About Sewing

Glossary

Baste – Long machine stitch or a long fast hand stitch. This is not strong enough for final sewing. Use for holding fabric together or testing major seams for fit.

Bias – When you cut something out of fabric at a 45º angle to the selvage. The horizontal and vertical threads are both running diagonally on the cut piece.

Binding - A long strip of fabric often cut on the bias used for different purposes. For example, you can wrap (double fold) binding around the edge of your fabric, and then stitch in place. The binding makes a neat finish and decorates the edges.

Casing - A tunnel that’s made from two layers or an edge of fabric that’s folded over. You use it to hold a drawstring or elastic.

Clip - Cut out little v’s in the seam allowances outside of a stitched curve. This neat tip will help rounded edges push out nicely and lie neatly.

Dart - A pie-or V-shaped seam that starts wide and tapers off the edge of the fabric. A dart molds a flat piece of fabric so that it fits smoothly over a rounded area of the body, like around hips, bust or the top of your head,

Drawstring - A ribbon or cord that’s inserted through a casing. You pull and tie the drawstring to tighten or close an edge.

Ease one side into another – Morphing two sides together that aren’t exactly the same length. This is a little tricky but don’t freak.

Ease for comfort – A few extra inches added to the measurements around your body so you can move, breathe and eat the day you wear your finished project.

Ease for style – Extra distance added to the measurement around your body for certain baggy or blousy styles.

Edgestitch – This is like a topstitch close to the edge of something.

Facing - A narrow piece of fabric that neatly finishes (completes) an edge.
The facing is shaped to match the edge of another project piece. Stitch the facing to the other fabric shape and then turn the facing to the wrong side. Facings are often used to finish neck edges and armholes.

Fleece - A soft, insulated knit fabric originally developed for cold-weather jackets and other outerwear,

Fuse – Another word for GLUE! Can you believe it?! Sometimes in sewing, certain parts get glued together.

Grade seam allowances – After something is sewn, seam allowances are trimmed away at different widths. You’d want to do this especially when the seam is really thick with different layers. After the edge is pressed the grading helps it look smooth.

Grain, grainline – The threads that make up the fabric and the direction they go in. Look really closely. The threads running parallel to the selvage, all the way length of the cut is called “with the grain” or “on grain”. The threads running perpendicular to the selvage just from side to side, is called “crossgrain”. It’s really important to match the arrow on your pattern with the grain. Your project will sew up easier and hang better.

Interfacing – This is like stiff stuff that you put on the back of some fabric pieces to make edges and areas stronger. It’s an extra thing you have to buy but it’s worth it. Sometimes you sew it on and other times your fuse it with the iron.

Nap – Fibers on the surface of a fuzzy or hairy fabric that are combed, pushed or woven in a certain direction. If you are using corduroy, fake fur, velvet or any other fabric with a “furry” feel, all the pieces needed for your project need to be cut in the same direction. From top to bottom the fabric looks light in color and from bottom to top, it looks dark in color. If all the pieces are cut one way except one which is cut upside down, it could look really weird once it’s made up.

Notch – Diamond shapes on the edge of your pieces. When you see a notch, it usually matches something. Don’t confuse notches with “notching” which means to cut little V-shapes into seam allowances along a curve for ease in turning things right sides out.

Overlock/serge – the loopy threads that you see wrapping around the seams inside your store bought clothes. “Overlock” and “serge” are two names for the same thing. It takes a special machine to do this for real, but some fancy sewing machines have stitches that can do something similar. The purpose is to make your raw edges neat and keep them from unraveling.

Pin – To pin two pieces of fabric together. Ah, DAH! But don’t make the mistake of letting your poor sewing machine run over top of the pins. Try to pull them out before you stitch in that spot. They can break needles and mess up your foot pressure.

Pleat - A deep fold pressed into the fabric and stitched in place. Decorative and practical, a pleat opens out to allow extra room to move in—like with a skirt—or to put things in—like with a pocket. There are all sorts of pleats, each with a special name for all sorts of shapes, such as accordion, box, cartridge, inverted and knife pleats!

Right side and wrong side - The right side is the pretty side that we see when your project is done. The wrong side is the back of the right side. It usually isn’t as bright or pretty. If you really can’t tell the difference, which happens sometimes, just pick one side and pretend you can.

Selvage – the edge along the side that doesn’t unravel. Sometimes there’s writing up the side. Even though the cut edge is nice and neat, it’s not a good idea to include that in your cut piece because it doesn’t hang or wash like the rest of the fabric.

Staystitching - A “helper” stitch that isn’t used for major seaming. Staystitching is used to hold layers together so they don’t slide around later when you do the real stitching.

Stitch in the ditch - Topstitch right between two sewn pieces in the ditch made by the seam. If you carefully stay in the ditch and the thread is a good color match, you won’t even see the stitching from the front. This is also called a crack-stitch, or stitch in the groove.

Topstitch – A machine stitch on top of your clothes. This can be decorative but sometimes it helps hold things down or together. It’s usually always seen so you need to topstitch neatly!

Understitch – A very cool trick to make edges and seams lie neat and flat. Once a seam is stitched, the pieces are opened and the seam allowances are all pushed to one side. Then you stitch just to the side of the seam through the outside layer and all seam allowances.

In This Section:

Sewing FAQs

Glossary

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