Glossary of sewing terms

(something useful for you to refer to)



ABSORBENCY
A fabrics ability to absorb moisture. This can be particularly important when making sporting garments and also when water repellency and stain removal abilities are required of a fabric.

ACETATE
A man-made fibre formed by cellulose compound refined from wood-pulp and/or cotton linters and acedic acid that has been extruded through a spinneret and then hardened.

ACORN
An ornamental wooden or brass handle which fits onto the cords of a blind to cover the knotted ends.

ACRYLIC
A man-made fibre made from polyacrylonitrile. The main benefits of this fibre are machine washability, tumble dryable, soft almost wool-like texture, and with excellent colour retention.

ALIGN
To match up edges, matchpoints or fabric patterns.

ALPACA
A natural hair fibre sourced from the Alpaca sheep. Most commonly this fibre is used to make coats, sweaters and suits.

ALTER
To make a revision or change to a garment or pattern in order to suit individual sizes or needs.

ANGORA
A natural fibre that can be sourced from either the Angora Goat or the Angora Rabbit.

APPAREL
The general term which describes clothing/garments.

APPLIQUE
The method of sewing a piece of fabric on top of another after a small piece of the fabrics edge has been folded under to create a clean edge. A tight zig-zag stitch (satin stitch) can be used with a machine or blind stitching if done by hand.

ARCHED VALANCE
A valance which is shaped at the lower edge, the sides of it being longer than the centre.

ARMSCYE
Another word used for Armhole.


ARROW
Arrows are used as symbols on paper patterns to indicate lengthwise grain, stitching direction and also the direction for folding pleats and tucks.

AUSTRIAN BLIND
A gathered blind that is made longer than needed. The extra length forms ruching at the bottom.

AWL
A sewing tool used for pushing out the inner corners of a turned-in fabric with its pointed tip. Useful for making collars.



B

BACKING
A term typically used for the fabric used as the back layer of a quilt. Also used to describe the fabric layer used inside a vest etc.

BACKSTITCH
Backstitch is used both at the beginning and at the end of a row of stitching to anchor the thread. This involves running the sewing needle back and forth a few times to reinforce the stitches so that they do not come loose.

BALLPOINT NEEDLE
A sewing needle that is designed to be kinder to a fabric by not cutting through it or damaging it in any way. These needles are particularly useful for synthetic, knitted fabrics. The ballpoint at the head of the needle passes between the fabric yarn without splitting it.<

BANDING
Another word used for Binding.

BAR TACK
A type of stitching often used in buttonhole making or to attach a belt loop or similar item. It is a group of zig-zag stitches formed very close together.

BARRE
An imperfection in fabric shown by a mark or ridge running in the lengthwise or crosswise direction of the fabric. These can be caused by tension variations in the weaving process, low quality yarns or problems during the finishing processes.

BASIC SHARP POINT NEEDLE
Basic Sharp Point needles are generally used for most sewing projects with woven fabrics.


BASKET WEAVE
This variation of the plain weave construction is made by treating two or more warp yarns and/or two or more filling yarns as one item in the weaving process. Yarns that are in a basket weave are laid flat into the woven construction. Oxford cloth and monk cloth are both examples of a basket weave construction.

BAST FIBRE
Flax, jute, hemp and ramie are all examples of bast fibre. They are obtained from the inner bark in the stems of these strong, soft, woody plants.
BASTING
The use of temporary stitches to hold your work in place until the permanent stitching is completed. These are usually large long stitches and are removed when the project is complete.

BATISTE
A plain weave, medium-weight fabric. It is usually made of cotton or cotton blends. Blouses and dresses are often made with this type of fabric.

BATTEN
A length of wood used to attach a blind valance or pelmet to a window frame.

BATTING
Cotton wool fibrefill or other fluffy material that is used for filling vests, quilts and placemats. During manufacture the filling is flattened and attached to a roll to be purchased in lengths (just like fabric.)

BED VALANCE
A skirt that covers the divan part of a bed.

BEDFORD CORD
A cord cotton-like fabric with raised ridges running in a lengthwise direction. Upholstery and work clothes are often made with this fabric because of its high durability and strength.

BIAS
A diagonal line that runs across the fabric. This is the stretchiest area of the fabric.

BIAS BINDING/TAPE
Strips of fabric that are cut on the bias, turned under, pressed, and used where stretch is needed or accommodation to curves.

BINDING
A method used to neaten a raw edge of material using a separate length of fabric. This is commonly done in the manufacture of blankets and quilts. The term not only refers to the method itself but can also refer to the piece of fabric that is used to encase the raw edged material.
BISHOPS SLEEVE CURTAINS
Curtains that are made longer than needed, then tied tightly and pulled up and over the tied section.

BLANKET STITCH
A type of stitch that is used to neaten the edge of a blanket, buttonhole or vest edge. This stitch can be done by hand or by machine.

BLEEDING
Bleeding occurs with fabrics that are not colorfast. The colour seeps out of the fabric during washing, and sometimes whilst wearing the finished garment. Wash these types of fabric on their own or with similar colors.

BLEND
A fabric or yarn that is made up of more than one fibre eg polyester/cotton. This type of blended yarn has two or more different types of fibres twisted or spun together.

BLIND
A single curtain on a roll which pulls up from the bottom.

BLIND HEM STITCH
A stitch that picks up one thread of the fabric at a time (before creating a machine stitch) instead of going through several threads. If done successfully the stitching is almost invisible from the right side of the fabric, a very handy tool for producing neat hems. Most modern sewing machines have a blind hem attachment.

BLOCK
A block is the name referring to the individual sections used to make the top of a quilt. They can also be made to create a length of fabric to be used for garment making or for projects like pillow covers or cushions.

