47+ Sewing Terms – Sewing Dictionary with Pictures

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When you are first starting to sew, one of the first things you need to know is what the most common sewing terms mean. Here is are some of the sewing terms you are likely to come across in your first sewing projects.

Sewing TermsPinSewing Terms

Contents

Sewing TermsBackstitch BasteBiasBias Tape (also known as Bias Binding)Blanket StitchBobbinClip CornersClip CurvesDartDressmaker DummyEaseEdge-stitch (or Top Stitch)Finish (an edge)French SeamFusible Interfacing (webbing)GatheringGrading a SeamGrainHemHooks and EyesInterfacingKnit FabricLadder StitchNapPinking shearsPintucksPipingRaw EdgeRight side of the fabricRuchingRunning StitchSelvageSlip stitch (Ladder Stitch)Seam AllowanceSerger (Overlocker)Stitching LineStitch LengthSeam RipperStay stitchStretch FactorTensionThimbleTop StitchTrimTwin Needle (Double Needle)UnderstitchWrong sideZig-ZagSewing Terms – In Conclusion

Sewing Terms

Many of these sewing terms contain links to more detailed tutorials if you would like to learn more about sewing.

Backstitch

Meaning #1: Backstitch is used at the beginning and end of a machine sewn seam to keep it from unraveling. Just put your machine in a reverse position for a few stitches. (Read how to backstitch seams)

Meaning #2: Backstitch can also refer to a style of hand stitching used to create strong seams. (Read how to hand sew backstitch)

backstitchbackstitchPinSewing Terms – Backstitch

Baste

To baste is to temporarily join pieces of fabric together using long stitches that can be easily removed. This can be done either by hand, pins or machine.

Further Reading:How to baste seams 5 ways.

how to baste a seamhow to baste a seamPinSewing Terms – Baste a Seam

Bias

Bias is the diagonal cross-grain of the fabric at 45 degrees. It is where there is the most stretch.

Further Reading:Selvage, Grain and Bias

selvage grain biasselvage grain biasPinPinPinSewing Terms – What is Bias

Bias Tape (also known as Bias Binding)

Bias tape is made from long strips of fabric cut on the bias. It is usually used to envelop the raw edge of a hem or seam. It can be bought ready cut or made from fabric or scraps to make a self-bias binding. Bias tape is used for bindings, facings, or other applications where there is a need for stretch or accommodation to curves.

bias tapebias tapePinSewing Terms – Bias Tape

Further Reading on Bias Sewing Terms:

How to Make Bias TapeTypes of Bias TapeHow to Sew Bias TapeHow to Sew Double Fold Bias TapeSewing Bias TapeHow to Make Continuous Bias TapeHow to Sew Bias Tape CornersBias Bound SeamHong Kong FinishHow to Sew a V Neck with Bias TapeHow to Make PipingSewing PipingHow to Bind a Quilt

Blanket Stitch

Blanket stitch is a hand embroidery stitch used on the edge of felt, wool and blankets. It is made up of vertical stitches and a line of thread around the edge of the applique or fabric.

Further Reading: How to do Blanket Stitch (includes video)

PinSewing Terms – Blanket Stitch

Bobbin

A bobbin is a plastic or metal small spool of thread that goes in the bottom of the sewing machine.

Further Reading:How to Wind a Bobbin

how to wind a bobbinhow to wind a bobbinPinSewing Terms – Bobbins

Clip Corners

To clip the corners means cutting off excess fabric from cornered seams to reduce bumps and puckering at the corner when you turn your item right side out.

Further Reading:

How to Clip Corners and CurvesHow to Sew Corners

sewing cornerssewing cornersPinSewing Terms – Sewing Corners

Clip Curves

You clip curves by cutting a wedge out of the seam allowance along a seam so it lies flat and smooth when you turn the garment right side out. 

Further Reading:

How to Clip Corners and CurvesSewing Curves

sewing curves, how to sew curvessewing curves, how to sew curvesPinSewing Terms – Sewing Curves

Dart

A dart is a small pleat or tuck in the fabric to give the garment shape. It is typically used at the bust and waist.

