The Ultimate Guide to Sewing Terms for Beginners

When sewing, sewing terms and phrases are an essential part of your vocabulary. No matter what type of sewing project you decide to work on, there is some sort of sewing term that you will need for it.

What does “basting” mean? Why do we use pins for fabric? This blog post will help you answer these questions as well as provide some tips.

sewing terms

What are some sewing terms?

A list of Sewing Terms and Phrases


Also known as an overseam or running stitch, basting is sewing a loose stitch to temporarily hold two pieces of fabric together. It is often used to keep sewing seams straight and even when sewing bulky seams.

Edge Binding

It is decorative trim that is meant to cover the raw edges of a quilt. It overlies the sewing lines on the front with the sewing lines on the back. It may be either pieced from scraps or cut from one strip.

Fray Check

A clear acrylic liquid that helps seal yarn ends and prevent fraying. Abrasive particles in fray check chemically weaken fibers’ bonding structure, so they separate readily without breaking or splitting under tension.


To give an edge a hem, sewing it up to half an inch or so in width. It is often used for finishing unfinished edges of the fabric, curtain hems, and skirt hems.

A sewing seam

A sewing seam is the sewing of two pieces of fabric together, either by sewing machines or by hand sewing.

This can also be referred to as sewing a seam, sewing down seams, or sewing in the ditch. There are two types of sewing seams: a plain seam and a French seam.

French seam

A plain sewing machine sews a straight stitch line whereas a French sewing machine stitches a zigzag pattern from one fabric to the other.

A seam ripper

how to remove embroidery

A seam ripper (also known as a “darn it”) is an invaluable tool for any sewer. It is used to cut apart seams in order to repair them, alter garments, or remove unwanted stitches from fabrics.

Straight stitching

Straight-stitching is sewing that is done by sewing with a sewing machine in a straight line.

It is used as a sewing technique for sewing two pieces of fabric together or for sewing up seams on sewing patterns, such as when sewing pants or skirts.

Straight-stitching is also used to hold fabrics together while basting on fabrics during sewing work.

Top stitching

Top-stitching is sewing that is done by sewing with a sewing machine in a zigzag pattern.

Top-stitching is most often used to sew decorative detail to garments and for reinforcing seams. It can also be used as an embellishment such as when top.

A presser foot

sewing terms

A sewing presser foot is a part of a sewing machine that provides the necessary pressure to hold the fabric in place while sewing.

The sewing presser foot attaches to the sewing machine and has an opening for each needle, which is usually several inches long.

It also has a channel or groove that opens when it comes into contact with the fabric, so you can see where you’re sewing.

For example, if you want to sew through thick materials like denim or leather, then you will need a wide zigzag presser foot because it is designed specifically for this type of material.

A sewing project

A sewing project is an activity that a person uses sewing skills for. It can be sewing, sewing repairs, sewing mending, or making clothing from scratch.

Sewing projects can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make them. Sewing projects can be sewing on a button, sewing a zipper into pants, or sewing the shoulder seam to finish the arm scythes of your shirt.

Hand stitch

Hand sewing is sewing that is done with the sewing hand sewing needle instead of a sewing machine.

Hand sewing produces a more dense stitch than sewing on a sewing machine and results in a stronger seam.

Sewing by hand also saves time because sewing by hand does not require each part to be individually fed into the sewing bed.

As you can imagine, there are many different hand-sewing stitches that are used for different purposes. A few common stitches and their purpose are:

Running stitch

For mending clothes and quick repairs like hemming pants or skirts. This stitch can also be used to sew items together that will need to come apart easily.

Back stich

Sewing backstitch is made by sewing two stitches in succession without turning the sewing needle.

backstitching is often used when sewing closed seams or sewing up hems. The sewing backstitch should be just a little longer than the seam it’s joining.

When sewing on heavy materials, a backstitching technique can be used to sew a new seam over an old one so that they are more easily removed later.


A yarn is any material consisting of animal hair, plant fiber, and sometimes synthetic material which has been spun and twisted together. this twist can be repeated around the same

Feed dogs

Feed dogs are metal or plastic parts of the sewing machine that moves the fabric through the sewing area.