BOBBIN
This is the section of your sewing machine that holds the bottom thread, otherwise known as the bobbin thread, before being placed in the bobbin case (usually located underneath where the needle penetrates the fabric). The bobbin thread then loops in with the needle thread forming a locked stitch.

BODICE
The section of a garment (or pattern) that runs all the way from the top of the shoulder down to the waist.

BODKIN
This tool is used to insert cording or elastic through casing.


BOLT
A large tubular roll of fabric whereby the fabric itself is usually folded right sides together running lengthways.

BOUCLE
A woven fabric or knit made from a curly, rough, knotted boucle yarn. Sportswear and coats are often made of this yarn due to its looped knotted surface.

BOUND EDGE
A method used to neaten a raw edge using bias binding.

BOX PLEATS
A row of folds sitting in alternate directions. The extra fabric in-between the folds can be shown either at the front or the back depending on the desired effect.

BRAID
An ornamental trim used for a number of decorative reasons.

BROADCLOTH
Commonly broadcloth is made from cotton or cotton/polyester blends. It is a plain weave, tightly woven fabric. It has a slight ridge effect running in one direction, usually the filling.

BROCADE
An exquisite heavy jacquard type fabric with a raised pattern or design. Brocade fabric is usually applied to formal applications like upholstery, drapes and sometimes eveningwear.

BUCKRAM
Strong jute or cotton fabric used for stiffening items such as the brims of baseball caps or also used in some drapery projects. It is sometimes impregnated with glue.

BULLION
A thick twisted fringe used only for decorating purposes.

BURLAP
A plain weave fabric, heavy weight and loosely constructed. Often this inexpensive fabric is used for making grain and rice sacks and also carpet backing.

BUTTING
Butting is the method used to bring two edges together so that they touch but do not overlap each other.

BUTTONHOLE
A slit made in the fabric to allow a button to pass through in order to close a garment. The slit is bound using a special buttonhole stitch to stop the fabric from fraying.


C

CAFE CURTAINS
A curtain that is made to fit the bottom section of a window only. This allows privacy but also lets the light in.

CALENDERING
A method for applying special effects such as embossing, glazing, high luster and moire to finish fabric.

CALICO
A cotton type fabric with a tight weave. Commonly used to make aprons, quilts and dresses. This fabric is also often used in doll-making.

CAMELS HAIR
This natural fibre is often used for making coats, suits and sweaters. It is obtained from the hair of the two-humped Bactrian camel.

CARDED COTTON
A process of opening and cleaning the cotton to prepare it for weaving. This type of cotton has a coarser feel to it than combed cotton.

CARDING
A process used to remove dirt and foreign matter still remaining in the fibre mass, and also fibres that are too short to be included in the spun yarn. This process also lays the fibres parallel and then condenses them into a single continuous untwisted strand.

CASED HEADING
A channel at the top of a curtain used for threading a curtain rod through.

CASHMERE
A luxurious fibre that is obtained from the soft fleece of the Kashmir goat of Tibet, India, Mongolia, Iran, Iraq and China. It is commonly used to make shawls, sweaters, suits, coats and dresses.

CASING
A type of fabric channel formed for the purpose of holding waistband elastic or drawstrings in place on slacks or sweatpants. The same method can also be used in furnishings such as a channel being created to hold either a curtain rod or a length of dowelling.

CELLULOSE
Used in the production of many vegetable fibres, as well as being the main component used in the making of fibres such as rayon, acetate and triacetate. Derived from the cell walls of certain plants.
CHAIN WEIGHTS
A length of small heavy beads covered in a cotton casing that is used for lightweight fabrics.

CHALK
Chalk is used to mark fabric to show the location of darts, buttonholes, pleats, and other construction lines.

CHALLIS
A plain weave, soft, lightweight fabric with a slightly brushed surface. Most often seen in fabrics made of cotton wool or rayon and also often printed with a floral pattern.

CHAMBRAY
A plain woven fabric made from cotton, silk or man-made fibres. It incorporates a coloured warp (usually blue) and white filling yarns.

CHIFFON
A lightweight plain woven fabric that is extremely sheer, airy and silky. It contains highly twisted filament yarns, often from rayon and other man-made fibres. Commonly this fabric is used in evening dresses and scarves.

CHINTZ
A plain weave fabric usually made of cotton and glazed to produce a polished effect. Most often used in dresses, blouses, draperies and slipcovers.

CLAPPER
This is a wooden tool that is used in pressing fabric during the construction of a garment.

CLEAN FINISH
This term is used to describe finishing off a seam with zig-zag stitch, turning the seam under and pressing it.

CLEAT
A two-pronged hook which is fixed to one side of a window frame. It is used to secure the cords of a blind when it is pulled up.

CLIP CURVES
Clipping curves is done in order for a rounded corner to lay flat and not bunch up when a garment is completed. Outside curves need to be cut very close to the seam whereas inside curves can have small v-shaped notches cut out as an alternative to clipping. You do not need to bother with this method of clipping curves if you use a serger to finish off your seams.

COLORFASTNESS
A word used to describe how resistful a dyed fabric is to washing, sunlight exposure and other environmental conditions.

COMBED COTTON
Combed cotton is smoother, stronger, finer and more compact than carded cotton. It has had all the short fibres and impurities removed.

COMBINATION RODS
Two or three curtain tracks sharing one set of brackets. Used when curtains and top treatments are layered for effect.

COMBING
This process is another step beyond carding. Here the fibres are arranged in a highly parallel form and more short fibres are removed from the fibre mass. This results in a high quality yarn with excellent strength, uniformity and fineness.

