15 Sewing Words That Every Beginner Should Learn

There are so many terms and different lingo around sewing that it can get confusing. There are so many different sewing words that are used within the industry and within education that is often not explained to beginners.

Many different items and techniques have different phrases, words and terms due to a number of factors. Some of these factors are down to language, culture and different industries.

15 Sewing Words That Every Beginner Should Learn

Though I don’t know every word, phrase and term for each of these you probably know what it means but unsure of the other terminology. I hope reading both the term and what each word does/ means will help you keep up to speed.

1. Backstitch

A backstitch is a button or lever on your machine that is necessary to ensure the line of stitching is secure. This is done by going backwards and overlapping the stitches you have just created.

This then locks them into place and secures the stitching from coming loose or fraying. Continue to sew the rest of the seam and to always remember to do the same technique at the end. Generally, this sewing word is the only one for this technique so you will only need to remember this one.

2. Baste/ Tacking

Basting or Tacking as some call it is a simple straight stitch made purposely to hold 2 fabrics together. This can be done on the longest setting of your sewing machine or by hand.

The stitches are then removed once the fabrics have been properly sewn together. This sewing word will often be used for beginners and when creating clothes to fit models etc.

3. Clip/ Cut Into

Clipping or cut into means that once you have sewn a seam on the curve you will need to relieve the tension in the fabric.

This is why you cut into the seam to release the pressure, this helps flatten the seam and create a smooth finish. Remember to cut as close to the seam line as possible but never into it. Either sewing word can be used but they both mean the same.

 4. Notch

Notches are very similar to clipping, they are the same principal but slightly different method.

Notches are small triangles cut into the seam allowance to create a smooth flat seam. This method is usually only used on curved seams.

5. Right Side VS Wrong Side

There is the right side that is the side you want to show, this will be the outside of the garment/project. The wrong side is the side that will be inside.

The trick is that the grain will curve round to the right side so you can work it out from there. This sewing word is pretty easy to remember as it is easy with most fabrics to understand.

6. Raw Edge

The raw edge is the unfinished, cut edge of the fabric. This with most fabrics will fray.

7. Stay Stitch

Staystitching is a straight stitch across one layer of fabric to hold in place. It is most used around a curve to prevent distortion or movement. The stitch is usually a small stitch length.

8. Grade Seam

A graded seam is when you cut 1 side of the seam allowance shorter than the other side, this helps the fabric lay thinner and flatter to the other side.

This is usually only used when a seam is being pressed to one side.

9. Gather

A gather is joining together one long piece of fabric to a shorter piece of fabric, collecting together the excess in the middle to create fullness or a gather.

This is achieved by running 2-3 rows of parallel stitch lines with long string lengths at each end to tug on to create the gather. The 2-3 rows ensure that the gathers are equal and evenly distributed.

10. Edge Stitch

An edge stitch is to create a close row of stitches to the original seam to hold the pressed seams in place.

11. Finished Seams

There are a few ways you can finish your seams but here are a few to help you get started. Finishing off your seams can prevent messy insides and fraying of the fabric. The first is simply cutting down the seam allowance with pinking shears, this works well if your fabric is quite stable and unlikely to fray.

The next is for fabrics that may fray a little, this is a simple small zig zag stitch along the edge. The last is for fabrics that are prone to fraying, this is to overlock the edges. There are other ways to finish off a seam but we will come to that later.

12. Seam Allowance

Seam allowance is the allotted extra fabric you added on when cutting out your pattern piece. The seam allowance is to enable you to make small mistakes but also helps you keep your project even and easy to match up together.

Seam allowance can be anything from 1/4 inch to 2 inches if you like. The seam allowance is the distance from the raw edge to the stitch line.

13. Stitch Length 

The stitch length is the dial you can change on your sewing machine. This will vary on what you are wanting to sew and create.

14. Top Stitch

A top stitch is a stitch sewn on the right side of the fabric. This stitch is similar to the edge stitch but more prominent.

This stitch is made to hold the open seam in place, usually parallel to the original seam. This stitch can be decorative to look more appealing.

15. Bias, Selvedge, Crossgrain and Grainline

These are all important when it comes to the fabric, the selvedge is the edge of the fabric often created while the fabric is been made. the Crossgrain is the line in which runs perpendicular to selvedge.

The grainline is the line that runs parallel to the selvedge. The bias is the line that runs diagonally across the fabric, this is used to make bias tape and is always cut 45 degrees to the grainline.

That is all you will need to know for now on the different sewing words and what they mean. If you have any other terms, phrases or sewing words that you think people should know let me know in the comments below.

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