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Sewing Glossary
Sewing Glossary

Sewing Glossary A to H

abutted seam Two pieces joined edge to edge with an underlay of a lightweight fabric. Usually used in interfacing and interlining.

appliqué To sew a design of a small piece of fabric over the main fabric. The design or motif may be applied either by machine with a zig-zag stitch or by hand.

armholes The garment opening for the arm and sleeve.


back stitch 1. The reverse stitch on the machine. Used to reinforce the stitching at the beginning and ending of seams.

2. A hand sewing stitch.

balance lines The horizontal level on which the crosswise grain of the fabric falls at a right angle to the lengthwise grain in each dress section.

belt backing Stiffening used as interlining or backing in a belt and inside a waistband.

bias The diagonal line of fabric that is on neither the lengthwise nor the crosswise grain. A ‘true bias’ is the diagonal line formed when the lengthwise grain of the fabric is folded to the crosswise grain.

binding A single or double bias finish used to encase raw edges. It may be applied with or without topstitching.

blindstitch 1. A hand stitch used for hemming and finish which is invisible, on the right side of the finished hem.

2. A zig-zag machine stitch pattern. See Zig-zag stitches.

block To pin or shape and steam, rather than press. Steam, holding iron above surface, and allow fabric to dry before handling — used with some kinds of embroidery and also knitted fabrics.

bodkin A heavy needle with a blunt point and large eye. Used to slot tape, elastic, ribbon, cord, etc., through a casing or heading.

boning See Featherbone.

buckram A coarse, stiff cotton fabric used to hold the heading erect in curtains and to give body to contour belts etc.


canopy 1. Fabric hung or draped over a four-poster.

2. A decorative treatment above a headboard.

casing — 1. A hem or tuck through which ribbon, tape, cord or elastic can be drawn. 2. Opening at the top of a curtain through which a rod is run.

catch to attach one piece of fabric to another with tiny hand stitches, generally with several back­stitches over the first stitch; for example a facing to seam allowance.

centre line The vertical centre of the bodice, skirt or yoke section of a garment. It is marked on the pattern pieces and is transferred to the fabric sections with a tacking thread.

clip To cut a short distance into a seam allowance or selvedge with the point of the scissors. Used in curved seams, square corners, buttonholes and the like, so that seams will lie flat when pressed.

crease 1. A line or mark made by folding the fabric and pressing the fold. 2. The line or mark that may result when the manufacturer folds the fabric and rolls it on the bolt.


dart A short fold or tuck, tapered to shape a garment.

directional stitching Stitching of seams in the correct direction of the grain so that the fabric will not stretch during the stitching.

drape 1. A property many fabrics have of falling easily into graceful folds; a soft silk, for example. 2. An attractive arrangement of folds in a garment or curtains. The folds may be controlled by means of gathers, tucks or pleats.

dress form (shape) — A body shape (dummy) which is used to fit a garment. Made from various materials and often adjustable for size.

dressmaker’s cutting board A board marked in squares used for cutting fabrics where table space may not be available. Folds for storage.

dressmaker’s squared paper Used for making a pattern by copying from a miniature diagram. Diagrams are usually scaled with one square equalling 2.5 cm (1 inch). Squared paper has either 2.5 or 5 cm (1 or 2 inch) squares so that the pattern shape can he easily drawn to the correct size.

dressmaker’s tracing paper A coloured carbon (copying) paper used to trace a shape or pattern markings on to fabric. Usually used with a tracing wheel.

drop shoulder Shoulder line located below the normal line.


ease The even distribution of fullness when one section of a seam is joined to a slightly shorter section without forming gathers or tucks. Used to shape set-in sleeves, the shoulder line and other areas.

ease allowance — The amount added to body measurements to make garments amnfortable and allow for movement.

edge-stitch — 1. To stitch close to a finished edge or seam from the right side of the fabric. 2. To stitch close to the edge of a fold after the fabric edge is turned to the underside. Used to finish hems and facings.

embroidery hoop — Two narrow circles of wood, one fitting inside the other, used to hold fabric taut.


facing — The second layer of fabric used to finish necklines, front and back openings and sleeves.

featherbone — A narrow strip of boning used to stiffen the seams and edges of closely fitted gar­ment sections to prevent them from slipping or rolling; for example, the bodice of strapless dresses, and cummerbunds.

fibres — Natural or man-made filaments from which yarns are spun.

finger-press — To press flat (as a turning or seam) using fingers and thumbnail.

finishing — The sewing techniques used in gar­ment construction to finish seams, facings, hems, necklines and other sections.

fly — A neatened opening that conceals the zip or buttons. Generally used in shorts, men’s pants and topcoats.


gather — To control fullness by a running stitch or loosened machine stitch through the fabric; the thread is fastened at one end and then pulled up from the other end.

grain — In woven fabrics, the lengthwise and crosswise direction of the yarn. When these lengthwise and crosswise threads or grains are at right angles, the fabric is ‘on the true grain’.

guidelines — Tacked stitches to be followed for the final stitching (for buttonholes, pockets, etc.).

gusset — A small shaped piece of matching fabric set into a slash or seam for added width and ease. Sometimes found at the underarm, and in briefs and knickers.


haberdashery — Small sewing needs, such as thread, needles, pins, zips, press fasteners, hooks and eyes, bias binding, etc.

headboard — The upright board at the head of a bed.

heading — 1. A fabric tuck above a casing or at the