Anchoring stitch: Machine stitches sewn with zero stitch length

Apex: Highest point on a rounded bulge.

Appliqué: A surface embellishment made by cutting fabric or lace designs and stitching them to the base fabric.

Armscye: Sewing term used to define the armhole.

Asymmetrical bias garment: A bias cut garment that is not a mirror image of itself from side to side.

Back tack: When you stitch backwards at the end of the seam in order to anchor the stitch.

Back stitch: A strong method of sewing where you overlap stitches by inserting the needle in the middle of the previous stitch so that the stitches overlap by half on the back of the fabric but appear to be continuous at the front.

Baste: Long running stitches used to temporarily hold the fabric in place before the final stitching.

Bias: Any line diagonal to the cross and lengthwise grains. Most bias pattern pieces tend to be placed on the true bias but the grain line arrow and the pattern’s layout instructions will instruct you how to align your pieces.

Bias binding/tape: A bias cut strip that is used to bind or cover edges. It can be purchased readymade or can be cut from fabric.

Bicep circumference: The measurement around the bicep/the fullest part of the arm.

Binding: A strip of fabric used to cover a seam edge or enclose raw edges.

Blanket stitch: A hand stitch used to finish a fabric edge. It is done by threading the needle and tying a knot at the tail end of the thread, you start by sending the needle up through the back/wrong side of the fabric and then anchor it by sending the needle back up through the back at the same location to create a loop. Next, send your needle under the loop, sideways at the edge of the fabric. Poke the needle down from the right side of the fabric at the same distance from the edge as the first stitch, then bring the needle up from the back and through the loop of thread.

Blind hem: A hem where the stitches are not visible

Bodice: The upper body portion of the a garment that runs from shoulder to waist

Bodkin: A long, flat tool used to thread elastic through the casing

Boning: Strips of plastic, metal or bone used to stiffen a garment

Box pleat: The two pleats that face each other on one side but away from each other on the opposite side

Buckram: A heavy, course cotton fabric used for stiffening garments and hats

Casing: A folded and stitched tunnel of fabric designed to hold elastic, boning or cording

Catch stitch: A hem stitch that joins an edge to the inside of the garment. It is formed with cross-shaped stitches on either side of an edge. Pick a matching thread to your fabric, thread your needle and create a knot at the tail end. Working left to right, insert the needle into the fold of the hem (between the layers), poke the needle out just below the fold of the hem and pull the thread out. Insert the needle just above the hem to the right of the where you sewed up from and catch the tiniest bit of fabric. Next, reinsert the needle into the hem parallel to the first stitch, making sure to only catch the hem and not going through to the right side of the garment which will result in an ‘X’ shape.

Chain stitch: A stitch formed by making connected loops that form a chain. This is done by making a small stitch on to the intended fabric, the needle coming from the wrong side of the fabric to the right side so the chain is visible. Next, bring your needle up a short distance away from the end of the stitch and pass your needle through it. Poke the needle down into the same hole that your brought it up through. From here, repeat the process using the loop created by the stitch as your anchor instead, making sure to pass the needle under the both threads in the loop.

Chalk trace: When fabric is chalk marked after pattern markings are pinned through and then the pattern is removed, leaving only the pins which act as a guide for the chalk markings.

Couching: A technique where materials, typically yarn, are laid on the surface of the project and fastened with small stitches.

Cross-grain edge: The edge perpendicular to the selvedge.

Darning foot: A type of presser foot with a circular opening that doesn’t clamp down over the fabric and mainly with dropped feed dogs for free-motion stitching.

Darts: Folded and stitched wedges of fabric that shape a garment over curves. A dart point is marked by a dot while the legs are lines that stop at the pattern edge. The dart point and legs are marked with chalk and pinned or basted before a line is sewn up from the legs to the dot with right sides together.

Dolman sleeve: A style of sleeve where the sleeve is not cut separately from the bodice.

