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Sewing Glossary
Sewing Glossary

Sewing Glossary I to Z

interfacing — A third thickness of carefully selected fabric which is placed between the gar­ment and facing fabrics for added body, shaping and support.

interlining — A fabric placed between the lining and outer fabric. Used in coats, jackets and the like to add warmth or bulk; in bedspreads to give body; in curtains to add body and to prevent light from showing through and fading the fabric.

intersecting seams — Seams that cross one another when garment sections are joined together at the waistline, shoulder line, set-in sleeve and similar points.

`iron-on’ — A term used to describe chemically treated fabric which is joined or applied to another fabric by using a warm iron.


lap — To extend or fold one piece of fabric or garment section over another.

lapel — The section of a garment which is turned back between the top button and collar.

layout — The position in which pattern pieces are laid on the fabric for cutting.

layering — Trimming all seam allowances within a seam to different widths; removes bulk so that the seam will lie flat.

lining — A carefully selected fabric that covers the underside of another fabric, adding body to the article. 1. In dress construction, the lining is cut the same as the dress fabric and constructed separately. It adds a finished look to the inside. 2. In tailoring. the lining is constructed to fit into the jacket or coat and prevents the unfinished seam allowance from showing. 3. In home decorating, the lining is used to finish curtains and protect the top fabric. It is als(.• used in bedspreads.


made-to-measure — Professionally made and fin ted garments, loose covers, bedspreads and cur­tains.

markings — The symbols shown on the pattern f :- darts,. buttonholes, tucks and other construct, details. They are transferred from the pattern to fabric by means of tailor’s tacks, chalk, tackings tracing wheel.

mercerized – A finish for cotton that adds strength and lustre and helps the fibre to take dyes.

mitre – 1. The diagonal line formed when fabric is joined at a square corner. After stitching the excess fabric is generally cut away on the underside where the hems meet. Used where hems join at the corner as in a vent in a jacket, curtains and linens. 2. The diagonal fold made when applying a band, lace or the like to square or pointed shapes.

motif – Decorative emblem or design used in embroidery, appliqué etc.

mounting – The second thickness of a carefully selected fabric which is cut by the same pattern as the garment and is stitched in place with the garment seams. Used to give added body and shape.


nap – A soft fabric surface made by short fibres brushed in one direction. Should run in one direc­tion on made up items.

notches – Outward V-shaped notches beyond the seam allowance that indicate which edges are to be seamed together. Matching notches are always joined.

notions – Small items used in sewing such as thread, needles, pins, and buttons (haberdashery).


overwrap or overlap – The part of the garment that extends over another part, as the opening of a blouse, jacket, coat or



pile – Raised loops or tufts on the surface of a fabric.

pinking – A serrated-edge seam-finish, cut with pinking shears (used where fabrics do not fray).

pivot – To turn the fabric on the machine needle while the needle is still in the fabric. Used when stitching square corners.

placket – A finished opening that is generally closed by means of a zip, press fasteners or other fastening. Used in dresses, skirts, shorts and other garments to make them easy to put on and to assure a good fit at the waistline, sleeve, etc; also used in furnishings such as loose covers and cushions.

pleats: dressmaking – Folds in the fabric to give fullness often partly stitched down.

    Accordion pleats – Fine narrow pleats made commercially.

    Box pleats – Two knife pleats which turn away from each other.

   Inverted pleat – Two knife pleats which turn towards each other.

   Kick pleat (Dior pleat) – A short pleat at the hemline of a skirt formed by an additional layer of fabric placed under an                      opening.

   Knife pleats – A series of pleats which are the same width and fall in the same direction.

   Release pleat – A partly stitched pleat (at top and/or bottom) in the back of a coat or jacket lining to give freedom of                          movement.

   Sun-ray pleats – Commercially pleated tapering.

pleats: curtain – Folds in the heading made into pleats by using a tape with woven-in pockets and hooks.

   Cartridge pleats – A small round pleat filled with rolled fabric.

   French pleats – One large pleat divided into three at the lower edge of the heading, drawn together by hand, leaving pleats uncreased. Arranged at even intervals.

   Pencil pleats – Narrow pleats arranged close together to form a deep firm top heading.

