Sewing Terms to Know
Check this glossary for the definitions of some of the common sewing terms you will need.
Anchoring stitches- Machine stitches sewn with zero stitch length to keep from pulling out, or the end of seam when you stitch backwards for a few stitches to anchor the stitch.
Apex- Highest point on a rounded bulge.
Appliqué- A surface embellishment made by cutting fabric or lace designs and stitching them to the foundation fabric.
Appliqué scissors- Also known as duck bill scissors, one blade is wide for safe trimming around edges.
Armscye- Sewing term used to define the armhole.
Asymmetrical bias garment- A bias cut garment that is not a mirror image of itself from side to side.
Back tack- The end of seam when you stitch backwards for a few stitches to anchor the stitch.
Backstitch- Strong stitch that doubles back on the last stitch-perfect for securing seams and mending. There are a variety of backstitch styles; one version is the pickstitch.
Baste- Temporary long running stitches created by hand or machine to hold fabric in place before the final stitching.
Basting needle- A sharp, long hand sewing needle
Basting stitches- Temporary, long running stitches created by hand or machine to hold fabric in place before the final stitching.
Batiste- A fine woven cotton fabric.
Bead elastic- A strong, stretchable cord often used in beading or jewelry making.
Beeswax- A wax made by bees and used to strengthen thread for hand sewing.
Bias- True bias is a cut made on an angle 45 degrees to the selvage. This direction allows for the most stretch. Bias refers to any line diagonal to the crosswise and lengthwise grains. Most bias pattern pieces are laid on the true bias; the grainline arrow and the pattern's layout instructions will help you align your pattern pieces.
Bias binding- Also called bias tape, a bias cut strip used to bind or cover edges. Slightly stretchy, it sews neatly around curves. Can be purchased ready-made or cut from fabric.
Bias draping- Hanging bias cut fabric over a dress form to design a garment and make a pattern.
Bias seams- Seams cut and sewn on the bias.
Bias tape- Ribbons of fabric cut 45 degrees to the straight grain. Can be purchased ready-cut with folds pressed in.
Bias-bound- Bias strips of fabric used to cover a seam edge or enclose raw edges.
Bicep circumference- The measurement around the fullest part of the arm
Binding- Strip of fabric used to cover a seam edge or enclose raw edges.
Blanket stitch- Handstitch used for finishing a fabric edge. A smaller version is a buttonhole stitch.
Blind-hem- A hem where the stitches do not show.
Block- A master pattern.
Bodice- Upper-body portion of a garment that runs from shoulders to waist.
Bodkin- Long, flat, needle-like tool used to thread elastic through casing.
Boning- Narrow strips used to stiffen a garment, usually made of plastic, metal, or bone.
Box pleat- The two pleats face each other on one side and away from each other on the opposite side, unlike accordion pleats which all face the same direction.
Buckram- A heavy, coarse cotton fabric used for stiffening garments and hats.
Teach Yourself to Sew
Teach Yourself to Sew is a video series for beginning sewers or anyone who wants to brush up on their skills. We demonstrate basic sewing techniques, share tips, and give step-by-step instruction for beginner sewing projects. Plus, you can ask our experts for answers to any sewing questions you have along the way. You’ll gain the confidence you need to get started in sewing, and in no time you’ll be creating gorgeous garments. If you have already mastered the art of sewing, share this series with those who want to get started, and contribute your expertise by answering questions in the forum.
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