Your A-Z of Sewing

Your A-Z of Sewing

Welcome to the wonderful world of sewing! Whether you're just starting out or a seasoned crafter, we're here to help make your lessons in stitches even more fun and exciting.

For our newest feature, we've compiled an A-Z dictionary of all things sewing so that you can brush up on terms, techniques, and styles anytime - without leaving home!

Each month we will release a new letter. You'll find endless facts about fabrics and fibres from around the world as well as top tips on how to sew patterns with ease. Ready to delve into this adventure? Let's get started!




A shiny fabric that is not very strong, dries quickly and rarely shrinks but it can be melted with nail polish remover. Triacetate is a newer acetate that doesn't seem to melt in the same way. Acetate may be combined with other fabrics or used alone to make a silk-look fabric. It is often used for linings and has a wonderful drape to it.


A fabric made from petroleum products. Its’ colourfast, washable and can be tumble dried. It’s wrinkle resistant, with a wool-like texture, though does not take heat well so be really careful when pressing. It has good wicking properties so ideal for outerwear.


A skirt term which describes a garment smaller at the waist than the hem, flaring out in the shape of an A.

All-in-one facing

An All-in-One facing uses the same techniques and serves the same purpose as a regular facing but has one piece for the entire front, including the neckline and the armhole, and a separate piece for the entire back, and is often used in sleeveless garments. It is also usually tacked down to the bodice or attached to a lining. It can be sewn either entirely by machine, or can be finished with hand-sewing.

Amber Makes

Our favourite sewing kit company and a great place to learn new skills, techniques and make lovely projects.

Anchoring Stitch

A small stitch worked at the beginning or end of a seam to secure it. This is often worked as a reverse stitch or a lock stitch on the machine or by working several stitches on top of each other by hand


This is a method where a small piece of fabric is stitched on top of another, usually for decoration. This can be done by hand often using blanket stitch or by machine using a zig zag stitch.


This is a dressmaking term for an armhole, where the sleeve is attached. It’s also the tailoring term for the pattern shape used when creating the armhole.


A pointed tipped tool which has a thin, tapered metal shaft. It can be used for pushing out corners and curves when a project is turned right sides out. It can also be used for punching holes into fabrics when adding metal hardware or holes into leather.

Now that you’ve completed the first edition of Amber Makes A-Z dictionary of sewing terms, you should feel confident tackling any sewing project that comes your way. What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for 'B' next month! From basting to bias binding and everything in between, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to successfully sew anything you desire.



The fabric that is used on the back of the quilt below the wadding and quilt top. It is often sold in an extra wide width so it doesn’t need to be joined.


Also called reverse stitch this is done at the beginning and end of a seam to prevent it from coming undone. It’s also used to describe an embroidery stitch where the stitches are worked backwards so they touch each other to form a solid line of stitching. 

Ballpoint Needle

Used in a sewing machine and designed to penetrate knit fabrics without nicking or damaging the fabric as they separate the fabric threads rather than piercing them.

Bar Tack

Used to reinforce parts of a garment in high stress points such as a pocket opening or the bottom of a fly or the end of a buttonhole. They are also used to attach belt loops. Bar Tacks are worked on the machine using a very small and close zig zag stitch at the point that needs to be reinforced. To work Bar Tacks by hand, work a few Straight Stitches then cover these with Buttonhole Stitch to create a row of dense stitching.  


A line of temporary stitching used to hold fabric pieces together before machine sewing. These are removed once the permanent stitching is complete if they can be seen. The US term for Tacking.


A semi-sheer plain weave fabric that is light to medium weight and made from cotton or a blend. Used for lightweight garments such as lingerie, baby clothes and blouses. It has a lovely drape and is reasonably crisp.


The layer of insulation used between a quilt top and backing fabric. It adds warmth and weight to the quilt and allows the quilting design to stand out. Available in pre-cut pieces or by the metre and in a range of fibre contents such as cotton, polyester, wool, silk, bamboo, recycled and blends of these fibres.  

The U.S term for wadding.


Available in solid blocks or in special holders to run a sewing thread through. The coating of Beeswax helps prevent tangling and will strengthen it as well - ideal when sewing on buttons or working embroidery. A light coating can also be used to protect wooden knitting needles and crochet hooks helping to stop them from splitting or bowing

Bell sleeve

A sleeve that fits neatly into to the armscye without gathering or pleating then flares towards the hem. It can be long or short usually ending at the elbow or wrist. 


The bias grain runs diagonally to the selvedge and when it is at 45° it is known as the ‘true’ bias. This grain has a natural stretch to it so fabric is often cut in strips along this grain to use for binding curved edges such as necklines. Bias cut fabric pieces are more fluid and elastic so are often used for skirts and dresses where extra drape and flexibility are required.

Bias Tape/ Bias Binding

Strips of fabric cut on the bias grain, often turned under and pressed, and used for bindings, facings, or other places where there is a need for stretch especially around curves. 


A method used to encase the raw edges of the fabric using a narrower strip of fabric. Ready-made bias binding can be used for this, or fabric strips cut on the bias are ideal for binding curves. When binding straight edges, strips of binding can be cut on the straight or cross grain of the fabric.

Bird Nesting

The term used for the threads caught between the fabric and the needle plate which are knotted looped and tangled, resembling a bird’s nest. It happens when the top thread and bobbin thread get tangled together. This can be caused by using the incorrect tension, a loosely wound bobbin, not threading the machine properly, short tails of thread used at the start, a blunt needle or a machine that needs cleaning. 

Blanket Stitch

An embroidery stitch which has a row of closely spaced loops around the edge used mainly to finish and neaten the edge of fabric such as a buttonhole, eyelet, blanket, or other seamline. It is usually worked by hand, though some sewing machines have a blanket stitch attachment or setting. Blanket Stitch can also be used decoratively on a crazy quilt or garment. 


This occurs when dye seeps out of fabric during washing or when damp. It can sometimes happen when wearing a garment and colour will transfer to a lighter fabric or skin. To avoid this happening, always pre-wash fabrics before you cut and sew them and rinse until the water runs clear.

Blind Hem Stitch

This stitch is worked so that it is almost invisible from the right side of the fabric so is ideal for hemming trousers, skirts, dresses, and curtains. It can be worked by hand by picking up one thread of the fabric at a time rather than going through the full depth of the fabric to make a stitch and then worked into folded fabric, so it is hidden. Many sewing machines have a Blind Hem Stitch which is worked using a Blind Hem foot and the sewing machine manual will show you to how to use and work this. 


A quilting term which describes an individual pieced fabric unit (usually square) which is sewn first then joined together with other blocks to make the full quilt. Many quilt designs use just one block pattern which is repeated several times and other use a combination of different quilt blocks which form a pattern once joined together.


