This glossary is an alphabetical list of terminology particular to fashion design and sewing construction with the definitions for those terms. Words appearing in italics throughout this design blog are listed here.

Back Stitch –  is the strongest hand stitch and is used to imitate machine stitches.

Bar Tack – A group of overlapping or very closely touching stitches used to reinforce small areas of an item that might experience strain during normal wear. The tops of pockets are often bar-tacked on each side.

Baste – A temporary method of holding two or more layers of fabric together by sewing by hand or machine with long stitches.

Bias – Any direction that is not the lengthwise or crosswise grain of a woven fabric (see also True Bias).

Binding is a way of neatening a raw edge using a separate length of fabric, usually in a contrasting colour or material.

Blanket stitch – is a hand stitch used to reinforce the edge of thick materials. Depending on circumstances, it may also be called a whip stitch or a crochet stitch.

Blind Hem – A machine-stitched hem made by folding the hem back and using a machine (industrial) or stitch and foot (home machine) designed for producing a hem that does not show on the front.

Border Print Fabric – A fabric incorporating a woven, printed, painted or embroidered band or pattern along one or both selvages. The design is often placed at the edge of the item.

Casing – A tunnel of fabric, usually made by folding over a cut edge or sewing an additional strip of fabric on at the cut edge. Elastic or a drawstring may be threaded through a casing.

Clip – A small cut in the seam allowance, almost to the stitching, used to spread or ease the outer edges of curved seams.

Dart – A stitched fold in the fabric that tapers from a seam to point to the fullest part of the body.   Used to create shape and control fullness.

Directional Fabrics – Fabrics having a one-way design or nap that requires all pattern pieces to be laid in a single direction.

Drafting – A method for making patterns on paper or on the computer using measurements.

Draping – A 3-dimntional method for making patterns using muslin on a form.

Ease (1) – Fullness drawn up and stitched in place. Often used on a set-in sleeve, and at the apex of a bodice with princess lines.

Ease (2) – As an element of fit, it refers to the amount of roominess in a garment.  (Also see design ease and wearing ease.)

Edge Stitching – A row of machine stitching placed very close to a seam or garment edge.  Stitching may be up to ¼” away from the edge.  (see also topstitching.)

Embroidery – Decorative stitching, made by hand or machine, used to form designs and patterns.

Fabric Repeat – The distance between the beginning of one complete motif, or design unit, and the beginning of the next one. Can be horizontal or vertical.

Facing – Piece of fabric used to finish raw edges of the garment and turned to the inside of the garment. On a curved edge a separate, sewn on, facing is usually preferred; on a straight edge, either a separate or an extended facing is appropriate.

Fashion Fabric – Primary fabric from which garment is made; also called “shell” or “self” fabric.

Flat Fell Seam – This type of seam is popular in reversible  and unlined garments. It produces a clean inside for the garment and strong seaming with its double stitching. It works best with straight seams that have very few curves. Denim jeans often have flat-felled seam construction.

Flat Seam – A simple way of joining 2 pieces of fabric together with a single row of stitches.

Fiber – The raw material from which all yarns and textiles are made.  The natural fibers are cotton, wool, flax (linen), and silk.  Synthetic (man-made) fibers include: acetate, nylon, polyester, rayon (viscose), tencel, and spandex.

Findings – See notions.

French Seam (1) – A self-neatening enclosed seam that is usually used to join sheer fabrics where no stitches show on the right side.

French Seam (2) – A method for making rigid seams by inserting a stiffener; turning and gluing the machined seam down tight. A variety of shapes and thicknesses of stiffeners can be used to create a number of silhouettes.

Frog – Decorative button-and-loop closure made of coiled cord or braid.

Fusible – Iron-on interfacing.

Gathers – A series of small tucks of fabric, controlled and held in place by stitches and providing visible fullness.

Grade – To trim the seam allowances of an enclosed seam, each to a slightly different length; also called “blend,” “layer” or “bevel.”

Grain – As an element of fit, refers to the need for lengthwise yarns to run parallel to the length of the body (a) at center front and back,  (b) down the center of the arm from shoulder to elbow, and (c) down the center front of each pant leg; the crosswise yarns should run perpendicular to the length of the body at bust/chest, hip, and upper arm at bust/chest level.