CONTOUR
A contour is a curve. Contours can be used in the making of a waistline eg. the waistband is cut on a curve versus a straight band. This will allow a better fit.

CONTRAST LINING
A coloured fabric that is used as a lining when sections of it will show from the front.

CONVERTER
A company or person who buys grey goods and re-sells them as finished fabrics. They manage the process of finishing the fabrics to the buyers specifications eg dyeing, printing, bleaching.

CORDING
Another word used for Piping. This is the method whereby woven or twisted rope is inserted to act as a drawstring in hooded jackets, waistbands etc.

CORDUROY
A fabric that utilizes a cut-pile weave construction. Usually made of cotton. Ridges of yarn are formed on the surface by weaving extra sets of filling yarn into the fabric. When the pile is cut clear lines can be seen by the ridges that have been built.

CORE-SPUN YARNS
These yarns consist of a filament base yarn wrapped with loose fibre which has not been twisted into a yarn. Commonly polyester is used as the base yarn with cotton used as the outer layer. This provides the moisture-absorbent qualities of cotton with the underlying strength and resiliency of polyester. Sewing thread is often made from these yarns.

CORNICE
Another word used for a Pelmet.

COTTAGE BLIND
Another word used for a Cafe Curtain.
COTTON
A natural fibre that originates from the seed pod of the cotton plant. Fibres can vary between 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. Pima and Egyptian varieties are the longest and highest quality varieties.

COUCHING
Couching is performed by sewing either decorative thread, yarn or cord to a fabrics surface using a zigzag stitch on your machine or overcasting by hand.

COVERED BUTTON
This is the technique of using buttons that have been covered with constrasting (or the same) fabric that is being used for the rest of the garment. You can buy kits to help you with this effect.

CRAZY QUILT
A quilt made of randomly shaped pieces of fabric . A good way to make use of odd sized scrap pieces of fabric.

CREPE-BACK SATIN
Highly twisted yarns are used in the filling direction of this satin fabric. The floating yarns may be either high or low luster and are made with low twist. The fabric is called satin-back crepe if the crepe effect is on the right side of the fabric.

CRIMPING
This is a technique used to ease fabric into the seamline.

CRINOLINE
A plain weave, lightweight, stiffened fabric with a low yarn count.

CROCKING
Crocking is the rubbing-off of dye from a fabric. This can be the result of the dye not penetrating the fibre properly or using incorrect dyes or dyeing procedures or the lack of proper washing procedures and treatments after the dyeing process.

CUPRAMMONIUM
This is a process of producing a type of regenerated rayon fibre. An ammoniac copper oxide solution is used to dissolve the wood pulp or cotton liners in this process. An example of Cuprammonium rayon is Bemberg rayon.

CURTAINS
Usually a rectangle of fabric hung either side of a window from a track or pole for decorative purposes as well as to give privacy.

CUT WIDTH
The width of fabric that is needed in total, including seams or hems.

CUTTING LINE
This is the outermost dark line found on a paper pattern. You can either cut directly on the line or just outside of it but always remain consistent with your cutting method.



D

DAMASK
Napkins, tablecloths and upholstery are often made of this glossy jacquard fabric. The fabric itself is usually made from cotton, linen, rayon, silk or blends of these yarns. The patterns are flat and reversible.

DARN
Darning is the method used to repair holes in a garment using stitching that runs back and forth over the hole in order to fill it. Socks are commonly repaired with this method. You can also use special darning tools to help keep your fabric taut whilst being repaired.

DART
Darts are V-shaped adjustments to a pattern that allow for extra fullness in a garment (for example in the bust area of a top) or alternatively for less fullness (for eg in the waist or back area).

DENIER
Measurement of the weight of a continuous filament fibre. The lower the number the finer the fibre. Likewise the higher the number the heavier the fibre. A denier is the equivalent to the gram weight of 9000 metres of continuous filament fibre.

DENIM
A twill weave, cotton-like fabric that is made with different coloured yarns in the weft and the warp. Because of the way it is constructed one colour is more predominant on the fabric surface. Typically jeans shorts and jackets are made of this durable fabric.

DIRECTIONAL STITCHING
Stitches applied in a particular direction to maintain the shape of the pattern.

DOBBY WEAVE
This is a decorative weave that is characterised by small geometric figures woven into the structure of the fabric. Normal dobby fabrics are usually relatively fine or sheer and are usually flat. Dobbies can be any weight with yarns ranging from fine to coarse. You can obtain heavier weight dobby fabrics that can be used for home furnishings or heavy apparel.


DOESKIN
A fabric finish where a low nap is brushed in one direction. This creates a suede-like hand on the fabric surface. Mens sportswear and billiard table surfaces are common for this type of finish.

DOMINANT COLOR
This term is used to refer to the main color used in a quilt or garment.

DONEGAL TWEED
A plain or twill weave fabric of a medium to heavy weight commonly used for winter coats and suits. Colourful yarn slubs are woven into the fabric. The name originates from a hand-woven woolen tweed fabric that was made in Donegal Ireland.

DOTTED SWISS
A sheer cotton/cotton blend lightweight fabric with a small dot flock-like pattern. This pattern can be either woven into the fabric or printed on the surface. Blouses, dresses and curtains are often made with this fabric.

DOUBLE CLOTH
A type of fabric construction where two fabrics are woven on the loom one on top of the other at the same time. The two layers of woven fabric are held together using binder threads. Patterns that may be in each layer of the fabric can be similar or completely different.

DOUBLE FULLNESS
When each section of a pair of curtains are the measured width of the window. This enables the curtains to drape in ample folds.