Double fold hem: A hem that is folded twice; once for the hem allowance and again to enclose the raw edge.

Ease: The difference in measurement between the body measurement and the garment measurement or the amount of space in a garment that allows for comfortable movement. The act of gathering a longer piece of fabric in order for it to be joined with a smaller piece of fabric.

Edge stitch: A line of stitching very close to the edge of a seam, trim or outer edge that secures the seam allowances, preventing the edge from stretching and supports the fabric.

Facing: A piece of fabric used to finish exposed edges as a partial lining typically for centre front, neckline and armhole edges.


Feather stitch: A decorative hand stitch that is used to join two layers of fabric smoothly. To make a feather stitch you start by drawing four parallel stitch lines on your fabric. After threading you needle and knotting the tail end, bring your needle up from the wrong side to the right side on the second line. Thirdly, put the needle in through the fourth line and bring it out on the third, pulling the needle over the thread to form the first V. Fourthly, to make the next V put the needle in through the first line and bring it up on the second line ensuring that the needle is above the thread. Continue this, alternating steps three and four.

Feed dog/s: The teeth located beneath the presser foot that help move the fabric under the presser foot. They feed the fabric when they’re in a raised position but in a dropped position they allow the fabric to move freely in any direction by hand.

Fell stitch: Stitches that work from the right side to pull a seam together invisibly because the stitches travel in folded fabric. To create a fell stitch, pin or baste the folded edge of the top fabric onto the seam allowance of the fabric to be joined. Bring the needle up through the fabric and take a small stitch into the lining before going back up the garment. Repeat this process making sure to angle the needle towards the lining.

Flat felled seam: A seam where all the raw edges are encased by fabric and sewn flat.

Float stitch: A stitch used to loosely tack fabric.

Free-motion embroidery: Embroidery done with a sewing machine that is hand guided with feed dogs in a dropped position on hooped fabric.

French seam: A seam where the seam allowance is encased by the seam.

Fusible: Material that has heat sensitive adhesive on one side that allows it to be adhered to another fabric.

Godet: A triangular fabric piece inserted into a garment, most commonly dresses, skirts and gloves, to give a flared effect.

Gore: Vertical garment section that is narrow at the top but wide at the base to create a flared effect.

Grain: The orientation of threads in woven fabric: lengthwise and crosswise. The lengthwise grain is parallel to the selvedge and is called the warp, the crosswise gain is perpendicular to the selvedge and is called the weft.

Grain line: A long arrow printed on the pattern that corresponds with the fabric grain; it is always placed with the arrow parallel to the warp.

Hand-overcast: A stitch that wraps around an edge like a spiral. To complete a hand overcast stitch you start with threading the needle, tying a knot at the tail end of the thread and inserting the needle back/wrong side to the front/right side just below the raw edge of the fabric. Next, loop the thread over the edge and pass the needle through the fabric from back to front a little bit away from the original entry point. Repeat as many times as needed.

Hem allowance: The distance between the cutting line and the hemline; it is folded and sewn into the garment.

Hemline: The lowest edge of a garment once the hem is sewn.

Hong Kong finish: The binding of seams using bias tape.

Interfacing: sew in or fusible fabric used to stabilise fashion fabrics as well as add body, reinforce or shape the item.

Ladder stitch: used to join two folded edges of fabric. The name comes about because the stitches are tight and are perpendicular to the fabric. To create a ladder stitch you start off with threading the needle, tying a knot at the tail end of the thread. Then position your needle right at the hemline of the fabric, sending the needle up from the wrong side, making sure that the two hems are aligned. Directly opposite from this stitch, send the needle down into the second piece of fabric through the hem. A small distance away from the first completed stitch, send your needle up through the first fabric and down through the second. Repeat as many times as needed.

Lapped seams: seams lapped one over the other wrong side to right side with seam lines meeting in centre.

Longline bra: A strapless bra that extends down to the waist or below.