Grainline – A line drawn on the pattern to indicate the direction of pattern placement on the lengthwise grain of the fabric. The ends of the line are given arrowheads to show direction.

Grommet – Large, metal-edged unit which surrounds a hole in a garment.  Many belts have grommets surrounding the belt hole.

Gusset – Pieces of fabric set into a seam or seam intersection to add shape and fullness to a garment.  Often found at the underarm and crotch.

Hardware – Items such as D-rings, latch closures, and zippers used to detail the finished product. (see Notions)

Hong Kong Finish – It is a seam finish where each raw edge is enclosed in a bias strip of lightweight silk fabric. It is often used in couture and for finishing unlined garments.

Hook and Loop Tape – Fastener that consists of two separate sections that interlock to create a bond when pressed together. A popular brand is Velcro®. Typically used on apparel as a closure.

Interfacing – Supporting fabric usually hidden between the garment and its facing.  Lends body, shape and reinforcement to limited areas of the garment such as button and buttonhole plackets, waistbands, collars, and cuffs.

Interlining (1) – Support material used to stabilize and support areas of the garment.  Referred to as interfacing in custom sewing.

Interlining (2) – A layer of fabric placed between the lining and fashion fabric for additional warmth.  Found in coats and jackets.

Ladder Stitch – A hand stitch used to join two fabric-covered edges invisibly. Also known as “felling”.

Lining – Usually made from a light-weight fabric and sewn inside the garment.  Used to hide all or part of the construction on the garment’s inside.

Mitering – The process of seaming or folding a corner diagonally for sharper, less bulky corners.

Nap – Shaded or directional design that requires all parts of the garment to be cut in the same direction.  May result from the print or weave of the fabric or the way the fabric is made.  Velvet, corduroy, and plush are fabrics with nap.

Ninety-Degree Angle – A right angle; a perfectly square corner.

Non-Woven Fabric – Any fabric that is bonded together rather than knit nor woven, such as felt.  Many interfacings are non-woven.

Notches – Small cuts (slits or wedges) made in the edges of garment pieces to aid in correct assembly.  On home-sewing patterns they are shown as dark triangles or diamonds.

Notions – All materials, other than the fabric and pattern, required to produce a garment; also called findings or hardware. Examples are: zippers, elastics, buttons, etc.

One-Way Pattern – A fabric with a surface design or motif that runs in a definite direction.  These fabrics are said to have nap and patterns pieces must be cut with the tops all facing the same direction.  A print with trees all growing in the same direction, for example, is a one-way design.

Overlocking – See Serging.

Parallel – Extending in the same direction and at the same distance apart at every point.

Patch Pocket – Pieces of fabric attached, like a patch, to the outside of the garment.  Also called “applied pocket.”

Pattern Matching – Lining up stripes, checks, plaids, and other linear patterns in the fabric design or weave at seams.

Perpendicular – Lines at right angles to each other, such as a T.

Pile – A plush or shaggy surface on a fabric resulting from loops or ends of yarn or fiber projecting above or below the surface of the fabric.  Fabric with pile has nap.

Piping – is a fabric-covered cord trim. It is a way to emphasize a seam or edge and can add strength to corners that might receive a lot of wear.

Placket – A finished opening in a garment section, e.g., at the cuff of a shirt or the neckline of a golf shirt.

Pleat – Fold of fabric, folded back upon itself so that the pleat is comprised of three layers; occurs vertically only.  Pleats may be partially stitched or pressed down.  Kinds of pleats include:  knife pleats, box pleats, inverted pleats, and accordion pleats.

Ply – A single layer of fabric or a single strand of yarn.

Preshrink – To wash or dry-clean the fabric, according to the care instructions, prior to cutting out the pattern pieces to eliminate any potential shrinkage problems after assembly.

Presser Foot – A part of the sewing machine that holds the fabric down to help it feed through the machine evenly.  There are many different kinds of presser feet, each designed to make a particular sewing task easier.

Pressing Cloth – A piece of lint-free cotton, linen, or wool cloth used to protect the garment from steam and/or heat when pressing during construction.   It is placed between the iron and the garment being pressed.

