Sewing terms

Backstitch - a way to secure stitches. First sew a couple of stitches by machine, then reverse stitch over your previously-made stitches, then continue sewing forwards again. Usually done at start and finish of a seam. 

Basting – (to baste) a temporary seam sewn with long stitches (straight stitch) by hand or machine, to hold the fabric in place before sewing. 

(Bias) binding – a thin strip of fabric used to cover the edge of your garment, for instance the neckline. On a woven garment this would be called a bias binding (or bias tape) since the binding strip is cut on the bias to allow for more stretch. On a knit garment the binding is usually cut on the crossgrain, in the direction of the stretch.

In the picture below we're sewing a bias binding on a Smilla dress using a bias binder attachment. In Smilla's tutorial we also show how to do it without a binder.

Bodice –the upper part of a woman's dress, usually close-fitting.

Center back – a vertical line that marks center of the pattern piece, at the back.

Center front – a vertical line that marks center of the pattern piece, at the front.

Coverstitch – A Coverstitch machine is used for hemming and sewing decorative seams. It sews triple cover stitches, cover stitches and chain stitches. 

Differential feed - controls the ratio between how quickly the fabric is fed into the machine by the front feed dogs and out of the machine by the back feed dogs. By adjusting this lever you can both prevent curly fabric, and that the fabric gets stretched out.

Facing – a piece of fabric that is sewn on the edges of your garment and hidden on the inside. A method of finishing edges, as opposed to for example hems and bindings.

Pictured below is a Women's Alice dress where we've sewn the neckline with a facing.

Gather – Make a long piece of fabric smaller and create wrinkles. Can be achieved by several methods, for example: sew one or two lines of stitches with long straight stitches, then pull the bobbin threads to gather the fabric. Or use your serger.

Grainline – parallel to the selvage (edges of the fabric). Shows the direction of the threads in the fabric and how the pattern pieces should be placed on the fabric.

Hem – A seam finishing method. A folded hem is folded once (which is often the case with knit fabrics) or twice (for woven fabrics), then pressed and topstitched close to the fold. 

Interfacing – a material which can be pressed (if it's fusible) or sewed onto the wrong side of the fabric, to add stability or prevent it from losing its shape. Some interfacings have stretch, others don't. They also come in varying thickness. Always use an interfacing that is lighter than your fabric.

Iron - Bring the iron over your fabric or garment, back and forth, to remove wrinkles. Do this carefully when using knit fabrics so they don't get stretched out of shape.

Lining – An extra layer of fabric that's on the inside of the garment. 

Notches – markings on a pattern for details and guidance of putting the pattern pieces together.

On fold – means that you fold your fabric and put your pattern piece's fold edge alongside the fold.

Press - When you press, you place the iron on top of a seam for example and hold still for a few seconds, then remove. Repeat if necessary. Use steam if your iron has it and as long as it's suitable for your fabric.

Presser foot – is situated between the fabric and the needle, and keeps the fabric in place while sewing. There are different presser feet, like a walking foot, zipper foot, hemming foot, button hole foot etc.

Presser foot pressure – how much the presser foot pressures onto the fabric while sewing. When sewing in knit fabrics it can be helpful to adjust the pressure of the presser foot to fine-tune the way the fabric feeds.

Right side - This is the side of the fabric that is meant to be on the outside of your garment.

Seam allowance – the extra amount of fabric added when cutting your fabric allowing you to sew the pattern pieces together. The width of seam allowances can vary, but Threads by Caroline always uses 1 cm (3/8").

Selvage – The edge of the fabric.

Serger / overlocker – A serger sews, trims and finishes the seams in one swift action. Very useful for knit fabrics, but doesn't replace a sewing machine.

Stitch length – the length of the stitches. Can be adjusted and is measured in millimeters.

Straight stitch – a non elastic seam, with simple straight stitches.

Stretch percentage – refers to the amount of stretch in a fabric. Use our stretch guide to evaluate your fabrics. 

Thread tension – the thread tension can be adjusted by the thread tension dial on the machine. If the thread is too lose or tight you will get incorrect stitches.

Topstitch – a decorative stitch sewn for example to fixate seam allowances and facings or add interesting detail. 

Wrong side – This is the side of the fabric that is meant to be inside your garment.

Zig zag stitch – a useful stretch stitch commonly used when sewing knit fabrics, but also to finish seams on a woven fabric.