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It can be difficult when you first start sewing to get to grips with all the confusing sewing terminology so we've put together an A-Z glossary for you to help you through on your sewing projects!




Back Stitching

Reverse sewing a few stitches at the start and finish of a row of sewing to reinforce the seam.


Balance Marks

These are marks on the pattern that will show you how to match up the fabric pieces to sew your garment together accurately, usually marked with a triangle or T shape.



A temporary row of long stitches to hold fabric in place until it is stitched permanently and is removed afterwards.



This is the diagonal grain that runs at 45 degrees to the selvedge. It has the greatest amount of stretch or ‘give’ in the fabric and allows the fabric to drape and bend around curves.


Bias Binding

A strip of fabric cut on the bias grain. Can be bought ready made or you can make your own from the same fabric as your garment.






A folded over and stitched tunnel of fabric that has elastic or cord threaded through.



This is when the seam allowance is snipped into to release the tension in a curved seam.


Cross Grain

The grain on the fabric that runs across the width of the fabric from one selvedge to the other.






A method of suppression and is a wedge shaped pleat of fabric sewn to give 3 dimensional shape in a garment.






The difference between your measurements and the garment’s finished measurements. The amount of space you have to move comfortably inside the garment.


Easing Stitches

A single row of long stitches used to gently pull up excess fabric to fit within a specific distance or given space.


Edge Stitching 

Similar to Top Stitching this is a row of stitching visible from the right side close to the edge of a seam or hem.






A piece of fabric the same shape as the main garment used to finish off a waist, neckline or armhole usually.


Finishing A Seam

Neatening the edges of the seam either separately or together. Possibly with pinking shears, zig-zag stitch or overlocking






Two or more rows of long stitches. The bobbin thread of each row is used to pull up the fabric to fit within a certain measurement or given space. It is another method of suppression.


Grain Line

This is a line with an arrow at each end marked on the pattern to show which way the pattern should be placed on to the fabric. The grain line always runs parallel to the selvedge.






A way of finishing the bottom edge of a garment or sleeve.


Hem Allowance 

The distance between the finished line and the cutting line of the garment. It can vary according to sewing technique and garment type.






This is usually a bonded fabric that is used to stiffen or provide support for the main fabric, e.g. in collars or waistbands and facings. It can also be used to support fabric if it needs to be slashed to create an opening.





This is when one side of the seam allowance is trimmed back further than the other to create a 'stepped' effect. It layers the seam allowance to reduce bulk.



A lighter weight fabric than the main fabric, used to finish off the inside of a garment and hide the construction details.






These are similar to balance marks and show you how to put your garment together.



These are all the bits and pieces you need to make your garment, e.g. thread, buttons, zips, hooks and eyes, elastic, etc.





An additional piece of fabric that sits underneath an opening. It can have buttons sewn onto it as part of the fastening or just be there to prevent gaping at the opening.



A fold in the fabric that can be inverted or folded outwards to add decoration and fullness to a garment.  It is another method of suppression.



Different and more specific than ironing. Pressing the garment flat with an iron to give a clean and accurate finish.





Raw edge 

This is the cut, unfinished edge of the fabric.





Seam allowance 

This is the amount of additional fabric used to sew two pieces of fabric together usually 1cm or 1.5cm.


Seam line 

This is usually marked onto the pattern and shows the sewing line to construct the garment.


Straight Grain 

This is the grain line that runs along the length of the fabric parallel to the selvedge and is the strongest grain on the fabric.



This is the neat edge on the width of the fabric. It is created when the horizontal weft threads in the fabric that are woven over and under the vertical warp threads in the fabric get to the end, and then turn back on themselves and are woven in the other way. It has very little ‘give’ and allows the fabric to hang ‘true’ and straight.



This is when a cut needs to be made in the fabric to create an opening or pocket.


Stay stitching 

A row of slightly smaller than usual stitches that help a curved piece of fabric to keep to its shape and not stretch or distort.


Stretch Stitch

A machine stitch that allows the row of stitching to give with the stretch of the fabric.



Methods of manipulating excess fabric to provide shape and, or fullness to a garment.





Top Stitching 

This is a row or more of slightly longer than usual stitching visible from the right side of the garment and used as a decorative finish on hems and seams.






This is a row of stitches used to hold a facing rolled under towards the wrong side of the garment and prevents it from showing on the right side. They are sewn from the right side very close to the seam line though all layers of seam allowance and the facing.