Who hasn’t done some sewing at one stage of the life or another? I am sure we have all taken up a needle and a thread once or twice in our life even if it is just for a quick fix. But, if you are just starting to take up sewing professionally you are probably wondering about a few words that seem rather new to you. Now, these sewing terms are used to describe different sewing method or parts of fabric etcetera. Don’t worry! Here we will help you know the most basic words that are absolutely necessary to know if you are thinking of sewing professionally and wouldn’t hurt to know even if it’s just a hobby.
Basic Sewing Terms
Let’s begin! Shall we?
It is actually a sewing technique. It refers to the method where 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.
The bias of a 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. A woven fabric has two biases each perpendicular to other. A bias cut fabric is quite stretchy along the diagonal direction prevents it from clinging to the body.
Backstitch is what you do to give a defined finish 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 outlining your stitch. It is mainly used in embroidering. It is usually done in two stitches forward and one stitch backward method. It mainly used in machine sewing.
4. Basting stitch
The basting stitch is a temporary stitch to hold two or more layers of fabric 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 stitches. It is sometimes followed by machine finishing too.
5. Blind stitch
The blind stitch is a sewing technique where two pieces of fabric is joined together in such a way that the thread is nearly or totally invisible. One of the techniques is to fold the stitches inside a fabric to hide them. Others include slip stitch, catch stitch.
6. Chain stitch
Chain stitch is a very common 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 former sewing machine used chain stitches as stitching process instead of lock stitching used today.
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 together for preventing 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 corners of the seam allowance 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 the different job.
Attention Please: –
Couture also is known as Haute couture is custom made designer dresses made according to requirements of the client. 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 a 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. Edge stitch
Edge stitching is a 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.
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 edge and use top stitch to seal them. This type of sewing is mainly used in denim to prevent them from fraying.
15. French seam
A French seam is a way of 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.
A godet is a triangular shaped piece of fabric, sometimes rounded at the top. A few pieces of 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.
The gathering is done when a longer piece of 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 end of the threads to ‘gather’ the fabric. It also adds volume to the fabric. The gathered end is then sewn to the smaller piece.
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.
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 heat activated adhesive so you just have to iron it ), sew in ( you have to stitch it to the fabric), woven (wrap and weft woven together, has not stretch), nonwoven (fleece or felt) and knit.
The lining is a piece of fabric inside a piece of clothing 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.
Notch is a sewing pattern. It is the triangular shape curved off your fabric to match the pattern of seam allowance 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. The wrong side, it has print on it, it will be paler and smoother than the right side.
Selvage is the finished edge of a fabric. It prevents the fabric from traveling. It often has the information about the fabric. The term selvage refers to “self-finished”. Which means the fabric will not need any additional finishing like for instance hemming.
24. Stitches and Seams
Stitches and seams are two most common sewing terms which are completely related. The difference between stitches and seams is, seams are a series of stitches holding two pieces of fabric together. Whereas, stitches are what is 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 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 a 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 stitches that is often done for decorative purposes and visible on the right side of the fabric. 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 the stitches.
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 that is 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. Wrap is the horizontal threads that are 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 its bias but knitted fabric can be stretched in both horizontally and vertically.
A yoke is a small extra piece of shaped and patterned fabric generally attached to the neck and shoulders of a clothing. 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. There are other terms that are related to sewing machines, scissors etc. You will learn them eventually. But for now, these will do just fine.