DOUBLE HEM
When the hem of a fabric is folded over twice in equal amounts. For example, a 2 inch double hem requires 4 inches of fabric.

DOUBLE KNIT
A weft knit fabric where two layers of non-separable loops are formed. You need a double knit machine with two complete sets of needles to construct this fabric.

DOUBLE WEAVE
This type of woven fabric construction is made by interlacing two or more sets of filling yarns with two or more sets of warp yarns. Commonly double weave fabrics are made using a total of either four or five sets of yarns.

DOWELLING
A cirular or oval length of plastic or wood that is attached to the rear of a blind to keep the fabric flat.



DRAPES
Another name used for Curtains. This word can also describe the way a fabric hangs on the body.

DROPPED SHOULDER
A design whereby the shoulder is extended over the top of the arm.

DUCK
A heavy, plain-weave, tightly woven fabric with a hard and durable finish. Usually made of cotton, it is often used for mens and womens slacks and also childrens clothes.

DUCT TAPE DOUBLE
A "body double" that is made by thickly wrapping your body tightly with duct tape (with a slim fitting top on underneath), making sure it conforms exactly to your shape. Carefully cut the whole form off your body and stuff with scrap fabric to keep the shape of your body. This is then used to assist with the fitting and adjustment of a garment or paper pattern.

DURABILITY
This is a fabrics ability to resist wear through regular use.

DURABLE PRESS
A fabric treatment that is applied in the finishing process. This allows the fabric to keep a smooth attractive appearance, retain creases or pleats, and resist wrinkling during laundering.

DUST SKIRT/RUFFLES
Another name used for a Bed Valance.



E

EASE
A sewing technique used when you are attempting to make one piece of fabric fit onto another by pulling in the extra fabric, whilst avoiding puckering or gathering. This technique allows for a proper fit and better movement in a garment.

EDGESTITCH
A stitch applied just 1/8" from the seamed or folded edge.

EGYPTIAN COTTON
A lustrous, fine, long staple cotton which originates from Egypt. These fibres are more expensive than commonly grown cotton.

ELASTICITY
A fibre or fabrics ability to return to it''s original shape, size or length immediately after the removal of stress.

EMBELLISH
A technique whereby you add decorative stitching, appliques or other decorations to your project. The end result is only limited by your creativity.

EMBOSSING
A process whereby a fabric is engraved under pressure with heated rollers to produce a raised design on the surface of the fabric.

EMBROIDERY
The process whereby a fabric or garment is embellished with coloured threads being sewn onto it to create a design. This can be done by hand or by machine.

ENTREDEUX
This french word describes the method used to join two lightweight fabrics with a piece of delicate, decorative lace. You can also use this method to join together ribbons with lace instead of fabric.

ENVELOPE CURTAINS
Curtains that do not pull back as normal. The inside bottom corners are hooked back to let light in.

EYELET EMBROIDERY
A fabric which contains patterned cut-outs (usually round or oval) that are stitched or embroidered around to prevent the fabric from unravelling.

F

FABRIC DIAGONALS
Fabric that is printed on the diagonal. You will normally see this term used on patterns that mention NOT using this type of fabric as the pattern design will make it impossible to match the fabric print in the finished product.

FACE
The right side of the fabric.

FACE FABRIC
The main fabric that is used for the front of an item. Sometimes it is called decorator or self-fabric.

FACING
A fabric piece which is sewn into the cuffs, collar, front opening, or arms eye of a hem to give a finished effect.

FAILLE
A soft, silky, finely-ribbed fabric made from silk, cotton or man-made fibres.

FAT QUARTER
A fat quarter is 1/4 yard of fabric around 18" x 22" whereas a regular 1/4 yard is 9" x 45". This allows for colorful, quick, stash building often used for vests and smaller garments.

FEED DOG
These are the teeth under the sewing machine plate that help move the fabric as it is being sewn.

FELT
Non-woven fabric that is made from wool, fur hair, and/or man-made fibres. Instead of being woven together the fibres are held together in a process using heat, moisture and the application of pressure.

FIBRE
The basic unit, either man-made or natural, that is twisted into yarns and then used for the production of fabric.

FIBREFILL
Man-made fibres which are used as filler material for the production of pillows, mattresses, comforters, quilts, sleeping bags, and some outerwear.

FILAMENT
A man-made fibre that is extruded in one continuous length from the spinneret during the fibre production process.

FILLING
The yarns that run across from selvedge to selvedge in a woven fabric. Also known as the weft.

FINDINGS
Any items such as buttons, hooks, snaps or embellishments that are added to a garment during the manufacturing process.

FINGER PRESSING
The action of using your hands to open a seam and rubbing/pressing the seam open with your fingers. Commonly used on small areas of a garment.

FINIAL
Decorative ends attached to a curtain pole.

FINISH (AN EDGE)
Turn under 1/4" of fabric and stitch, or serge the edge. Doing either of these finishes will stop the fabric from ravelling.


FINISHED FABRIC
A fabric that is ready to be manufactured into garments. It has gone through all the necessary finishing processes needed.

FINISHED WIDTH
The actual width of a fabric after the treatment is completed and all allowances have been utilised.

FLAME RESISTANT
A word used to describe a fabric that either burns very slowly or that self-extinguishes after a direct flame has been removed. Often referred to on childrens apparel.

FLAME RETARDANT
A chemical that is applied to a fabric or incorporated into a fibre when it is produced. This chemical significantly reduces the flammability of a fabric.

FLANNEL
A fabric with a very soft hand and a fuzzy surface. It is brushed on both sides to lift the fibres out of the base fabric. A medium-weight plain or twill weave fabric usually made from cotton/cotton blend or wool. Typically made into pyjamas and shirts.