Sewing DartsSewing DartsPinSewing Terms – Sewing Darts

Further Reading on Darts Sewing Terms:

How to Sew DartsHow to Mark DartsSewing Double DartsTypes of Darts

Dressmaker Dummy

A dressmaker dummy is a mannequin covered in fabric that is used to fit clothing. They may be a fixed size for creating samples of fully adjustable to match your body.

Further Reading: Types of Dressmaker Dummies

best dress forms and dressmakers dummybest dress forms and dressmakers dummyPinSewing Terms – Dressmaker Dummy

Ease

To ease a pattern piece means to adjust a longer edge of fabric to a slightly shorter one in such a way that the gathers or pleats aren’t obvious. It is most commonly used when attaching sleeves to a bodice. Ease can also refer to the amount a garment is larger than your body.

Further Reading:Fabric Drape and Ease

how to choose fabrics that flatter for sewinghow to choose fabrics that flatter for sewingPinSewing Terms – Ease

Edge-stitch (or Top Stitch)

To stitch very close to the edge of a folded or seamed edge in order to finish a project, offer stability or close an opening. It can be used for decorative effect and is usually 1/16” or 1mm from the edge.

Further Reading:How to Topstitch

top stitchingtop stitchingPinSewing Terms – Topstitch

Finish (an edge)

Finishing an edge is done by zig-zag stitching, turning under ¼” (6mm) and stitching, serging or other methods of finishing the edge so it doesn`t unravel or cause a bulk problem.

Further Reading: Easy Seam Finishes

seam finishesseam finishesPinSewing Terms – Seam Finishes

French Seam

A French seam is a method of encasing raw edges to create a durable seam that will not fray. It is best suited to straight edges such as those found on pillowslips. French seams are also the ideal edge finishing for sheer fabrics.

Further Reading: French Seams

french seamfrench seamPinSewing Terms – French Seam

Fusible Interfacing (webbing)

Fusible interfacing is able to be pressed on without having to use stitching. It is fused with heat-activated glue on one or both sides. Double-sided fusible interfacing is used a lot for appliqué.

Further Reading:Types of Interfacing

types of interfacingtypes of interfacingPinPinSewing Terms – Interfacing

Gathering

By gathering, you can join a long piece of fabric to a shorter piece.  To gather a piece, two parallel lines are sewn on the right side of the fabric, ¼” (6mm) apart. The long tails of the thread are left for gathering and then the bobbin threads (on the wrong side of the fabric) are gently tugged, gathering the fabric evenly on the threads.

Further Reading on Gathering Sewing Terms:

How to Gather FabricHand Gathering Shirring (sewing with elastic thread)Gathering with a SergerRuchingGathering with CordGathering with ElasticGathering TulleGathering FootRufflerhow to gather tulle, how to sew tullehow to gather tulle, how to sew tullePinGathering Tullegathering with cordgathering with cordPinGathering with Cordhow to gatherhow to gatherPinGatheringgathering footgathering footPinGathering Foot

Grading a Seam

Grading a seam simply refers to cutting away some of the layers of the seam allowance to reduce bulk.

Further Reading:How to Grade a Seam

PinSewing Terms – Grade a Seam

Grain

The grain of the fabric follows the length of your fabric. When you lay out a pattern on your fabric you line the arrow on the pattern with the grain of the fabric. The grain is always parallel to the selvage.

Further Reading:Selvage, Grain and Bias

selvage grain biasselvage grain biasPinPinPinSewing Terms – Grain

Hem

A hem is usually made by turning up the raw edge twice. It hides the raw edges of a garment.

