Sewing Glossary

Learning to understand sewing terms can sometimes feel like learning a whole new language.

Here are some terms explained to help you read modern sewing patterns.

SEAM ALLOWANCE - is the distance from the raw edge of the fabric to where your needle will create a seam. There are usually guides on a sewing machine plate to help you stick to your desired seam allowance and some handy tools available on the market.

GRANE - is the directing that the warp and weft (weave) of the fabric is running. If you follow the grane line your woven fabric will not stretch out of shape. There are several ways to tell which way the grane is running in your fabric

  1. Pattern print direction can give you a clue
  2. A selvedge trim runs along either side of the width on all fabrics and often be identified by manufacturer branding and colour codes.
  3. Some fabrics show the grane visibly like linens and woven twills.

On sewing patterns an advised grane directing will be marked by a double ended arrow.

SELVEDGE - is the woven edge of fabrics and is usually identified by manufacturer branding and colour codes or possibly just dotted perforations where the fabric was attached to a loom. Use the selvedge to determine grain line direction and be careful not to include the selvedge in your pattern cutting incase it is discoloured.

RIGHT SIDE / WRONG SIDE - the right side of the fabric is the preferred side, the side that is intended to be seen on the outside of your make. On printed fabric the right side is the side with the best colour.

RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER (RST) - When you see this term you should lay 2 pieces of fabric right sides facing / touching eachother ready to sew. 

NAP - can be seen best on a fur, velvet or suede fabric where the top (right) side has an obvious preffered direction. You can sometimes rub the nap the wrong way but it will not stay so you must be aware of the nap direction when cutting these fabrics. 

NOTCH - is a mark on the edge of a pattern piece to help you mark it up next to another pattern piece that also has the matching mark. This will ensure that no mistakes are made when bringing pattern pieces together to sew. Notches are not often triangles. Top tip - do not cut the whole triangle out of the fabric edge, this can lead to tearing, cut a little slit, mark a line with chalk or better still cut the triangle outside of your fabric as an obvious marker point.

TOP STITCH - is a finishing detail line of stitches that is meant to be visible on the tight side of your article. Sometimes a longer stitch length and a contrasting or matching colour.

FAT QUARTER - A Fat Quarter of fabric is one fourth 1/4 of 1 meter (100cm) this is Fat because printed fabrics are usually longer than 1m wide so the square is wider than 50cm and therefore it is usually around 50x65cm. Quilters love Fat Quarters.

DRESSMAKING Dressmaking is defined as the craft of sewing fabrics together to make wearable clothing garments (including dresses)

ON THE FOLD - Meaning to cut your fabric piece folded in 2 so that when you open it out it is double the size and shape.

INTERFACING - Also known as Stabiliser is a lining fabric that stiffens parts of your sewing project. Available in fine/medium/heavy weight and sew in or fusible (iron on). Interfacing sits hidden in between outer and lining fabrics. 

STITCH IN THE DITCH - is to sew in the 'well of the seam', right where two quilt fabrics join

WADDING - A soft layer of cotton, wool, or other fibrous material used for padding or stuffing

QUILTING - is the process of sewing of two or more layers of fabric together to make a thicker padded material, usually to create a quilt or quilted garment.

PRINT these terms on A4 or US Letter HERE