   Pinch pleats – One large pleat divided into two or three. Formed at intervals and fanning out at the top.

pleat tape – A stiffened tape with woven-in pockets or drawstrings used for curtains; forms pleats at even distances. Made from various fabrics, includ­ing nylon and. Terylene for net curtains, and in different widths.

pre-shrunk – To shrink the fabric so that its dimensions will not be altered by laundering.

pressure – The force the presser foot exerts on the fabric during the machine stitching.


reinforce – To strengthen an area that will be subjected to strain. The area may be reinforced with an underlay or patch of fabric or with extra rows of stitching.

return – In curtain fixtures, the distance from the curve of the track or rod to the wall. Curtains are constructed so that they extend round the return.

revers – Wide, shaped lapels on coats and suits.

reversible – 1. A fabric that is woven so that either side may he used for the right side, for example damask or double-faced wool.

2. A garment finished so that it may be worn with either side out.

ruching – Several lines of stitching forming a gathered area.


seam allowance – The amount of fabric allowed for seams in joining sections of a garment or other article together – generally 1.5 cm.

seam edge — The cut edge of the seam allowance.
seamline — The line designated for stitching the seam — generally 1.5 cm (5/8 in) from the cut edge.

selvedge — The finished edges on all woven fabrics which are parallel to the lengthwise thread.

shank — The stem between the button and the garment to which the button is sewn. It can be made with thread or may be part of the button. It allows room for the buttonhole side of the garment to fit under the button.

shirring — Gathering, often elasticated, with rows of stitching, to control fullness.

skirt marker — A rule standing from the floor (or attached to a door) with cm/inches marked and attached to it a press bulb with chalk to mark the fabric for a hem; can be self-operated. Also avail­able with a pin apparatus which requires a second person to operate.

snip — A small cut into the fabric (see clip).

stay — A small piece of fabric or tape that is sewn to an area of the garment for reinforcement. Used at the point of a slash, under bound buttonholes, and at the waistline. Also used on some seams in stretch fabrics to prevent distortion.

straight stitch — A plain straight machine stitch.

straight stretch stitch — Appears like a loose outline stitch, especially suitable for knitted and stretch fabrics.


tacking stitch — A long stitch made by hand or machine to hold two pieces of fabric together temporarily. Used to join garment sections before fitting and to prevent the fabric from slipping during stitching of seams.

tailoring — A method of sewing characterized by classic lines; in suits, coats, dresses and trousers.

tailor’s tacks — Markings made of thread which are used to transfer symbols from the pattern to the fabric.

tension — The degree of looseness or tightness of the needle and bobbin threads that interlock to form the machine stitch. When the upper (needle) and lower (bobbin) tensions are balanced both threads are drawn into the fabric to the same degree.

thread count — Number of threads (yarns) per cm (inch) in the warp and weft of woven fabric.

topstitching — A row of stitching on the right side, or top side, of a garment near to the finished edge as a decorative accent. Can be made by machine or hand.

tuck — A stitched fold of fabric which provides fullness or a decorative feature (as pin tucks); also a shrinkage or growth tuck to allow for letting out as a child grows.


under-lap or under-wrap —The edge of a garment that extends under another edge, as in the opening of a coat, jacket or waistband.

underlay — 1. A strip of fabric that is placed on the underside of the main fabric for reinforcement. Used in stitching buttonholes, pockets and similar sections; in mending; in decorative zig-zag stitch­ing.

understitching —A line of stitching through fac­ing and seam allowances, which helps the facing to lie flat.

vent — A lapped opening. Used in hems of tailored jackets and sleeves and in other garment sections.

warp — The threads or yarns that run lengthwise n: the weaving of the fabric.

weft (old term woof) — The threads or yarns cross the warp. Also called ‘filler’.

zig-zag stitches:

   blindstitch zig-zag — The stitch pattern tn.::: produces four straight stitches separated by n single sidewards stitch to the left.       Used finishing seam edges, in stitching hems and in decorative stitching.

    multi-stitch zig-zag — A stitch pattern tn.:: makes four stitches to the left, then four to In:: right in a zig-zag shape. Used to           finish .hem seam edges, mend, stitch darts and seams in interfacing and sew elastic and blanket bind:___ in place; also used for        decorative stitching other sewing.

   plain zig-zag stitch — A regular zig-zag sta­where all stitches are of the same width and in straight line. The stitch length and          stitch wi._i:i selectors may be set for various lengthsa:: _-_ widths.