Home Mood’s Ultimate List of Sewing Terms to Know

Mood’s Ultimate List of Sewing Terms to Know

Fabric Terms

  • Bias – the diagonal direction of the fabric
  • Cross Grain/Crosswise Grain/Weft/Fill – threads that run from left to right; always perpendicular to the selvage 
  • Drape – the way that the fabric falls and forms to the body
  • Fabric Grain – the direction of the threads used in weaving the fabrics
  • Face – the front (or right) side of fabric  
  • Fold Line – refers to folding right sides together to prepare fabric for cutting and pattern piece arrangement
  • Hand – the texture or feeling that a fabric has 
  • Length(wise) Grain/Warp – threads in woven fabric that run the length of the fabric and are parallel (same direction) to the selvage
  • Nap – the direction that fibers in textured fabrics lay down
  • Selvage – the tightly woven edge of fabric in a roll that doesn’t fray before being sold
  • Wrong Side – the backside of fabric

Garment Construction Terms

    • Clip – small snips placed in curved or angled areas of pattern pieces to add ease and keep the area smooth
    • Cutting Line – solid lines printed on patterns that show where to cut out the pattern  
    • Darts – triangular wedge-shape that’s folded and sewn into areas that have more fullness to achieve a better fit (often found at the bust, waist, and/or hips)
    • Dots – marks placed at seam intersections, dart points, collars, and more on pattern pieces to locate where garment pieces should line up 
    • Cut On Fold Symbol – an open ended rectangle with a double edged arrow; this symbol specifies when a piece needs to be cut on fold
    • Ease – space in a pattern allotted for fit and style, according to the body’s specific measurements 
    • Grade/Layer – to increase or decrease the sample size of a pattern to make a complete size range
    • Hem – bottom edge of a garment that is raw and then finished by being folded and sewn
    • Iron – to move the iron backward or forward against a finished garment in order to create crisp seams and help the garment lay correctly
    • Layout – a printed portion found in pattern instructions that helps to organize pattern pieces when placing on fabric for cutting 
    • Marking/Tracing – to transfer trued lines and guidelines from muslin or pattern over to pattern paper using a marking tool or tracing aid
    • Notch – triangle shaped cuts or marks placed into pattern pieces that help align pieces for sewing
    • Pivot – a sewing technique used for corners where the needle is lowered into the fabric and the fabric is rotated to the desired position
    • Pre-shrink – to launder fabric normally before sewing if the content is prone to shrinkage
    • Press – to lift and lower an iron onto pattern pieces to release wrinkles or to set in the seam
    • Seam Allowance – the width of fabric between the seam line and the edge of the fabric that allows room for fraying and wearing ease 
    • Seam – a series of stitches that holds two or more pieces of fabric together 
    • Tack – a stitch type used for reinforcement at points of stress such as pockets or zippers
    • Trim – to cut down the sewn seam allowance to reduce bulk
    • Yoke – an element added for fit that is usually added across the shoulders or to the waistline

Sewing Machine Parts

  • Bed – the flat part of the sewing machine where the fabric rests when it’s being sewn
  • Bobbin – a bottom thread fed through the machine to meet the spool to make the stitch 
  • Bobbin Case – holds the bobbin in place, allowing the machine to unravel it neatly
  • Bobbin Cover/Slide Plate – covers the bobbin case and keeps it in place
  • Bobbin Winder Spindle – a mechanism that is typically moved to the right to wind thread from the spool to the bobbin 
  • Bobbin Winder Thread Guide – used to wind the bobbin evenly
  • Feed Dogs – 2-3 metal bars on a sewing machine bed that feed fabric through the machine 
  • Foot Pedal – regulates the start/stop of the machine through the use of the foot
  • Free Arm – a detachable piece that’s a part of the machine bed; it’s used to sew small or circular areas
  • Guidelines – measurements located on the throat plate used to guide the edge of fabric to keep seam widths even
  • Hand Wheel – large wheel found on the right side of the machine that raises and lowers the needle
  • Needle Clamp – small, flat screw that keeps the needle in place
  • Power & Light Switch – turns the sewing machine and its light on/off
  • Power Socket – where the power cord is placed into the machine
  • Presser Foot – uses pressure to hold fabric in place as it meets the feed dogs
  • Presser Foot Lever – used to raise and lower the presser foot
  • Reverse Stitch Button or Lever – a button/lever that creates backstitches to lock the seam in place
  • Sewing Needle – special needle designed for use in a sewing machine rather than for hand sewing 
  • Spool Pin – small extendable rod on the top of a machine that holds thread and keeps it in place 
  • Stitch-Length Control – a dial or button that controls the distance between stitches
  • Stitch Pattern Selector – a dial or screen that allows the user to choose a stitch type
  • Stitch-Width Control – dial that controls the width between stitches or the position of the needle
  • Tension Control – a dial that controls the amount of pressure that’s applied to the thread
  • Thread cutter – a knife found to the left and behind the needle that is used to cut threads after a seam is sewn 
  • Thread Guides – guides the thread from the spool to the needle
  • Thread Take-Up Lever – a metal hook that pulls back thread after each stitch to prevent tangles and feeds thread from the spool to the needle
  • Throat Plate – metal part of the machine located under the presser foot that protects the bobbin/bobbin case

