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A Quick Guide to Essential Sewing Terminology

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Whether you are a beginner with no other intentions than learning a new skill, or a seasoned pro running up fabulous creations for the national theatre, it’s always good to brush up on the essential terminology that goes alongside your talent. Using the right words can be important, not least because you will sound super professional and knowledgeable, but also because you never know when you will need to communicate a tricky problem with a fellow sewing fanatic – a shared language is always a better way of getting to the root of a problem quickly.

So we’ve picked out some of the essential terms you cannot live without.

Anchoring- This refers to anchoring stitches. Machine stitches sewn at zero stitch length.The term is also interchangeable with the process of sewing backwards briefly to anchor the stitches.

Armscye – An armhole, where the sleeve is attached.

Bobbin – A cylindrical device holding the thread.

Buttonhole – Small hole which is bound with stitching big enough for a button to pass through.

Cutting Mat- A board used for cutting of fabric. Usually a Cutting Mat does not damage with use.

Crochet – A process of creating fabric by interlocking loops of typically yarn or thread.

Darts – Darts are folds that take in a garment and provide shape.

Drape – The way material looks when it is hanging.

Edge Stitch – A straight line of stitch made at the edge of fabric. Usually ⅛ of an inch away from the seam line.

Embroidery- Very old way of decorating fabric. Patterns or depictions are created with needle and thread.

Face – The front of the fabric

Feed-dogs – Small feet under the presser foot of a sewing machine.

Gather – A way of gathering material to create fullness.

Hem – Usually folded up and sewn this is the finished bottom edge of a garment.

Hooks and eyes – A type of fastener.

Interfacing – Stiff material used between two layers of fabric in collars and facings.

Ladder Stitch – Used to close large openings in fabric

Lining – Material used to finish the inside of a garment.

Match Point – A point marked on one piece of fabric so it can be matched to a similar area on another piece of fabric.

Notions – The extra bits and pieces used in sewing eg. zips, buttons, ribbon etc.

Overlay – The top layer of fabric when there are two different fabrics ontop of each other.

Pattern – a template of different sections of a garment on paper or cardboard.

Presser foot – The piece of metal that keeps your fabric in place whilst you sew.

Raw Edge – The edge of a piece of fabric after it has been cut.

Running Stitch – A stitch with a dashed line effect. This stitch is hand sewn.

Seam – A line where two pieces of fabric come together.

Seam Allowance – The extra fabric beyond the seam line. This is usually 1.5cm as standard.

Tacking- A way of holding two pieces of fabric together using big stitches – making it easier to sew.

Tuck – A fold in a garment that ads decoration or shape.

Understitching – Stitching a line close to the edge of a facing to stop it from rolling. Particularly good for necklines.

Vertical bobbing – When the bobbin of a sewing machine moves backwards and forwards to pick up thread.

Weft- crosswise threads in woven fabric.

Wrong side – The side of fabric not on show.

Yardage – An undefined length of fabric.

Yoke – A panel across the shoulders or waistline.

Zig Zag Stitch – A back and forth stitch used when a straight stitch will not suffice.

So there you have it. There are many more terms that could be added to this list, but these should get you started and keep you on the straight and narrow. Any more to add? Let us know by commenting below or on Facebook.

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