Welcome to You Can Make It Sewing Help.
This area of our web site is designed to help you with any sewing questions. We have basic skills as well as advanced skills listed. The higher the Level #, the more advanced the skill.
If you would like additional assistance with any skills, we have listed which level video a particular skill is covered in. You may also contact our referral department for a You Can Make It Teacher that is local to you to assist.
All skills are listed alphabetical.
We will continue to update this page. Please feel free to send us any terms not listed, that you would like defined.
If you would like to search for a particular skill, all browsers have a find feature. Just go to edit, then find. Type in the term you are looking for and they will be highlighted within this page. This works for all web pages not just ours.
If you would like to order your own bound & printed sewing glossary, click here
5/8″: The standard seam size for home sewing. – Level 1
Alteration: When a change is made to a garment or pattern piece to change the original size or shape. – Level 2-7
Appliqué: An ornament that is added to a garment. – Level 3
Back Waist: The measurement from the base of your neck to your waistline. – Level 1
Back Stitch: This is to be done at the beginning and end of each seam. Backstitching is sewing forward about 2-3 stitches and then sewing in reverse 2-3 stitches. It will prevent the seam you just sewed from coming un done. – Level 1
Basting: A long stitch length. Can be done by hand or machine. – Level 2
Ball Button: Can be used with frogs. – Level 6
Basting tape: Can be used as a guide during sewing. – Level 2
Beeswax: Used in hand sewing to keep thread from knotting.
Also strengthens thread. – Level 1
Belt loops: Loops on a garment that a belt goes through, sometimes called belt carriers. – Level 5
Bias: When the fabric’s cut edge is folded down into the selvage edge, the angle formed is considered the bias.
This part of the fabric has the greatest stretch. – Level 1
Bias Tape: Bias strips folded into perfect halves. Can be used to finish off curved edges. – Level 3
- Double Fold Bias Tape: Single fold bias tape folded and pressed. One edge extends past other. – Level 4
- Single Fold Bias Tape: Bias strips with raw edges pressed under. – Level 4
Bias Tape Maker: A notion used to turn bias strips into bias tape. – Level 4
Binding: Strips of fabric cut on the bias. – Level 4
Blanket Stitch: A stitch used on the edge of fabric. Can be stitched close together to finish off a raw edge or spaced apart as a decorative stitch. – Level 5
Blind Stitch: The stitch used to create a blind hem. – Level 5
Bobbin: The lower thread of a stitch. When inserting gathering stitches, the bobbin thread can be pulled easier than the top thread. – Level 1, Level 3
Bolt: The cardboard that fabric is wrapped around. On one end of the bolt there should be a label that tells the fabric width and type of fabric. – Level 1
Bust: The fullest part of the bust. – Level 1
- High Bust: The measurement high under arms, across the widest part of your back & above the full bust. – Level 1
Bust Apex: The bust’s center point. – Level 6
Buttonholes: An opening created in a garment to insert buttons through. On a woman’s garment they are usually placed on the right side. On a man’s garment they are usually placed on the left side of the garment. – Level 6
- Bound Buttonholes: A tailoring type of buttonhole construction. Often used on suits. – Level 7
Casing: An area created to insert items such as elastic, cording, string etc.
Can be formed by folding fabric down, or applying binding & stitching on both edges. – Level 1, Level 2, Level 3
Clipping: Cutting seam allowances to allow fabric to move around curves. – Level 2 & Level 3
Crosswise Grain: Also considered the width of the fabric. – Level 1
Cut edge: The side of the fabric that is cut off the bolt.
The width of the fabric is measured on the cut edge. – Level 1
Cutting: If you run the bottom blade of your scissor along the cutting table during cutting, your cut will be more controlled. – Level 1
Cutting Line: The line on a pattern that you cut on. Some pattern pieces may have more than one cutting line, each pertaining to a particular size. – Level 1
Cutting on the fold: Place a pin across fold during layout, to remind you NOT to cut on the fold. – Level 1
Darts: Nip dart ends. Line up a piece of tape from the left nip to the point. Fold dart, lining up nips, & sew; using the tape as a guide. – Level 2
Ease: The amount of extra room in a garment.
Facings: Used in a garment to finish off raw edges. Can also be used to add stiffness to an area of a garment. – Level 3
Eyelets: A hole purposely created in a garment with finished edges. Used to lace any type of cord through. – Level 5
Feed Dogs: A part of the sewing machine, that feeds the fabric. Some machines allow you to drop the feed dogs for special sewing circumstances. – Level 1
Fly Wheel: A part on the sewing machine that you can turn manually to create a stitch. – Level 1
Flat-Fell Seam: A strong & sturdy type of seam. Commonly used for sportswear. – Level 5
Fold line: A line on your pattern tissue to indicate where you are to fold the fabric during construction. – Level 1
Free Arm: The part of a sewing machine that enables you to easily sew a tubular object. – Level 1
French Seam: A type of seam in which the raw edges of the seam are encased. – Level 3
Frogs: A type of garment closure. – Level 5
Gathering Stitches: Two rows of basting stitches sewn next to each other – Level 3
Grade: To cut. – Level 2
Grain: The threads of fabric. – Level 2
Grainline Arrow: This is the arrow that is printed on pattern pieces. Must be placed equal amounts from a common end of the fabric. Used to make sure that your pattern pieces are positioned correctly. – Level 1
Guide Sheet: Part of the pattern that gives you instructions on how to construct the garment. In addition to layouts and applicable sewing terms. Also know as the instruction sheet. – Level 1
Hand Sewing Needles: See Needles, hand. – Level 1
Hipline: The fullest part of the hip.