FLANNELETTE
Similar to flannel except it has been brushed on one side only and it is a lighter weight. It has a soft hand and is also usually made from cotton.

FLAT FELLED SEAM
Created by sewing the wrong sides of a fabric together, trimming one seam allowance very close to the seam, and then the other seam is turned under and stitched over the other seam allowance. This reduces bulk in a seam. Often used in the making of jeans.

FLAX
Cellulosic linen fibre is obtained from this plant. This fabric is commonly used in drapes, upholstery, tablecloths and towels.

FLOCKING
A type of raised decoration applied to a fabric where an adhesive is printed on the fabric and then finely chopped fibres are applied to the adhesive by air-brushing, electrostatic charge, or by simple dusting.

FOLD LINE
This is the fold of a fabric (off the bolt) that you lay a pattern piece up against in order to avoid a seam running down the centre of your garment.



FOOT
This is the part of the sewing machine that sits above the feed dogs and presses down on the fabric as it is moved through the machine. There are many variations on the standard foot, for example a 'zipper foot.'

FOULARD
Fabric made from filament yarns like polyester, silk and acetate. This lightweight, twill-weave fabric is typically manufactured with a small print pattern on a solid background and is commonly made into men's ties.

FRENCH CURVE
A tool that is used to create or alter curves on a sewing pattern.

FRENCH KNOT
This is a three-dimensional stitch which is generally used decoratively in embroidery or on garments. It is hand constructed by bringing a threaded needle up through the fabric, wrapping the thread a number of times, and then taking it back down through the fabric.

FRENCH SEAM
A seam which has been completely enclosed.

FRILL
A longer length of fabric that is gathered or pleated onto the edge of a fabric for decorative purposes.

FULLNESS RATIO
This is the ratio of fabric width to the window width. Curtains are usually at least twice the width of the window.

FUSIBLE
This relates to interfacing and webbing. It allows it to be ironed onto a garment (with or without stitching for added reinforcement) using the heat- activated "glue" that has been applied to one side.




G

GABARDINE
A twilled, tightly woven fabric, often used for making business suits. It has a slight diagonal line on the right side of the worsted fabric. Cotton, rayon, polyester and other blends are also used in gabardine production.

GATHERING
Gathering enables a longer piece of fabric to be sewn onto a shorter piece of fabric. It is also a method used to ease a seam, allowing the insertion of sleeves and other rounded pieces of a pattern. It creates fullness by pulling fabric together.

GAUZE
A sheer, thin, plain-weave fabric which is made of cotton, silk, wool, rayon, or other man-made fibres. Commonly used in surgical dressings, trims, curtains and some apparel.

GEORGETTE
A lightweight, sheer fabric which is often made of silk or polyester. Dresses and blouses are often made of this crepe finish fabric.

GINGHAM
A plain weave fabric of a medium weight with a checkered or plaid pattern. Dresses, shirts, cushion covers and curtains are often made with this fabric.

GIVE
This term is used to describe the elasticity of a fabric or garment eg. this garment has a lot of "give" (ie it has a lot of stretch).

GRADING (SEAMS)
This is the action of trimming raw edges of a fabric (in graduating widths) to reduce the bulk of a curved edge. eg a facing seam allowance would be trimmed shorter on the facing part of the allowance and longer on the body seam allowance.

GRAIN
The direction of the fabric that runs parallel to the selvage.

GREIGE/GREY GOODS
This is an unfinished fabric that has just been removed from a loom or knitting machine.

GUSSET
A piece of fabric that is sewn into a seamline in order to create decoration or fullness, for example, inserting a diamond shaped section of material to an underarm area of a dress allows more movement.

H

HAIR CANVAS
This is a type of good quality woven interfacing that is useful for areas like firm blazer rolled collars.

HAM
This is a useful item for ironing curved areas of a garment for eg. sleeves darts etc. It is "ham" shaped, tightly stuffed, and appropriately shaped to mold to curves.

HAND
The way that a fabric feels when it is touched. Various terms can be used like silky, soft, dry, and crisp. For example "this fabric has a very soft hand."

HEADER
The extra fabric that is above a cased heading, forming a frill.

HEADING TAPE
A wide woven tape that incorporates pockets for curtains hooks and gathering cords.

HEATHER
A yarn spun with pre-dyed fibres. These fibres are blended together to give a distinctive look. A grey heathered yarn can be created for example by blending black and white fibres together.

HEM
The area of fabric that is turned up and stitched on the lower section of a garment, allowing a clean finished edge. Hemming can be performed to shorten pants that are too long or alternatively the hem can be lowered to allow more room for growth in childrens clothing.

HEMP
A durable, coarse textured bast fibre which is manufactured from the inner bark of the hemp plant. Twines and cordages are often made from this fibre, however apparel is more commonly being made with hemp in modern times.

HERRINGBONE
A twill weave construction variation whereby the twill is broken or reversed at regular intervals so as to produce a zig-zag effect.

HOLD BACKS
Decorative hooks or mushrooms to hold curtains back onto the wall.

HONG KONG FINISH
Where bias binding has been enclosed within a seam.

HOOK AND EYE CLOSURE
This is a method employed to "close" sections of fabric using a metal hook on one side and a loop on the other. This is often seen in the construction of lingerie and also at the upper rear of some dresses and blouses.

HOUNDSTOOTH CHECK
A twill weave construction variation whereby a broken check effect is produced by a variation in the pattern of interlacing yarns using at least two different coloured yarns.

HYDROPHILIC FIBRES
A fibre which absorbs water easily, takes longer to dry, and requires more ironing.

HYDROPHOBIC FIBRE
A fibre which lacks the ability to absorb water.