Looper stitches: Stitches formed by the looper section of an overlocker.

Machine tension: This is controlled by disks to apply or reduce drag to the machine thread and must be adjusted depending on the fabric and thread.

Miter: When two strips of fabric intersect in a right angle, miter is the line created by connecting the inside and outside corners.

Mitered binding: When bindings meet at 90 degree angles and a 45 degree seam divides them, creating a diagonal seam.

Notches: Diamond or triangle shaped marks on the pattern printed along the cutting line that indicate where the pattern should meet.

Pick stitch: A variation of back stitch where you backtrack minimally resulting in only a bead of thread being visible on the right side of a garment.

Pin fit: Taking in seams, darts or tucks by pinning seams to the right size.

Piping: A strip of fabric, usually cut on the bias, folded over and inserted into a seam to add definition to the edges or style lines of the project.

Presser foot: Holds the fabric to the feed dogs on a sewing machine.

Prick stitch: Another way of saying back stitch

Princess seam: A vertical seam that is usually positioned in the area between a side seam and the centre front or back that passes over the apex of the bust.

Quilt:A coverlet or wall hanging created from pieces of fabric sewn together in layers. The act of topstitching the quilt layers together.

Raw edge: The cut edge of the fabric

Rise: The distance between the waist band and the crotch seam on pants

Ruching: Another word for gathering

Running stitch: A hand-sewn stitch that consist of small, even stitches that do not overlap. To create a running stitch you thread your needle and tie a knot at the tail end of the fabric. Bring your needle up from the back to the front, pulling until the knot meets the fabric. Then bring your needle from the front to the back in a little bit away but still in the same line where you came up. Repeat for as long as necessary.

Seam: The result of two fabrics being stitched together

Seam line: The line you sew along when joining the pieces of fabric together

Seam allowance: The distance between the cutting line and the seam line.

Seam finish: Used to refer to any technique that finishes off the raw edge of a seam

Self-facing: facing that has been cut from the same fabric as garment

Selvedge: The factory finished edge of the roll of fabric designed to keep the fabric from unravelling or fraying.

Single layer layout: When there is only one layer of fabric is laid out according to fabric instruction instead of the normal two layers produced by folding the fabric.

Slip stitch: An almost invisible stitch used to join either two folded edges or a folded edge to a flat surface when it’s not possible to use a sewing machine. To create a slip stitch first you make sure your seam line where you plan to sew is sharp thread your needle and tie a knot at the tail end of the fabric. Bring your needle up from the wrong side to the right side through the fold/seam line on one side of fabric. Bring the needle down from the right side to the wrong side directly across from the entry point on the opposite piece of fabric, making sure to catch a little bit of the fabric parallel to the seam line as you bring the needle up on the same piece of fabric. Repeat as many times as needed.

Stay stitch: Stitching just outside the seam line, it is used to stabilise the fabric and keep it from distorting. To begin your stay stitch, thread up your machine and mark your fabric in between the seam line and the seam. Machine stitch along where you’ve marked.

Stitch in the ditch: Stitching done in the valley or groove of a seam

Straight stitch: The most basic machine stitch produces a single row of straight, even stitches.

Termination point: The point where two seam lines end

Thread tail: The untrimmed end of the thread

Thread-trace: The act of transferring markings from the pattern onto the fabric by hand basting stitches to replicate the markings

Top stitch: Decorative stitches sewn on the right side of the fabric

True bias: A cut made on an angle 45 degrees to the selvedge, which allows for the most stretch.

Underline: A second layer of fabric that is cut from the pattern and is stitched to the outer fabric.

Under stitch: When the seam allowance is stitched on to the facing.

Walking foot: A presser foot that steps on the fabric instead of sliding, which ensures a more even feed.

Wrong side: The inside of a garment or the back side of the fabric

Zig zag stitch: A machine stitch that is used to finish off raw edges or to sew a stretch seam.