If you’ve been sewing awhile you probably don’t need a glossary, but for newer sewers this may come in handy.
Appliqué — A decorative surface embellishment usually stitched to another fabric.
Armscye — Armhole.
Back-tack — A few back and forth stitches at the beginning of a seam to anchor it. Sometimes called backstitching.
Baste — Temporarily joining fabrics together with large stitches that are easy to remove.
Bias — A diagonal line to the length and crosswise grains of a fabric. “True bias” is at a 45-degree angle to the selvage, and allows for the most stretch in woven fabrics.
Bias tape — A strip of fabric cut on the true bias, often used for binding raw edges.
Boning — Narrow metal or plastic strips used to stiffen garments or accessories.
Bound edges — Raw edges that are covered with fabric (such as bias tape) or trim strips.
Brocade — Fabric with an elaborate design, woven to appear embroidered.
Buckram — A stiff woven interfacing, often used in millinery (hat-making).
Center Back/Front — The true vertical center of the garment’s back or front.
Charmeuse — Lightweight, drapable fabric with a satin face and a crêpe-like back.
Corselet — A foundation layer in a dress that helps to support and anchor the outer dress fabric to the body.
Crêpe — A general term for fabrics that have a textured surface, that can be created by weaving the fabric with a twisted thread.
Cross-grain — This is the line perpendicular to the fabric’s selvage.
Dart — A wedge of folded and stitched fabric that shapes a garment over curves.
Double-folded hem — A hem that has been turned under twice to enclose the raw edge.
Drape — How fabric hangs in a garment (and on the body).
Ease — (1) The amount of comfortable movement a garment allows. Also the difference between the pattern measurements and the body measurements. (2) To slightly gather a longer piece of fabric piece to fit a shorter one.
Fabric marker — A pencil, felt-tip marker, pen, or chalk that’s used to make temporary (removable) tailoring marks on fabric.
Facing — A partial lining for finishing any exposed edges, like at the center front or back, neckline, armholes or hem.
Feed dog — The part of the sewing machine under the presser foot, that “feeds” the fabric while you sew. These “teeth” can be lowered for free-motion sewing, as well.
Flounce — A ruffle made by cutting a curved strip of material and sewing it along a straight line.
Fusible web/tape — An adhesive product that glues fabric or trim layers together when heated.
Gather — Drawing up a length of fabric in a series of puckers along a line of stitches.
Gathering stitch — A long running stitch used for pulling fabric to create gathers.
Grain — This is the thread orientation in woven fabric. Warp threads are on the lengthwise grain and parallel to the selvage, weft threads are on the cross-grain and perpendicular to the selvage.
Grainline — The double-ended arrow on a printed pattern should be aligned with the fabric’s lengthwise grain (parallel to the selvage).
Hand — The way fabric (or yarn) feels to the touch: soft, crisp, etc.
Hem — A garment’s finished lower edge.
Horsehair braid — A firm, bias-woven nylon strip of threads that is often sewn into hems to give them body and support.
Interfacing — Fabric that can be either sewn in or fused to fabric to stabilize, reinforce, or shape it.
Interlining — A layer of fabric used between the exterior fabric and the lining, to pad or stiffen the main fabric.
Jacquard — Fabric with a woven decorative design.
Lining — A layer of interior fabric to hide, protect or beautify the interior of a garment or bag. In the case of a jacket or coat, a silky lining may also make removing it easier.
Muslin — (1) Unbleached cotton fabric. (2) A test garment made with inexpensive fabric to ensure fit before making the garment with more expensive fabric.
Nap — Fabric that has a directional pile that can be felt by running your hand up and down the length of the fabric, such as velvet and corduroy.
Pin-fit — Using pins to temporarily fit a garment or muslin to size while on a dress form or the wearer.
Pinking shears — Scissors with sawtoothed blades that cut a zigzagged edge, useful for preventing fraying in woven fabrics.
Placket — A faced strip of fabric along a garment opening for buttons and buttonholes.
Princess seam — Vertical seams that run from the shoulder seams, over the center bust, to the hemline. They eliminate the need for darts.
Raglan sleeve — A sleeve with seams that run diagonally from neck to armhole; there are no shoulder seams.
Raw edge — The unfinished cut edge of the material.
Rolled hem — A very narrow hem where the fabric is rolled and stitched, either by hand, machine, or serger.
Rotary cutter — A circular cutting blade with a handle and used with a cutting mat.
Ruffle — A gathered strip of fabric used to embellish or finish an edge.
Seam — Where two pieces of fabric are sewn together.
Seam allowance — The margin of fabric between the cutting line and the seamline. Typically in home sewing the seam allowance is 5/8-inch, but it can vary.
Selvage — The tightly woven edge parallel to the lengthwise grain of the fabric.
Set-in sleeve — A sleeve sewn into an armhole (armscye).
Shoulder point — The point where the shoulder seam intersects with the armhole seam.
Silhouette — The outline of the garment and the shape it creates on the body (i.e.: A-line, hourglass, sheath).
Stabilizer — An underlayer that supports the fabric for machine stitching. Some stabilizers are water-soluble and are washed out, others can be torn away, others stay sewn in the garment.
Staystiches — A row of stitches, usually about 1/8-inch from the regular stitch line, made when the garment is being sewn to help support edges and help hold its shape, especially on curved edges like armholes.
Stitch length — The length of a stitch, produced by the movement of the feed dogs.
Tailor’s chalk — Chalk designed to mark fabric, that adhere well but are easy to remove and do not stain.
Temporary spray adhesive — A non-permanent bonding agent that adheres fabrics and stabilizers together and then releases them once it evaporates.
Thread tracing — Using hand-basted stitches to transfer markings from a pattern to fabric. Also called tailor’s tacks.
Topstitching — Decorative stitches on the garment’s right side.
Underlining — A fabric layer placed under the garment fabric’s wrong side, to reinforce seams, hide construction details, or add weight or firmness.
Understitching — A row of stitching close to an edge seam on the wrong side, joining the seam allowances to the facing layer and keeping the edge seam rolled to the underside.
Waist stay — A ribbon or elastic band on a garment’s inner waistline, anchoring it to the body.
Walking foot — A sewing machine presser foot that “steps” across the fabric intend of sliding, to ensure even feed.
Zigzag stitch — a Z-shaped machine stitch that is used to sew stretch seams, or sometimes to finish raw edges.
Zipper foot — A sewing machine presser foot that allows for sewing very close to the zipper teeth. It’s also handy for sewing piping.
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