Sewing Terms


Armscye ~ The armhole or the opening in a bodice to which the sleeve is sewn.


Backstitch ~ A variation of the running stitch that doubles back on each stitch. It is is the most common hand stitch used as it makes a strong seam.

Back Tack ~ To stitch backwards a few stitches to anchor a seam.

Baste ~ Temporary stitches made with a running stitch or a long machine stitch used to hold fabric in place before the final stitching.

Bias ~ Bias refers to any line diagonal to the horizontal and vertical grains of the fabric. Woven fabric stretches along the bias. The true bias, 45 degrees to the selvage, allows for the most stretch.

Blanket Stitch ~ A stitch in which evenly spaced stitches loop together, forming a ridge along the top edge. Used for cutwork, decorative finishes, and buttonholes.

Bodice ~ The part of a garment which runs from the shoulders to the waist.

Brim ~ The projecting edge around the bottom of a hat.

Button ~ A small disk or knob used as a fastening when passed through a buttonhole or loop.

Buttonhole ~ Holes in fabric that are finished with stitching or fabric which allow buttons to pass through and secure one piece of the fabric to another.


Casing ~ A folded and stitched tunnel of fabric that is used to hold elastic, cording, or boning.

Clip ~ To cut small slashes inside the seam allowance of an inside curve to help rounded edges turn and lie neatly.

Crotch ~ The part of a garment that passes between the legs.

Crown ~ The top part of a headpiece that covers the head.

Cuff ~ A fold or band that trims or finishes the bottom of a sleeve.

Cutting Line ~ On a pattern, the outermost line that is to be cut.


Dart ~ A tuck of fabric that tapers into a point. Used to take in ease and give shape to a garment.

Double-fold Hem ~ A hem that is folded once for the hem allowance and a second time to enclose the raw edge.


Ease ~ The method of fitting a length of fabric into a slightly smaller space without resulting in gathers or puckers. Also, extra room added to a garment beyond the measurements to make the garment less restricting.

Edge Stitch ~ A row of stitching within 1/8-inch (3 mm) from an edge or seam line.


Facing ~ A section of fabric, used to finish fabric edges and provide extra stability.

Finger Press ~ A method of temporarily pressing a seam or creasing fabric using your fingertips.

Finished Seam Allowance ~ A seam allowance where the cut edge has been bound, most commonly done with a zigzag stitch on a sewing machine or a serger.

Flounce ~ A type of fabric manipulation similar to a ruffle, but with less bulk.

Fold Line ~ A line along which fabric is folded or is to be folded.


Gathering Stitches ~ Parallel rows of running stitches sewn along the edge of the fabric to be gathered. To create gathers, the stitching threads are drawn so that the fabric forms small folds along the threads.

Grainline ~ This refers to the position of the horizontal and vertical threads in a woven piece of fabric. It also refers to the long arrow symbol on a pattern piece that corresponds with the vertical threads on a woven fabric.

Grade ~ Trim excess fabric in seam allowance in graduated layers to even out bulk.


Hem ~ A garment finishing method, where the edge of a piece of cloth is folded under and sewn to prevent the fabric from unraveling.

Hook and Loop Tape ~ A fastening tape consisting of a strip of nylon with a surface of minute hooks that fasten to a corresponding strip with a surface of uncut pile.


Interfacing ~ A secondary woven or non-woven fabric that is fused or sewn onto a primary fabric to add stability, body, reinforcement, or shape.

Joining Stitch ~ An overcast stitch used to join two edges of fabric together.


Narrow Hem ~ A hem made with a 1/2-inch to 1/4-inch hem allowance that is folded in half twice to form a 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch wide hem. It can be finished with either topstitching or whipstitching.

Neckline ~ The edge of a garment at or below the neck.

Notch ~ V shaped clips cut inside the seam allowance of an outside curve that help rounded edges turn out and lie neatly; also refers to pattern markings shaped like diamonds or triangles that are printed on the cutting line of a pattern to indicate where seams should meet.


Pattern ~ A template for the pieces of a garment that includes markings for specific details and construction guides.

Placket ~ Overlapping layers of fabric along a garment opening that supports or hides buttons and buttonholes or other closures.

Pocket ~ A bag or envelope like receptacle that is fastened to or inserted in a garment. Earlier in history, a pocket was a separate small pouch.

Proper Left ~ This refers to the wearer’s left side.

Proper Right ~ This refers to the wearer’s right side.


Raw Edge ~ A cut edge of fabric that hasn’t been finished.

Ribbon ~ A long, narrow strip of trim, used for tying things together or for decoration.

Right Side of Fabric ~ This is the side of the fabric with the printed pattern or design. On unprinted or untextured fabrics, both sides may be the same, so the right side is determined by which side will be the visible. In pattern instructions, the right side is shaded in illustrations.

Rolled Hem ~ A hem made with a 1/4-inch hem allowance that is rolled under with the forefinger and thumb to form a 1/8-inch wide hem and finished with a simple blind stitch as the hem is rolled.

Ruffle ~ A strip of fabric, lace, or ribbon pleated or gathered on one edge and applied to a garment or other textile as a form of trimming.

Running Stitch ~ Also known as the straight stitch, the running stitch is the basic hand sewing stitch on which all other stitches are based. The stitch is worked by passing the needle in and out of the fabric.


Seam ~ A line of stitching that holds two or more pieces of fabric together.

Selvage ~ This is the tightly woven factory edge of fabric that runs parallel along each side of the lengthwise grain.

Skirt ~ A part of a garment that fastens around the waist and hangs down around the legs.

Snap ~ A two piece fastener that is engaged by pressing its two halves together.

Stay-Stitch ~ A straight stitch sewn through one layer of fabric that is most often used around a curve to reinforce a seam line and to prevent distortion.


Tack ~ To sew a few stitches in one spot, by hand or by machine, to secure one item to another.

Topstitch ~ A straight stitch along fabric edges or seam lines that helps to secure and strengthen an area; it can also be made with a decorative stitch to accentuate seams and style lines.


Waistband ~ A band of fabric that encircles the waist of a garment.

Whipstitch ~ A sewing stitch that passes over an edge of cloth to join, finish, or gather.

Wrong Side of Fabric ~ This is the side of the fabric that is unprinted or without intentional design. On unprinted or untextured fabrics, both sides may be the same so the wrong side is determined by which side will be the unseen. In pattern instructions, the wrong side is unshaded in illustrations.


X-Box ~ A stitched box with an “X” through the middle that provides extra strength and stability to load bearing straps and narrow panels.


Yoke ~ A fitted part of a garment, usually around the neck and shoulders, or around the hips, that provides support for looser parts of the garment, such as a gathered skirt or bodice.