This method is used to manipulate a pieced fabric square or shape back into a flat regular shape. It is done when several fabric pieces have been used which have distorted slightly. Spray the fabric lightly then pin it out into the shape and size it should be on a padded surface by measuring carefully then leave to dry. You can also use this method to block a whole quilt to return it to its correct size and shape.


A plastic or metal cylinder which holds the bottom thread of a sewing machine. Thread is wound on the bobbin and this lower thread loops with the upper needle thread to form the stitches. It’s important to use the correct bobbin for the sewing machine.

Bobbin case

The part of the sewing machine that holds the bobbin and gives the thread the correct tension whilst sewing so the machine can neatly unravel it. Bobbin case types vary depending on the machine and should always be replaced if they get damaged.


Also known as pilling, this happens on garments after repeated wear when tiny fibre balls sit on the surface. They can be removed with a special fabric shaver or comb. 


The part of a garment which reaches from the shoulder to the waist. It can be attached to the skirt piece to form a dress. 


A handy tool used to easily insert elastic, cording, ribbon etc. through a casing. It can also be used for turning narrow fabric tubes right side out


Many fabrics are stored folded in half onto cardboard bolts. This keeps the fabric flat and crease free and can be easily labelled. The fabric comes in different lengths on a bolt depending on the type and manufacturer.


A narrow strip of plastic or metal sewn into a seam or casing to give a garment structure and support. Originally bones were used, hence the name. Often used in wedding dresses, evening wear and corsetry.


An irregular weave fabric which has thick, knot-like threads that create a nubbly surface. It is woven from Bouclé yarns which are made from several loops, creating the textured fleecy appearance. It is often used in upholstery as well as jackets and garments. Traditionally made from wool it can also be blended or made from synthetic fibres which give the fabric different weights but the same texture.

Bound Edge

A technique using bias binding that neatens a raw edge. The binding is wrapped around the raw edge of a fabric or around a seam then topstitched into place. This works well on curved necklines and hems to add detail and an interesting trim to garments or any fabric item.

Boxed Corner

A method for finishing the bottom of a bag or other fabric item to create a flat bottom. Match the side seam with the bottom seam (or creased bottom edge) then stitch across the two to form a triangle then trim off the excess fabric. This can also be done by cutting a corner out of the bottom joined pieces then matching the seams and stitching together. It’s mostly used to give bags depth and structure but can also be used for cushions, fabric boxes and pockets.

Box Pleats

Box pleats are used to add volume and take in the fullness of a garment or fabric. They are created by folding two equal folds of fabric away from each other, one to the right and one to the left. The pleats are then sewn into place across the top edge. Topstitching can also be worked down part of the pleat to add detail and hold it in place. Inverted box pleats are made in the same way but with the folds of fabric folded towards each other


A medium weight plain weave fabric with a smooth appearance. Originally named as it was woven on broader looms. It’s used in dress making for skirts, shirts, and blouses. It is densely woven so is hard wearing with a fairly stiff drape and has a slight lustre. It’s often used in patchwork and quilting too.


A fabric with an all-over raised design, often used in formalwear as well as for curtains and upholstery. It was traditionally made of silk, often using gold and silver threads and the weave is designed so it looks like it has been embroidered on.


A strong, heavy woven, usually cotton fabric used for stiffening cap brims and in curtain making for creating pleats as well as used in book binding. Nowadays, heavy weight interfacing is often used in its place. 


A loosely constructed, heavy, plain weave fabric made from jute, sisal, or hemp fibre. It is used as a backing for carpets, in upholstery and often in craft projects where a natural look is required. The US term for Hessian.

Bust line

A measurement used in dress making when deciding on pattern size and fit. It measures the fullest part of the bust and is taken by measuring around the back and across the centre of the nipples. 

Bust Point

A term is used in dressmaking and is the position on a pattern where the point of the bust should sit once the garment is made and this differs from person to person. To find the Bust Point, measure from the high point of your shoulder and straight down to your nipple level. This measurement is often used when altering a pattern to make a bust adjustment.


A fastener used to joins two pieces of fabric together  by pushing the button through a buttonhole or small loop. Usually round but can be other shapes and made from a variety of materials including plastic, metal, shells, leather, coconut, wood, glass and ceramic. Often used to decorate and embellish garments and craft projects too.


A cut in the fabric that is bound with stitching, just large enough to allow a button to pass through. Buttonholes are mostly made by machine these days, but many people do still prefer to make them by hand, using a special Buttonhole Stitch and a heavier weight thread.

Buttonhole Stitch

Used primarily to secure the cut edges of a buttonhole but also used in decorative stitching too or to strengthen a raw edge. Working from the wrong side, insert the needle in the edge, make a small loop, then run the needle through the loop from below and tauten the thread to make a kind of knot, which must lie exactly on the cut edge. Work the stitches close together for a secure finish. When the first side of the buttonhole is completed, sew several long stitches over the end of the slit and wrap thread around them, catching in the fabric at the same time to make a bar. Stitch the other side of the buttonhole and make a bar at the other end.  

How do you feel now you have just completed the second edition of Amber Makes A-Z dictionary of sewing terms?

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for 'C' next month! 




A plain woven fabric made from unbleached and undyed cotton so has a natural colour. It often contains small husks as it isn’t fully processed. It’s available in different weights but is coarser than muslin and a little lighter weight than denim. Calico is a really versatile fabric that is often used for making bags but can also be used for homewares, curtain linings, upholstery as well as for toiles in dressmaking. 

Capped Sleeve 

A short sleeve that is cut and seamed to fit on the shoulder but doesn’t extend beyond the underarm.  


An expensive, soft and delicate wool fabric made from the undercoat of the Cashmere/Kashmir goats, usually found in Asia. It’s often used in sweaters and other luxury garments. 


A channel usually made from an edge of fabric which is folded over and stitched down. It can be used to hold a drawstring or elastic to gather clothing such as a waistband or at the top of a bag to close it.  

Catch Stitch 

A hand sewn stitch usually worked on hems but can also be used to attach two pieces of fabric together. Its ideal stitch for heavier fabrics and knits as it has a zig zag formation. Also known as Herringbone Stitch. 


Used to mark fabric pleats, darts, diamonds, buttonholes, and other cutting or constructing lines and designs in dressmaking. Available in different types such as pencils and shaped pieces 

Chalk Wheel 

This is filled with powdered chalk and ’draws’ a fine line when the wheel is rolled across the fabric. The chalk can be brushed away afterwards so it provides a visible but temporary mark and is used for tracing patterns and making marks, most commonly in dressmaking. 


A very soft, flowing fabric with a smooth surface. Although traditionally made from silk and wool is mostly made from rayon nowadays. It’s lightweight and breathable and doesn’t wrinkle. 


A cotton plain woven fabric made with a dyed warp yarn and usually a white weft yarn. It’s traditionally light blue but can also be made in other colours too. It is softer and lighter than denim and is perfect for lightweight clothing including dresses, shirts and blouses.  