I

INSEAM
The seam that runs along the inside leg of pants, from the crotch to the hem.

INTERFACING
This fabric is inserted between layers of the garment to give stability and form to collars, cuffs, and some waistbands. It can be sewn in, or alternatively, it can be fusible (iron-on adhesive).

INTERLINING
A soft fabric that is placed between the lining and the face fabric to help insulate.

INVERTED PLEAT
A flat pleat with the extra fabric to the wrong side.

IRON
An iron is an essential part of your sewing kit. It is used to press and straighten fabric with or without the use of steam.

IRONING
Ironing is the action of moving an iron back and forth over a garment to smooth out the wrinkles and creases. Also see "Pressing" which is the more common term used in the construction of a garment.



J

JABOT
The tail section of Swags and Tails.

JACQUARD
A loom which enables the control of each warp thread, so that each warp end can be raised or lowered to form an intricate design.

JEAN JUMPER
A jean jumper is used to hold the presser foot up a little to make sewing seams on denim (or any other thick material) a little easier.



K

KICK PLEATS
Similar to box pleats, except the pleats are further apart as the folds do not butt together at the back.

KNIFE PLEATS
A row of folds running in the same direction.

KNITTED FABRICS
Fabric constructed by the inter-looping of yarn loops by the use of needles or more specifically a loop within a loop. These fabrics have a significant amount of give in one or both directions.

L

LAMBREQUIN
A pelmet which extends down the side of a window as well as the top.

LEADING EDGES
The central edges of a pair of curtains running from top to bottom.

LINING
A lining is used on the inside of a garment (for eg jackets and coats) to hide the inside construction and seams, and also to give a decorative effect. Usually lining is made of a silky type fabric to make the garment easier to put on.




M

MACHINE EMBROIDERY
Machine embroidery is a decorative type of stitching that can be created using a normal sewing machine or more effectively by using a special machine dedicated to embroidering.

MEND
To "mend" is to fix or repair a hole, split, tear, or other type of damage made to a garment. Depending on the severity of damage there are various methods you can use for eg. machine or hand stitches can be used to "bind" small tears and splits. Iron-on and sew-on patches are useful for larger areas.

MITERING
A method of folding the excess seam allowance to gain a sharper and less bulky corner. Often used for quilt corners, vests, jackets and occassionally on collars.

MODERATE STRETCH KNIT
You will often find this term used as the suggested fabric on the envelope of a purchased pattern. It explains the amount of stretch that the fabric will need to have in order to construct the garment properly.

MUSLIN
A cloth used for making sheets. It has a thread count under 180 threads per inch. More loosely woven and coarser than percale. It is generally inexpensive and therefore often used to make trial garments before a more expensive fabric is used.


N

NAP
A one-way textural direction of a fabric, such as velvet or corduroy. When using these types of "fuzzy" fabrics with a nap all pieces must be cut with the nap running in the same direction.

NARROW HEM
This type of hem is 1/4" or 1/8" and often used on lingerie, shirts, napery, or anywhere that you require an inconspicuous hem. There are special sewing feet you can buy to make a narrow hem, or otherwise you can turn the hem up with your fingers.

NEEDLE
The two most common types of sewing machine needles are ball point and sharps. The ball point needle is usually used for knits, and basic sharp points are normally used for non-stretch, woven fabrics. There are many other types of sewing machine needles such as all purpose, wedge-point, perfect stitch, jean, wing and also twin and triple needles. See individual definitions for more information on each needle type.
NON-WOVEN
This is used to describe a fabric which is not made of yarn or thread. Leather and suede are examples of a non-woven fabric.

NOTCH
This small cut in the seam allowance allows fabric to bend at corners and curves. On a paper pattern it is shown as a dark coloured diamond.

NOTION
Notions are items (apart from a sewing machine and fabric) that are used for sewing. Also called findings and sundries.



O

OVERCAST/OVERSTITCH
This form of stitching is done to prevent a seam from ravelling.

OVERLOCK
Another word used for serging. This is an overcast stitch that is used to prevent the fabric from ravelling. You can buy an overlock machine that will cut and overlock in one step.



P

PATTERN LAYOUT
These are directions for the way you should lay out a pattern.

PATTERN REPEAT
The amount that one pattern is duplicated down the length of the fabric. Pattern repeat is one full pattern.

PATTERN WEIGHT
These weights are used on paper patterns to hold the pattern down to the fabric. These are used instead of pinning the pattern to the fabric.

PELFORM
A double-sided, sticky card especially made for pelmets and tie backs. They can be printed with various edge patterns.

PELMET
A decorative method for concealing the top of curtains and curtain tracks. They are usually made of a flat shaped panel which can be painted or covered with fabric.

PELMET BOARD
A horizontal shelf from which a pelmet or valance is hung from.

PERCALE
A smooth, lustrous, and fine fabric with a thread count above 180. Used for the production of bed linen.

PILE
This word is used to describe the nap of the fabric. Corduroy and velvet are examples of fabric in which the pile needs to be laid in the natural direction when being cut for a pattern. The fabric appears a different colour when brushed in one direction.

PILLOW SHAM
A decoratively covered pillow used during the day.

PIMA COTTON
High quality, extra long, staple domestic cotton from the Southwest area of the United States.

PINKING SHEARS
These are a type of shear with a "vvvvv" shape along the cutting edge. Using these shears instead of normal straight edged fabric shears will lessen the fabric ravelling. They can also be used for a decorative effect.

PINS
Pins are used for holding paper patterns to fabric whilst you are cutting the fabric, and also to hold fabrics together whilst being stitched. Safety pins can be used to baste quilt layers together before the the final quilting. Make sure you use good quality sharp pins to avoid large holes being left in your fabric.

