Hi, I’m Katy and I am going take you through a list of useful sewing terminology that will help you sew up Made for Mermaids amazing patterns. Whether you sew for fun or are a professional, knowing and using the right terminology shows you know your stuff!
Applique – comes from the French word “appliquer,” which means to apply or put on. In sewing, applique is the process of applying one fabric on top of another layer of fabric and it is usually attached by sewing the layers together.
Armscye – The opening in a bodice to which the sleeve is attached; also known as an armhole.
Backstitch – these are stitches used at the beginning and end of a seam to secure the threads. When starting your seam backstitch by stitching 2 or 3 stitches forward, then 2 or 3 stitches in reverse; then continue stitching the seam and repeat the backstitch at the end of the seam.
Ballpoint Needle – A sewing machine needle designed to be used with knit fabric. It has a rounded tip to prevent damage to the stretch fibres when sewing.
Basting Stitch (or Stay Stitch) – A long stitch that can be done by hand or by machine using the longest stitch length possible. It is used for temporarily joining 2 pieces together, or for stabilising fabric before joining. A basting stitch is not a permanent stitch as it isn’t strong enough.
Bias – Is the diagonal of the fabric where it crosses the grain both lengthwise and crosswise. True bias is cut at a 45 degree angle. Cutting woven fabrics on the bias gives it more stretch than fabric cut on a straight grain. A garment cut on the bias will make the fabric drape beautifully.
Binding – Long strip of fabric that is used to cover raw fabric edges neatly. Its use depends on how it is cut. If the binding strips are cut on the bias it allows the strip to smoothly follow the curve of an armhole or neckline without bunching or twisting. Knit binding is cut in the direction of the stretch and serves a similar purpose to woven binding. For more information on binding follow these links – Knit Binding 101 and How to Make Bias Binding.
Block – it is a very basic pattern that does not include any styling details. It can also be referred to as a pattern block, basic block, or sloper. It is used to establish fit of a garment. It is used in designing patterns to maintain the correct fit.
Bobbin – it is used in the lower part of the sewing machine. A bobbin is 2 discs joined by a small shaft. The bobbin is wrapped with thread and this bobbin thread is taken up by the sewing machine needle to create a stitch.
Bodice – the close-fitting upper part of a dress, covering the chest and back above the waist.
Box Pleat – Is a pleat formed by folding the fabric. A standard box pleat has folded edges facing each other on the inside of the garment; an inverted box pleat has folded edges facing each other on the outside of the garment. The Joy pattern has box pleats included.
Casing – a casing is created when fabric is folded and stitched to form a “tube” into which elastic or cord is inserted. Here is an example of a casing on the back of a Samantha skirt.
Centre Front or Centre Back – This is a line that you can imagine running in the middle vertically of a garment or pattern piece. It runs from the top to bottom of the garment and is used as a point of reference when sewing. For example: measure 3″ either side of centre front.
Chain Stitch – A stitch created with 2 threads (often using a coverstitch machine). It appears as a straight stitch on the right side but is looped on the back side. The chain stitch gives some stretch to the sewing.
Clean Finish – it is a method of finishing raw edges to prevent fraying. This may be achieved by using a french seams, facings, bias tape or binding, or double folding the fabric and stitching the edge.
Clips – are plastic clips that have a flat base and rounded top. They are used to hold layers of fabric in place for sewing or quilting.
Collar Band (or Collar Stand) – It is a separate band like pattern piece used to attach a shirt collar. The Reese pattern is an example of a collar band.
Concealed Zipper – is a zipper that is hidden when inserted. Folds of fabric cover the zipper and meet at the centre of the teeth.
Construction – Is the process of making a garment, either by sewing or fusing pieces.
Contrast – A colour or fabric that is different to the body fabric. It can be used as an accent in sewing and can be created by using different coloured fabric, trims or thread to create contrast.
Coverstitch – is a specialised sewing machine that is designed to put a professional finish on hems, especially for knit fabrics. When you sew with a coverstitch machine you will make secure, even and stretchy seams and finishes to your garment.
Cross Grain – This runs along the width of the fabric from selvedge to selvedge and is known as the weft of the fabric.
Crotch Curve – This is the curve on a pattern or garment that gives shape so that a pant will fit at the bottom of the rise, giving shape to a pant over the derriere and between the legs.
Crotch Point – The point at which the rise seams and inseams of a pant meet.
Cut on Fold – Cutting a single piece of the garment with the center aligned with the folded edge of the fabric. The fabric is ordinarily folded along the lengthwise grain. The pattern will be marked as follows:
Dart – A wedge shaped fold that is made and stitched into a garment to allow fabric to conform to the body’s curves and control a garments fullness.
