Glossary of Sewing Terms, Sewing Jargon

A-line: A garment with sloping sides, the widest part being at the hemline.

Alter: To change a pattern so that it corresponds to body measurements.

Allowance: Extra fabric outside the seam line or within the garment to accommodate gathers, ease, tucks and pleats.

Appliqué: Decorative pieces of fabric applied by hand or machine.

Armhole: The opening in a garment for the arm.

Armscye: It is commonly known as Armhole.

Back Stitch: A small hand stitch that looks like machine stitching on the right side, but with stitches overlapping on the wrong side.

Bagging Out: To stitch two pieces of garment together around the outer edge leaving a short section free, through which the two pieces are then drawn out to the right side. This method is used to fix lining to a skirt or jacket.

Bands: Strips of fabric, ribbon or bias applied to edges or set into garments to finish or decorate.

Bar: A group of cross threads used to stay the ends of a button hole.

Basque: A woman’s tight fitting dress-waist made separate from the skirt and having the waistline finish attached to the waist portion.

Basting: A long, loose temporary stitch made by hand or machine.

Bell Sleeve: A straight sleeve flaring at the bottom.

Bermuda shorts: Tight, narrow shorts reaching the top of the knee.

Bertha: A wide, flat collar usually rounded at its outer edge.

Bias: Any direction in the fabric which does not follow exactly the selvedge or weft yarns. A true bias makes an angle of 45° across the length wise and widthwise grain. It has maximum stretch.

Binding: A bias strip of material used to enclose a raw edge as a finish or trim.

Bishop’s Sleeve: A long, full sleeve gathered onto a narrow cuff.

Blend: A mixture of different fibres in one yarn or different yarns in one fabric, each lending its own characteristics to the fabric.

Blind Stitch: A form of hemming made by catching only one thread of the outer fabric.

Bolero: A Spanish jacket of short length with or without sleeves and without lapels. Worn open in front, over a dress or blouse.

Braid: A woven novelty trim, finished at both edges.

Breakline: The roll line of a lapel when it turns back from the garment.

Brettelle: A sort of cape or decorative shoulder strap extending over the shoulder from the belt in from the belt in front to the belt at the back of the waist.

Brides: The threads of warp or weft connecting parts of the pattern in lace.

Buckram: A stiff fabric made by impregnating a light-weight open cloth with adhesives and fillers.

Bustle: A pad or frame worn by women on the back below the waist to distend the hip.

Cap: The top part of a sleeve which is curved to fit the armhole.

Cap sleeve: Extension of the shoulder and upper armhole to cover the top of the arm.

Casing:  A hem with an opening so that ribbon or elastic may be drawn through.

Centre front:  The position of a pattern or garment at the exact centre of the front section of the garment.

Chic:  Originality combined with good taste.

Chinese cord:  An ornamental knot made of cord and used as a trimming on coats or dresses.

Classic style:  A style which is re-used with only minor modifications through many changes of fashion.

Clip:  A small cut in the seam allowance of a garment which allows a corner or curved area to turn and lie flat.

Closing: A placket or any garment opening.

Collarette:  A standing collar with a wide ruching around the top.

Construction lines:  Basic seams that give shape to flat cloth.

Co-ordinates:  A number of garments which match and can be worn together in different combinations.

Cord piping: A cord which is encased in bias fabric and used to finish and decorate edges, waistlines, button holes and furnishings.

Cord seam: A seam with a corded effect which is produced by turning both seam edges to one side and then stitching through the three thicknesses of material.

Corsage: The waist or bodice of a dress. Also a bouquet of real or artificial flowers worn at the waistline.

Cossack collar: A high stand band collar fastening at the side.

Costume: Dress belonging to a given country, time and class.

Count of yarn:  A number indicating the mass per unit length or the length per unit mass of a yarn.

Cowl: A neckline cut on the bias and which drops into soft U-folds generally on the front of a bodice.

Crease: A pressed fold line as in trouser legs.

Crowfoot: An ornamental stitch having three points and a raised triangular centre and like arrowheads used on tailored garments to give strength to certain parts and provide a finish.

Culotte: A combination of dress or skirts and shorts, often with centre front and centre back pleats to hide the crotch seam. Sometimes known as a divided skirt.