A heavy, velvet-like fabric with the nap on both sides. It’s named after the French word for Caterpillar as it has a soft and fuzzy appearance with a soft drape.  


A transparent, delicate, gossamer, fluid fabric made of silk or synthetic-fibre crêpe threads, with an irregular surface and sandy feel. 


A plain cotton fabric that can vary in weight. Traditionally used in curtain making it’s often printed with large floral patterns. Chintz has a glazed finish and is extremely durable. 


Also known as a Tailor’s Clapper, this wooden pressing tool has two uses. Firstly, it’s a point presser, which is used to press seams open in corners and points to achieve flat finish and sharp edges. The flat base is the clapper, which is for flattening seams and bulky edges. Firstly, steam the fabric, then press the clapper down firmly for a few seconds. The wood absorbs the steam and sets the fabric in place. 


Small snips made into the fabric edge. These can be used to help a seam lie flat or remove bulk from the fabric. They are ideal for rounded edges or for easing tight curves. Small snips are used for outside curves or little wedges, called notches are clipped out for inner curves.  

Contrast Fabric 

A term used to refer to a piece of fabric or an embellishment made from a different fabric than the main fabric. Contrast fabric is used in certain pattern pieces such as facings and linings to produce design details. It is also used as an embellishment, or appliqué. 


A mid- to heavy-weight cotton weft pile fabric with distinct raised ridges on the lengthwise grain. The ridges are called wales which vary in width and corduroy is described by the number of wales per inch. Regular corduroy has 11-12 wales whereas needlecord usually has 16 and jumbo cord 3-10. It’s used in many types of clothing such a trousers, pinafores and jackets. 


The part of a shirt, dress, coat or blouse that fastens or frames the neckline. There are three basic types: flat, standing, and rolled. 

Collar Stand 

The section of the collar which is between the neckline of a shirt and the actual collar. A tailored shirt usually has a collar stand around the neck placed between the actual collar and the shirt. This stand raises the collar so its finished edge will fall smoothly back over the neck edge. 


Made from the fluffy seed pods of the cotton plant and its quality is dependent on the fibre length – the longer the better and more expensive too. It is strong, heat resistant, doesn’t tear easily and absorbs a great deal of moisture but dries slowly. Cotton can be mercerised which involves soaking it in a natron solution while it is stretched and this gives the fabric a slight sheen and makes it stronger too. It creases easily and can also shrink when washed. Easy care cotton is specially treated which prevents it from shrinking and also makes it more crease-resistant.  Cotton fabric is widely used in dressmaking, comes in a variety of weights and is cool to wear and breathable. 

Covered Button 

A button covered with fabric so it can coordinate with the item it’s sewn on to. Self-covered button kits are available in a variety of sizes and materials such as plastic or metal.  


The general term for all fabrics with a textured surface that are created by weaving with a twisted thread or by a raised or grained effect. 

Cross Stitch 

An embroidery stitch formed of two stitches that cross each other diagonally to form one stitch in the shape of a cross. This is most commonly used in cross stitch on an evenweave fabric to create pictures or designs but can also be worked freehand in embroidery.  

Crosswise Grain 

This is the welt, or grain of the fabric which goes across the width of the fabric from selvage to selvage. 

Curved Hem 

This method is used to ensure that the extra hem allowance stays flat on a curved hem such as on a circle skirt. Two lines of long stitches are worked along the longer side of the hem edge then it’s tacked into place and the lower thread is pulled gently to make the hem lie flat. Once the gathers are evenly spread and pressed the hem can be Slip Stitched in place by hand or topstitched by machine.   

Curved Seam 

A seam used to join two different shaped edges to create shape in a garment. It’s often used in the bust and waist sections and is also known as a Princess Seam. 

Cut Length/Width 

The measurement of a piece of fabric that includes allowances for seams, hems, gathers or pleats and fabric repeats.  

Cutting Line 

The line you cut along on a pattern. This is either the outer, usually solid line or the patterned line relevant to your size. 

And that is the end of the third edition of Amber Makes A-Z dictionary of sewing terms. Every technical term you may need to know when you are learning about your sewing crafts. 

Are we missing anything?

Stay tuned for 'D' next month! 



A glossy jacquard fabric, usually made from linen, cotton, rayon, silk, or a blend. The patterns are flat and reversible, and the fabric is often used for napkins, tablecloths, curtains, and upholstery. 


A technique used for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting using a needle and thread. It is often done by hand, but it is also possible to darn with a sewing machine. Hand darning is worked using a Darning Stitch which is a simple Running Stitch and the thread is "woven" in rows along the grain of the fabric, reversing direction at the end of each row This is then filled in, in the other direction, like weaving.  


Stitched folds used to shape a garment by taking away fullness from a seam line. They are usually wedge or triangle shaped and often used at the bust, waistline, hips and back. They allow the garment to fit smoothly over a rounded area of the body. Darts are marked on the fabric from the pattern then stitched from the broad end towards the point, tapering narrowly. Darts with points at both ends should be stitched in two separate sections starting in the centre each time and tapering to the point.  


A fabric which has the warp threads usually dyed blue or black and the weft is white. This makes the right side of the fabric mainly the dyed colour, and the wrong side remains whitish. It is mainly used for clothing, especially jeans but works well for homewares, bag making and upholstery as it is hard wearing but available in a variety of weights. The name Denim comes from its original French name ‘serge de Nîmes’ as it was a Serge fabric from Nimes, a city in southern France. 

Dorset Button 

A button which is made by winding and weaving thread over a ring and originates from Dorset in the seventeenth century. There are many different patterns and styles of these buttons and were made before machine made buttons were manufactured. Nowadays, these are often made as a craft in their own right and for decoration but still work well on garments too. 

Double Hem 

A Hem where the fabric is folded over twice to create a strong edge with the raw edges enclosed so the fabric won’t fray. It can be bulky so is usually used for woven fabrics, rather than stretch fabrics 


A term used to describe the way a fabric hangs under its own weight. Different fabric have different drape qualities as some are more fluid than others.  


A ribbon or a cord that is inserted through a casing. The drawstring is then pulled to tighten or close it. Often used in the tops of simple fabric bags or around waists of clothing.  

D Ring 

Used mainly in bag making and belts to provide a ring which a loop of fabric can be threaded through so a strap or clasp can be attached to it. It is shaped like a D and usually made from metal or plastic.  

Duchesse Satin 

This fabric has a higher thread count than ordinary Satin so it is weightier and stronger. It has a lustrous sheen, medium body and can be made from silk or synthetic fibres. It’s ideal for bridal wear, evening wear as it holds its shape so is perfect for full skirts. 


A tightly woven, heavy plain-weave fabric with a hard, durable finish. It is usually made from cotton and is available in a variety of weights. The lighter weights can be used for trousers, particularly workwear and the heavier weights for heavy duty bags and camping equipment. 

