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sewing vocabulary




Bobbin: The bobbin is a spindle or cylinder placed on the bottom of the sewing machine. You wind thread around the bobbin and use it to form the lower part of the sewing machine stitches.

Foot Pedal: Step on the foot pedal to power your sewing machine.

Presser Foot: This is NOT the same as the foot pedal on the floor that you step on to make your sewing machine work. This is the part of the sewing machine that holds the fabric steady while the fabric is being stitched. It can be pulled up and down, off the fabric, with a lever or a button.

Hand Wheel: Use the hand wheel to adjust the needle height.

Spool Pin: This part of the sewing machine keeps the spool in place while the thread is fed through the machine.

Thread Cutter: Some sewing machines come with built-in thread cutters. As the name implies, this cuts the end of the thread.

Feed Dog: The toothed metal piece underneath the stitch plate that moves up and down to push the fabric along.

Baste: Sewing, by hand or machine, with long stitches in order to temporarily hold together two pieces of fabric, so that they stay in place while you stitch them together.

Binding: Using a thin strip of fabric or bias tape in order to hide the edges of a piece of fabric.

Facing: Fabric used to finish raw edges of a garment to make the edges lie flat. You can see this on a neckline or armhole.

Gather: A gather is created by running a thread along the fabric, and then scrunching the fabric together along the thread.

Pleat: A fold created by doubling the fabric over itself, and stitching it together.

Ruche: A pleated or gathered strip of fabric.

Yoke: A design element at the top part of a garment, to fit over the body.

Zig Zag: A stretchable sewing machine stitch that runs diagonally, back and forth (zig and zag).



Seam Ripper: Your best friend on the sewing table - will correct any mistake you make.
A small tool with a pointed edge used to remove stitches from a piece of fabric.

Sewing Gauge: small metal ruler with a moveable gauge to calculate your measurement down to the 8th...used for hems, edges, seam allowances and more.

Tape Measure: plastic tape ruler used to take body measurements

Making Pencil/Tailors Chalk: used to transfer markings from patterns to fabric during garment construction.  Chalk can also be used to make markings on  garments for alterations.

Scissors: there are scissors used for fabric ONLY and scissors used to cut paper and other materials.

Pins: straight pins are used to affix pattern pattern paper to fabric layed out to cut for a garment.  Pins are also used to pin two pieces of fabric together to prepare to be sewn together.

Hand Needles: needles used in hand sewing in various sizes

Pin Cushion: stuffed cloth used to hold pins and needles

Tracing Wheel/Paper: used to transfer markings from patterns to fabric - you can use stickers also

Sewing Notion: an item that is sewn or attached to a finished sewing project, such as a button or snap, elastic, bias tape, etc.


Back Stitch: The process of sewing backwards over the loose threads at the beginning of a stitch, in order to secure your stitch. This works by securing the threads down so they don’t come loose and unravel your stitch. This is done at the beginning and end of a stitch, and whenever the thread is broken.

Seam: The line where two pieces of fabric are sewn together.

Seam Allowance: The space of fabric between the edge and seam. The seam allowance may be different depending on the type of fabric yo use.

Lining: An inner layer of fabric underneath a garment.

Hem: The edge of the fabric that has been folded and sewn under in order to keep the raw edge of the fabric from unraveling and being seen.

Darts: A wedge-shaped fold used to shape patterns in order to make a garment fit better.

Quilting: The process of stitching two layers of fabric together, with a layer of filling in between in a consistent pattern.

Under Stitch:  the technique of stitching down the seam to secure a turn piece like a facing, pocket or hem.

Basting Stitch: can be a regular stitch or wide-length stitch to make it easy to remove later

Gathering Stitch: wide-length stitch sewn in two rows used to gather fabric


Fabric Grain: The orientation of fibers, woven or knit together, to create a fabric. The grain creates lines that run parallel and perpendicular to the selvedge.

Bias: Diagonally across the grain of the fabric, where woven fabric has more stretch or give.

Warp: The thread that runs the length of a woven fabric (“up” and “down”).

Weft: The threads that run at right angles to the length of a woven fabric, otherwise known as cross-grain.

Muslin: an untreated, undyed fabric made of cotton, used to create pattern pieces and prototypes of garments, in order to fix mistakes in the pattern before using the final permanent fabric.

Selvedge: The edges of a raw fabric that run along the edge with the grain. Fabric has a selvedge edge so that it doesn’t fray before it’s sold.

Hand: A term used to describe the texture and feeling of a certain fabric

Bolt: fabric is typically sold on a bolt (the square cardboard used to roll the fabric onto), will typically be 20-30 yards

Fabric Types/Names:

3 natural fibers: COTTON, LINEN, SILK






jersey knit










cotton blends


wool gabardine (suiting)


sweater knit

many others...

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