Dart: A fold of fabric stitched to a point at one end. Used to fit fabric to body curves.

Design lines: Lines or seams that add design and make the garment different.

Dickey: A small decorative apron-like attachment to the front of the bodice sometimes used to fill a low-cut neckline.

Dolman:  Style with a very low, loose armhole. The seam runs from the waist out to the wrist.

Double breasted: A blouse, jacket or coat with a wide overlap at the front and fastened with a double row of buttons.

Drape:  Soft folds of fabric controlled by pleats or gathers.

Draped:  A style in which the fabric is gathered or folded into unpressed pleats to create a soft effect and provide shaping.

Dressform:  A duplicate of the human form which is useful for fitting or draping a garment.

Drop:  To lower a shoulder line.

Ease:  Extra measurement allowed for comfort. It is the difference between actual body measurement and the size of the garment (or) to work in excess material that has been allowed for comfort.

Edge stitch: A line of stitching placed along an edge, usually for a decorative finish.

Edging: Narrow lace having one finished edge and the other, usually scalloped or indented. Used for trimmings.

Emery bag:  A small bag filled with an abrasive powder used to sharpen and remove rust from pins and needles.

Empire line:  Style with no waistline, but with a seam placed high under the bust. This style was started in France.

End: An individual strand of yarn.

Eton collar: A flat collar with a very slight roll.

Extension: Additional fabric jutting out beyond a seam or a centre line.

Eyelet: A small hole in a garment finished by hand or a metal ring to hold the prong of a buckle. Also for lacing with ribbon and cord.

Facing: A shaped or bias piece of self fabric applied to a garment edge as a finish.

Faggoting:  A trim placed between two seams, it is either handmade or machine-made.

Fastenings: Hooks and eyes, press buttons, and zippers used to fasten garments.

Fichu: Piece of fabric draped softly in folds around a low neckline.

Figure types: The classification for various figures according to height and body proportions.

Fish dart: A dart that tapers at both ends, generally used at the waistline.

Fittings: Adjusting the pattern or garment to fit the individual figure.

Flap:  A piece of fabric that hangs loose and is attached at one edge only, usually on pockets and shoulders.

Flared: A style which is much wider around the lower edge.

Flounce: Flared bands of fabric, sometimes gathered and used to decorate edges of garments or used in tiers to make a skirt.

Flouncings: Wide dress lace having one edge scalloped and the other straight, it is usually about 10-12″ in width.

Fly front:  A closing which conceals buttons or zippers of trousers.

Fray: The threads which come out during the handling of fabric.

Frog:  Decorative closing formed by looping braid. Usually associated with oriental style garments.

Gauging: Fullness drawn up in uniform sized deep folds of fabric where a long length of fabric is to be gathered into a small length. This forms a decorative effect.

Gathering: One or two rows of stitching, either by hands or machine, that are drawn up to form even fullness.

Gingham:  Plain weave fabric constructed with coloured woven check pattern.

Give:  The ability of a seam or fabric to withstand pressure without breaking or tearing.

Godets:  A shaped or pleated section of material inserted into garments.

Gore:  A skirt section that is shaped up to the hip level and then flared out to the hemline.

Grain:  The direction of threads in a woven fabric. The lengthwise grain runs parallel to the selvedge and the cross-wise grain runs from selvedge to selvedge.

Grey goods:  Woven fabrics as they leave the loom before being bleached, dyed or finished.

Gusset: A shaped piece of fabric inserted usually at the underarm of the garment to provide comfort.

Halter neck:  A garment without sleeves, the bodice being supported by a band or string passing around the neck or tied at the back of the neck.

Hand finishing: The details sewn by hand to finish the garment.

Harem trousers: Very full trousers gathered tightly at the ankle.

Hem:  The finish formed by folding back the raw edge of a garment to the wrong side.

Hemline: The line designating the finished length of a garment.

Hipsters: Skirts or trousers which start at the hips instead of the waist.

Invisible hem:  Hem stitch for attaching facings and interfacings.

Insertions: Lace having two straight edges, used for inserting between the edges of two pieces of material.

Interfacing: An extra piece of cloth placed between the garment and the facing to impart strength, shape and stiffness and to prevent stretching.

Interlining: An extra layer of fabric placed between the lining and the garment for added warmth.

