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Sewing Terms and Phrases

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Sewing 101 | Essential Sewing Terms and Phrases [Infographic]
December 3, 2015/14 Comments/by Maile Proctor
sewing terms

When you learn to sew, you’re introduced to slew of new vocabulary words and phrases. To help you understand these words and phrases, and be more conversational about your new craft, we’ve put together this glossary of sewing terms from Columbus, OH teacher Nikki D…

“May your bobbin always be full!” ~Author Unknown. Most recognize what this quote means, but you might be thinking, “What on earth is a bobbin?” Bobbin, miter, selvedge – there is an extensive amount of vocabulary in sewing, but don’t worry; I have compiled a simple list for you to learn the essential sewing terms.

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From Appliqué to Zig-zag, class is in session, welcome to sewing 101!

Sewing Machine Terms
Whether it’s your first time sewing on a machine, or you’ve been using one for years, you might not know the name of all the parts on your sewing machine – or even what they do! All sewing machines have the same basic parts. So here’s an introduction to the basic parts of every sewing machine, and what their main function is.
Bobbin: The bobbin is a spindle or cylinder placed on the bottom of the sewing machine. You wind thread around the bobbin and use it to form the lower part of the sewing machine stitches.
Foot Pedal: Step on the foot pedal to power your sewing machine.

Presser Foot: This is NOT the same as the foot pedal on the floor that you step on to make your sewing machine work. This is the part of the sewing machine that holds the fabric steady while the fabric is being stitched. It can be pulled up and down, off the fabric, with a lever or a button.

Hand Wheel: Use the hand wheel to adjust the needle height.

Spool Pin: This part of the sewing machine keeps the spool in place while the thread is fed through the machine.

Thread Cutter: Some sewing machines come with built-in thread cutters. As the name implies, this cuts the end of the thread.

Feed Dog: The toothed metal piece underneath the stitch plate that moves up and down to push the fabric along.

sewing terms

Basic Sewing Terms
In order to understand some basic rules of sewing, you need to know basic sewing terms. Understanding these terms will help you read patterns, follow instructions, and talk about what you’re doing with a better vocabulary.
Here are a few basic sewing terms and vocabulary words that will help you learn to sew.
Back Stitch: The process of sewing backwards over the loose threads at the beginning of a stitch, in order to secure your stitch. This works by securing the threads down so they don’t come loose and unravel your stitch. This is done at the beginning and end of a stitch, and whenever the thread is broken.

Check out this infographic to learn more about the basic sewing stitches.

Seam: The line where two pieces of fabric are sewn together.

Seam Allowance: The space of fabric between the edge and seam. The seam allowance may be different depending on the type of fabric yo use.

Lining: An inner layer of fabric underneath a garment.

Hem: The edge of the fabric that has been folded and sewn under in order to keep the raw edge of the fabric from unraveling and being seen.

Darts: A wedge-shaped fold used to shape patterns in order to make a garment fit better.

Quilting: The process of stitching two layers of fabric together, with a layer of filling in between in a consistent pattern.

sewing terms

Sewing Terms: Fabric Types
Fabric is an essential part of sewing – in fact, it’s your most basic material and the part of your project that you will most likely decide on first. Knowing the difference between warp and weft, how to find the grain, and when to use muslin will give you the step up that you need to go from beginner to pro sewist.

Fabric Grain: The orientation of fibers, woven or knit together, to create a fabric. The grain creates lines that run parallel and perpendicular to the selvedge.

Bias: Diagonally across the grain of the fabric, where woven fabric has more stretch or give.

Warp: The thread that runs the length of a woven fabric (“up” and “down”).

Weft: The threads that run at right angles to the length of a woven fabric, otherwise known as cross-grain.

Muslin: an untreated, undyed fabric made of cotton, used to create pattern pieces and prototypes of garments, in order to fix mistakes in the pattern before using the final permanent fabric.

Selvedge: The edges of a raw fabric that run along the edge with the grain. Fabric has a selvedge edge so that it doesn’t fray before it’s sold.

Hand: A term used to describe the texture and feeling of a certain fabric.

sewing terms

Sewing Words and Phrases
The art and practice of sewing come with a huge vocabulary. There are many different kinds of sewing tools, stitches, fabric elements, and techniques associated with sewing.
Here are just a few more words and phrases to help you on your sewing journey, and expand your knowledge of sewing and fashion.
Appliqué: The process of sewing a piece of fabric onto another piece of fabric, sewing close to the edges of the shape that you attach.

Baste: Sewing, by hand or machine, with long stitches in order to temporarily hold together two pieces of fabric, so that they stay in place while you stitch them together.

Binding: Using a thin strip of fabric or bias tape in order to hide the edges of a piece of fabric.

Embroidery: A hand-sewing technique used to decorate fabric with needle-made designs. Sewists generally use colorful thread, and you can also embroider fabric with a programmable sewing machine.

Facing: Fabric used to finish raw edges of a garment to make the edges lie flat. You can see this on a neckline or armhole.

Gather: A gather is created by running a thread along the fabric, and then scrunching the fabric together along the thread.

Pleat: A fold created by doubling the fabric over itself, and stitching it together.

Ruche: A pleated or gathered strip of fabric.

Seam Ripper: A small tool with a pointed edge used to remove stitches from a piece of fabric.

Sewing Notion: an item that is sewn or attached to a finished sewing project, such as a button or snap. This term can also describe a tool used for sewing, like a pin or a seam ripper.

Yoke: A design element at the top part of a garment, to fit over the body.

Zig Zag: A stretchable sewing machine stitch that runs diagonally, back and forth (zig and zag).

sewing terms

I hope this sewing vocabulary lesson helps you understand some of the basic sewing terms and phrases. If you learn them and use them often, you will sound like an old sewing pro in no time!

To help you review, here’s an infographic with all of the sewing terms and phrases.

sewing terms

Want to keep this chart in your sewing room or classroom? Get the printable version here: sewing terms. For practice, try learning how to hem jeans by machine or hand.

If you have any questions about any of these sewing terms, ask your sewing teacher for help, or let us know in the comments below!

Happy sewing!