Further Reading on Hem Sewing Terms: More about sewing hems

GENERAL HEMS – How to Sew a HemNARROW HEMS – How to sew a narrow hemROLLED HEM FOOT – How to use a rolled hem footWIDE HEMS – How to sew wide hemsCIRCULAR HEMS – How to sew circular hemsBLIND HEMS – How to sew a blind hem | blind hem footRUFFLED HEMS – Lettuce hemsKNIT FABRIC HEMS – How to hem knit fabricKNIT HEMS – Twin NeedleSQUARE HEMS – How to Sew Mitered Cornerswide hem, how to sew wide hemswide hem, how to sew wide hemsPinWide Hemsround hem, circle hem, how to sew a round hemround hem, circle hem, how to sew a round hemPinCircular Hemslettuce hem tutoriallettuce hem tutorialPinLettuce HemsPinBlind Hems

Hooks and Eyes

Hooks and eyes are small metal fastenings used to close the openings of clothing. They are hand-sewn on and are often found at the tops of zippers on skirts and dresses.

Further Reading: Sewing Hook and Eyes

sewing hook and eye closuressewing hook and eye closuresPinSewing Terms – Hook and Eyes

Interfacing

Interfacing is a material that is used between layers of fabric to stabilize and add thickness to a garment. It can be non-fusible which must be sewn onto the fabric or fusible which is pressed to join it to the fabric.

Further Reading:Types of Interfacing

types of interfacingtypes of interfacingPinPinSewing Terms – Types of Interfacing

Knit Fabric

Knit fabric stretches and so needs special needles and stitches when sewn.

Further Reading:

Sewing Stretch Fabric without a SergerTypes of Knit FabricStretch Factor of FabricsHow to Gather Knit FabricSewing Stretch Fabric HemsHow to Sew Fold Over ElasticHow to use a SergerHow to Sew with a Twin NeedleLettuce Hems

types of stretch fabrictypes of stretch fabricPinSewing Terms – Knit Fabric

Ladder Stitch

This is a hand stitch used to create invisible seams and close gaps. See slip stitch

Nap

Nap refers to a fabric with a one direction pile or pattern. It must be cut in all the same direction and so often takes more fabric consumption. Examples of fabric with nap include

Further Reading: Sewing with Napped Fabric

sewing fabric with napsewing fabric with napPinSewing Terms – Fabric with Nap

Pinking shears

Pinking Shears have a V shape along the cutting edge and are used to cut fabric to prevent it from unraveling.

Further Reading:Sewing Cutting

cutting tools for sewingcutting tools for sewingPinSewing Terms – Pinking Shears and Cutting Tools

Pintucks

Pintucks are small, narrow pleats used for texture and design in clothing.

Further Reading:Pintucks

pintuck, pintuckspintuck, pintucksPinSewing Terms – Pintuck

Piping

Piping is a decorative finish used on homewares such as cushions and on clothing. Bias tape covers a piece of rope to make a hardy and stiff border.

Further Reading:

How to Make PipingHow to Sew PipingFree Cushion with Piping Tutorialhow to sew pipinghow to sew pipingPinSewing Piping Tutorialcushion cover with pipingcushion cover with pipingPinDIY Cushion with Pipinghow to make pipinghow to make pipingPinMake Piping

Raw Edge

A raw edge is the cut edge of the fabric. The alternative to the raw edge is the selvage which is the edge that has been woven and does not fray.

Further Reading:How to Stop Fraying

stop fabric frayingstop fabric frayingPinSewing Terms – Raw Edge Fraying

Right side of the fabric

The right side of the fabric is the top side of the fabric. It is usually printed and softer or smoother. Sometimes there is no difference between the right and wrong side of fabrics.

Ruching

Ruching is a type of gathering used to create volume and design in clothing. Ruching can be created using elastic or a casing.

Further Reading: Ruching

how to sew ruchinghow to sew ruchingPinSewing Terms – Ruching

Running Stitch

A running stitch is a simple up and down hand stitch than can be used for basting and seams.

Further Reading:Running Stitch

running stitchrunning stitchPinSewing Terms – Running Stitch

Selvage

A selvage is the edge along the width of fabric that is machine finished. It doesn’t fray and often has the manufacturer’s details on it.

Further Reading:Selvage, Grain and Bias

selvage grain biasselvage grain biasPinPinPinSewing Terms – Selvage

Slip stitch (Ladder Stitch)

To slip stitch is to hand-sew a fabric or garment with stitches that are hidden or not very visible.

