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Sewing Terms You Need to Know

    • 15 posts
    January 15, 2014 8:58 AM EST

    Sewing can be a very rewarding hobby. Not only can you save money by making clothing for your family, you can also make many household items. To get started, there are some sewing terms you need to know. Learn the basics with this sewing dictionary to get you well on your way.

    Basting, or stay stitches. These are used to hold the fabric pieces together temporarily. They are very loose stitches that are placed in the seam allowance. Once the piece is finished, these stitches are taken out. They can help keep the fabric where it needs to be while sewing. This stitch is most commonly used when placing sleeves on a garment.

    Bias. Another characteristic of fabric, this is the diagonal intersection of the two grains of a fabric. If you cut fabric on the bias, it will be very stretchy. Occasionally, a sewing pattern will call for fabric to be cut on the bias to take advantage of this characteristic.

    Bobbin. This holds the thread that will form the back side of your seam. It goes in your sewing machine underneath the needle. You should use the same color thread that you are sewing with.

    Darts. These are used to give a garment shape. They are seams that are used to make a small part of the garment smaller. They are commonly used in waist bands, at the back of the neck, at the bust line and at the back of the sleeves.

    Ease. This is the difference between the body measurements of the finished garment and the actual size of the garment. This will be different in each finished product depending on the style of clothing. There should always be some ease in a garment to allow for comfort.

    Grain. Every piece of fabric has one. These are the threads that run lengthwise and crosswise within the fabric. When you are using a fabric that has a pattern, you will need to position the sewing pattern in relation to the grain to keep the fabric pattern flowing correctly.

    Hem. This is at the edge of a finished sewing project. Usually it is folded over at least once and then sewn in place. This gives the project a clean and finished look. The hem will also stop the fabric from fraying.

    Lining. A lighter weight fabric is always used for this, which will be inside the garment and usually made of a slick material. This helps the wearer to get the garment on, especially when wearing it over another piece of clothing. Coats are usually lined with some type of satin fabric. It also makes the garment warmer.

    Notions. Every commercial sewing pattern will have a list of the notions needed to finish the project. These can include buttons, zippers, hooks or anything other than fabric and thread. These products will add the finishing touches to your work.

    Pinking shears are scissors that will cut the fabric with a zig-zag edge. This will help keep the fabric from fraying after it has been used in a project. These shears can be a big help if the fabric you are using has a tendency to fray.

    Right side of the fabric. This is the side you see when the garment is finished. This side may be brighter or smoother than the wrong (or inner) side. When sewing, you need to keep the right sides of both pieces of fabric together. After sewing, the piece will then be turned out and the two right sides will be showing.

    Seam allowance. This is the amount of space between the edge of the fabric and where you will sew the fabric together. It is important to be aware of this and to follow the directions included in the sewing pattern. The more a fabric will fray, the bigger the seam allowance should be.

    Selvage edge. Manufactured fabric that is purchased from a store has this flat, tightly woven border. This is done so the fabric will not unravel while it is on display in the store.

    tape measure is used to take all kinds of measurements needed for your project. These can include measuring the person who will be wearing the garment to make sure the correct size is used. It can also be used to measure craft projects that involve sewing, such as pillows.

    The rise of a pair of pants is the distance between the hip and the waist. It can be measured if you sit on a table and cross your legs. Measure from the hip to the waist on the side with the leg that is on top. This is your rise measurement.

    Seam line. This is the line on which you sew. You can mark it with a sewing crayon, or you can just visualize it and use the markings on your sewing machine to stay on this line. The straighter this line is, the more tailored your garment or project will look.

    Any task will seem a bit daunting when you are new at it. Being able to understand the directions is a huge step towards becoming successful.