Essential Sewing Terms for Beginners

Essential Sewing Terms for Beginners

By: Nikki Griffin

Stitching Terms


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.


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


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


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


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

Zig Zag

A stretchable sewing machine stitch that runs diagonally, back and forth (zig and zag). (left): 3-step zig zag stitch used to sew on elastics, (right): regular zig zag used on stretch fabrics and knits

Basic Sewing Stitches


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 pattern design and sometimes type of fabric used.


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.


A wedge-shaped fold used to shape patterns in order to make a garment fit - including creating curves.


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 turned piece like a facing, pocket or hem.

Fabric Terms

  • 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.

Fabric Types/Names

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