Sewing Terms 101: Your Guide to Understanding the Language of Sewing

Sewing Terms 101: Your Guide to Understanding the Language of Sewing

I have had a few questions regarding sewing terms, so I thought I would add them all here. I will be adding to this time goes on. 

Common terms: 

  1. Bobbin: A small spool that holds the lower thread in a sewing machine.
  2. Bias tape: Strips of fabric cut on the bias (diagonal) that are used to finish edges, create piping, or add decorative accents.
  3. Dart: A fold in fabric that is sewn to shape a garment to fit the curves of the body.
  4. Hem: The finished edge of a garment or piece of fabric that is folded under and sewn to prevent fraying.
  5. Interfacing: A layer of fabric or material that is added to a garment to provide structure and support.
  6. Notions: Small sewing supplies such as buttons, zippers, thread, and snaps.
  7. Pattern: A template or guide for cutting and sewing fabric pieces to create a garment or item.
  8. Seam: The line where two pieces of fabric are sewn together.
  9. Selvage: The finished edge of a fabric that runs parallel to the warp (lengthwise) threads. 
  1. Stitch: The line of thread that is sewn through fabric to join two pieces together.
  2. Topstitching: A visible row of stitching on the outside of a garment or item that is used for decoration or reinforcement.
  3. Understitching: A technique where the facing or lining of a garment is sewn to the seam allowance to prevent it from rolling or showing on the outside of the garment.
  4. Seam allowance: The amount of extra fabric that is included in a pattern or cut around the edge of a fabric piece before it is sewn to another piece.
  5. Grainline: The direction of the threads in a woven fabric, which is important for cutting out pattern pieces correctly.
  6. Gathering: A technique where fabric is sewn with long, loose stitches and then pulled to create soft folds or ruffles.
  7. French seam: A type of seam that encloses the raw edges of fabric within itself, creating a clean finish.
  8. Facing: A piece of fabric that is sewn to the inside of a garment to finish a raw edge or create a clean neckline.
  9. Basting: A temporary stitch used to hold fabric in place during sewing or fitting.
  10. Binding: A strip of fabric used to cover and finish raw edges or create a clean edge on a garment or item.
  11. Lining: A layer of fabric that is sewn to the inside of a garment to provide a smooth, comfortable interior and/or to hide construction details.


Can you explain the difference between woven fabric and knit fabric.

Woven fabric and knit fabric are two common types of textiles used in the manufacturing of clothing and other items. The main difference between the two is the way in which they are constructed.

Woven fabric is made by interlacing two sets of yarns, known as the warp and the weft, at right angles to each other. The warp yarns run lengthwise, while the weft yarns run horizontally. This interlacing creates a strong, stable fabric with little stretch. Examples of woven fabrics include denim, cotton shirting, and wool suiting.

Knit fabric, on the other hand, is made by interlocking a single yarn in a series of loops. The resulting fabric has a lot of stretch and is often used in items like t-shirts, sweaters, and leggings. There are many different types of knit fabrics, including jersey, rib knit, and interlock.

Overall, the choice between woven and knit fabrics will depend on the intended use of the textile, as well as personal preference for factors like drape, durability, and stretch.

What is Fabric Drape?

Fabric drape refers to how a piece of fabric hangs or flows when it is used to make clothing or other items. It is determined by a variety of factors, including the weight and stiffness of the fabric, its texture, and the way it was cut and sewn.

A fabric with good drape will flow and move with the body, creating a flattering and comfortable silhouette. On the other hand, a fabric with poor drape may be stiff or rigid, making it difficult to wear and limiting movement.

The drape of a fabric can be influenced by a number of factors, including its fiber content, weave or knit structure, and finishing techniques. For example, silk and rayon are known for their excellent drape, while fabrics like denim and canvas tend to be stiffer and less flowing.

When choosing a fabric for a project, it’s important to consider the desired drape and choose a fabric that will work well for the intended use. For example, a flowing, drapey fabric like chiffon might be great for a dress or blouse, while a stiffer fabric like denim might be better suited for a pair of jeans.

Can you tell me what it means when the Pattern says it has ‘ease”? 

Fabric ease refers to the additional amount of fabric needed in a garment or item to allow for movement and comfort. It is the difference between the measurements of the finished garment and the measurements of the body or object it is intended to fit.

There are two types of fabric ease: wearing ease and design ease. Wearing ease is the minimum amount of ease needed to allow the wearer to move and breathe comfortably in the garment. Design ease, on the other hand, is the additional amount of ease added for aesthetic purposes, such as creating a loose or flowing silhouette.

The amount of fabric ease needed will depend on the specific garment or item being made, as well as the desired fit. For example, a pair of skinny jeans may have very little ease, while a flowing maxi dress may have a lot of design ease.

When designing or sewing a garment, it’s important to consider the amount of ease needed and adjust the pattern accordingly. This may involve adding or subtracting fabric to certain areas of the garment, such as the hips or waist, to achieve the desired fit and silhouette.

What is a seam allowance? 

A seam allowance is the amount of extra fabric that is included in a pattern or cut around the edge of a fabric piece before it is sewn to another piece. The purpose of a seam allowance is to allow for the seams to be sewn together and for the edges of the fabric to be finished neatly.

The standard seam allowance is typically 5/8 inch or 1.5 centimeters,  or 1/4 inch or 5mm – 6mm,  for doll clothes, but this may vary depending on the specific pattern or project. The seam allowance is usually marked on the pattern pieces, or can be measured and marked manually.

When sewing a garment or other item, the seam allowance is folded under and stitched to the adjacent piece of fabric to create a seam. The excess fabric beyond the seam is then trimmed and finished to prevent fraying.

In addition to providing a neat finish to a seam, a seam allowance also allows for adjustments to be made during the sewing process. For example, if a garment is too tight, the seam allowance can be let out to create a looser fit.

Understanding and using seam allowances is an important skill in sewing, as it affects the fit, finish, and overall quality of a garment or item.

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