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Basic Sewing Terms That You Need To Know


Are you curious if you’ve been using the correct sewing terms all this time? Well, look no further!

This introduction is here to introduce you to the world of basic sewing terms. From bobbin to seam allowance, this article will help you understand and use these terms with confidence.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sewer, having a solid understanding of these terms is essential for successful sewing projects. So, get ready to expand your sewing vocabulary and enhance your skills.

Let’s dive in and explore the world of basic sewing terms together!

Sewing Machines terms

Now let’s talk about some important sewing machine terms that every seamstress should know.

First, there’s the backstitch, which is a technique used to reinforce stitches at the beginning and end of a seam.

Then, there’s basting, a temporary stitching used to hold fabric pieces together before permanent sewing.

Don’t forget about the bobbin, the small spool that supplies the bottom thread in the machine.

Understanding these terms will help you navigate your sewing machine with ease.


To understand the sewing machine term ‘backstitch’, you need to know its purpose and how it’s commonly used in sewing. The backstitch is a sewing technique that involves stitching backwards at the beginning and end of a seam to secure it.

Here are three important points to know about backstitching in sewing:

  1. Reinforcing seams: Backstitching is used to reinforce the seams of garments or other fabric items. By stitching backwards at the start and end of a seam, it helps prevent the fabric from coming apart and ensures durability.
  2. Securing the stitch: Backstitching is particularly important for securing the start and end of a seam, as it prevents unraveling. This is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the stitch and ensuring that the fabric stays in place.
  3. Hand sewing or machine sewing: Backstitching can be done by hand sewing or with a sewing machine. Both methods achieve the same goal of securing the seam, but using a sewing machine can be more efficient and time-saving, especially for larger projects.


When using a sewing machine, basting can be a helpful technique for temporarily securing fabric pieces together before permanent stitching. Basting involves creating loose stitches that hold the fabric in place, allowing you to check the fit and make adjustments before committing to permanent stitches. It is commonly used when fitting pattern pieces together or when setting in sleeves. Basting can also be used for creating gathers or easing in fabric before permanent stitching. Below is a table highlighting key aspects of basting:

Sewing TermsDefinition
BastingTemporary stitches used to hold fabric pieces together before permanent stitching
FabricLoose stitches created using a sewing machine
StitchesHelpful for checking fit and making adjustments before committing to permanent stitches; used for setting in sleeves, etc.


To understand the workings of a sewing machine, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the bobbin and its role in the stitching process. The bobbin is a small spool that holds the bottom thread in the machine. Here are three key things to know about the bobbin:

  1. Thread supply: The bobbin provides the thread that stitches the bottom side of the fabric, working in conjunction with the top thread. It ensures that both sides of the fabric are stitched together securely.
  2. Tension regulation: The tension of the thread on the bobbin is crucial for achieving balanced stitches. Proper tension prevents loose or tight stitches and ensures a neat finish.
  3. Bobbin winding: Before you start sewing, you need to wind the bobbin with the appropriate thread. This ensures that the thread matches your project and creates a seamless edge.

Understanding the role of the bobbin in the stitching process is essential for achieving professional-looking results with your sewing machine.


You can achieve beautiful drape and stretch in your garments by sewing with bias-cut fabric. Bias refers to the diagonal direction of fabric that has the most stretch and gives drape.

Bias tape, created by cutting strips of fabric on the bias, is commonly used for binding or finishing edges. Sewing with bias-cut fabric allows your garments to drape and stretch, making it ideal for certain designs.

Bias binding, attached using a bias binding foot on your sewing machine, neatens the edge and adds a professional finish to your projects.

Additionally, bias seams, sewn along the bias, are often used to add shape and flexibility to a garment.


A dart is a fold in fabric used to shape garments by adding fullness or reducing excess fabric.

Here are three key points to understand about darts in sewing:

  1. Purpose: Darts are commonly used to create a more fitted look in garments. They’re strategically placed in areas such as the bust, waist, and hips to shape the fabric and achieve a tailored fit.
  2. Marking and Sewing: Darts are typically marked on the wrong side of the fabric using tailor’s chalk or fabric markers. To sew a dart, you align the marked lines and stitch along them, usually using a straight stitch. The stitching starts wide and tapers to a point, creating the desired shape.
  3. Professional Finish: Darts are essential for achieving a professional and custom-fit appearance in garments. They help eliminate excess fabric and create a sleek silhouette, enhancing the overall fit and style of the piece.