Jabot: A flounced decoration in fine fabric or lace attached to the neckline of a bodice.

Jersey: A smooth, plain knit fabric of wool, cotton and synthetic blends.

Kick pleat: A short pleat at the lower edge of a skirt. It is formed by an extension cut on the centre or side seam and is stitched across the upper edge to hold in it in place.

Kimono sleeve:  Sleeve cut all in one with the bodice. May be of any length. It gives folds of extra fabric under the arm. It may be cut with or without a shoulder seam.

Knife pleats: Series of pleats that turn in the same direction. They are usually equal in width and are pressed straight down to the hem.

Lapel: Upper edge of a coat or blouse front that turns back.

Layout: The arrangement of pattern pieces on the material so as to ensure economical cutting.

Leg o’mutton sleeve: Long fitting sleeve with high, gathered head.

Lining: A fabric used inside garments. Its edges may be attached to the garment at the seams with slip stitch or it may hang loose from the neck or from the waist in the case of skirts.

Loop: A fastening which extends beyond the finished edge, used on closings with no overlap. Can be made with thread, cord or fabric.

Machine basting: A temporary machine stitching using the longest machine stitch.

Mandarin collar:  A narrow, high standing band, divided in the front, generally with the corners rounded off. Same as the Chinese collar.

Marking: Transferring all necessary pattern lines or markings to the wrong side of the fabric.

Mitre:  Diagonal joining of material at a corner to reduce bulk, by avoiding overlapping.

Nap: The word means “pile”. Pile fabrics should always be cut one direction only.

Notch:  A small V-shaped mark or cut, on seam allowance of the pattern pieces.

Opening:  Term used interchangeably with closing.

Overblouse: A long blouse reaching the hips.

Overskirt:  A skirt or drapery worn shorter than the skirt of a dress.

Panel line: Seam lines running from the armhole or waist to the hem.

Peg top:  Trousers or skirts that are made wide at the hips and narrow at the bottom.

Peplum:  A frill or flaps attached to the waist and covering the upper part of the hips.

Picot:  Loop stitch along the edge of the fabric to form an edging.

Pile:  Weave of a fabric with upright surface yarns such as velvet or velveteen.

Pin tucks:  Tucks as fine as the width of a pin.

Pinking:  Jagged cut finish for a raw edge.

Pivot:   A method of turning a sharp corner while machining. With the needle in the fabric, the presser foot is raised, the material turned to the desired angle, the foot lowered and the stitching continued.

Placket:   A closing or opening in a garment.

Pleats:  Folds of fabric used to control fullness.

Polo neck:  High, rolled collar worn close to the neck.
Princess line:  Seam lines running from shoulder or armhole to the hem with no waist seam.

Pucker:  To draw up into folds and wrinkles.

Puff sleeves:  Short sleeves having fullness gathered into the armhole, and into a band or binding at the lower edge.

Raglan:  A style in which the armhole seams run up to the neckline giving a loose and comfortable fit.

Ravel:  Yarns drawn out along the edge of the fabric.

Redingote:  Double breasted semi-fitted coat.

Reinforce:  To add strength to corners and areas of great stress by adding rows of stitching or a patch of fabric.

Rever:  That part of the bodice which folds back onto the front of the garment in open-necked styles.

Ribbon:  An attractive woven fabric with a lustrous appearance, used for trimming and adornment.

Ric rac: A flat, woven braid made in zigzag form.

Ring collar: A band collar standing well away from the neck.

Rip:  To open a seam by pulling out or cutting the stitching.

Roll collar: A collar which rises up the neck and then curves down again without a sharp crease.

Rolled hem: A kind of hem used on sheer fabrics. The edge is rolled tightly between the thumb and forefingers of the left hand and hemming is done to hold the roll in place.

Rosette: A form of ribbon decoration in the shape of a rose.

Ruffle: A band of fabric that is gathered or pleated and applied to an edge as a trimming.

Sag: The stretch that occurs in the bias grain of a garment after hanging or as the effect of strain on any part of a garment.

Sash:  An ornamental band or belt worn around the waist.

Scallop: An edge finish made up of a series of semicircles.

Seam:  The means by which two pieces of fabric or parts of a garment are joined together.

Seam allowance: Extra fabric allowed along the seams.