Double Needle (or Twin Needle) – It is a type of sewing machine needle that has 2 needles stitching at the same time to create a hem, seam or top-stitching. There are a specialty sewing needle that has a woven and stretch type.
Drape – The way a garment or fabric hangs is referred to as its drape. Drape can be described as soft and fluid like rayon fabrics or firm and structured like a denim fabric.
Drawstring – Is a narrow string, ribbon, cord, or sewn tube of fabric inserted into a casing. A drawstring is used to pull or draw the fabric together, and tied to hold the fabric in place. I have sewn the Rory and Lexi patterns and added drawstrings to both.
Dress – is a garment that has a bodice and skirt. The two pieces may be joined with a waist seam, or the dress can be one piece from the shoulders without a waist seam also.
Dressform – Also known as a body form or mannequin. It is a frame made out of wood, plastic or foam and is used to duplicate the human body to help with draping and checking fit and appearance of a final garment.
Ease (noun) – is the amount of extra fabric that is incorporated into a pattern for movement. It can also be the style of a garment where it can be a slim or loose fit. Here are some blog posts with further information on fit and ease (Fit True to Size and Fit Comparison)
Ease (verb) – is the process of gently fitting a larger piece into a smaller piece. This is done without using pleats, tucks, or gathers. An example is easing a sleeve cap into an armhole.
Edge Stitch – is straight stitching very close to the edge of a seam, trim or outer edge.
Exposed Zipper – A zipper with the zipper teeth uncovered and visible.
Eyelet (or Grommet) – A small, round opening which a thin cord can be threaded through. An eyelet is usually metal but can also be plastic or an embroidered circle too.
Fabric – is the cloth made by weaving or knitting fibres. Fabric can be cut and sewn into garments.
Facing – A method of finishing a raw edge of a garment (for example a neckline). A separate piece of fabric shaped the same as the edge it is being attached to fitted and sewn and then folded to the inside of the garment to enclose the raw edge. A facing is the neatest method of finishing an edge.
Fit – or style ease is how well a garment shapes to the body wearing it. It refers to the overall style that the designer intends for example slim fit or oversized. Here is a blog post link for more information about fit.
French Seam – it is a method of finishing raw edges by enclosing them inside a seam. The French seam is a 2-step process of stitching a narrow seam with WRONG sides together, then folding the fabric right sides together and stitching again to enclose the narrow seam. It is very useful for fine or sheer fabrics like chiffon where an overlocked edge would not look good.
Fusible Web – is a heat-sensitive adhesive used to bond fabrics together. The fusible web can be on one side or both. It is often on interfacing or fusible trims to help with attachment.
Gather – or “gathering” is the process of drawing fabric together to control fullness. It can be done by hand or a machine and it allows a fuller piece of fabric to be joined to a smaller one. For example a sleeve to a cuff or a full skirt to a bodice. Gathering can also be done with elastic. This is a Blythe with gathered tiers.
Grading – is when a pattern is adjusted for different size measurements. Referring to the pattern’s measurement chart and adjusting the pattern pieces for your measurements will ensure the perfect fit. Here is a blog post referring to grading.
Grain – describes the direction of the warp and the weft in a woven fabric. Most garments are cut with the grain or along the direction of greatest stretch. All pattern pieces are marked with a grainline. Garments not aligned to the grain correctly may twist or not drape correctly.
Gusset – is usually a triangular piece of fabric inserted into a seam for increased freedom of movement. A gusset is usually found in an underarm or crotch seam.
Hand – The feel of a fabric is the hand. The hand may be described as firm, soft, rough etc…
Hem – is the finishing of a raw edge usually at the bottom of a top, skirt, dress, sleeve or pant hem. It is achieved by folding up the bottom edge and stitching it in place along the edge either by hand or machine. The raw edge may be overlocked, folded under or taped before stitching.
Inseam – is the seam on pants that goes from the crotch to the hem on the inside of the pant leg
Inseam Pocket – is a pocket with the opening at the side seam of a garment. The pocket “bag” is stitched into the seam and is not visible on the outside of the garment. Many Made for Mermaids patterns have inseam pockets like the Willow.
Interfacing – is a fabric used for reinforcement. Typically in a collar, waistband, cuff or placket. There are different weights or thicknesses that interfacing comes in and the one chosen depends on where or how it will be used. Interfacing can be sewn or fused to the main fabric being sewn and adds some firmness to help maintain the shape of the piece.