PINTUCK
Pintucks give a decorative, tailored appearance to a garment, often blouses. They are narrow, sewn rows of fabric that give a raised look to a garment.

PIPING
This is the method whereby woven or twisted rope is inserted to act as a drawstring in hooded jackets, waistbands etc.

PIPING CORD
A fabric covered cord that is inserted into an item to decorate or accentuate a seam.

PIVOT
Pivotting is the action of leaving the sewing machine needle in the fabric, raising the presserfoot, turning the fabric on a 45 degree angle, lowering the presserfoot and continuing to sew. This ensures the fabric stays put when you turn corners.

PLACKET
A v-shaped opening at the end of a sleeve. Before the cuff is attached it is finished with a bias strip.

PLEAT
A fabric fold that is only sewn at the top edge on a garment such as a skirt or slacks. The fold is formed outwards or inverted.

PRE-SHRINKING (also referred to as pre-washing)
This term refers to laundering the fabric before you mark and cut out your pattern, so that the fabric shrinks to its ultimate size and shape before you work with it. Pre-shrinking really only needs to be done with a fabric that is going to be worn and washed ie not necessary for a craft project that is not going to be laundered. Do not pre-shrink 'dryclean only' fabric.

PRESS
Pressing is different to ironing. Pressing is the action of using a hot iron in a press/pick up/move/press/pick up/move action. Do not use a back and forth motion as you would when you "iron". Pressing is usually done in the creation of a garment.

PRESSER FOOT
The presser foot is the part of the sewing machine that holds the fabric as it is being fed through the feed dogs. You can buy various types of presser feet to do specialized tasks such as buttonholing, zig zagging, cording, zipper insertion and blind hemming.

PRICK STITCH
Prick stitching is used on fabrics such as velvet.

PUDDLED CURTAINS
Curtains that are made longer than necessary, which allows them to "puddle" onto the floor.


Q



R

RAILROADING
The method of using fabric horizontally rather than vertically. You can use railroading on fabric without a directional design or nap. This avoids seams in long lengths such as bed valances.

RAVEL
Ravelling can be performed intentionally to give the edge of the fabric a frayed/fringed appearance. Sew a tight seam any distance from the raw edge and pull the outside threads away. Unintentional ravelling of raw edges can be avoided by finishing the raw edge with appropriate stitching to keep threads intact.

RAW (EDGE)
The raw edge is the edge of the fabric that is not finished or stitched.

REACTIVE DYES
These dyes react chemically with the cellulose in the cotton fibre. This produces very bright colours with good fastness. Care should be taken with chlorine based bleaches on fabric treated with these reactive dyes.

REINFORCE (SEAM)
To effectively reinforce a seam you need to sew very close next to it, but not on top of the seam. You could also use bias tape to reinforce a seam. A typical area of a garment that needs to be reinforced is the crotch seam.

RETURN
The sides of the window treatment that project out from the wall.

RIGHT SIDE
The right side of the fabric is the side with the pattern or design.

ROLLED HEM
To create this hem, firstly fold the raw edge under between 1/4" and 1/8", and then fold over that amount again. Top stitch to hold the hem. This hides the raw edge inside the roll.

ROTARY CUTTER
Rotary cutters are rounded razor blades attached to a handle (a little like pizza cutters!) They are used to cut layers of fabric into strips, but can also be useful for cutting curved lines and for cutting out garment patterns. For a decorative effect you can also buy pinked edge cutters.

RUFFLE
Another name used for a Frill.

RULER
A good sewing ruler is clear plastic, 1/4" or less increments, 2" wide and 18" long. They're useful for measuring the placement of buttonholes, rotary cutting and pattern amendments. In conjunction with a solid ruler, an essential part of your sewing kit is a good measuring tape.

RUNNING STITCH
A running stitch is often used for basting, by running the thread over and under the fabric. It can also be used as the basis for a more decorative stitch.





S

SALVAGE
The woven outside edge of fabric which is unable to fray. This can have color matching dots or manufacturer information printed on it. Also referred to as selvedge.

SATEEN
A process of smoothing the yarn during the manufacturing process to provide an extra smooth sheet. It is usually made of a high thread count which provides extra softness and durability.

SATIN STITCH
This zig-zag stitch is applied with a shortened stitch length so that the stitches look horizontal to each other.

SCARF
A length of fabric that is neatened and draped across the top of a window treatment.

SEAM
A method of stitching two pieces of fabric together.

SEAM ALLOWANCE
The amount of extra fabric added to allow for a seam. This is the area between the cut edge and the seam stitching.

SELVEDGE
The woven outside edge of fabric which is unable to fray. This can have color matching dots or manufacturer information printed on it. (Some references note the spelling as selvage or selvege.)

SEPARATING ZIPPER
This is a type of zipper that separates entirely. These are often found on jackets and sweaters. There is a metal or plastic tab at the bottom of the zipper for bringing both sides together and starting the zip.

SERGER
Also called an overlocker. This is a form of sewing machine that cuts off excess fabric and finishes the seam allowance in one motion. Most manufactured knit fabric garments have been edged with a serger.

SHANK BUTTON
A shank button is one that has space left between it and the fabric. They have a raised area on the back of the button which is used to sew it onto the fabric. A heavyweight jacket would require a deeper shanked button than a lighterweight jacket for instance. You can turn a normal button into a shanked button by wrapping thread under the button to create a shank.


SHRINK
Shrinkage occurs with some fabrics when they are washed and/or dried. This results in the fabric or garment becoming smaller. See "Pre-Shrinking" for ways to deal with this problem when constructing a garment.