Basic Seam Types

    • Bound – appears to look like a french seam from the right side and from the wrong side it has neatly enclosed stitches 
    • Double Stitched – a plain seam with two lines of stitches
    • Flat-Felled – a double stitched, closed seam that is durable and conceals raw edges which lie flat
    • French – Encloses the seam allowance so that no raw edges are visible; best used on thin fabrics to avoid bulkiness
    • Lapped – right sides of fabric face up and overlap 
    • Plain – the most basic seam; any seam that attaches two pieces of wrong facing  fabrics together 
    • Superimposed – edges that are placed one over the other and sewn along the edges

Basic Stitch Types

  • Back Stitch – reverse machine stitching done to the beginning and the end of a seam to secure the stitch from unraveling 
  • Baste – a temporary set of stitches that hold a seam in place before permanent stitches are applied, usually sewn with a long stitch length and no back stitching
  • Edge Stitch – a series of straight stitches placed about ⅛” from the edge of the trimmed seam or outer edge
  • Reinforced – small stitches made at corners or high tension areas to reduce stress
  • Serged – closely interlocked stitches that will finish raw edges, often used for knits and jeans
  • Stay Stitch – stitches used to stabilize fabric placed on or just outside the seam
  • Stitch in the Ditch – where seams are joined; facings are hand tacked or machine stitched in the “ditch” to hold in place and partially hide stitches
  • Straight Stitch – a basic line of simple stitches
  • Top Stitch – a line of decorative stitches sewn ¼” from the edge on the right side of fabric that is parallel to a seam or edge
  • Understitch – seam allowances that are stitched to the facing along the outer edge 

Garment Types

Skirt Silhouettes

  • Sheath – form fitting style that commonly hits right at the knee but can vary in length
  • Trumpet/Tulip – fitted from the hips to the knees with a peplum style bottom

Skirt Lengths

  • Maxi – reaching ankle length
  • Midi (Tea-length) – a mid-calf length skirt, typically with a lot of fullness 
  • Mini – fitted style with a mid-thigh length

Outerwear Styles:

    • Balmacaan – often made with raglan sleeves and a wide and full fit
    • Battle – short in length and fitted at the cuffs and waist originally made to take the place of original army jackets 
    • Blazer – traditionally hip-length with a notched lapel and single or double breasted buttons; can have a tailored or boxy fit
    • Bolero – open front style hitting just above the waist in length 
    • Cardigan – a long-sleeved knitted sweater with a button front 
    • Chesterfield – made of simple vertical seams with a trench length
    • Polo/Camel – a tailored coat similar to a trench style with a sheath dress fit
    • Reefer – a fitted double-breasted style with a trench length 
    • Safari – belted jacket with a collar and utility style pockets
    • Spencer – long-sleeved fitted style that ended at the waistline 
    • Trapeze (swing) – made with ½ or ¾ length sleeves, a lengthened lapel, and an a-line cut
    • Trench – double-breasted having pockets, shoulder straps and a waist belt, ranging from ankle to knee length
    • Wrap – a style that ties at the waist where one side overlaps the other

Bottoms Styles:

    • Ankle/Cropped/Cigarette – a style that hits right at or above the ankle
    • Capri – mid-calf length with a fitted cuff
    • Culottes – mid-calf length, similar to the capri, but with a slightly loose fitting leg
    • Harem – soft, loose fitting pants with a fitted cuff
    • Hip hugger – waistband sits at the hip region
    • Jumpsuit – the joining of a top and bottom incorporated into one garment
    • Palazzo – loose, wide-legged style
    • Pleated – creases that are sewn and folded before being attached to the waistband
    • Raised-waist – sits slightly above the hips
    • Straight leg – a fit that does not change and falls straight from the thighs to the hem
    • Tapered – style that becomes more slim as it reaches the ankle
    • Wide-leg – very loosely fitted pants from hips to cuffs

Shorts Styles:

  • Boxer – loose fitting shorts that reach the mid-thigh 
  • Jamaica – a knee length style with a body skimming fit
  • Tailored – style with belt loops, a body skimming fit, an upper mid thigh length, and a cuffed hemline
  • Walking/Bermuda – body skimming style with a hem that can be cuffed or uncuffed, reaching about 1” above the knee

Garment Elements

Lapel Styles:

  • Notch – conventional style where the collar and lapel meet to form a V
  • Peak – sits closely to the collar with a dip that comes up to form a peak, this style resembles a paper plane edge 
  • Shawl – curved style commonly found on tuxedos

Blazer Pockets:

  • On (In) Seam – a concealed pocket covered by the other layers, and is nearly invisible with no closures
  • Patch – a separate square-like piece of separate fabric top-stitched onto a garment
  • Seam to Seam – style that reaches from the princess seam to the side seam of the garment and usually includes a closure like a button 
  • Welt – bound pockets with a reinforced border along the top edge of the fabric

Pants/Shorts Pockets:

  • Jeans – flat pocket reaching from the side seam to the bottom of the waistband in a rectangular shape with a rounded bottom edge
  • Scoop – flat pocket reaching from the side seam to the bottom of the waistband in a semi-circle fashion
  • Trouser – flat pocket forming a diagonal triangle from the bottom of the waistband to the side seam of the bottoms
  • Western – flat pocket reaching from the side seam to the bottom of the waistband forming a 45 degree angle


  • Interfacing – a fabric used for support in areas of stress
  • Interlining – material added between the fashion fabric and the lining; usually for warmth 
  • Lining – an inner layer that can be decorative- added for greater opacity, warmth, structure, or comfort
  • Underlining – sewing fashion fabric to a backing fabric to provide stability

Collar Types:

  • Buttoned Down – style with a buttonhole on either collar point that attaches to the shirt
  • Classic – easily identifiable by the small amount of spread from the collar edge to the button
  • Club – style with rounded edges
  • Hidden button – style with an extra layer on the corner to conceal a hidden button hole
  • Long Point – made with long pointy edges
  • Mandarin – small, upright collar that is closely fitted to the neck
  • Pinned – a style held down on either side by a pin
  • Two Button – features 2 buttons at the top of the button placket to provide extra height or stiffness to the collar


  • Boat – wide neckline that sits slightly below the collar bone
  • Cowl – heightened neckline with a loose fit 
  • Crew – close fitting, round neckline 
  • Funnel – high neck style that does not have a seam
  • Halter – a style held up by a tie that wraps around the neck
  • Jewel – higher rise scoop with a slight curve
  • Mock Turtle – similar to a funnel neck, but shorter and more fitted 
  • Oval scoop – style with a deeper scoop
  • Square – style that resembles a half square shape
  • Strapless – a top with no straps or sleeves
  • Turtleneck – fitted, high collar that folds over 
  • V-neck – style with two lines that meet to form a V

Sleeve Types:

  • Bishop – a long sleeve with gathering at the bottom finished with a cuff
  • Dolman – attached to the body of the garment without seams, being very loose at the shoulder and tapering to a more fitted style towards the wrist
  • Drop Shoulder – the sleeve is lengthened past the shoulder edge and the bottom of the sleeve is shortened 
  • Mutton – very wide towards the shoulder and fitted from the elbow to wrist 
  • Peasant – gathered at the shoulder and the cuff
  • Puffed – gathered at the top and the cuff with fullness in the middle
  • Quarter Length – extends in length between the elbow and wrist
  • Raglan – having a diagonal seam that begins under the arm and reaches to the collar bone with a closely fitted sleeve that extends past the elbow
  • Set-in – sleeve seam that starts at the shoulder edge and continues around the armhole
  • Sleeveless – absent of sleeves
  • Strapless – a top with no straps or sleeves
  • Tapered – loose at the armhole and closely fitted down the sleeve towards the wrist


  • Bound – a decorative buttonhole made with a rectangular lip from its front side
  • Keyhole (cord or grip) reinforced with 2 lines of tight stitches that have a circular shaped end resembling a keyhole
  • Oval Bound a version of the bound buttonhole with an oval shaped lip
  • Slit – simple buttonhole with a rectangular fence of stitches to control the hole width
  • Zig-zagbasic machine sewn buttonhole consisting of two parallel lines of zig-zag stitches

Closure Types

  • Cord Locks – a cylindrical device that can retract and expand to allow or stop a threaded drawstring from slipping; typically found in waistbands or jackets hemlines
  • D-Ring or O-Ring – adjustable buckles that are great for connecting straps 
  • Hooks/Hook & Eyes – consist of 2 metal pieces – one that resembles a rounded omega sign and a flattened hook that interlock and keep small edges together once they are sewn in place
  • Toggle – a loop and a T-shaped piece that interlock together- great for outerwear or adding a fashionable element to garments
  • Zippers – having two strips of flexible fabric with teeth that interlock and can be sewn to garments 

Fit Silhouettes

  • Natural – fitted with ease and room for movement 
  • Over-sized – loose, having little to no shape
  • Relaxed – less fitted and shapely 
  • Slim – fit that follows the body
  • Stretch to fit – a fabric with give that fits closely to the body