Duster Coat 

A long, loose fitting lightweight coat, originally worn by horse riders to protect their clothes from dust. They were then used when open top cars first came along as they protected the riders from the dust and dirt of the roads. They are now a fashionable alternative to a trench coat. 

That completes our A-Z of sewing terms, 'D' edition! Would you add more to this edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'E'!



The addition of extra fabric in a pattern to allow the finished garment to fit the body well without being too tight but draping well.   

Easing in 

This method is used to maintain the shape of a garment when sewing two pieces together such as when inserting a sleeve. This is often done by working one or two rows of longer gathering stitches just inside the seam line. The threads at either end of the stitches are then pulled up to gently gather the fabric until it is the same length as the fabric it’s going to be sewn to. Once pinned together, the two fabric pieces can be stitched as normal then the gathering stitches removed.  


A row of stitching on the very edge of a garment, usually 2-3mm from the folded or seamed edge. It’s used to hold the fabric edge neatly in place.  


An extremely elastic thread which be stretched to up seven times its length and still return to its original size. It’s also known as Spandex or Lycra and is usually combined with other fibres to make the finished fabric. It is hard-wearing, easy to care for and has minimal creases. It’s most commonly used for sportswear, tights and underwear. 


A woven, stretchable fabric made of fibres containing an elastic material, usually rubber and latex. It’s ideal for waistbands to fit snugly around the body or other uses where fabric needs to be gathered. It’s sold in various widths and colours from very narrow shirring elastic used in smocking to much wider elastic for deep waistbands as well as buttonhole elastic which has buttonholes in it so garments can be extended at the waist. 

Elastic stitching 

Use a stretch needle in the machine which has a rounded point which will go between the fibres rather than piercing and damaging them. A zig zag stitch, overlock stitch or honeycomb stitch is often used to sew elastic together or to fabric, as it allows some stretch. Some sewing machines have a special elastic stitch which is specifically for this purpose. 


A traditional and ancient form of decorative needlework where designs, motifs and pictorial work are created by stitching threads on to a layer of fabric or other material. Special needles and thread are used for this and traditionally it is worked by hand but is now often worked by machine too. 


Used to reinforce a hole cut into fabric or other material and inserted using a special tool which is often sold with the eyelets. They are made from metal, plastic, or rubber and come in two parts which, when pushed together, create a strong bond. They are very similar to grommets which are usually bigger and used for more heavy-duty materials. Often used at the opening of a drawstring channel, on belts or for lacing fabrics together but sometimes used decoratively too. 


What would you add to the letter 'E' in our A-Z of sewing terms? We would love to get your opinions and thoughts so we can add more to the sewing dictionary!



The ‘front’ of a piece of fabric which has a distinct front and back. It’s also called the Right Side of the fabric.  


These stabilise and create a neat finish on the edge of a garment such as the neckline or armholes. The facing is cut separately and often stiffened using interfacing. It is then sewn right sides together with the garment edge, then turned to the inside and pressed for a neat finish. 

Fashion Fabric

Often used to describe the outer fabric in a garment.

Fat Quarter

A pre-cut piece of fabric, often used for patchwork. Half a yard (or metre) is cut from the length of the fabric then this is cut in half again. This usually measures 18x22in (46x55cm) if cut from a standard 44in (112cm) width fabric and cut from a yard of fabric. If the Fat Quarter is cut from a metre of fabric, it will measure 19½x22in (50x55cm). Often abbreviated to FQ.

Faux fur

The general term for woven or processed fabrics with a dense covering of hair which almost looks like real fur. Also referred to as Fun Fur.

Feed dog

The "teeth" under the plate on the sewing machine that move fabric as it is sewn. A set of feed dogs looks like two or three short, thin metal bars, cut with diagonal furrows, which move back and forth in grooves slightly larger than the bars. The motion of the feed dogs pulls the fabric through, as they are in contact with the fabric on the forward stroke, and then are pulled back down below the main plate on the backward stroke. This means that the fabric is pulled along in slight steps. Using a walking foot in a sewing machine allows the top fabric to be moved along at the same rate as the bottom fabric which is moved by the feed dogs. This is particularly useful when sewing several layers such as quilting or slippery fabrics such as PU or vinyl.


A non-woven fabric which is made from wool, hair, or synthetic fibres or often a combination of these. The fibres are locked together using heat, moisture and pressure to form a compact material used in a variety of crafts as felt doesn’t fray and comes in a wide range of colours and thicknesses.

Finger pressing

A method of pressing using your fingers and pressure to open a seam flat either for speed or for a seam that may not be suitable for pressing with an iron.

Finishing / neatening raw edges

This is to stop the fabric edges, particularly of a seam from fraying. It can be done by machine zig zag, using an overlocker or trimming the edge with pinking shears. It’s easier to finish raw edges before you stitch the seam.


A general term for a fabric woven from cotton, viscose or wool that has been slightly roughened on one side or both sides. 


A medium-weight, plain weave fabric usually made from cotton. The fabric is usually brushed only on one side and is lighter weight than flannel. Often used for shirts, children’s clothes and pyjamas. Also known as brushed cotton.

Flat felled seam

A seam created by sewing fabric wrong sides together, trimming one of the seam allowances close to the seam, then turning the other seam allowance under and top stitching it over the trimmed seam allowance. Sometimes two parallel lines of topstitching are worked. This is often used for reinforcing seams or to reduce bulk in a seam and can be used as a decorative finish too. It’s often used on the outside of the legs of jeans as it’s hard wearing. 


A soft, comfy and water-resistant fabric with a long pile. Different varieties are available depending on the length of pile and manufacturing process and are made from synthetic fibres. These include Anti-Pil, Polar Fleece, Super Soft Fleece, Cuddle Fleece and Soft Shell Fleece. Fleece fabric is strong, fast drying, doesn’t fray so is ideal for clothing as well as blankets and throws. It is sold as plain colours or prints.

Fold line

Many pattern pieces are placed on the fold of a piece of fabric to ensure you cut a symmetrical piece. Follow the cutting layout to see whether to fold the fabric right sides or wrong sides together then place the edge of the pattern pieces marked ‘cut on the fold’ right up to the fold of the fabric then pin and cut out.

Free motion

A term usually used for machine embroidery or quilting which describes machine sewing worked with the feed dogs down, allowing you to move the fabric freehand for more fluid sewing. 

French Curve

A template made from metal, wood or plastic used for creating curves in dressmaking pattern drafting and design as it has edges with different curves on them. Also used for pattern alteration and adapting existing patterns.

French Knot

An embroidery stich worked by hand which involves bringing a threaded needle up through fabric, wrapping the thread a few times, and taking the needle back down into the fabric, enclosing the wrapped thread and leaving a knot on the top of the fabric. This three-dimensional stitch can be used decoratively on garments or in traditional embroidery.

