Sewing can seem like a very basic craft with just using just a needle and thread and weaving in and out of fabric. However, sewing is surprisingly more complicated and has been done for thousands and thousands of years. With different machines, tools, stitches, and other sewing terminology, it’s not only useful to know the terms, but can be essential when it comes to following sewing patterns, instructions, and working on different projects.
Below we’ve gone through terms from our most popular Sewing Terms You Should Know section to different crafts, projects, and terminology that is useful to know when it comes to the sewing world.
The armscye is the opening in the bodice where the sleeve is attached.
This is the process of sewing backward and is commonly done by pressing a button or pulling a lever on your sewing machine. It is normally used when knotting the fabric.
Refers to very loose and long stitches and is commonly used to hold the fabric in place while you work on it. To baste you have to set your sewing machine to the longest stitch setting possible and to not knot the thread when you reach the end of the fabric.
Part of the fabric which is at a 45-degree angle to the grain of the fabric. The grain is in a relative position of the warp and weft threads of the fabric.
Bias tape is used for making an edge on some sewing projects. A lot of sewing patterns will require the use of bias tape, and you can find bias tape readily at most craft stores.
Binding can be referred to many things such as finishing a seam, edge or hem of a garment. It’s usually accomplished by rolling or pressing and then stitching on some edging or trim.
The bobbin refers to the thread that emerges from the bottom and connects to the thread from the spool. It’s important to wind the bobbin thread and properly place it in the sewing machine to get it to sew smoothly.
A hoe sewed to allow a button to go in. To learn how to sew your own buttonhole, check out our guide.
A cord is a twisted fiber, usually either rope or string.
A casing is a tunnel of fabric that an elastic or drawstring can be threaded through to pull up the fabric.
This is a common technique that is used when it comes to shaping garments. Darts are created by stitching out a wedge-shaped fold of the fabric and often vary in width and length. They can be tapered at both or either ends and commonly are found around the bust or waist area.
Darning refers to a couple of things, 1. A technique that is used for repairing holes or 2. Several needlework techniques. For repairing holes, darning is typically done by hand stitching, although it is possible to use a sewing machine to complete darning as well. To complete a darning stitch, the thread is woven in rows along the grain of the fabric and then reversed in direction at the end of each row, providing a woven pattern.
This is a tool that is used when darning clothing, especially socks. Clothing can be stretched over the mushroom and gathered tightly around to create a very flat and smooth surface for stitching.
Dressmakers can refer to a couple of things in the sewing world. A dressmaker can either describe a person who makes dresses or a style of clothing. This style is typically accompanied by ruffles, frills, and ribbons.
Embroidery is a type of decorative needlework. This type of needlework creates designs and pictures by stitching thread onto some fabric.
An eyelet refers to a metal, plastic, or rubber ring that is placed in a hole made through another material. This eyelet is used to reinforce the hole, but also shield something away from sharp edges of the hole.
The face refers to the ‘front’ piece of the fabric. Sometimes this is also called the ‘right side.’
A facing refers to a piece of the fabric that is used to finish off raw edges of a garment. Facing is typically used in areas such as the neckline or armhole.
A technique when you cut a piece of fabric right in the middle, first vertically and then horizontally.
A part of the sewing machine that you control with your foot to determine the speed of the machine’s needles.
Also sometimes referred to as fusible interfacing, fusing is when you stick two different pieces of fabric together. It’s available at most craft stores and is activated when you use heat, like an iron to mend the pieces of fabric together.
The gathering is a technique of simply ‘bunching’ the fabric together. It’s typically used when creating ruffles and involves a baste stitching of the fabric, holding the ends of the thread and pulling it until the fabric starts to gather together.
A godet refers to a piece of fabric that is wider at the bottom than it is at the top. This is usually common when it comes to sleeves and skirts and also visible in bell-bottom pants as well. The godet is inserted into the garment to add fullness to the design, but also create the possibility for more movement.
Gore refers to a specific shape that is narrow at the top and wider at the base. It’s extended from the waistline all the way to the hem of the skirt. Some skirts that are more flared can be made of multiple gores.
Grain refers to a few different things, but mostly it refers to the direction of the fabric. The lengthwise or crosswise grain of fabric refers to the directions parallel to the warp or weft.
A Gusset refers to a piece of fabric, usually in a triangle shape or square shape, that is inserted into a seam to help reduce any stress from tight-fitting clothing. Gussets are commonly found in the shoulder area, underarms, and hems of shirts.