Seam Finish: Finish applied to a raw edge to control ravel and fraying.

Seam line:  The stitching line used for joining seams.

Semi-fitted: Partly conforming to the figure.

Selvedge: The finished ends of woven fabric.

Shank: The stem between the button and the fabric to which it is sewn. Can be made with thread as the button is sewn on.

Shawl collar: Collar cut in one piece with the front bodice and ending at the centre back, thus forming a shawl over the shoulders.

Sheath gown:  A straight, close-fitting gown.

Shirring: Several rows of stitched gathers.

Shirt dress: A dress which is based on a long version of man’s shirt.

Shirt sleeve: A straight sleeve with a neatened slash on its lower edge, attached to a buttoned cuff.

Shrink or Shrinkage:  The reduction in length or width of a fibre yarn or fabric. It may be induced by setting or steaming.

Silhouette:  The outline of a dress.

Size: The measurement classification within a figure type which allows for variation in body measurements such as bust, waist and hip. Each figure type has a range of sizes.

Skew:  A cloth condition in which the warp and weft yarns, although straight, are not at right angles to each other. This effect is due to the cloth’s structure.

Skimmer:  Description of garment which follows the lines of the figure, being neither tight nor loose.

Slash:  A fairly long cut made to a point or a corner.

Slot seam:  A seam which has an underlay of fabric and resembles an inverted pleat.

Smock:  A straight garment with a gathered or smocked yoke.

Stand:  The part of a collar which extends upwards from the base of the neck and determines the height of the collar.

Stay: A reinforcement in fabric or tape, to hold a part of a garment securely in position.

Stay binding: A narrow, woven fabric generally used for the covering of seams and the strengthening of garments.

Stay stitching:  A row of stitching worked just inside the seam allowance and close to the stitching line in order to prevent areas on the bias or curve from stretching.

Straight of goods:  A term used to designate the length-wise grain in a fabric.

Sunburst pleats:  Pleats that are wider at the bottom than at the top.

Tabard:  A loose top, often with a small cap sleeve and a straight neckline.

Tack: To fasten two fabric surfaces together loosely by running stitches.

Tailored sleeve: Two-piece sleeve with no darts but shaped within two seams.

Tailor’s tack: A stitch used to transfer pattern markings to the fabric.

Taper: To decrease width gradually and bring to a point.

Tent: A loose, unwaisted dress, wide at the hemline.

Thread count: The number of threads in a square inch of fabric.

Tiers: Bands of flounced or pleated fabric placed one above another, often at graduated widths, to make a skirt or dress.

Toggle: An oblong shaped button with a groove in the centre used usually with a frog fastener.

Top stitching: A line of stitching along the seam line on the right side of a garment, to add strength or design.

Trapunta: Quilting in which only the design part is padded.

Trim: To cut off ragged edges or a part of a seam allowance to prevent it from being bulky and to give the seam a neat edge.

Trimming: An ornamental addition used on garments.

Trumpet sleeve:  Medium length flaring sleeve.

Tubing: A hollow cylinder of fabric used for button loops and decorative trim.

Tucks: Straight folds of fullness, evenly stitched.

Turtleneck: A high, rolled collar worn well away from the neck.

Underlap: A part of a garment that extends or laps under another part.

Underlay:  An additional piece of fabric placed under a section for purpose of joining, as in a pleat or slot seam.

Underlining:  A suitable fabric used to back a section or an entire garment. It is used to give body and shape and to prevent sagging and stretching of outer fabric.

Understitching:  A row of stitching along the edge of a faced seam, holding seam allowance to the facing. The purpose is to hold facing in place and sharpen the seam edge.

Unit construction:  Organization of the sewing procedure so that an entire garment section is completed before it is joined to another.

Vent:  A lapped, finished opening on the hem edge of a sleeve, jacket or skirt.

Virago sleeves:  Very full sleeves tied in intervals to form puffs.

Wadding:  Synthetic or cotton-pressed layers used for quilting and for shoulder pads.

Weave: The pattern of interlacing of warp and weft yarns in a woven fabric.

Wrap:  The upper part of an opening which overlaps the under layer.

Yardage:  The amount of fabric needed to make a particular garment.

Yoke:  Separately made shoulder piece of bodice or the top of a skirt.