Sewing Terminology

A number of terms used in sewing may be puzzling to you at first. The ones listed below are all defined in their proper places in the book (see the INDEX). In case you should come upon them without their explanation, however, here are some quick definitions.

  • Back-tack - A few stitches taken in reverse to secure a line of stitching.
  • Bar Tack - A very short thread reinforcement for points of stress
  • Baste-marking - Marking with hand- or machine-basting.
  • Clean-finishing - Edge of fabric turned under once and stitched. Used on edges of facings, hems, seams, etc.
  • Construction stitching - Stitching, such as seams and darts, that shapes and holds a garment together (as distinct from stay-stitching, finishing, etc.).
  • Crocking - Color rubbing off.
  • Directional stitching - Stitching with the grain in woven fabrics. In knits, stitching all seams in the same direction.
  • Ease - The allowance added to a body measurement to make a garment wearable.
  • Ease, to (verb) - To attach a fabric edge to an edge that is slightly shorter. When ease-stitching, the longer edge s very slightly gathered.
  • Fashion fabric - the outer fabric in a garment.
  • Finger-pressing - Opening seam allowances with the thumbnail. Mostly used on fabrics that cannot be pressed.
  • Give - the degree of elasticity in a fabric or a thread.
  • Grading - Trimming each seam allowance to a different width to reduce bulk and avoid a ridge.
  • Hand - The feel and drape of a fabric.
  • Interlining - a layer of fabric added to a lining for warmth.
  • Miter - The diagonal fold made at the corner in an edge finish, such as a binding, hem, etc.
  • Nap - In actual fact, the raised, hairy or downy surface on fabrics such as flannel, etc. In patterns, however, "with nap" means any fabric surface that looks different when held up or down, such a s pile, knits, one-way designs.
  • Non-woven fabric - A fabric not woven or knitted from thread or yarn. Non-woven fabrics, include fake leather and suede, felt, various interfacings.
  • Notches - Markings on patterns used for matching. They are no longer notches but the opposite-they stand out from the cut edge. Notches cut into the seam allowance may weaken the seam.
  • Pivoting - Moving the fabric around with the machine needle in it and the press foot up.
  • Pre-shrinking - Shrinking done before a fabric is used.
  • Self-fabric - The fabric from which the garment is made.
  • Sizing - A starch-like finish, added in the manufacture of some natural-fiber fabrics and rayon. It is water- and steam-soluble.
  • Stability - The degree to which a fabric resists pulling out shape.
  • Stay - A tape added to a garment part to keep it in shape.
  • Stay-stitching - Stitching done inside the seam allowance, before construction, to stabilize curved or slanted edges. Usually done on a single thickness, but also used to attach interfacing.
  • Stitching-in-the-ditch -Stitching on the right side through a seam (in the ditch"), to fasten something underneath.
  • Test seam - A seam done on a scrap of the garment fabric to test the machine stitch.
  • Topstitching - hand- or machine-stitching, either functional or decorative, that shows on the outside of a garment.
  • Understitching - a line of stitching along the edge of a facing or undercollar to keep it from rolling to the outside.

by Coats and Clark

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