French Seam

A completely enclosed strong seam which is stitched on both sides of the fabric to enclose all of the raw edges for a neat finish. The fabric are first sewn wrong sides together, then the seam allowance is trimmed in half. The fabric are then refolded and sewn with right sides together to enclose the raw edges.

Full Bust

A measurement used in dressmaking when creating a garment to get the correct fit. The full bust is measures across the fullest part of your chest – around the back and across the nipples.

Full Bust Adjustment

If your full bust measurement is bigger than your high bust measurement (the measurement around your body above your bust) by more than 2½in then you will need to do a full bust adjustment when making garments. There is a specific technique to doing this which requires redrawing the pattern piece to add extra allowance in the bust area.


Also referred to as iron-on and used to describe interfacing, webbing or wadding/fleece. The fusible, rougher side has the glue applied and should be placed directly onto the fabric. The heat of the iron melts the glue allowing it to stick in place once cool. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the level of heat and time needed to fuse properly.

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'F' edition!

Would you add more to this edition? Stay tuned for next month as we dive into the letter 'G'!


A strong tightly fabric woven from cotton, wool or synthetic fibres with a diagonal rib, twill effect surface on the right side and a smooth surface on the reverse. It’s water repellent and often used to make shirts, overcoats, and trousers. Gaberdine was invented by Thomas Burberry in 1879 and originally made from worsted wool.


Gathering one piece of fabric allows it to fit a shorter piece of fabric. A line of hand or machine stitching is worked along the fabric then the stitches are pulled to gather it. Once pinned it can then be permanently stitched in place. Often used for inserting wider sleeves into armholes or for a dress skirt to fit to a bodice. 


A type of crêpe fabric that is often made from silk but can also be made from synthetic fibres. It is a sheer fabric with highly twisted crêpe yarns that create a slightly crinkled effect. It is lightweight and breathable and drapes well so is often used for dresses and skirts. Georgette is less sheer than chiffon.


A medium to lightweight cotton fabric that is woven with two-tone, contrasting checks. Traditionally it has a white background with another colour woven through it but sometimes it can have a variety of colours and sizes of checks too. It can be used in dressmaking but it can also be used in home décor when it is woven as a heavier weight fabric.


A term used to describe the degree of elasticity in a fabric and how much stretch or ‘give  it has.  


A piece of fabric that is wider at the bottom than at the top and inserted into the seam of a garment. Godets add fullness as well as being a design feature and make a hem flare out to add movement and volume. Often used in skirts and dresses but can also be added to the back of a jacket or the hem of a blouse too.


This method involves trimming seams to different widths to reduce bulk and allow the seam to lay flatter. As a general rule the narrower graded seam should be closest to the body. This is often done when working with heavier weight fabrics where the seams would otherwise be quite bulky. Grading is often used in enclosed seams such as on cuffs and collars where they need to lay flat.


The direction of the fabric which runs parallel to the selvedge. Dressmaking patterns have the grainlines printed on them, usually represented as an arrow and this arrow should be parallel to the fabric selvedge before pinning in place. This makes sure the cut fabric pieces all face the correct direction which is particularly important when sewing with patterned, textured or napped fabrics.  


A metal, plastic, or rubber ring that is inserted into a hole in fabric or other material. It may be used to reinforce the hole, or to protect something from the sharp edges of the hole. Grommets are similar to eyelets but bigger so mainly used for heavier duty fabrics. They are inserted using a special tool which is often sold with the grommets but can be available separately too.


A gusset is a triangular or diamond shaped piece of fabric inserted into a seam to add width or to reinforce it. They are often used in shoulders, underarms or the crotch area of trousers as well as in underwear and are added into the apex of two seams. They can also be used in sportswear to allow freedom of movement as well as breathability.  Gussets are also used in bag making around the sides and bottom to add depth to a bag and give it more structure and are usually rectangular. 

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'G' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'H'!



A collective term used to describe small items used for sewing, such as thread, needles, ribbons, bias binding, interfacing, zips and buttons. A shop selling these items is called a Haberdasher’s Shop, or more commonly, a Haberdashery. A person who sells these is a Haberdasher.  In the U.S.A, Haberdashery items are usually called Notions, and a Haberdashery is a shop selling men’s accessories such as hats and scarves.


The finished, usually turned under and stitched lower edge of a garment. It creates a neat edge and prevents fraying. Patterns usually include extra fabric for the hem which is specified in the pattern instructions. There are various different types of hems depending on the garment type, hem position and type of fabric used. 


This is the bottom edge of a finished garment after it has been hemmed.

Hem Allowance

This is the amount of fabric added to a pattern to allow for the hem to be made. It is the measurement between the hemline and the edge of the hem.


A loosely constructed, heavy, plain weave fabric made from jute, sisal, or hemp fibre. It is used as a backing for carpets, in upholstery and often in craft projects where a natural look is required. Hessian is the UK term for Burlap.

High Bust

The measurement around your body which is directly under your underarms. By taking this measurement as well as the full bust measurement, you can easily tell if you need to make a bust adjustment to your pattern to get the perfect fit. 

Hong Kong Finish

A method of finishing seams where the raw edges are bound with bias tape. It’s usually seen on unlined jackets and coats but can also be used in other garments too. This finish does add weight to a garment so very lightweight fabrics such as cotton lawn or silk are often used for the binding. It’s a luxury finish and adds a pop of colour and print to the inside of a garment.

Hook & Eye Closure

A type of closure that uses a small hook on one side and a loop made of fabric or metal on the other. Hooks and eyes are sewn into place at the top of necklines on dresses and blouses as well as on waistbands, cuffs and collars. You can also use this closure at the top of a zip to keep the edge neatly closed.  They are sewn on by hand using a small, neat Whip Stitch or a Buttonhole Stitch for a more decorative finish. Available in different sizes and finishes, choose one which blends in with the fabric colour.

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'H' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'I'!


The seam on a pair of trousers or shorts that runs from the crotch to the hem. It’s also known as the inside leg measurement. It’s important to measure this correctly to get the perfectly fitting pair of trousers that are the correct length for their style and fit as well as to suit the shoes you’ll wear with them.


Usually a non-woven fabric, available in different thicknesses or weights, which is applied to fabric to stiffen it or stabilise it to prevent it from stretching out of shape. It can also be woven or knitted depending on the usage and is either iron on (fusible) or sewn in (non-fusible). It’s most commonly made in white but black is also available.


A lining which is added between the outer and lining fabric to add warmth and sometimes extra thickness. In dressmaking, the interlining is most often hand stitched into place. For example, a jacket will often include it to create more structure and net interlining can be added to make a skirt fuller. Curtains are often interlined when extra insulation is needed such as door curtains.

Inverted box pleat

These are used to add volume and take in the fullness of a garment or fabric. They are created by folding two equal folds of fabric towards each other. The pleats are then sewn into place across the top edge. Box pleats are made in the same way but with the folds of fabric folded towards away from each other. Inverted Box Pleats are used when you want to keep the folds out of sight such as on a sleeve head and Box Pleats are used when you want the pleats to add volume as well as being a feature of the garment.

