Sewing Terms Explained from A-Z | Day 2 of 30 Day Challenge

Sewing Terms Explained from A-Z | Day 2 of 30 Day Challenge

Hey there! I’m Jess from Sallie Tomato! I’ve compiled an A-Z list of sewing terms that beginners should know before they get started sewing. Of course there are more terms that I won’t cover, because they are more specific to apparel sewing or quilting. I just want to cover the essentials!

Check out the list below, or download the free PDF below so you can keep a copy of your own sewing glossary handy in your sewing space!


First in our glossary of sewing terms is Applique.

  • APPLIQUE: Applique is the process of applying one fabric on top of another fabric. Usually applique is secured by sewing or fusing.
  • BACKSTITCHBackstitching is three reverse stitches at the beginning and end of a seam to secure the stitches from coming undone. 
  • BASTETo baste means to sew using a long stitch length to temporarily hold fabric together before the permanent stitching is applied. Basting stitches are usually encased within the final seam, but sometimes need to be removed later on in the project if they’re in an area that will be seen.
  • BIASBias refers to when the grain line of the fabric runs in a 45 degree angle. Bias fabric is necessary for easy binding techniques.
  • BINDINGBinding is a narrow strip of fabric sewn around the edge of a project to encase raw edges and add structure.
  • BOBBINA bobbin is a small plastic spool inserted into the sewing machine which holds thread to form a stitch. The thread from the bobbin is brought up to meet the thread from the upper spool. 
  • CUTTING MAT: A cutting mat is an essential plastic board used for cutting fabric, which is often marked with measuring grids.
  • CUT ON THE FOLD: This term means to align that edge of the pattern piece to a fabric fold. For this method, cut around the entire pattern piece, except the aligned folded edge. Then, after cutting, unfold the fabric for a full symmetrical piece.
  • DART: A dart is a technique for adding shape and depth to bags and apparel.
  • EDGE STITCHING: Edge stitching is straight stitching very close to the edge of a seam, trim, or outer edge.
  • FACING: Facing is a piece of fabric that is sewn into an item, and is turned to the inside to give a finished appearance. I use facings for the inner top edge of bags, so the main fabric is carried over into the interior for a professional finish. 
  • FEED DOGSFeed dogs are the narrow, jagged pieces of metal under the presser foot of a sewing machine. The feed dogs lift, shift, and lower to move fabric through the machine.
  • GRAIN: Grain is the direction of the warp and weft in a woven fabric.
  • HARDWARE: Hardware is a loose term for the various metal findings and embellishments used on bags such as hooks, rings, rivets, and many other functional and decorative pieces. 
  • HEMA hem is a finished bottom edge. 
  • INTERFACING: the various textiles used for adding structure and stabilizing fabrics.
  • KNIT FABRIC: a very stretch material that is mostly used for apparel, and sometimes bags, scarves, and other accessories. 
  • LINING: Lining is the fabric on the interior of a bag or apparel to hide the construction seams and finish off the inside for storing items. 
  • MARK: To mark is to transfer pattern symbols or placement for features or embellishments.
  • NAP: Nap is the direction surface fabric fibers lie. For example faux fur and velvet surfaces have a clear nap or direction the fibers naturally lie. 
  • NOTIONS: Notions are accessories and tools used to aid with sewing
  • OVERLAY: Overlay refers to the top layer of fabric when there is a different fabric underneath.
  • PATCHWORK: Patchwork is the art of sewing small pieces of fabric together to make a larger design.
  • PATTERN: A pattern is a set of sewing instructions which may include templates used to assemble the design. The pattern templates are also referred to as pattern pieces. Not all pattern pieces are cut from a template, some are straight cut using a rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat.
  • PIPING: Piping is handy for adding structure, stability, and detail. Piping is a strip of fabric folded over a cord. Adding piping or cording is a simple way to structure your project while achieving a professional look, without much extra effort. Sew it into seams on bags, apparel, or home decor.
  • PLEAT: A pleat is a fold of fabric stitch to itself to create shape or drape fabric.
  • PRESSER FOOT: A Presser foot is a piece of metal attached to the sewing machine to keep your fabric in place as you sew. 
  • PRESSING: Pressing is the term for using an iron to remove wrinkles from fabric or flatten or crease fabric in place for a project.
  • QUILTING: Quilting is a method of sewing two layers of fabric together with a layer of batting in between the fabric. 
  • RAW EDGE: The raw edge is the cut, unfinished edge of fabric. Woven fabrics like cotton and canvas need to be finished so the fabric won’t fray. Non-woven fabrics such as cork fabric and faux leather can be left raw edge and won’t unravel.
  • RIGHT SIDE: The right side references the front, printed side of the fabric. 
  • SEAMA seam is a line of stitching which joins fabric together.
  • SEAM ALLOWANCE: The seam allowance is the space between the raw edge and the line of stitching. Common seam allowances range from 1/8” to 5/8” depending on the project. 
  • SELVAGEThe selvage is the edge of woven fabric with the manufacturer and designer information. The selvage is parallel to the lengthwise grain.
  • TENSIONTension is the tightness or looseness of the top thread and the bottom bobbin thread. The tension can be easily adjusted on your sewing machine, and should be tested each time you sew through different thicknesses of material and amount of layers.
  • TOPSTITCHTopstitching is a line of stitching that is the decorative stitching to help flatten a seam or secure facing, pockets, and other features.
  • WARP: The warp is the lengthwise thread (which means its parallel to the selvage) of a woven fabric.
  • WEFT: The weft is the crosswise thread (which means its perpendicular to the selvage) of a woven fabric.
  • WIDTH OF FABRIC: The width of fabric (often referenced as WOF) is the measurement from selvage to selvage.
  • WRONG SIDE: The wrong side of the fabric is the back side, which is the opposite side of the printed fabric.
  • YARDAGE: Yardage is a term for lengths of fabric. Patterns will include yardage amounts for fabrics needed for that project.
  • ZIGZAG STITCHA zigzag stitch is a stitch made in a zigzag pattern, from side to side.  
  • ZIPPER FOOT: The zipper foot is used for inserting and topstitching zippers, trim, piping and other embellishments on bags, home decor, and apparel. Most zipper feet are adjustable to the position the zipper tape is being sewn.

All of this information is a lot to take in, and I understand that a lot of learning happens by doing. So, because of that, I’ve created a free printable for you to download and easily reference while learning how to sew and working your way through new projects!

I hope you’re looking forward to the rest of this series because we’ve got a lot of goodness ahead! If there’s anything you have questions on or perhaps there’s a sewing term I missed and you want to learn more about it, please comment below and we’ll be sure to get your questions answered!

Thanks for stopping by today!

30 Day Sewing Challenge Schedule

Follow along each day, or watch the segments that interest you the most. Enjoy!

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