Sewing glossary

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4-way stretch: a term used with knits with the ability to stretch across their width and length. Usually, 4-way stretch knits are composed of spandex.

Backstitch: to secure the beginning and end of a stitch using the reverse stitch button or manually.

Baste: to sew using a very long stitch length. Basting is used to fix temporarily or to gather/ease, and once the garment is completed, any visible basted stitches should be unpicked.

Edge-finish: to prevent fabrics from fraying, serge the raw edges using an overlocker (serger). Use a 3-thread overlocker when working with woven fabrics, and a 4-thread overlocker when sewing knits. Using a sewing machine, sew flush on the raw edge using a zigzag stitch.

Double-needle: a type of needle consisting of two needles attached together. It produces two rows of stitches on the top and a zigzag underneath. Just like regular needles, they are available in different sizes, but also in different widths corresponding to the distance between the two needles. Knits can be hemmed and topstitched using a double needle.

Grainline: a line on a pattern piece that corresponds to the threads running along the selvage of the fabric. This means that when placing a pattern piece on the fabric, the grainline should be parallel to the selvage.

Knit: a type of fabric made with looped yarns, instead of woven. Knits don't fray and usually have a good amount of stretch. The most common knits are jerseys and interlock.

Notch: a symbol on the edge of a pattern piece, usually represented by a small slit. Once the pattern is cut, transfer notches on your fabric by cutting small slits on the fabric where the symbols are. Use the tip of your scissors to make slits that are no longer than 0.3 cm (roughly ⅛"). When sewing, be sure to match the notches along corresponding seams. Sometimes, a notch is matched with a seam, for instance, the notch in the middle of a sleeve head is usually matched with a shoulder seam.

Recovery: the ability of a fabric to go back to its initial shape once stretched. Fabrics with spandex usually have a good recovery.

Selvage: the two edges of the fabric running lengthwise. Selvages are perpendicular to the weft.

Spandex: a synthetic fiber added to fabrics and knits so that they can stretch. Spandex is not visible on the fabric as it's transparent. Spandex is also known as elastane or the brand name Lycra.

Staystitch: to prevent a seam from stretching out, sew a row of stitching inside the seam allowance, close to the seam line. Staystitching is not meant to attach two pieces together and should be done on a single layer of fabric. Staystitching should not be visible on the right side of the garment.

Topstitch: to sew a row of stitching parallel to a seam or fold, catching also the seam allowances. For best results, sew on the right side of the garment. The distance between the stitching and the seam may vary between 0.2 to 1 cm (⅛ to ⅜"). However, topstitching a fold should not be done further than 0.3 cm (roughly ⅛") from it. Topstitching between 0.2 to 0.3 cm is also called edge-stitching.

Understitch: to lift a facing and sew a row of stitching parallel to the attachment seam. Understitching should not be done further than 0.3 cm (roughly ⅛") from the seam. Understitching prevents facings from rolling out of the garment and should not be visible outside of the garment.

Weft: the thread running across the width of the fabric.