Production Pattern – Perfected pattern designed to give the best efficiency in mass manufacturing; also called “hard pattern.”    Includes seam allowances, grain line markings and notches.

Quality assurance –  (QA  for short) is the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service or facility to maximize the probability that minimum standards of quality are being attained by the production process.

Quilting – Stitching that joins the fashion fabric, a batting or interlining, and a backing fabric. The stitches form a slightly puffy, raised design, usually in a geometric or other decorative pattern.

Raw Edge – Any unfinished cut edge of fabric.

Repeat – The distance between the beginning of one complete pattern in the fabric weave, print, or design and the beginning of the next identical pattern.  Fabric may have vertical or horizontal repeats or both.

Ruffle – Decorative, gathered, or pleated strips of fabric or ribbon sewn to the garment.

Running Stitch – is a hand stitch used for seaming, gathering,  tucking,  mending, quilting and many kinds of delicate work. It is similar to basting but the stitches are short and evenly spaced.

Saddle Stitch –   is a spaced running stitch in contrasting or heavy thread, used mainly for decoration, usually along an edge.

Seam Allowance – Narrow width between the seam line and the raw edge of the fabric.  Seam allowances vary depending on where they occur on the garment and the manufacturers’ specifications. Commercial patterns generally use 1/4″ to1/2″ except at hems.

Seam Finish – Any technique used to neaten the edge of seams, prevent raveling, and improve garment durability and appearance.

Selvages – The narrow, finished edges of the fabric along both lengthwise sides of all uncut woven fabrics.

Serging – Edge finish or seam made on an overlock machine (called a serger in home sewing).  Used to prevent raveling or as decorative stitching on the right side of the garment.

Shirring – Permanent, parallel rows of gathers made in the body of the garment.

Skive – the reduction of  thickness by bevelling a material’s edge, so that no bulk or impression is apparent on the face of the material.

Slip Stitch –  A hand stitch used for holding a turned edge, such as a facing or a fold, to a flat piece of fabric. It is applied for invisibility rather than strength.

Specifications (specs) – Exact measuring standards for the production of a garment.

Staystitching – A row of stitching used to stabilize the edge of a single layer of fabric, typically on the bias.

Stitch-in-the-ditch – Sewing on face side (top) of a finished seam line from the front of the garment.  The stitch goes through all layers and holds them together.

Straight of Grain – Following the straight yarns in the fabric in both the lengthwise and crosswise directions.

Sweep – Circumference of hem.

Textile – Anything made by people from fibers.  Includes fabrics made of non-woven fibers like felt, unmodified plant materials like baskets and mats, fabrics made of spun yarns such as knitted and woven cloth, and items made of synthetics such as nylon window screens.

Thread Count – Number of yarns per square inch of woven fabric both horizontally and vertically.

Topstitching – Visible, decorative stitching done on the face side (outside) of the garment; also called “accent stitching.”

True Bias – Fabric direction that occurs at a 45-degree angle to the lengthwise and crosswise grains of woven fabrics.  Has the highest degree of stretch of any woven fabric direction.

Tuck – A stitched fold of fabric. Decorative tucks are stitched on the right side of the fabric. Tucks used to create shape are stitched on the inside to a designated point and released.

Understitching – The stitching, used on enclosed seams, that attaches the seam to the facing and prevents the seam from rolling to the front side.

Warp – Yarns that run parallel to the selvages. Also called lengthwise grain.

Weft – Yarns that run perpendicular to the selvages.  Also called crosswise grain.  A weft knit is made with the yarns running horizontally across the fabric.

Welt – A flat-pressed piped edging or “jet” found on tailored pocket openings or zipper openings.

Whip Stitch –  is a hand stitch used to neaten the raw edge of bulky fabrics or to prevent lightweight fabrics from fraying.  Also known as overcasting.

X-stitch – is a top-stitching technique used to reinforce the attachment of one piece to another. A box-shape is outlined along the perimeter of the top piece and then stitching criss-crosses one another diagonally from corner to corner to form an “X”.

Yarn – Continuous strand of fibers. The thread used to make fabric.

Yoke – Horizontal division within a garment. Small, flat panel of fabric usually at shoulder, waist, or midriff. Often found on the back of Oxford-style shirts.