Knit fabric – is a fabric made with interconnecting loops and is not made by weaving. Knit fabric can be made by hand or machine and most have some stretch however not all have recovery (the ability to stretch back into shape after being stretched out). Here is a blog post about sewing with knits.
Lapel – is a part of a collar which folds back on itself. It creates a larger opening at the front of a shirt or jacket. A lapel usually ends at some type of closure. The Dionne blazer has a lapel.
Lining – is an additional layer of fabric sewn inside a garment. It can be added for warmth, to have a clean finish, to aid in smoothness or modesty, and can extend the life of a garment. Linings can be full or partial. A lining usually copies the size and shape of the exterior fabric and should lay smoothly inside the garment.
Mitred Seam – is typically seen on a v-neckline. It is created by joining 2 pieces at an angle, and sewn together to make an angled seam. Some pattern examples using mitred seams are Ava, Savannah, Sage and Blair.
Nap – a fabric with a directional finish has a nap. Examples are velvet or terrycloth. A nap will be smoother in one direction than the other. Care needs to be taken when cutting a napped fabric, all pattern pieces must be placed in the same direction on the fabric.
Needlework – a term used to describe decorative sewing. Also known as embroidery. It can be used to embellish many sewing projects.
Notches – are marks along the seam allowance of a pattern to help with aligning pattern pieces when sewing. Notches can be used to identify the front or back of a pattern piece. Typically one notch indicates the front and two notches the back.
Notions – are all of the accessories used in sewing projects, such as zippers, threads, buttons ribbons etc…
Off-grain – occurs when a garment has not been cut with the grain in the centre of a pattern piece. Cutting off-grain can cause a garment to twist on the body and not drape properly.
Overlay – is a top layer of fabric with a different one underneath, often a lace, tulle or chiffon is used as an overlay on a bodice or skirt. I used lace overlays on this Isla dress.
Overlocked or Serged Seam – is a method to finish a seam edge to prevent fraying. Overlocking is done with a specialised machine and can use 2 to 4 interlocking threads that loop over the edge of the fabric.
Patch Pocket – pocket applied to the outside of a garment and topstitched in place. The pocket may be a simple square or any shape desired. It is stitched on all sides except one, to allow access to the pocket. This Nicky pattern has a patch pocket.
Pattern – A series of pieces (usually tissue or other paper) which is laid on the fabric for cutting the individual sections of a garment before assembly
Picot – A decorative trim applied to the edge of a garment consisting of a series of small loops.
Pins – Pins are used frequently in sewing projects to hold patterns to fabric or temporarily hold seams together before stitching. There are different types and the one you choose depends on what you are sewing. Pins are usually made from steel, nickel or brass.
Piping – is a decorative trim applied to an edge or inserted into a seam of a garment. Piping is made with a folded piece of fabric which can be filled with a narrow cord. Piping may be used for emphasising a seam line or adding colour to a garment.
Placket – is a way of finishing an opening like on a top, sleeves, neckline or skirt. It is usually used for supporting buttons and buttonholes or snaps.
Pintuck – a narrow, stitched fold of fabric. The Lauren Top pattern has pintucks.
Pleat – a fold of fabric, usually pressed, which both adds and controls the fullness of a garment.
Presser Foot – it is the small piece of metal on the sewing machine near the needle that helps keep the fabric in place while you sew.
Princess Seam – is a vertical seam line that gives shape to a garment instead of using darts. It is usually found on bodices, dresses, jackets, and blouses. The Penelope dress has princess seams.
Quilting – is the art of making a quilt, which is a decorative piece made from small pieces of fabric sewn together and a batting layer added.
Raw Edge – is the edge of the fabric after it is cut but before it is hemmed. If fabric is left raw, the fabric might fray.
Reinforcement – A stitch, piece of fabric, or hardware designed to make a garment stronger. An example is a rivet that reinforces a jean pocket or topstitching in the corner of a pocket.
Right Side – it is the front, or face of the fabric. This is the side of the fabric designed to be on the outside of the garment.
Rise – is the length of the crotch seam, following the curve of the crotch.
Ruching – is a gathered or pleated strip of fabric used to decorate a garment.
Seam – is where there is a joining together of two or more layers of fabric to construct a garment. Seams may be joined a variety of methods.
Seam Allowance – The area of fabric between the seam and the edge of the fabric. Can vary but is always stated in the pattern. Standard seam allowance for Made for Mermaids is ½”. The width of the seam allowance can have an impact on the strength and stability of the seam.
