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20 Essential Sewing Terms and Phrases

20 Essential Sewing Terms and Phrases

If you’re just getting introduced to the world of sewing, you may feel overwhelmed at the number of terms and phrases you’ll encounter. Just one glance at a crafting blog or forum can leave you feeling inundated with new information and left out from the crowd. While it might take a bit of time to become acquainted with the entire sewing vocabulary, you can get started by learning the basics. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the most common sewing terms and phrases to help you get up to speed with the crafting community. 

1. Applique: sewing one piece of fabric on top of another to create a picture or pattern.  

2. Arrowhead Stitch: a method of triangular stitching often used to add decorative flair. 

3. Awl: a sharp tool used to create small holes in fabric, commonly used to create eyelet patterns. 

4. Backing: fabric that’s used for the back of a quilt, usually plain muslin or cotton. 

5. Bias: this is a diagonal cut of 45 degrees to the grain, and is used to allow adequate stretch in the fabric. 

6. Edgestitch: a stitch that’s made 1/8 of an inch from the seam’s edge. 

7. Fat Quarter: ¼ yard of fabric that’s typically 18” by 22”. This cut of fabric is popular for quilting, but is also great for a variety of projects. 

8. Feed Dog: the grooves on the throat plate that allow fabric to be moved through the machine. 

9. Flat Felled Seam: a durable seam that’s made by sewing the wrong sides of fabric together, often used to reinforce weak areas. 

10. Interfacing: layers of fabric designed to add strength and stability, often used in clothing parts like collars. 

11. Miter: 90-degree corners that look neat and tidy when incorporated in quilts, clothing, or tablecloths.  

12. Muslin: Plain cotton fabric that’s usually inexpensive and used for practice projects or quilt backing. 

13. Overcast Stitch: a stitch that’s placed over a seam to prevent fabric from raveling. This method can be done via sewing machine or by hand. 

14. Presser Foot: the part of a sewing machine that presses fabric onto the feed dogs. 

15. Raw Edge: an edge of fabric that has been cut, but isn’t finished yet. 

16. Running Stitch: a simple method of stitching that’s made by moving the needle and thread through a piece of fabric, usually done by hand. 

17. Satin Stitch: a zig-zag patterned stitch that’s a setting on most sewing machines. 

18. Selvage: a coarse edge on the fabric that might be marked with manufacturer information. Be sure to exclude this part when cutting your fabric to avoid unwanted puckering of the seam. 

19. Slipstitch: a nearly invisible stitch comprised of folded edges to hide a hem. 

20. Wrong Side: the non-patterned side of fabric. If you’re using solid colors, there is no “wrong side.” 

As you continue to gain sewing experience, these terms (and more) will become familiar. At the beginning, however, be sure to keep a list of terms nearby for reference. If you have any questions about the definitions found here, feel free to get in touch. We’re happy to provide crafting advice or help you get started with a project. 


Photo courtesy of Pixabay under Creative Commons 0 license 

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  • Alexa Clauson
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