Edge Stickh

An important sewing machine term related to achieving a professional finish is the edge stitch. When working with fabric, the edge stitch refers to a line of stitches that’s sewn close to the edge of a seam, hem, or pocket opening. This technique helps to secure the fabric edges and create a neat and polished look.

Edge stitching is commonly used to reinforce seams and prevent fraying. By using small and even stitches, you can ensure that the fabric edges stay in place and maintain their shape over time.

It’s important to be careful when sewing an edge stitch, as you want to avoid stitching too close to the edge, which could cause the fabric to pucker or rip. By mastering the edge stitch, you can elevate your sewing projects and achieve a more professional result.


The topstitch is a sewing machine technique that adds a decorative stitch on the outside of a garment, reinforcing seams and providing both functional and aesthetic purposes. Here are three key points to help you understand topstitching:

  1. Placement: Topstitching is typically done on the right side of the fabric, along the edges or seams. It can be used to secure small pieces or add decorative detailing to larger sections.
  2. Machine or Hand: Topstitching can be done using a sewing machine with a regular straight stitch or a special topstitching foot. Alternatively, you can also choose to do it by hand with a needle and thread for a more personalized touch.
  3. Common Seam Allowances: When topstitching, it’s important to pay attention to common seam allowances, which are usually 1/4 or 3/8 inch. This ensures that the topstitch is placed evenly and reinforces the seam effectively.


When topstitching, you can enhance the stability and structure of your garment by incorporating interfacing. Interfacing is a type of fabric that adds strength and structure to your sewing projects. It’s typically fused to the wrong side of the fabric using heat and pressure.

Interfacing is especially useful when working with woven fabrics, as it helps prevent stretching and distortion. To apply interfacing, start by cutting it to the desired shape and size. Then, place the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric and press it with a hot iron.

Use a zig-zag stitch along the edges to secure the interfacing in place. Remember to use the appropriate sewing machine needle and adjust the presser foot pressure to ensure smooth stitching.


To understand sewing machine terms related to notions, you need to familiarize yourself with the different accessories and components that are essential for a well-equipped sewing kit. Here are three important sewing machine terms to know:

  1. Seam ripper: This handy tool is used to remove stitches when you make a mistake or need to alter a garment. It has a sharp point that helps you carefully cut through the stitches without damaging the fabric.
  2. Pinking shears: These specialized scissors have serrated blades that create a zigzag edge on fabric. They’re commonly used to prevent fraying and give a neat finish to seams and edges.
  3. Seam gauge: This small measuring tool is used to ensure accurate seam allowances and hem depths. It has a sliding marker that can be set to a specific measurement, allowing you to measure and mark the desired distance from the edge of a seam.

Pinking Shears:

To understand the importance of pinking shears in your sewing kit, familiarize yourself with their specialized serrated blades and their ability to create a zigzag edge on fabric. Pinking shears are a valuable tool for finishing fabric edges and seams to prevent unraveling. They can be used on woven fabrics, especially lightweight ones like chiffon and silk.

The zigzag edge created by pinking shears not only prevents fraying but also provides a decorative finish. You can even use pinking shears for decorative appliqué work. By using pinking shears, you can achieve professional-looking, neatly finished edges on your sewing projects.

Sewing termsWords and phrases commonly used in sewing.
Pieces of fabric togetherJoining two or more fabric pieces to form a whole.
Longer stitch lengthAdjusting the sewing machine to create longer stitches.
Fabric usedMaterial used in sewing projects.
Edges of fabricThe outer edges or borders of a piece of fabric.

Presser Foot:

A presser foot is an integral part of your sewing machine that securely holds the fabric in place while you stitch. It ensures that the fabric stays in position and feeds through the machine evenly.

Here are three contextually relevant and basic sewing terms related to the presser foot that you should know:

  1. Zipper foot: This presser foot is specifically designed to help you sew zippers onto your fabric. It has a narrow shape that allows you to stitch close to the zipper teeth for a neat and professional finish.
  2. Buttonhole foot: As the name suggests, this presser foot is used for creating buttonholes. It has a built-in guide that helps you sew perfectly sized and evenly spaced buttonholes without any guesswork.
  3. Walking foot: This presser foot is ideal for working with multiple layers of fabric or slippery materials. It has feed dogs on both the top and bottom, ensuring that the layers move together smoothly and preventing any shifting or stretching.

When choosing a presser foot, consider the specific sewing technique or fabric you’ll be working with to achieve the best results.