Invisible Hem

A type of hem where the stitching will hardly show on the outside of the garment or fabric. There are various different methods of creating an invisible hem and it can be worked by hand or machine using a specialist foot. 

Invisible Thread

A nylon or polyester thread which is clear or smokey grey – also called monofilament thread. It is used in a sewing machine but usually only as the top thread. It’s used when you want the stitches to be barely seen such as with topstitching and is often used in quilting when you only want the texture to be seen rather than the stitches. It’s a good option when stitching on multi-coloured fabrics and can’t decide which colour thread to use. It can also used for working stitches or repairs by hand.

Invisible Zip

These are used when you don’t want the zip teeth to show such as on the back of a dress. This zip has very fine teeth which are on the back of the zip tape so they are hidden on the inside of the garment. Invisible zips are sewn into a garment using a specific method and are also known as a concealed zip.

Invisible Zip Foot

A specialised zip foot used when inserting an invisible zip. These are usually bought as an optional accessory for your machine. The foot has small grooves on the underside that help keep the zip teeth stay upright when sewing, for a neater finish.


This is one of the most important items in your sewing equipment. Pressing fabric, seams and hems at every stage of the sewing process ensures a neat, precise and flat finish. A steam iron is particularly useful as the extra heat and moisture will give a flatter finish and remove creases.


Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'I' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'J'!



Jacquard fabric is a luxury fabric, also known as Brocade and Damask and is heavyweight and durable. It is woven on a Jacquard Loom and features patterns which are woven directly onto the fabric. Traditionally it was used for formal wear such as men’s suits and ladies evening wear and also for upholstery and curtains.

Jeans Fabric

Another name for denim fabrics. It is usually made of cotton and often roughened or stone-washed to give jeans clothing the typical worn look. Stretch jeans fabric has a small amount of elastane woven into it.

Jeans Needle

This needle is ideal for stitching heavier fabrics such as when making jeans. It has a strong shank so won’t break easily and a very sharp point. It’s perfect for stitching several layers of fabric as well as tightly woven fabrics like denims, canvas and heavy twill.

Jelly Roll

This is a name used by Moda to describe strips of fabric cut 2½in wide across the full width of fabric. These are then rolled up and sold as pre-cut bundles. There are usually forty strips of fabric in a Jelly Roll and they are often all taken from the same fabric collection so you have a group of fabrics which all coordinate. Jelly Rolls are often used for quilts and sewing projects as it saves time cutting and many patterns are written specifically for Jelly Rolls. A Jelly Roll Quilt is a quilt made from one or more Jelly Rolls, often mixed with plain fabric. Other fabric companies also produce these precut fabric rolls but use different names for them such as Design Rolls, Roll Ups, Strips Sets and Rolie Polies.


Jersey is a knit fabric which originated in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands where it was first developed for making underwear and fishermen’s sweaters as early as the Middle Ages. At this stage it was made from wool but now it’s more commonly made from cotton or synthetic fibres. It’s very stretchy so it’s ideal for t-shirts and underwear. It’s highly absorbent and breathable so is often used for sportswear too but as it’s not very insulating it’s often used for base layers with warmer layers worn on top. It’s best to use a stretch or ballpoint needle for stitching with Jersey as these have a rounded point. The needle slides between the fabric threads rather than piercing them so you won’t get snags, ladders or holes. Stretch needles have a deep Scarf, which allows the bobbin thread to get close to the eye and therefore prevents skipped stitches on finer fabrics.

That completes the letter J edition of Amber Makes A-Z dictionary of sewing terms?

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for 'K' next month! 

Kick Pleats

These are inverted pleats mainly used at the bottom of a skirt, dress or coat to allow the wearer to move and walk better. They’re ideal for narrow pencil skirts where extra allowance is needed. They are usually short pleats which start at the bottom of the hem and can be in the front, back or side of a garment. They are made from an opening at the bottom of the seam which is backed by folded fabric or an extra piece of fabric added. 

Knife Pleats

Knife Pleats are also known as Accordion Pleats and add extra fullness and shape to a garment to help it move whilst wearing as well as being an attractive feature. They are usually found in skirts and dresses in groups of narrow pleats which are pressed so the edges of the folds lay in one direction. They can be made to any width but are usually quite small and are often stitched in place, just at the top, to help them stay in place and lay flat.

Knitted fabrics

Knitted fabrics like jersey, velour or sweat-shirting are soft, easy to shape, cling to the body and are comfortable to wear. They can be made from natural fibres such as as cotton, wool, bamboo or silk as well as synthetic fires or a combination of both

These fabrics are worked with in a slightly different way to woven fabrics due to their stretch.

  • Use sharp scissors when cutting knitted fabric so you don’t stretch it whilst cutting.
  • Applying interfacing to the edges of the fabric or certain areas will help prevent it from stretching.
  • If you’re using a very lightweight knitted fabric, then place tissue paper underneath it and sew with this in place. This helps to stabilise the fabric and can be torn away after the seam is sewn.
  • Take care when pressing as all knitted fabric contain elastic fibres which can melt and mark. Use a cool iron and a pressing cloth and try to press on the wrong side.
  • You need to use a different stitch when sewing seams and hems.  Some sewing machines have special jersey stitches, your instructions manual will help guide you with this, or you can use a narrow zigzag stitch. 
  • Overlocker machines are ideal for working with knitted fabrics as they will sew and cut the fabric at the same time, using a stitch that will stretch with the fabric.
  • You need to use a special needle in your machine that has a rounded point which will separate the fabric fibres rather than pierce them as this can cause ladders in the fabric. These are known as Ballpoint, Stretch or Jersey needles.
  • Neaten/finish the edges of the seam and hem allowances with a large zigzag or overlock stitching. 
  • Stretch out any rolled collar, narrow neckline or rib-knit cuff bands while stitching. 
  • Hems will remain stretchy if you topstitch the hem allowance with a twin needle which produces a double line of stitching on the right side and elastic zigzag stitches underneath. 
  • If you’re not using a specialist machine then hand-sew hems with loose slip stitching.

That completes the letter K edition of Amber Makes A-Z dictionary of sewing terms?

What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for 'L' next month! 


There are many different types of lace, whether hand-made or machine- produced. Lace can be knitted, woven, crocheted or wrapped around pins – this is called Bobbin Lace.


A woven fabric made from metallic threads which are wrapped round other fibres then woven into fabric. This fabric has been made for thousands of years and in the past was associated with royalty and wealth as it used precious metals so was incredibly expensive. Nowadays the metallic threads are synthetic so synthetic Lamé

is more affordable though pure gold or a gold/silver Lamé is one of the most expensive fabrics you can buy. It is used for eveningwear and costumes as well as handbags and shoes.