SIZING
A light starch finish that provides crispness to a fabric without feeling stiff.

SLIT
Slits are often seen on skirts or back seams. They are an open part of the seam, usually at the bottom.

SLOPER
A sloper is a trial pattern of muslin or gingham pattern which has been altered to fit the individual person. It has to be very snug fitting, leaving just enough room to breathe but little room to move. It does not have style or design features, it is just a "record" of what fits you.

SNIPS
Snips are very small cutting tools, very much like scissors, but are only used for cutting threads.

SPOOL
Basically, a spool holds thread. They can be made of plastic, wood, cardboard tubing, etc.

STACKBACK
The amount of space taken up by the curtains or drapes when they are open.

STASH
A collection of fabric.

STAY-STITCH
This stitching is applied about 1/8" inside the permanent line of stitching on a curved edge in order to keep it from distorting. Refer to the pattern to establish the direction of the stitching.

STITCH IN THE DITCH
This is a type of under-stitching. To perform successfully, press the seam allowances to one side and top stitch as close as possible to the seam. This will hold the seam allowance down and keep the piece of fabric folded under.

STITCH LENGTH
The length of the stitch depends on the work you are doing, but in general 11-12 stitches are applied per inch. If you are gathering or basting then there is usually 6 stitches applied per inch. You will rarely ever need to have more than 12 stitches applied per inch.
STRAIGHT STITCH
This is stitching made up of single forward stitches. Most sewing machines use this as the standard.

SUPIMA
An extra long staple cotton fibre grown from trademark controlled seed. Supima is a Trademark of the Supima Association of America which is a group of growers in the south west area of the United States.



T

TACK/TACKING
Tacking is applying temporary stitching to hold material pieces together until the final stitching is completed.

TAILORS TACK
Using two threads through a needle, draw the needle through all fabric layers (and paper pattern), and snipping off the thread, but leaving a "tail" of thread at the top and bottom of the fabric as a way of marking the piece. Use a contrasting color thread for easy identification. You can use this method to mark darts, buttonholes etc.

TAPE MEASURE
A tape measure is made of a flexible material, about 60" long, and has a (usually) metal tab at each end. Measurements are marked on both sides, sometimes both metric and imperial.

TENSION
The term tension is used in two areas of your sewing machine. The first being the bobbin tension (which doesn't usually need to be adjusted). The second being the thread tension. You should carefully refer to your machines instruction manual with regards to both tensions.

THIMBLE
Thimbles are used to protect your middle finger when hand sewing. They are available in many materials eg. metal, wood, plastic, leather, ceramic. You wear the thimble on the hand that is actually using the needle to sew.

THREAD
Thread is the basis for sewing material together. It is usually the same (or complimentary) colour as your fabric. This thread should be used on both the spool as well as in the bobbin of your machine to avoid problems such as bunching and knotting from occurring.

THREAD COUNT
The actual number of threads used per inch in a woven fabric.
TIE BACKS
Stiffened pieces of fabric hooked onto the wall to hold back curtains.

TOP STITCH
This is a row of stitching which is visible on the completed product. This stitching can be decorative or purely functional. It is usually applied about 1/4" from the edge of a seam.

TRACING PAPER
Tracing paper is used with a tracing wheel to mark your fabric with the ink-like substance that is on one side of the paper.

TRACING WHEEL
A tracing wheel is used in conjunction with tracing paper. Laying the ink-side of the tracing paper down on the fabric, roll the wheel across the paper where you want the fabric to be marked. Do not press too hard with the tracing wheel as you may cut through the paper or fabric.

TRIM
Trim can have two meanings. The first being the act of removing excess fabric or thread etc with scissors. The second meaning of trim is a decorative accessory added to a garment or item eg lace, ribbon etc.

TUCK
See Pintucks. Tucks give a decorative, tailored appearance to a garment, often blouses. They are narrow, sewn rows of fabric that give a raised look to a garment.



U

UNDER-STITCHING
This form of stitching is applied as close to the seam line as possible to enable a piece of fabric to stay folded under. See "Stitch in the Ditch."

UNDERLINING
This is a lining that is used to add body to a garment.

UNIVERSAL NEEDLE
This sewing machine needle is used for knitted or woven fabrics. The needle has a slightly rounded tip.


V

VIEW
This term is used to describe the variations that are shown on most paper patterns. Each variation is referred to as a "view".
W

WALKING FOOT
This type of foot replaces the normal foot on your sewing machine, but it allows smoother sewing when you are stitching through several layers of fabric. It works in conjunction with the feed dogs below the fabric to help push the material through. Also useful for slippery fabrics.

WARP
The threads that run down the length of a woven fabric. They can also be called the lengthwise grain.

WEFT
The threads that run across a woven fabric from selvedge to selvedge. They run perpendicular to the warp. Also referred to as the cross grain.

WELT
A strip of fabric that is sewn between the two sides of a cushion to allow it more depth.

WING NEEDLE
This sewing machine needle has flared, wing-shaped sides that are used to make holes in tight woven fabrics.

WONDER UNDER
Regular weight paper-backed fusible web for use on medium to lightweight fabrics. Wonder Under is a fusible adhesive which is applied to release paper. It bonds fabric to fabric, or any porous surface. It is faster and easier to use than glue. Machine washable or dry cleanable.

WOVEN FABRIC
Fabric that is made by interlacing horizontal and vertical yarns.

WRONG SIDE
The wrong side of a fabric is the one where there is no design or pattern.


X

Y

Z

ZIG ZAG
Zig zag is a type of stitch that goes sideways one direction, and then the other. It can be used to prevent a seam from ravelling. It can also be used decoratively.