Further Reading:How to Sew Invisible Stitch

ladder stitchladder stitchPinSewing Terms – Ladder Stitch

Seam Allowance

The seam allowance is the area between the raw edge and the stitching line.

Further Reading: How to Add Seam Allowances

PinAdding Seam Allowances

Serger (Overlocker)

A serger or overlocker is a sewing machine that cuts the raw edge of the fabric as you sew. It is used to finish seams and neaten the inside of garments.

Further Reading:

How to Use a SergerSewing Machine vs Serger vs Coverstitch MachineGathering with a Serger

how to use a sergerhow to use a sergerPinSewing Terms – Serger

Stitching Line

This is the line that you actually sew on. It is usually ¼ inch (6mm), ½ inch (12mm) or⅝ inch (1.5cm) from the raw edge. The stitching distance from the raw edge is called the seam allowance and will be specified in the pattern by the designer.

Further Reading:How to Sew a Straight Seam

PinSewing Straight Seams

Stitch Length

The stitch length is usually set at 2.5 for normal sewing and can be adjusted on your machine. If you are basting or gathering then the stitch length should be set to 4.0.

Seam Ripper

A seam ripper is a small tool used for removing stitches. It is also called an unpicker in some countries.

Further Reading:How to Use a Seam Ripper

PinSewing Terms – Seam Ripper (Unpicker)

Stay stitch

Stay stitching is a line of stitching just inside the intended permanent stitching line on a curved edge that stabilizes and keeps the curve from stretching and distorting.

Further Reading:How to Stay Stitch

stay stitchingstay stitchingPinSewing Terms – Stay Stitching

Stretch Factor

Knit fabrics stretch by different amounts and as such as suitable for different projects. Stretch factor measures the amount of stretch in a knit fabric as a percentage.

Further Reading: How to Measure Stretch Factor

stretch factor chartstretch factor chartPinStretch Factor

Tension

Sewing machine tension refers to how easily the thread can pull through the machine to get even stitches on both top and bottom. It is usually adjusted from a knob at the front fo the sewing machine.

Further Reading:Sewing Machine Tension

sewing machine tensionsewing machine tensionPinSewing Machine Tension Problems

Thimble

A thimble is a small device that fits over your finger to protect it from needle pricks when hand sewing. They can be made from metal, plastic, ceramic or even leather.

Further Reading:What is a Thimble

what is a thimblewhat is a thimblePinSewing Terms – What is a Thimble

Top Stitch

See edge stitch above. Topstitch is a row of stitching near the edge of an item that is both decorative and increases durability.

Further Reading: How to Topstitch

Trim

To trim is to cut away the excess fabric. Trim is also any decorative item, ribbon, lace that is put on a garment or craft item that is being sewn.

sewing ric racsewing ric racPinRic-Rac Trimhow to sew pom pom trimhow to sew pom pom trimPinPom Pom Trimhow to sew sequin trimhow to sew sequin trimPinSequin Trimhow to sew lace trimhow to sew lace trimPinLace TrimTypes of Trim

Further Reading:

How to Sew Lace TrimSewing Ric RacSewing Sequin TrimHow to Sew Pom Pom Trim

Twin Needle (Double Needle)

A twin or double-needle is used for sewing double rows of stitching on the hems of stretch fabric garments.

Further Reading:How to Use a Twin Needle

twin needletwin needlePinSewing Terms – Twin Needle

Understitch

Understitching is used to secure facings so that they don`t lift up when worn. It allows facings to sit flat.

Further Reading: Understitching

Wrong side

The wrong side is the inside or back side of fabric. It is usually rougher or less finished. For printed fabric, the wrong side will look faded or lighter than the right side.

Zig-Zag

A stitch that goes one way (zig) and then the other (zag) and provides a nice finish to a seam to prevent unraveling. It can be a decorative addition to any garment and can allow for give with knits. In addition, it can be used for appliqué.

Further Reading – Zig Zag Stitch

PinSewing Terms – Zig- Zag

Sewing Terms – In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this beginner`s guide to sewing terms. There are many other terms you will learn as you gain confidence in sewing. If you are stuck on any please comment below and I can add them in.

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