The folded back section on the front of a jacket or coat that is attached to the collar and forms a ‘V’ where the jacket or coat closes. Originally, Lapels were designed for military wear to protect a soldier’s neck from the weather but then became used more widely as a decorative part of a jacket or coat. There are three main types of Lapels. A Notched Lapel is the most common and has a notch cut out of the upper section. A Peaked Lapel is more formal and extends outwards past the collar. A Shawl Lapel is often used on tuxedos as it has no notch or peak but is an unbroken ’shawl’ around the jacket for a more sophisticated look.


A fine, light woven fabric that has a crisp finish and resists creasing. It is semi-transparent and has a high thread count, giving it a soft lightweight finish. Lawn is most commonly made from cotton and can be plain or printed.

Lawn was originally made in the city of Laon in northern France which is where it got its name from and was woven from linen.

It is used for lightweight garments such as blouses, dresses, nightwear and underwear.


Linen threads are made from the processed fibres of the flax plant. These are then woven to make Linen fabric.  It has a very smooth surface, and a matt sheen so doesn’t easily get dirty. It’s ideal for wearing in hot and humid climates as it absorbs moisture well but then quickly releases it and dries. Linen is a strong fabric but is is stiffer and harder than cotton, and also creases easily. It’s one of the longest produced textiles and has been traced back to Neolithic times as dyed flax fibres have been found dating to this period. It was also used in Ancient Egypt, in particular for Mummy bandages as well as in Roman times then throughout history ever since. The Bayeux Tapestry was embroidered onto 70 metres of linen. Ireland became the centre of European Linen production in the 18th century as flax is grown there.

Nowadays linen is used in dressmaking as well as for homeware and bedding. It creases easily so is best ironed with a damp cloth or steam iron which will renew its characteristic crispness.


A fabric used to finish the inside of a garment and is added for a variety of reasons. This can be to hide the seams, make it less see-through, give the garment extra weight and warmth, or make it easier to slip on and off and not cling to the body. Lining also makes the garment last longer too with less wear on the outer fabric. It is usually cut from the same pattern pieces as the main garment and often is made from slippery fabrics such as viscose, polyester, acetate, or silk. If the outer fabric has stretch, then the lining should be made from stretch fabric too.

Lock Stitch

A group of small stitches worked on top of each other to secure the end of a seam. Many sewing machines have a built-in Lock Stitch feature which works the stitches before the seam is then sewn. You can also make your own Lock Stitch by shortening the stitch length and working three or four stitches before you lengthen the stitch to its usual seam length. Lock Stitch is ideal to use when sewing with finer fabrics as a  reverse stitch would create extra visible bulk.


A term used to describe the thickness of a wadding/batting. A high Loft means the wadding is thick and low Loft is thin. The higher the Loft then the puffier your finished quilt will be. However, Loft doesn’t describe the density of a wadding – just the thickness so a high Loft wadding won’t necessarily be weightier. In general polyester and wool waddings are a higher Loft than cotton or bamboo waddings. Use high Loft waddings where you want a puffier appearance and for quilting stiches to really stand out – these are often used for wholecloth quilts where the quilting is the decoration. A lower Loft wadding will give a more traditional feel with less definition to the quilting stitches and is ideal for items such a table runners and garments.

Loop Turner

A sewing tool used to turn long, narrow tubes of fabric inside out. It consists of a plastic tube and a wooden or metal stick. The plastic tube is placed inside the fabric tube whilst it is WS out then the end of the fabric is pushed through the plastic tube using the stick to turn it RS out. They come in a variety of diameters and are the quickest and easiest way to turn out fabric tubes such as rouleau loops, bag straps and handles.

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'L' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'M'!

Machine embroidery

A decorative stitching created by using a regular sewing machine or a sewing machine specifically designed for machine embroidery. There are two different types of machine embroidery: free motion and computerised. With free motion machine embroidery, the machine is used to ‘draw’ lines, words, or patterns directly onto the fabric. This is often combined with appliqué too where fabric shapes are placed onto a base fabric and then attached and decorated with machine embroidery. With computerised machine embroidery, the machine has set patterns or some machines allow you to create your own. Once the pattern or design had been selected, the machine then sews it itself.

Mandarin Collar

A short, stand collar which is usually about 1-1½in high and unfolded. It starts at the neckline and has edges that don’t meet at the front. These can be straight or slightly rounded. It is also known as a Nehru Collar. 


Also known as a tailors’ or dressmaking dummy or dress form. It is a 3-D representation of a body which can be adjusted to mimic the exact size, shape and height of a person to make it easier to get the perfect fit when dressmaking. 


A very important technique to get accurate results when sewing. Temporary marks can be made using a variety of materials and methods including pins, erasable pens/pencils (water, heat and air) chalk and carbon paper. Marking is essential in dressmaking to indicate the positioning of pieces and stages of construction including notches, darts and buttonholes and is usually done after the fabric is cut but before the pattern piece have been taken off. Always make sure temporary marks can be removed from your fabric by testing them out first.


The chemical process of mercerisation dissolves the thin, matte layer that covers the cotton yarn. This exposes the natural fibre making it mores absorbent to dye so richer, deeper colours can be achieved. The thread has a slight sheen and it is stronger too as well as being more resistant to creasing. Mercerised sewing thread and fabric is made using this method and is very popular as it still retains all the natural breathable and washable qualities but with the benefits of the richer colours and strength. 

Metallic Needle

A sewing machine needle that is also known as a Metafil Needle. It has a larger eye than a machine embroidery needle so is designed to be used for heavier threads. It has a large groove and a special scarf that protects the thread to stop it shedding and breaking. It’s used for stitching with metallic thread on any fabric. 

Microtex Needle

A sewing machine needle that is also known as a Sharps Needle. It has a sharp point and a narrow strengthened shaft which will pierce several layers of fabric. It’s ideal for general straight stitching, particularly topstitching, on very fine and delicate fabrics as well as quilting weight cotton, making it an ideal needle for patchwork and quilting.  The sharp point also makes it perfect for stitching neat buttonholes.


Mitering a corner is a really neat way to finish the corner of a fabric edge and reduces the fabric bulk in this area too. It creates a diagonal seam from the point of the corner to the inside edge. It is used for binding quilts, joining borders, in dressmaking and as a decorative, professional finish on household items too such as napkins and tablecloths. There are several ways of creating a mitred corner and the key is to measure accurately, sew in a straight line and press well too.


A design combining two or more letters to form one symbol and is often the combination of a person’s initials. This is often used to personalise fabric items such as handkerchiefs and table linen. A monogram can be embroidered by hand using an outline stitch or by machine. Many computerised sewing machines have a monogramming function where you can set the initials to be stitched using a choice of fonts and sizes. 