Your personal measurement is not always the same as the ‘perfect pattern’ ladies. – Level 1, Level 2
Hooks & Eyes: A type of garment closure. – Level 1
Interfacing: Used inside a garment to add stiffness. – Level 2
Instruction Sheet: Part of the pattern that gives you instructions on how to construct the garment. In addition to layouts and applicable sewing terms. Also known as the guide sheet. – Level
Jump Hem: The extra length in a garments lining. – Level 7
Layouts: Pictures contained in a patterns guide sheet to show how to place pattern tissues on the fabric. – Level 1
Lengthwise Grain: Also considered the length of the fabric. – Level 1
Lining: Used to give a clean finish to a garment. – Level 7
Locking in Stitches: To stitch forward and backwards approximately 2-4 stitches. Helps prevent stitching from coming un-done. – Level 1- 7
Loops: A type of closure for a garment. Can be created with a variety of supplies, such as fabric, cording, trim or thread. – Level 6
Machine Blind Hem: A hem finish created by the sewing machine. A special foot is often needed. – Level 5
Marking: Symbols added to garment pieces to identify them later during construction. For example F = front. – Level 1
Marking Pen: A sewing notion used to transfer markings from a tissue onto your fabric. – Level 1
Measurements: Measure to the closest 1/2″. Place a finger under the tape measure to prevent from being taken to tightly.
Take measurements in foundation garments. – Level 1
Mock French Seam: A type of seam used on curved edges, in which the raw edges of the seam are encased. – Level 3
Nap: A fabric that has a specific directional feel to it. Such as velvet or corduroy. – Level 2, Level 5
Neck Band: The section of a garment between the collar and the neck of the garment. Aids in giving the collar shape. – Level 5
Needles, sewing machine: The come in different sizes and types. The size & type used is determined by the fabrics characteristics. Ball point needles are used for knit & stretch fabrics. Regular or standard point are used on woven & non-stretch fabrics. Universal needles can be used on knit or woven fabrics. The lighter weight the fabric the smaller the needle size. – Level 1
Needles, hand: Hand sewing needles come in all sizes & are used for different tasks. Fabric type will also factor into choosing the right needle. For example a fine needle is used on delicate fabric. – Level 1
Nip: A very small cut into the fabric. – Level 2
Notches: Markings on the pattern tissue. Used to match up pattern pieces during construction. – Level 1, Level 2
Notions: Items used in addition to fabric to complete your garment.
Such as buttons, elastic, zipper, bias tape, thread, etc. – Level 1
One way design: When the fabric has a specific top and bottom. Special layouts are required for this type of fabric. – Level 2
Overcast: A type of machine stitch used to prevent the seam allowance from fraying. – Level 1
Overlay: The top flap of a lapped zipper – Level 5
Pattern: Used to make a garment. Contains pattern pieces and a guide sheet. – Level 1
Piping: A cord covered with a decorative fabric – Level 4
Pins: Pins come in a variety of types and sizes. Chose a pin based on your fabrics and use of pin. – Level 1
Pinning Tissues: Place pins towards edge to keep tissue in place, inside cutting line.
Pin just enough to hold tissues in place. – Level 1
Placket: An extension on a garment. Usually buttonholes are placed within. – Level 6
Plaids: Fabric that has distinctive rows of contrast color in both the lengthwise & crosswise direction. Fabric can be an even or un-even plaid. – Level 4
Pleats: Do not come to a point like darts. See Darts – Level 2
Point Turner: A notion used to get corners pushed out. – Level 2
Preshrinking: Preshrink fabric & notions following the care instructions on the bolt of fabric.
Wash all garment items in same water temperature. – Level 1
Pressing: Important step during the sewing process after sewing a seam. – Level 1
Pressing Cloth: A piece of 100% cotton cloth. Placed between the item being pressed and the iron. Used to prevent scorching or burning of the fabric being ironed. They can prevent shine on fabric & delicate fabrics benefit from using a pressing cloth since they are sensitive to heat. – Level 1
Presser Foot: Part of the sewing machine that holds the fabric in place during sewing.