The sewing feed dog, usually located on the sewing bed underneath the sewing needle, enables sewing stitches to move forward and backward as they make their way across it.

When sewing by hand, feed dogs are used to control where needlepoint placement will begin and finish

A double-needle sewing machine

Double-needle sewing machines are sewing machines that have two sewing needles, which take two threads and stitch together these threads from the front of the sewing machine to the back.

Double sewing can be used on many different materials for different purposes or looks. It is often used on heavier fabrics such as denim, leathers, or vinyl.

Double sewing not only has a decorative effect but also strengthens seams and can serve as reinforcement for any sewing project.

Sewing machine needles

Sewing machine needles are sewing machine components, made of steel and other materials, that puncture the fabric and create sewing holes in order to thread the sewing machine’s sewing bobbin or sewing upper thread.

Sewing needles are integral in sewing garments, textiles, and other fabrics.

Sewing needles can be categorized in a number of ways including sewing needle type (e.g., universal needle, topstitch needle), needle size (e.g., 10/110), needle material (e.g., blunt point vs sharp point), and by shape (e.g., round vs chisel). Whatever sewing project you’re working on, you’ll need sewing needles for it!

Knit fabrics

Knit fabrics are a type of fabric that stretches and is usually created with knitting needles. All knit fabrics are made from yarn, such as wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers.

There are two ways to make a knit fabric: sewing the yarn in each row together with sewing loops then sewing the loops together or sewing individual yarns into looped stitches.

The same machine stitch can be used for sewing knits and wovens but it looks different on each fabric – stitches line up differently on knits than they do on wovens.

A ladder stitch

In sewing, a ladder stitch is a stitch used to mend a tear in the fabric.

This type of stitch goes from the sewing underside of the fabric to the sewing surface of the fabric like a ladder.

A zig zag stitch

A zigzag stitch is a sewing technique that creates a decorative sewing stitch.

Zig-zag stitches are made by sewing forward then sewing backward on the sewing needle and moving the sewing foot.

This zigzag stitch sewing technique is primarily used to sew seams in washable, non-fuzzy fabric and double sewing a seam to make it stronger.


A zipper also called an “invisible zipper” or “coil zipper,” is a clothing closure consisting of two rows of metal teeth set into one strip of cloth that’s joined at intervals by sewing only at the back end.

Zippers are found on most pants, skirts, and sweaters and come in many different lengths and colors depending on your needs.

Bias binding

Bias binding is a crucial sewing technique for sewing curved edges and sewing seams.

This sewing technique happens when you sew at an angle, or bias, to the sewing fabric to make a sewing edge stretchy and stay flat.

Sewing machine

sewing and embroidery machine

A sewing machine is a sewing tool that has sewing needles and sewing threads to create a sewing stitch.

Sewing machines are powered by foot treadles, electric motors, or even hand-cranks.

The sewing machine needle moves up and down while it punctures the material and carries the thread through it.

Some sewing machines have two rows of sewing needles: one for each thread. These sewing needles are called “double-needle.”

A woven fabric

Woven fabric is a type of fabric made from sewing two or more threads together to form a textile.

The sewing threads are woven over and under each other to form a cloth.

A woven fabric created using one sewing thread to create the actual sewing stitches.

A sewing pattern

Sewing patterns are templates that sewing enthusiasts use to cut fabric for sewing projects.

This sewing tool comes in two types: paper or plastic templates, and sewing software.

Either one is an important part of sewing a garment, craft, or home décor sewing project.

Seam allowance

Seam allowances refer to the extra sewing space between two sewing pieces.

If you want a sewing piece to have an inseam, for example, sew the seam allowance to that sewing piece.

A sewing project is more durable as well as easier to make adjustments if there’s a sewing gap between two sewing pieces.

A stitch length

A sewing stitch length determines how long the sewing needle goes in and out of the sewing material.

Stitch length is also referred to as how long each stitch is sewn by a sewing machine. There is also a long stitch length.

