If you are just entering the sewing world, you are new to many terms and phrases that you’ll find in beginner sewing instruction manuals. You will notice terms like ”basting” and “backstitching” that can confuse you when trying to following sewing instructions. To become a veteran sewer, it is necessary to learn and understand these terms. Continue reading for a list of common terms and phrases used in the sewing industry, and the meaning behind them all.
Make Sense of Sewing Instructions
If you want to understand what your instructions are telling you, you must first learn what certain terms mean and then try to practice them. Below is a list of 8 common sewing terms that every seamstress should know. Read and review them, remember them, and then practice them!
Ease. Ease refers the amount of space between the garment and the body. Easing into fabric is generally accomplished by sewing machine basting (see below) to draw fabrics closer together than their original manufacturing, without tucks and gathers in the fabric. An example would be easing in fabric to let a curved sleeve align straight with a jacket body.
Bias Grainline. A bias grainline is a thread line that’s at a 45 degree angle to the lengthwise and crosswise grain of the fabric on the bolt. These are commonly used cuts for making pillows and pot holders.
Selvedge. The selvedge is the edge of the fabric when it is taken off the bolt. This is where the manufacturer information and care instructions are located. It is generally bound and doesn’t fray.
Armscye. The armscye is simply the hole in your fabric where the sleeve or arm will go. In order for garment pieces to fit together properly, changes to the armscye will require adjusting the sleeve of facing as well.
Appliqué. Appliqué is a method of fabric artwork that involves placing a smaller piece of fabric on a larger piece of fabric to create a certain affect or result. The fabric is generally attached by means of hand-stitching or machine sewing.
Clean Finish. When you see the phrase, “clean finish” in your sewing instructions, it is referring to folding over the raw edge of the fabric and hand stitching the seam close to or on the folded edge. The raw edge should be anywhere from 1/8th to 1/4th inch, or smaller for fabrics not prone to fraying. This is also referred to as “turned and stitched.”
Backstitching. Backstitching is sewing forward, then sewing back over the seam just sewed, over and over again back and forth, to create a locked end seam to finish sewing. It prevents the seam from coming undone. Generally two or three times over is enough to do the trick.
Baste. To temporarily join fabric together while attempting a step in the sewing process is to baste. Basting fabric is a method of temporarily holding two or more areas of fabric together in order to create a separate stitch or task. The basting is removed once the particular task is complete. Machine basting is used to ease in and gather fabric.