Last Updated on April 2, 2021

Who hasn’t done some sewing at one stage of life or another?  I am sure we have all taken up a needle and a thread once or twice in our lives, even if it is just for a quick fix. But, if you are starting to take up sewing professionally, you are probably wondering about a few words that seem rather new to you. These sewing terms are used to describe different sewing methods or parts of the fabric, etcetera.

Don’t worry! Here we will help you know the most basic words necessary to know if you are thinking of sewing professionally, and it wouldn’t hurt to know, even if it’s just a hobby.


Basic Sewing Terms

Let’s begin! Shall we?


an outline of a sewing machine

1. Applique

It is actually a sewing technique. It refers to how one piece of fabric is sewed or stitched over another bigger one for making a design or pattern. Often the edge of the appliqué is embroidered.   It is often done with contrasting fabric to make the design more prominent.


2. Bias

The bias of fabric can be found when you fold your fabric diagonally up to the other side. You might notice that the fabric is stretching along this diagonal length. This is the bias. Bias is generally found in woven fabric. Woven fabric has two biases, each perpendicular to the other. A bias-cut fabric is quite stretchy along the diagonal direction prevents it from clinging to the body.


3. Backstitch

Backstitch is what you do to give a defined finish to your stitches. You make a few stitches forward and then make a few stitches in the opposite direction, then go forward again. This helps you outline your stitch. It is mainly used in embroidering. It is usually done in two stitches forward and one stitch backward method. It is mainly used in machine sewing.


4. Basting stitch

The basting stitch is a temporary stitch to hold two or more fabric layers in place while you permanently sew them together.  It is also known as tacking. It is done by making long-running stitches which are later removed. Couture or hand stitching requires this kind of stitch. It is sometimes followed by machine finishing too.


5. Blind stitch

The blind stitch is a sewing technique where two pieces of fabric are joined together so that the thread is nearly or totally invisible. One of the techniques is to fold the stitches inside a piece of fabric to hide them. Others include slip stitch, catch stitch.


6. Chain stitch

Chain stitch is a prevalent sewing term. This stitch creates consecutive loops that look like chains. It is used to make decorative stitches. You will be surprised to know that the former sewing machine used chain stitches as a stitching process instead of lock stitching used today.


7. Casing

The casing is a hollow space or channel for elastic in pants or trousers. It is made with a folded fabric and is generally attached to the clothing externally. It gives the pants a very professional look.


8. Catch stitch

This stitch is used to hold two pieces of fabric together. It is done in a Crisscrossed pattern. It is mainly used for hemming and finishing purposes.  Unfinished lining tends to catch on things. Catch stitch is used to join the hem or seam allowances to prevent the surface threads from catching on to things.


9. Clipping corners

When you are sewing the fabric on the wrong side and flipping it afterward, you have to clip the seam allowance corners diagonally for a perfect finish. Otherwise, the corners will be cringed. It is mainly used for making bags or pouches. There are different styles of clipping corners for different jobs.

Attention Please: –

we talked in details about sewing machine for beginners and sewing machine for quilting. If you are a beginner sewer or looking for a quilting sewing machines hope that will help you.


10. Couture

Couture, also known as Haute couture, is custom-made designer dresses made according to the client’s requirements. These are totally hand sewn and very expensive. These are high-quality dresses made with extreme precision and superfine detailed finish.


11. Dolman sleeve

Dolman sleeve is sleeve which is a very loose sleeve.  It has a very wide armhole but a narrow fitted wrist. It is also called batwing sleeves. This is usually cut in one piece with the body of the garment.


12. Edgestitch

Edge stitching is stitching done about 1/8″ or 3/8″ from the edge of the fabric. It is often used to give the fabric a decorative edge. But mostly, it is used for preventing seams from unraveling from the fabric.


13. Feather stitch

Feather stitch is an edge stitch that looks like an alternate interconnected upside down ‘V’s. It is a type of embroidery stitch that is used mainly for decorative purposes. Symmetry is the key here. To help maintain the symmetry, you can use the help of guidelines.

sewing terms for beginners


14. Flat felled seam

The flat felled seam is a kind of sewing where you put one edge of a fabric inside another folded over the edge and use topstitch to seal them. This type of sewing is mainly used in denim to prevent them from fraying.


15. French seam

A French seam sewing in the seam allowance inside the fabric, so no raw edge is visible. It gives a professionally finished look to the fabric and also prevents it from fraying. It is done by sewing the wrong sides together and then cutting the seam allowance. After that, the right sides are sewn together to give the fabric a clean finish.


16. Godet

A godet is a triangular-shaped piece of fabric, sometimes rounded at the top. A few godets are inserted at the bottom of a skirt or a dress to give it more volume. It adds more width to clothing and makes it flare.


17. Gathering

The gathering is done when a long fabric is needed to be attached to a shorter piece of fabric. It is often done with two rows of basting stitches and then pulling the threads’ end to ‘gather’ the fabric. It also adds volume to the fabric. The gathered end is then sewn to the smaller piece.