Pinking shears

Pinking shears are sewing tools that have serrated blades on them.

They are used to create zig-zag sewing stitches in sewing projects like napkins, curtains, or anything that requires sewing a straight line.

Use pinking shears to do fabric cut. It is not recommended for paper.

Darning stitch

Darning stitch is a sewing technique that is done by sewing horizontal sewing stitches across a hole or tears in the sewing fabric.

This sewing stitch usually consists of three or more sewing loops.

This sewing technique is most often used on knitted fabrics like socks, sweaters, and stockings with holes in them.

A crosswise grain

The crosswise grain is the sewing term for a fabric that has been sewn lengthwise with the right side of the fabric on the outside using crosswise threads.

A layer of fabric

A layer of fabric is a sewing term that refers to sewing two or more pieces of fabric together in order to add thickness making thicker fabrics.

They include the inner layer and outer layer.

Pattern pieces

Pattern pieces are patterns that are cut to the size, shape, and style of clothing.

Pattern pieces can include any sewing-related sewing pattern such as sewing costumes, sewing clothes, sewing skirts, sewing children’s clothes, and etcetera.

Bias tape

Bias tape is a type of sewing tape that has an angle to it. This makes it easier when sewing curves, corners, and seams that are not straight.

Bias tape can be found in several different widths as well as different colors.

A blanket stitch

A blanket stitch is a sewing technique used to sew two pieces of fabric together.

It is done by sewing back and forth with the sewing needle, taking small stitches on the reverse side of the sewing.

A finished garment

A finished garment or sewing project should is considered as a completely done or finished product.

A finished sewing project

A finished sewing project is considered to be completed. It is done when sewing buttons, sewing zippers, sewing sleeves, sewing pockets, and sewing hems are added.

A cotton fabric

Cotton fabric is a textile made of cotton, or a sewing material such as twill, denim, or gingham.

Different pieces of sewing materials are used to create different sewing projects.

Fabrics are often categorized into types such as light weaves, medium weight fabrics, heavyweight, and quilting fabrics.

Fabrics can be categorized also by their sewing uses such as sewing for dresses, sewing for clutches, sewing for curtains, sewing for upholstery, and sewing for clothing.

Fabric pieces

These are sewing material that is cut to the size of a sewing pattern. They can be heavy fabric, sewing trim, sewing lace, or sewing elastic.

They are usually made from cotton, wool, linen, silk, and polyester.


A sewing machine appliqué is an embroidery form in sewing which includes sewing designs onto fabrics with the help of a sewing machine where it is then applied to the top of clothing.

Machine appliqué allows for hand embroidery as well as adding detail to clothing.

An overlocker

An overlocker is also known as a serger is a sewing machine that trims, sews, and finishes the edge of fabric by sewing two rows of stitching.

The sewing is done in such a way that it will make the edges more durable.

It also provides protection from raw and loose edges.

This sewing technique is used for sewing stretch fabrics like knitted fabrics, crocheted fabrics, and woven fabrics.


The sewing term “armscye” refers to a sewing pattern piece that is cut to the size, shape, and style of a garment’s armhole. In sewing terms, it is also known as the “armhole” or an “arm opening.”


A for from fabric pieces to make new textiles. The sewing technique was popularized in Europe in the 17th century, and then people moved to sew it for clothing.

There are many different types of sewing techniques that come under the sewing term “patch stuff sewing.”

Examples of sewing techniques of patchwork sewing are sewing with scraps, sewing applique onto clothing, sewing patches on clothing, and making quilts.

Ballpoint needles

Ballpoint sewing needles have a round ball on the end of the needle opposite the sewing point.

This allows sewing machine needles to pass through thick fabric without ripping the fabric.

Ballpoint sewing needles are used in sewing woven fabrics, such as cotton or linen.

They can also be used for sewing synthetic materials like polyester and rayon.

A bobbin

A sewing machine bobbin is a device that winds thread onto a sewing machine needle to form the stitches.