Muslin has two different definitions.
It is a type of fabric which is very lightweight and soft. It is lightly woven so has good drape. Its name comes from the city of Mosul in Iraq which was an important centre of fabric trade in the Middle Ages. Muslin fabric is usually made from cotton but it can be made from linen, wool and silk too. It is used for clothing, quilting, bedding, sheer curtains, medical gauzes as well as in the kitchen. Muslin cloths are often made for babies as they are lightweight and easy to wash.
Muslin is alco used to describe a test garment that is made to check size and fit, using an inexpensive fabric such as calico or muslin. It is also known as a toile or mock-up. Once this is made and alterations created to get the perfect fit then the pattern can be redrawn and the more expensive fabric used to make the finished garment.

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'M' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'N'!


Fabrics like velvet, corduroy and fur have hairs or loops which aren’t quite vertical but lie in a particular direction, this is called the nap or pile. The hairs lie smooth and flat with the nap when you run your hand over them. When cutting out pattern pieces make sure the grainline arrow always runs in the direction of the nap so they all look the same as the nap is shinier in one direction. 


Hand Sewing Needles and Sewing Machine Needles are both an essential part of any sewists kit and there’s a whole host of them to choose from. Each one has been designed and developed for a specific task – so it’s important to choose and use the right one for the job. Storing needles is important so that you always know which is which. The Amber Makes Needlecase kit is perfect for this as each page and pocket is labelled so you’ll always know which needle is which.

Hand Sewing Needles

These vary by the shape of the point, size and shape of the eye, diameter of the shaft and overall length. Using the right needle for the job will really make a difference to your sewing and finished results as each needle type is designed for a specific task. It’s also important to regularly change your needles as they do wear over time. When choosing the right needle for the task, start by choosing the correct needle type then choose the right size for the thread and fabric you’re sewing on. The eye must be big enough the pass the thread through but not so big that the thread constantly falls out. There are many different types but the most common are Beading, Chenille, Darners, Embroidery, Leather, Milliners, Quilting, Sharps and Tapestry

Sewing Machine Needles

Sewing machines are usually supplied with a Universal Needle but there are so many more needles available and choosing the right one will improve your finished result and make your sewing easier too! One of the main problems and causes of breakage is the use of an incorrect needle. Using the correct one for the fabric, thread and stitch type can prevent many problems such as uneven stitches, puckered fabric and broken needles too. 

There are many different needle types, and they vary by the shape of the point, eye shape and shaft thickness. The most common are Ballpoint, Embroidery, Jeans, Leather, Quilting, Sharps, Topstitch and Universal.

Needle Threader

A hook that helps to thread a needle. For hand sewing needles, push the loop or hook through the eye of the needle, place the thread through it and pull back through the eye. Many sewing machines have an automatic needle threader built in which makes quick work of this and saves a lot of time and frustration. 


A term to describe a fabric that is not made from thread or yarn, for example suede, leather and vinyl.


Small triangle pieces of fabric cut from the seam allowance to help the fabric lie flatter. They’re usually used on curves and removing the fabric bulk from this area makes it easier to flatten the seam. 


Notches on a pattern are triangles or lines are marked on the edges to indicate where you need to match up two pattern pieces and fit them together. This really helps, particularly when matching curved shapes, to get accurate results as you can ease the two fabrics together, so they sit evenly. You may find a single and double notch on one pattern piece for matching different parts.


Small tools or accessories used in sewing other than the sewing machine such as zips, fasteners, elastic, lace, buttons, seam rippers and pins. 


A synthetic polymer noted for its strength and resilience. Nylon is the first completely synthetic fibre that was developed, and it’s often combined with other fibres such a polyester, spandex or cotton. It’s ideal for using in sportswear, outdoor wear and tights.

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'N' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'O'!



These circular rings are used in bag making for attaching straps and handles as well as for dog leads and collars. They can also be used in dressmaking for decorative details such as attaching pinafore straps and in swimwear. They are available in a wide range of sizes and finished including brass, copper and nickel.


A fairly lightweight, plain weave and sheer fabric. It was originally made from silk but nowadays many synthetic organza fabrics are available. Organza gets its name form Organzine which describes a silk thread created by a simple twist spinning method. It has a slightly stiff feel with a slippery surface and is sheer and transparent so is often used for stitching on top of other fabrics, particularly as an overlay skirt in dressmaking. As it’s such a delicate fabric, Organza must be washed by hand or dry cleaned. It’s used in evening wear, wedding dresses, costumes as well as fine curtains and lampshades.

Open-Ended Zip

A zip that opens fully as the teeth separate from each other. It has a small box and pin mechanism at the base to join the two sets of teeth together when it needs to be closed. Open-ended zips are used in jackets, coats and garments where the two sides of the zip need to separate. They are available in a variety of materials including nylon, plastic and metal as well as heavy weight which are ideal for sleeping bags. Invisible open-ended zips are also sold especially for use in corsetry and lightweight jackets.


The top layer of fabric when a different fabric is used underneath. Lace and sheer fabrics are often used as an overlay over thicker, bolder fabrics to create an ethereal effect. Fabric such as organza, voiles and lawn are often used for overlays and work really well with evening wear or special occasion wear.


Overlockers are specialist machines most often used by dressmakers. They work differently to an ordinary sewing machine as they have a cutting blade, loopers and several needles and threads which create an Overlocking Stitch. This is the stitch that is used on commercially made garments so an Overlocker will give you this professional finish. The Overlocking stitch encases the raw edges of the fabric so it sews fabric pieces together, trims off the fabric edge and finishes the raw edge at the same time as well. Overlockers are ideal for using with stretch and knit fabrics as the stitch will stretch with the fabric whilst wearing. A variety of different Overlockers are available in a range of prices. Air threading Overlockers are probably the easiest to use as they can be threaded up much more quickly than conventional ones. Overlockers are known as Sergers in the U.S.A 


A specialist stitch worked over a seam to stop the raw edge from fraying. It can be worked by hand using a slanting stitch around the raw edges. Specialist Overcast feet are available to work this stitch by machine and some machines have a plain Overcast stitch as well as a stretch Overcast stitch. These are all great alternatives for finishing a fabric edge if you don’t have an Overlocker.

Did you enjoy our A-Z of sewing terms, 'N' edition!

What would you add to this months edition? Stay tuned for next month as we explore the letter 'P'!


  • Joan

    You missed out ’ awwh’, what people say when they see the beautiful kits made up!!

  • Ann, Scottish Borders

    Superb idea – really handy reference tool to return to time after time

  • Ann, Scottish Borders

    Superb idea – really handy reference tool to return to time after time

  • Ann, Scottish Borders

    Superb idea – really handy reference tool to return to time after time

  • Karen Hopkinson

    I love reading and using the A-Z. I’m waiting for the next
    I love your kits, there easy to follow, and watch back on video.
    I have made the beach huts and Christmas shops totally tote bags,and just arrived is my 2 Indian elephphants bag, oooppos forgot I’ve also got a mug bag to make.
    Happy sewing !!!!

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