Seam Grin – is caused by loose stitches and is seen when a seam is pulled or under stress. It is usually corrected by adjusting the tension of the thread.
Seam Puckering – is the result of tight thread tension. A puckered seam looks slightly drawn up or gathered, instead of smooth and straight, and is prone to breaking.
Seam Ripper – a tool used for unpicking stitches.
Selvedge – is the tightly woven area on the lengthwise edge of a fabric which prevents the edges from fraying.
Serged Seam – see overlocked seam.
Shirring – is a method of gathering with elastic. It controls the fullness of the fabric and can be done by hand or machine. It typically done with a machine with thin elastic thread wound onto a bobbin and stitched onto a fabric.
Sleeve Cap (Sleeve Head) – is the shaped area at the top of a sleeve that is set into the armhole and fits over the shoulder and bicep area of the arm. The height and shape of the sleeve cap determine the fit and ease of movement in the sleeve.
Snap – is a metal or plastic closure that has a ball (male) and socket (female) side and is attached with a special tool. I like to cover my snaps with matching fabric so they blend in with my garment like I did on this Sutton dress.
Stay Stitch – is a line of stitching used to stabilise a cut edge before sewing. It is usually a longer stitch and runs very close to the seam or stitch line.
Stitch – is a formation of threads that form a seam.
Stitch Length – is the number of stitches per inch of seam.
Stitch Width – in a zig-zag or other stitch that goes back and forth, the stitch width is the distance between stitches from right to left.
Stitch in the Ditch – refers to stitching in the crevice between the waistband and the skirt or pant, to secure the band on the inside of the garment. Stitching in the ditch makes the line of stitching almost invisible from the outside of the garment.
Straight Stitch – is usually made with a single-needle sewing machine, and is created with a needle thread and a bobbin thread and is a lockstitch (this means it does not unravel easily).
Tacking – are long stitches used to hold 2 pieces of fabric together to make it easier to sew. Tacking is a temporary stitch and removed once a permanent seam is finished.
Tailor’s chalk – chalk used to mark fabric
Thimble – a protective cap worn over the thumb or finger to protect it when hand sewing.
Thread – is the very thin, twisted yarn used in sewing. Threads may be natural or synthetic.
Tension – is the balance of force between the needle thread and the bobbin thread in a sewing machine. Tension needs to be balanced for strong and even stitches. If the tension is too tight, the seams can pucker. If the tension is too loose the thread can loop and the seams grin. If there is a problem seen on the needle thread it is usually as a result of incorrect bobbin tension. If there is a problem with the bobbin thread then this is usually the result of a needle thread problem.
Topstitching – is stitching that is visible on the outside of the fabric, along a seamline or an edge. Topstitching may be done with a single needle or twin-needle. It can be done with a matching or contrasting thread. Top-stitching can be decorative or functional.
Under-stitching – is a row of stitches along the seam line of a lining, facing or a pocket. It is to prevent the lining, facing or pocket from rolling and becoming visible when a garment is worn. Under-stitching is not seen from the outside of a garment as the stitching is on the facing and seam allowance only.
Velcro – is a fastener that is made up of two strips of thin plastic sheet, one covered with tiny loops and the other with tiny flexible hooks, which stick together when pressed together and can be separated when pulled apart.
Walking Foot – is used to feed fabric through a sewing machine as it is being stitched. It is very useful for sewing heavy fabrics or spongy fabrics that lifts the regular presser foot and stops the feed of the fabric. It is also useful for sewing many layers of fabric together. Some sewists also use it for sewing with knit fabrics to reduce the amount a fabric stretches out when sewing.
Warp and Weft – are the terms to describe the direction of fibres in a woven fabric. The fibres running lengthwise are called warp and the fibres running widthwise is called weft.
Woven Fabric – is fabric created by interweaving lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (weft) yarns. The weft yarns can go over and under the warp yarns in a variety of ways to create patterns in the fabric like herringbone or twill etc…
Wrong Side – is the inside of the fabric that is not seen once sewn.
Yardage – is a term used for a length of fabric. It is often used to describe the amount of fabric a project needs to create a garment.
Yoke – is a is a shaped pattern piece to help with fitting around the neck and shoulders, or a separate pattern piece around the hips to provide support for looser parts of the garment, such as a gathered skirt. The Evie pattern has a yoke waistband to support the shorts.
Zig-Zag Stitch – is a back and forth stitch. It can be used for sewing raw edges or for sewing stretch fabrics.
Zipper – is a closure that has interlocking “teeth” of metal or plastic, with a slider that opens or joins the teeth.
Hope this has been a helpful reference guide.