Seam Allowance:

Measure your seam allowance to ensure accurate and consistent stitching on your sewing machine. Seam allowance refers to the space between the raw edge of the fabric and the sewn seam. It is an important term in sewing as it determines the fit and durability of your garments. Different fabrics and sewing projects require different seam allowances. To help you understand, here is a table with some common seam allowances used in sewing:

Sewing TermsSeam AllowanceFabricStitches UsedRight Side
Seam5/8 inchWovenStraightInside
French Seam1/4 inchDelicateStraightInside
Flat-Felled1/2 inchHeavyweightStraightOutside
Rolled Hem1/8 inchLightweightRolledOutside
Bound1/4 inchSheerStraightOutside


The purpose of the selvage on a sewing machine is to serve several important functions.

  1. Alignment: The selvage is the factory edge of fabric, running parallel to the warp threads and often featuring information about the fabric. Utilizing the selvage when laying out and cutting fabric ensures grainline alignment, preventing stretching and distortion during sewing. Sewing patterns often indicate placing the selvages together to take advantage of the fabric’s straight grain.
  2. Stability: The selvage is typically more tightly woven than the rest of the fabric, making it less prone to fraying. This makes it ideal for certain sewing techniques that require stability, such as seam finishes and hems.
  3. Maximizing fabric usage: Understanding the properties of the selvage helps in maximizing fabric usage. By utilizing the selvage and its straight grain, you can minimize waste and ensure efficient use of your fabric.


To ensure the stability and shape of your garment, staystitching is a crucial technique you should be familiar with. Staystitching is a row of straight stitches sewn along a single layer of fabric, typically within the seam allowance. Its purpose is to prevent stretching and distortion, especially along curved edges.

By stitching along the fabric edge, staystitching helps maintain the shape and prevent the fabric from becoming misshapen during construction. This technique is particularly important for fabrics that are prone to stretching or distorting, such as lightweight knits or bias-cut fabrics.

Staystitching should be done with regular straight stitches and is usually removed once the garment is fully constructed.


Now let’s delve into the world of sewing machine terms as we explore the subtopic of hemming. When it comes to working with fabric, understanding basic sewing terms is crucial.

Here are three important things to know about hems:

  1. Stitches: Hems are created by using different types of stitches, depending on the desired look and fabric. Common stitches used for hems include straight stitch, blind stitch, and zigzag stitch.
  2. Hem Options: There are various hem options to choose from, depending on the garment and fabric. Some popular choices include the double-fold hem, which provides extra durability, and the rolled hem, which creates a narrow and delicate finish.
  3. Importance of a Hem: Hems not only give a finished look to garments, but they also prevent fraying and add structure. Whether you’re working on a dress or a pair of pants, mastering the art of hemming is essential in creating professional-looking garments.


When using a sewing machine, it is important to understand the concept of tacking fabric pieces together. Tacking is a temporary stitching technique that holds fabric pieces in place before permanent stitching. It allows for adjustment and alignment of fabric pieces before committing to a permanent stitch. To create a tack, you simply sew a straight line of stitching using the sewing machine.

The tack is typically done with a contrasting thread for easy removal. Once the permanent seam is completed, the tacks can be removed. Tacking is crucial in sewing as it ensures accurate fitting and positioning of fabric pieces before permanent stitching. It helps in achieving professional-looking results.

Sewing Machine TermsDefinition
TackA temporary stitch used to hold fabric in place.
Straight lineSewing in a straight, unbroken line.
StitchingThe process of creating stitches using a sewing machine.
Tack (Repeated)(If different from the first definition)
FabricMaterial commonly used in sewing projects.


Wear a thimble to protect your finger while using a sewing machine. Here are three important points about thimbles in the sewing glossary:

  1. Material: Thimbles can be made from metal, leather, or plastic. Choose one that suits your comfort and needs.
  2. Grip and Control: Thimbles help you maintain a better grip on the needle, especially when sewing thicker fabrics or multiple layers. This ensures accurate stitching and prevents the needle from slipping.
  3. Comfort and Protection: Using a thimble can prevent soreness and calluses on your fingers, making sewing more comfortable. It acts as a protective covering, allowing you to push needles through fabric without injuring yourself.


Understitching is a crucial technique used with sewing machines to secure facings and linings to the seam allowances underneath. It’s an essential term to know when learning about basic sewing terms.

