement in a garment.

​edge stitching - A row of stitching along the very edge of a garment or fold in a project. Edge stitching is usually done about 1/8 inch or less from the edge.


​facing - Fabric pieces either cut separately or folded back over themselves that enclose the raw edge of a garment.

​fat quarter - A 1/2 yard of fabric cut in half to make two quarters of a yard. Fat quarters usually measure 18x22 inches while a standard 1/4 yard cut on a bolt is 9x44 inches. 


​feed dogs - Metal teeth like ridges that emerge from rectangular holes to the throat plate of a sewing machine. Feed dogs gently grip the underneath of the fabric, helping it to move away as the stitches are sewn.

finger press - Using your finger to mark and press a fold.

finish - Turning under a raw edge and stitching it in place.

fitting lines - Lines marked on a sewing pattern that indicate the finished lines after sewing.

Flat-Felled seam - Sewing the wrong sides of the fabric together and trimming one seam allowance close before turning the other seam under and stitching it over the first.

fly wheel - The wheel on a machine that raises and lowers the sewing machine needle.

fray - The loose threads on the edge of a fabric.

free arm - A section on most sewing machines that can be removed from the base allowing easier sewing of various types of projects - for example, when sewing around cuffs or hems of trousers.

French seam - A seam stitched first with the wrong sides together, and then turned in and stitched with the right sides together so the raw edges are enclosed in the seam. This seam is often found in high-quality garments and is often used with sheer fabrics.

fusible tape


godet - An extra piece of fabric in the shape of a circular pie segment that is sewn into  a seam to give added flare and volume. Godets are usually seen in dresses and skirts.

grade -Trimming one layer at a narrower width to reduce bulk in the seam allowance. Altering a pattern to make it fit a smaller or larger size.

grain - Indicates the direction of the yarn in fabric. 


hem - To finish the raw edge of a fabric by neatly folding it over and attaching it down.

Hong Kong binding - A binding that encloses the raw edges of the seams separately or individually inside strips of bias tape.


interfacing - A textile used on the wrong side of the fabric to give support and help shape or stabilize where desired. Interfacing than can be sewn or fusible.

interlining - A layer of fabric between the face and the lining of a garment to give added warmth or body.


jacguard - A fabric in which the design is intricately woven into the weave using a special loom.

lining - A layer of fabric sewn to the inside of clothing that covers construction details and makes garments easier to put on and take off. Lining is usually made from a slick fabric.


miter - The diagonal join of two edges at a corner used to finish the corners of garments or quilts.

muslin - A cotton fabric made in various weights that is often used to make sewing patterns.


nap - Fabric that has a raised pile or texture to it such as velvet or corduroy. Nap runs in one direction and requires all pattern pieces to be cut in the same direction.

needle plate - Also called the throat plate, a metal or plastic plate on the base of the machine under the pressure foot that has seam allowance markings to guide the fabric.

non woven - A fabric like material made from long fibers bonded together by a chemical or heat process--for example, felt.

notches - Marking on a pattern used to line up two or more fabric pieces that will be joined together. Notche are symbolized in various sizes, from single to quadruple.

notions - A collective term for a variety of sewing accessories. Notions ca refer to buttons, snaps, zippers, thread, pins, or seam rippers.


one-way design - Printed fabrics that have a directional pattern requiring special attention to be paid when cutting. All pieces must be facing in the same direction.

overlock - A quick method for finishing seams and edges in which you sue a special machine called a serger. Edges are trimmed and covered with thread in one operation.


pile - The raised surface or nap of a fabric made by upright loops. Pile can be cut (as in velvet and corduroy) or left as loos (as in terry cloth).

pivot - When sewing, to turn the corner by keeping the needle in the down position without cutting the thread.

placket - A finished opening found on the shirt fronts, sleeve cuffs, skirt openings, dresses, and pants that is made to accommodate buttons, saps, and other fasteners.

press - Using an iron i an up-and-down motion on one section of a fabric at a time without sliding the iron over it.

presser foot - The part of the sewing machie that rests on the fabric, pressing it down onto the feed dogs.


raglan - A type of sleeve with a seam with a seam that runs diagonally down from the neckline to the underarm. A raglan is made separately and then attached to a garment.

raw edge - The unfinished undecorated edge of a fabric.

right side - The finished side of a fabric.

rise - The distance between the crotch and waistband in trousers, shorts, and underwear.

running stitch - A basic stitch in hand sewing and embroidery that is created by passing a needle in and out of a fabric.


seam - The point at which two layers of fabric are sewn together.

seam allowance - The space or amount of fabric between the seam and the cut edge.

selvage - The tightly woven edge of a fabric along the lengthwise grain.

set-in sleeve - A sleeve made separately and then joined to the body of a garment by a seam that starts at the underarm and continues all the way around the armhole.

shank (button) - Created by using a premed attached shank button or thread shank. The shank raises the button above the garment, allowing the buttonhole space under the button to lie flat in order to avoid distortion of the garment.

shirring - Parallel rows of gathered stitches. Shirring can also be done with elastic thread.

slipstitch - A hand stitch sewn fro right to left used to join two folded edges together with very small, hardly visible stitches.

stabilizer - Materials used in sewing to hold fabric flat so it's more easily stitched. Interfacing can act as a stabilizer.

stitch in the ditch - Stitching right into the seam where the two fabrics meet, so the stitching is barely visible.


tack - Similar to baste, large stitches used to temporarily hold the fabric in place and then removed after the final stitching is complete.

tension - The pressure placed on both the upper and lower threads while machine stitching.

topstitch - Finished stitching on the right side of a fabric.


underlining - A layer of fabric placed behind each fabric piece to stabilize and hide construction details.

understitch - A stitch used to sew the facing to the seam allowance, but not the finished layer of the garment. Understitching keeps the facing from rolling out to the right side.


Velcro - The brand name for a common hook-and-loop fastener.

vent - The opening on the lower part of the back of a jacket or skirt that has a facing.


walking foot - A sewing machine foot used to guide several layers of fabric under the foot together as one unit. It prevents the fabrics from being pulled apart or shifting.

warp - The lengthwise grain of a fabric.

weft - The crosswise grain of a fabric.

wrong side - The inside or backside of a piece of fabric; the unfinished side.


zigzag - A machine stitch sewn from side to side.

zipper foot - A sewing machine presser foot used to sew a zipper or other trims with raised edges.