A variety of feet are available to perform different techniques. – Level 1, Level 2, Level 3
‘Pretty Side’: A term used by You Can Make It which refers to the right side of the fabric. So that confusion is not created when talking left & right. – Level 1
Raw Edges: The un-finished end of a seam. – Level 1
Reverse: The button on a sewing machine that you press to make your machine sew backwards. – Level 1
Right side: Refers to the pretty side of the fabric. Usually not a directional term in sewing. – Level 1-7
Ruffle: A gathered piece of fabric or trim. Two, to 2- 1/2 times the finished length is needed to create a ruffle. Three times can also be used for a fuller ruffle. – Level 3
Satin Stitch: A flat stitch that completely covers an area. This stitch can be done either by hand or machine. – Level 5
Scissors: Scissors come in a variety of sizes. Chose a scissor based on your fabric and use of the scissors. Do NOT cut anything except fabric with your good scissors. – Hide them from others. – Level 1
Seam Allowance: The part of the fabric past a sewn seam that extends away from the garment. – Level 1
Seam Binding: Used to give a clean edge to your fabric when hemming. – Level 1
Seam Gauge: A small ruler with a slide to measure. A must for every sewer. Sometimes called a sewing gauge. – Level 1
Seam Ripper: Used to remove stitching. Every sewer’s must have item.
Use inside to cut threads, use outside to remove threads. – Level 1
Seam Line: The center of a seam. – Level 1
Selvage: The side of the fabric that has a finished manufacturer’s edge.
The length of the fabric is measured on the selvage edge. – Level 1
Serge: A type of overlock stitch created by a serger and some sewing machines. – Level 6
Sewing Gauge: A small ruler with a slide to measure. A must for every sewer. Sometimes called a seam gauge. – Level 1
Sewing Machine Needles: See Needles, sewing machine. – Level 1
Sewing Terms: Certain words that are used to describe the method to do a skill – Level 1- 7
Shirred: Another word for gathered. – Level 3
Snaps: A type of garment closure. – Level 1
Slip Stitching: A type of hand stitch sew by hand. – Level 1
Slits: The opening in a garment. Used for style & to add comfort to a garment. – Level 2
Stab Stitch: A stitch in which the needle and thread are brought to the back and up again in separate movements. The up and down stitch created is very close to each other, so that it is hardly noticed. – Level 7
Stabilizer: An item used to add stiffness. Depending on type of project and stiffness required can be anything from cardboard, plastic, or interfacing. – Level 2
Stay Stitching: Stitching placed in seam allowance to keep fabric from stretching out of shape. – Level 3
Stitch Length: The length of stitches that a sewing machine sews.– Level 1
Stitch Width: When sewing a zigzag stitch, the width of the zigzag can be adjusted with this.
Also used to create certain decorative stitches. – Level 1
Stripes: Fabric that has a distinctive row of contrast color. Fabric can be an even or un-even stripe. – Level 4
Tailor Tacks: A type of marking created with needle and thread. – Level 3, Level 7
Tape Measure: A sewing notion used to measure. – Level 1
Tension: Controls the tightness or looseness of the upper & lower threads on a sewing machine. – Level 1
Tear away material: A type of interfacing to add stability to a part of a garment. – Level 2
Thread: Usually purchased one shade darker than fabric.
Thread does break down over the years, do the pull test on it. – Level 1
Throat Plate: Part of the sewing machine that the fabric lays on.
Contains markings which can be used as guides during sewing. – Level 1
Topstitching: A decorative row or rows of stitching that show on the ‘pretty side’ of the garment. – Level 5
Tissues: Pattern pieces are often called pattern tissues. – Level 1
Tucks: Created by a fold in the fabric. They do not come to a point like darts. See Darts – Level 2
Underlay: The underneath section of a lapped zipper. – Level 5
Understitching: Stitching usually added to a garment’s facing to enable the facing to fold neatly – Level 3
Velcro: A type of closure. One side is soft, the other rough. – Level 1
Waistbands: The part of the garment that sits on or near the waist. – Level 2
Waistline: The measurement around your waist. Bend from side to side to find the correct location. – Level 1
Welt Seam: A type of seam construction usually used on heavy fabrics. Gives a smooth, flat finish without the bulk. Similar in appearance to the Flat-Fell Seam. – Level 5
Welt Pockets: A tailoring type of pocket construction. Often used on suits. – Level 7
Whip Stitch: A type of stitch passing over an edge to join, finish or gather. – Level 7
With Nap: Refers to a fabric that has a specific direction. Such as velvet. Can also be a print with a one way design. – Level 2, Level 5
With Out Nap: Refers to a fabric that does not have a specific direction. – Level 1
Wrong side: Opposite of the right side of the fabric. Usually not a directional term in sewing. – Level 1- 7
Yards: The measurement & increments used to purchase fabric. – Level 1
Zipper: A type of garment closure. – Level 2, Level 4
- Lapped Zipper: A standard zipper that when sewn in, is created with only one flap on the ‘pretty’ side. – Level 5
- Invisible Zipper: A special type of zipper inserted in a seam with hidden stitching. – Level 5
Zigzag: A type of machine stitch. – Level 1
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