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.
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.
Our favourite sewing kit company and a great place to learn new skills, techniques and make lovely projects.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the welt, or grain of the fabric which goes across the width of the fabric from selvage to selvage.
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.
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.
The measurement of a piece of fabric that includes allowances for seams, hems, gathers or pleats and fabric repeats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Often used to describe the outer fabric in a garment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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