A haberdasher refers to someone who sells small sewing accessories. This includes buttons, zippers, and other common sewing notions.
Used to prevent the raw edges from showing on your finished project. To hem you simply fold over the bottom of the fabric, normally about a half-inch, and then fold it again with the folding length being the same.
Interfacing refers to materials that are used on the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric or the underneath side that isn’t visible when the project is completed.
Jersey is a stretchy knitted fabric that is most commonly used for T-shirts, bed linens, and loungewear.
Done using the back-stitch about an extra inch over the area.
Adding an inner layer of fabric to your main fabric. Typically done in clothing to make it less transparent.
Mantua-Maker is an older term that was used in the 18th century and referred to as a dressmaker.
Millinery refers to items that are sold by a milliner, a professional designer and a maker of hats for women.
Muslin refers to a test garment. In British English, muslin is referred to as a toile.
Needlework is another common term that’s used to describe decorative sewing and textile art. Essentially anything that uses a needle can be referred to as needlework.
Notions are small tools or accessories that are used when sewing.
Overlay refers to the top layer of fabric when there is another fabric underneath. It’s very common for lace to be an overlay, with a lining underneath so you don’t see completely through the fabric.
Patchwork is a type of needlework that involves small pieces of fabric that are sewn together to create a larger design. Patchwork is commonly used when quilting.
In the sewing world, a pattern refers to a design or template that is used to create a sewing project. It is based on a previous design and traced onto the fabric before constructing it.
A cushion or magnet that is used to store all your pins.
Piping is a specific type of trim or embellishment. It consists of a strip of folded fabric that is inserted into a sem. It helps to define the edges of the garment.
There are a few different definitions of a placket. 1. An opening in the upper part of skirts or pants. 2. A stomacher 3. A slit that is used to allow access to a pocket.
A pleat is a type of fold that is created by doubling fabric upon itself and securing it into place. It can be secured often with just using an iron and a heat setting and then sewing before it unfolds.
A pocket is an envelope-like receptacle that is either sewn or inserted into a piece of clothing. It is used as a pouch and to hold items.
Quilting is a method of sewing that usually uses patchwork or two layers of cloth with insulation in between. It’s commonly used as a bed covering or blanket.
The edge of the fabric that has been cut and hasn’t been hemmed.
The right side refers to the ‘front’ of the fabric. It’s also commonly known as the ‘face.’
Ruching is a gathered overlay and is created when the fabric is gathered on two parallel sides and stitched to an underlay, creating a shelf effect. It’s typically used when working with sheer material like chiffon.
A running stitch is a type of embroidery stitch that goes in and out of the fabric in a straight line formation. This stitch is commonly used to baste fabric together.
A seam is when two pieces of fabric are held together by a thread.
The length of fabric between the stitch you’re sewing and the edge of the fabric.
Part of your sewing machine that’s used to help you figure out the right seam allowance you should work with.
A tool with a sharp metal tip that is used to rip seams when you make a mistake.
A seamstress refers to a woman who sews garments professionally.
A finished edge of a newly bought fabric.
Serging is the act of binding-off of an edge of a piece of cloth.
Sewing in an ancient craft that involves stitching fabric and other materials with a needle and thread.
A sewing circle is a group of people who get together and sew projects together.
A sloper is a standard, base pattern that is used to develop other patterns. A sloper is also commonly called a block or master pattern and is designed to fit a specific set of measurements.
A surplice is a neckline that is formed when overlapping the left and right bodice pieces and form a “V’ shape.
A tailor refers to a person who professionally makes, repairs, or alters clothing.
Tailored refers to clothing that is made or altered by a tailor.
A fine piece of yarn and used in sewing.
A thimble is a protective shield that is worn on your finger or thumb to avoid getting poked by needles.
A third hand is a clamp that is used to hold the fabric to be sewn.
A British English term for test garment. The American English term is known as muslin.
An extra stitch on top of or beside the one you have already made. Can be done for decoration or to add extra strength to your stitch.
In the sewing world, trim refers to applying ornamentation like ribbons or ruffles to your project.
When you pull the fabric through an opening in order to have the right sides facing outwards. Typically patterns will tell you if a turn is necessary.
Twill tape is a flat ribbon of cotton, linen, polyester, or wool.
Commonly used when making straps for bags and backpacks, webbing is a belt made with fabric-like material with braided straps.
Wrong Side The wrong side refers to the ‘back’ of the fabric.
Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibers, suitable for textiles, sewing, knitting, weaving, crocheting, and other craft projects. It can be made from a variety of different synthetic or natural fibers.