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Sewing Lingo | Sewing Terms for Beginners

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Ever feel lost opening up a pattern or in a sewing group? Sewing has its’ own language and the lingo can be complicated.

This sewing lingo guide will help you talk like you have been sewing for years!

Sewing Lingo

Sewing Terms for Beginners

Early in my marriage, I began sewing. My first projects were a holder for plastic bags in the kitchen and curtains for my home. I liked sewing because of the proud feeling I got from the completed project. In the past year, my interest in sewing has grown because I’m learning how to sew clothes for myself. As with all hobbies, there is a whole new language to learn. When I opened up my first pattern, I felt lost by all the sewing terms. Project by project I am getting the sewing lingo down. Here is a list of Sewing Terms for Beginners to help you get started!

As I learn and “own” more sewing terms, I will add them to this list. I think it is easiest to just learn a few terms at a time. These are 15 Sewing Terms for Beginners that I feel I have mastered. My sewing skills are a work in progress.  Does anyone really “perfect” the art of sewing anyways?

Baste – In sewing, baste is used as a verb to refer to temporarily joining fabric together with long removable stitches.

Bias – The bias direction of a piece of woven fabric, usually referred to simply as “the bias”, is at 45 degrees to its warp and weft threads. Every piece of woven fabric has two biases, perpendicular to each other. Non-woven fabrics such as felt or interfacing do not have a bias.

Bias Tape – Bias tape or bias binding is a narrow strip of fabric, cut on the bias. The strip’s fibers, being at 45 degrees to the length of the strip, makes it stretchier as well as more fluid and more drapeable compared to a strip that is cut on grain. Many strips can be pieced together into a long “tape.”

Dart – A Dart is used for shaping garments to be more fitted. Darts are created by stitching out a wedge-shaped fold of fabric.

Facing – A facing is fabric used to finish the raw edges of a garment such as at neckline and armhole. Shaped facings are cut to match the edge they will face, and bias facings are strips of fabric cut on the bias or cross-grain and shaped to fit edge.

Gather – Gathering is a technique for shortening the length of a strip of fabric so that the longer piece can be attached to a shorter piece. It is commonly used in clothing to manage fullness.  In simple gathering, parallel rows of running stitches are sewn along one edge of the fabric to be gathered. The stitching threads are then pulled or “drawn up” so that the fabric forms small folds along the threads.

Grain – the lengthwise and crosswise grain of fabric refer to the directions parallel to the warp and weft, respectively.

Hem – To hem a piece of cloth you fold up a cut edge, fold it up again, and then sew it down. The process of hemming thus completely encloses the cut edge in cloth, so that it cannot fray.

Interfacing – Interfacing is a common term for a variety of materials used on the unseen or “wrong” side of fabrics in sewing. Interfacings support the fashion fabric (“shell fabric”) of the garment.

Pleat – A pleat is a type of fold formed by doubling fabric back upon itself and securing it in place. It is commonly used in clothing and upholstery to gather a wide piece of fabric to a narrower circumference.

Seam – A seam, in sewing, is the line where two pieces of fabric are held together by thread. The seam finishes the project and helps it not to fray.

Seam Allowance – A seam allowance is the area between the edge of fabric and the stitching line on two (or more) pieces of material being stitched together. Seam allowances can range from 1/4 inch wide (6.35 mm) to as much as several inches

Seam Ripper – A sewer’s best friend or worst enemy, lol. A seam ripper is a small tool used for unpicking or cutting stitches.

Selvage – The selvage is the term for the self-finished edges of the fabric. In woven fabric, selvages are the edges that run parallel to the warp, and are created by the weft thread looping back at the end of each row. The selvage of commercially produced fabrics is often cut away and discarded.

Sloper – A sloper is a base pattern used to develop other patterns. Often called a Block or Master Pattern. This pattern is highly developed and very accurate pattern that is designed to fit a specific set of measurements. This pattern is used in turn to create other more stylized patterns.

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Thursday 27th of June 2019

I'm getting ready to teach a beginning class to some young ladies from my church and was working on a list of terms to help them learn. This is super helpful- thanks!