18. Hem

It is one of the most important sewing terms used in everyday life. It is the way of folding the edge of the fabric and sewing it down. It is used to give finishing to a fabric. It prevents the fabric from fraying.


19. Interfacing

Interfacing is attached to the wrong side of the fabric (often sewn to it) to make the fabric more rigid and give it a little more weight. This is used in shirt collars, buttonholes, and other places that need stiffness. There are different types of interfacing like fusible ( it has a heat-activated adhesive, so you have to iron it ), sew in ( you have to stitch it to the fabric),  woven (wrap and weft woven together, has not to stretch), nonwoven (fleece or felt) and knit.


20. Lining

The lining is a piece of fabric inside a clothing piece to cover the interfacing or any raw edges. It is used in jackets, handbags, hats, and even in normal clothing to give it a clean finish. It is done with silk-type fabric.


21. Notch

Notch is a sewing pattern. It is the triangular shape curved off your fabric to match the seam allowance pattern on a different piece of clothing. It is also used in Clipping and turning corners. Remember how we said there are different types of clipping. Well, the notch is one of them.


22. Right and wrong side

This is an important sewing term. You must know the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric, whether you are a professional or armature seamstress. The right side has the print on it. It is more prominent than the wrong side as the dye of the fabric is visible on the wrong side sometimes. The right side usually has rougher holes. On the wrong side, it has print on it. It will be paler and smoother than the right side.


23. Selvage

Selvage is the finished edge of a fabric. It prevents the fabric from traveling. It often has information about the fabric. The term selvage refers to “self-finished.” This means the fabric will not need any additional finishing, like, for instance, hemming.


24. Stitches and Seams

Stitches and seams are the two most common sewing terms which are completely related. The difference between stitches and seams is that seams are a series of stitches holding two fabric pieces together. At the same time, stitches are done with a needle and thread or yarn by looping the thread (or yarn) through the fabric.


25. Seam allowance

Seam allowance is the distance between the edge of the fabric and the stitches. It usually starts from 1/4″ and can be up to 5/8″.  It totally depends on personal preference. It allows loosening the clothing if need be. As a beginner, you can start with the standard ¼”.  For simplicity pattern, the standard is 5/8”


26. Slip stitch

A slip stitch is a hand sewing technique to fold the hem or edges under and sew it. It is used when you don’t want your stitches to show.

This term is also used in crochet making. It is the technique of moving a stitch along the row without giving the row a height. It is used in joining stitches of two edges of a round row.


27. Stay stitch

This is one kind of baste stitching. It is done on the curved edges or just edges of clothing to hold it in place. It should be kept 1/16” inside the stitching line. It prevents the fabric from stretching distorting.


28. Top Stitch

Topstitch is a kind of stitch that is often done for decorative purposes and visible on the fabric’s right side. It is usually done on the edges or necklines. You have often seen it on jeans or pieces of denim where a golden border is visible around the pockets or along with the stitches.


29. Underlining

Underlining is a kind of lining but different. It is used in couture. It is what separates couture from regular clothing. Underling is a piece of fabric attached to the ‘wrong side of the garment but does not move freely underneath. In fact, it acts as a part of the clothing. It adds weight and bulk to the fabric and makes it ‘not’ see-through. It also makes the fabric stable, long-lasting, and wrinkle-free.


30. Wrap and weft

Wrap and weft are two sewing terms that refer to the making of woven fabric. The wrap is the horizontal threads parallel to the selvage, and weft is the vertical threads that go over and then under the wrap.  They cross each other to make the woven fabric.


31. Woven or knit

Woven and knitted fabric is different from each other. If you look closely, you will see that Woven fabric is made from two different sets of yarns crisscrossed each other, and the knitted fabric is made from only one set of thread. Now, the key difference is in the stretching.  The woven fabric only stretches along with its bias, but knitted fabric can be stretched horizontally and vertically.


32. Yoke

A yoke is a small extra piece of shaped and patterned fabric generally attached to clothing’s neck and shoulders. It is used for decorative purposes. It is sewn in the front or the back of a dress or a shirt to make it beautiful.



These are the most basic sewing terms to jump-start your sewing journey. To become a professional, you must learn a lot of other terms. I am sure you already know many of the above-mentioned terms. But a little trip down the memory lane has never hurt anyone. Once you start sewing, you will see that you are learning a different term every day. Here we discussed only the terms regarding hand sewing. Other terms are related to sewing machines, scissors, etc. You will learn them eventually. But for now, these will do just fine.






Jennifer Salvo

Hello, I’m Jennifer Salvo, mother of two children. I’m passionate about sewing, crafting, and giveaways. I want to help you learn more about sewing through my blog. I hope to inspire you with amazing craft ideas and help you with your sewing equipment purchases.

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