By stitching the facing to the seam allowance, understitching ensures that the facing or lining doesn’t roll to the outside of the garment. This technique helps to keep the inside of a garment neat and prevents the facing from peeking out during wear.

Whether you’re making a dress, blouse, or jacket, understitching is a step you don’t want to skip. It provides a professional and polished finish on the inside of your garment, giving it a high-quality look.

Wrong Side:

To properly identify the wrong side of your fabric when using a sewing machine, you need to look for the side that’s on the inside of your sewing projects. Here are three key things to keep in mind when determining the wrong side of your fabric:

  1. Texture: The wrong side of the fabric usually has a rougher texture compared to the smooth surface of the right side. Run your fingers along the fabric to feel for any inconsistencies.
  2. Color: The wrong side may have a slightly faded or less vibrant color compared to the right side. This can help you distinguish between the two sides, especially if the fabric has a pattern or print.
  3. Seam allowance: When pieces of fabric are sewn together, the seam allowance is usually folded towards the wrong side. By locating the edge of the fabric where the seam allowance is folded, you can easily identify the wrong side.

Zigzag Stitch:

To achieve secure and durable seams, use the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. The zigzag stitch is a versatile stitch that can be adjusted for different widths and lengths, making it suitable for a variety of sewing applications.

When sewing with stretch fabrics, the zigzag stitch is especially useful as it allows for flexibility without compromising the strength of the seam. This stitch is commonly used to sew along raw edges, preventing fraying and adding durability to seams.

It can also be used for decorative purposes, adding a unique touch to your sewing projects. So, next time you’re sewing, remember to choose the zigzag stitch for a secure and professional finish.

Essential Sewing Tools

When it comes to sewing, one essential tool you’ll need is a pair of sharp fabric scissors. These scissors are specifically designed to cut through fabric cleanly, ensuring precise and neat cuts.

But fabric scissors aren’t the only essential sewing tool you should have in your arsenal. Here are three other must-have tools for any sewing enthusiast:

  1. Seam Ripper: A seam ripper is a small, pointed tool used to remove stitches. It has a sharp blade that easily cuts through stitches without damaging the fabric. Whether you’re fixing a mistake or taking apart a garment, a seam ripper is indispensable.
  2. Measuring Tape: Accurate measurements are crucial in sewing. A flexible measuring tape allows you to measure various parts of your body or fabric accurately. It helps you ensure that your garments fit perfectly and that your seams are the correct length.
  3. Sewing Machine: While hand sewing has its merits, a sewing machine is a game-changer. It allows you to stitch fabric quickly and efficiently, saving you time and effort. With different stitch options and adjustable settings, a sewing machine gives you the versatility to create a wide range of garments and projects.

These essential sewing tools, along with your fabric, stitches, and seams, will set you up for sewing success.

Glossary for Beginners

As a beginner in sewing, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with a glossary of basic sewing terms. This glossary will provide you with a better understanding of the terminology used in the sewing world. It covers a wide range of sewing terms, from basting to bias and from backstitch to edgestitch. By learning these terms, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively with other sewists and understand sewing patterns and instructions.

Understanding sewing terms is crucial for beginners, as it will help you navigate through basic sewing projects with ease. For example, knowing what basting is will allow you to temporarily hold fabric pieces together before permanently sewing them. Additionally, understanding the concept of bias will help you identify the diagonal direction of fabric with the most stretch, which is important for pattern layout and garment construction.


You now have a solid understanding of basic sewing terms, allowing you to confidently navigate the world of sewing. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you have taken the first step towards becoming a skilled seamstress. Now that you’re equipped with this knowledge, you can dive into the fascinating world of fabric, stitches, and techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Call Sewing Along a Fabric Edge?

You call sewing along a fabric edge “edgestitching.” This technique involves stitching close to the edge of a seam, hem, or pocket opening to create a neat and secure finish.

What Are the Basic Principles of Sewing?

The basic principles of sewing include understanding fabric grain, using straight stitches for neat seams, backstitching to secure threads, creating hems for a finished edge, and allowing for seam allowances.

What Is It Called When You Stitch Designs?

When you stitch designs onto fabric, it’s called appliqué. It’s like painting a picture with fabric, stitching pieces together close to the edges to create a beautiful design.

What Is a Pleat in Sewing Terms?

A pleat in sewing terms is a folded section of fabric stitched in place to create texture or shape. It can be used for both functional and decorative purposes, adding volume and allowing for movement in garments like skirts, dresses, and trousers.

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