A sewing machine bobbin has both an upper and lower half, with each half containing teeth like a comb for winding thread in opposite directions.

A sewing machine will have many bobbins on hand, typically 5-10, so that when one bobbin becomes empty of thread it can be replaced with a full one before the sewing job is complete.


A buttonhole is a series of sewing stitches that are used to form a hole on the garment so that buttons can be fastened or a decorative, carved button sewn onto the garment.

In sewing, sewing cording is also called casing. Sewing cord or sewing thread can be used to make a hem that’s not as bulky as a traditional hem.


Cords are sewing tools, sewing notions, and sewing equipment used in sewing.

They have a variety of uses depending on what sewing project they are being used for.

A cord lock loops over the threaded end and fastens under the loop end, locking the cord in place and preventing it from becoming undone unintentionally by pressure or pulling it too tight. It is often used to secure all

Cross stitch

Cross-stitch is a sewing technique that involves sewing stitches in a variety of different ways to form a design. 

This sewing technique consists of sewing diagonal stitches and filling them in with one or more different colours. 

Cross-stitching can be done on any fabric, but it is most often used on fabrics with a loose weave such as linen, samplers, and needlepoint. 

A cutting mat

A cutting mat is an even surface that is used to cut sewing supplies and fabric. Cutting mats are often made out of aluminum, vinyl, or plastic.

Fusible Interfacing

First, it’s important to know that this sewing technique is typically reserved for sewing multiple fabrics together or attaching a stiff fabric onto another.

These heavy materials are used to create a temporary bond that can be either sewn and ironed in place or removed later, depending on the sewing project.

Fusible interfacing comes in different weights and finishes and can be found at sewing stores or online.

A gauge

A sewing gauge is a sewing tool used for sewing, which is used to measure the size of sewing articles.

The sewing gauge was invented in the 19th century and became popular in the 20th century.

Sewing gauges are also referred to as sewing tapes or sewing rules.

A sewing gauge can be a tape measure fixed at increments between 1/8 inch and 6 inches and marked with sewing stitches symbols, including basting, running, backstitch, and zigzag.

Some sewing gauges also use metric measurements with centimeters and millimeters.

Ornamental stitching

Ornamental sewing is sewing with decorative techniques, such as embroidery. Apart from sewing, sewing notation also refers to musical notations.

A test garment

A test garment is often a sewing project made from inexpensive fabric, sewing notions, sewing supplies, or sewing equipment.

Test garments are used to see how a particular sewing technique will work or if the sewing project will be successful before sewing it out with expensive fabrics.

Raw edges

A row is the edge of a sewing project, which is done by sewing thin strips of material and sewing them together into a hem or seam.

A finished adge

A one-inch finished edge means that it is on the outside edges of the garment and you can either sew or glue the fabric in place.

A wrong side

A wrong side that is not tailored to the outside of the garment.

A fashion fabric

A piece of fashion fabric is a textile that is created with the intention of being in high demand for sewing or clothing.

Fashion fabrics are usually differentiated from other sewing materials through their durability, colorfastness, and wearability.


Gather involves sewing two layers of material together or sewing more than one layer of material to create a sewing project.

The gathering is often used for sewing skirts, dresses, and other garments.   There are many ways to sew gather.

Other most useful sewing terms and terminology includes:

  • Hand stitch
  • Long thread tails
  • Loose stitches
  • sewing instructions
  • sheer fabrics
  • machine stitching
  • Printed fabric
  • A few stitches
  • Pattern piece
  • Straight line
  • Fabric underneath
  • Edge stitching
  • Wedge shaped fold
  • Hand embroidery stitch
  • Cut edge
  • fabric sewn
  • lengthwise grain
  • top stitch
  • Patterned fabric
  • Straight stitch sewn
  • Narrow strip
  • Fusible interfacing
  • Sewing circle
  • Stitching line
  • Seam line
  • Edge stitch


Just like any language, sewing has its own words and phrases that are used in sewing projects. This is a glossary of sewing terms for beginners that will help you get started with sewing projects and understand the sewing world a little better!

Happy Sewing

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