I will be the first to admit, learning to sew can be tricky. It definitely didn’t come easy for me, but who doesn’t love to work for something? A few things that helped me in my process of learning to sew were: a patient grandmother always willing to help, a beautiful sewing machine, and a sewing dictionary. Of course my grandmother and my sewing machine played vital rolls in this process, but the sewing dictionary was always so great to refer back to when grandma was busy. 🙂 Now I am going to create a Sewing Dictionary so that you can refer back to it whenever you need to!
Sewing a piece of fabric on top of another after folding under a small bit of the fabric to create a clean edge. When done by machine, many use a satin stitch (tight zig zag). By hand, blind stitching is often used.
Backstitch is used at the beginning and the end of a machine sewn seam. It anchors the seam in place and involves a few extra stitches back and forth. It is also known as back tacking.
Temporary stitching or pinning used to hold a sewing project in place and is removed when the permanent sewing is done!
This runs diagonally to the straight grain of the fabric. This is the stretchiest part of the fabric.
Strips of the fabric cut on the bias, often turned under, pressed, and used for bindings, facings, or other applications where there is a need for stretch or accommodation to curves. Often found finishing the edge of a blanket or quilt.
The bobbin is the thread that comes up from the bottom and meets the thread from your spool to form the stitch. You will have to wind your bobbin and then insert it in your machine properly. Wound bobbins look like this:
A Charm is a 5″ x 5″ square of fabric. Depending on the fabric company, each Charm Pack normally contains at least one of each print in the collection. Most packs have around forty-two pieces, which means there can be duplicates and even triplicates of some prints. Charm squares are great for easy patchwork quilts. You can sew them up without slicing and dicing and – voila, quilt top done! Charm Packs are also one of the least expensive pre-cuts on the market, and like Fat Quarters, are a very common option from nearly all the fabric manufacturers. For the most part, they are referred to as Charm Packs but can have several different names.
A way of sewing a length of fabric into a bit of a smaller space without resulting in gathers or puckers. Also—Seam addition that allows a garment to fit the body better.
The “teeth” under the plate on the sewing machine that moves fabric as it is sewn.
To gather you will do a baste stitch on your fabric and then, holding the threads that are at the end of your baste, gently pull the top thread while keeping the bottom thread steady. This will pull your fabric so that it starts to create a gather. Once you have it gathered as much as you want it to be, you sew it in place to make the gather permanent:
The half square triangle (HST) is one of the most basic blocks in quilting that is used in many more complex blocks. It is two half triangles sewn together to make one square. Go here to find out how to make them.
Fabric that is turned up on the lower edge of a garment or sleeve to provide a finished edge. Often extra fabric is left in the hem with children’s clothing to allow for growth (especially skirts and slacks).
Fabric used between layers of fabric to provide stabilization and form. Usually used in collars, cuffs, plackets, and some waistbands and pockets, and facings.
Jelly Rolls :
Moda Fabrics coined the term Jelly Roll for these cute, round fabric treats. A Jelly Roll is anything that has 2½” x 44″ strips of fabric and can range from 10-42 pieces of fabric. These strips are layered, rolled up tight, and tied with a bow. Jelly Roll strips can be used to achieve many fun, scrappy effects. Try sewing several strips together along the length, slicing them into 2″ sections, and mixing up the sub-cuts as an easy patchwork method.
A Layer Cake is a super-sized Charm Pack! Whereas a Charm Pack contains 5″ x 5″ squares; it’s big brother the Layer Cake is made up of 10″ x 10″ cuts of fabric. This gives you a lot of fabric to play with, especially for larger-scale prints. If you need to cut shapes for appliqué or create squares of different sizes, Layer Cakes are your best bet. Moda’s Layer Cakes contain forty-two pieces where other companies can contain as little as 10 pieces.
Sewing machine needles come in a variety of sizes and types – ball point and sharps are the two major categories. Ball point is used for knits and regular sharp needles are used for non-stretch fabrics. There are also all purpose needles, but it is recommended that you use ball point or regular. There are many different needles (wing needles, wedge needles, twin needles, etc.) of varying sizes and shapes for some fancier stitching.
A term used for any item used for sewing other than the fabric and the machine.
You will use pins a lot while sewing! Pinning helps hold fabric in place before you sew it. When you pin you will want to place the pins so that you can easily slide them out of the way as you sew towards them.
Right Side (of the Fabric):
The right side of the fabric is the side with the pattern, pictures, or design on it. On some fabrics it won’t really matter one way or another, but on some fabrics there is a definite right side:
Right Sides Together (RST):
This means that you put your 2 pieces of fabric together so that the right sides of the fabric are touching each other on the inside and the wrong sides of the fabric are showing on the outside.
These are great for cutting layers of fabric into straight strips. Many people are using them for curved lines and pattern cutting for garments as well.
A simple stitch made by running the thread over and under the fabric. This stitch is often used for basting or as the foundation for another more decorative stitch.
Running stitch Grain:
Direction of the fabric that runs parallel to the selvage (a stretchier grain is found running perpendicular to the selvage). Commercial patterns have an arrow on them indicating direction of the grain to assit in laying out the pattern pieces correctly.
The result when two pieces of fabric are sewn together along aline.
The fabric between the edge of the fabric and the line of stitching, about 5/8” for most clothing patterns and 1/4″ for for quilting patterns.
A sharp pointed tool that you use to rip out a seam when you make a mistake. Take the sharp point and poke it underneath a stitch to break the thread. Do this on any seam that you need to take out.
The selvage of the fabric is the finished edge of the fabric that is on it when you buy it. As shown in this picture, it is along the bottom edge of the fabric.
Collection of fabric. That pile in the sewing room you intend to use some day!
Stitch in the ditch:
Stitching in the ditch is sometimes used as a method of understitching and also as a form of simple machine quilting for craft projects. It is a method of stitching in the seam itself (the ditch) in order to hold it down.
In general, regular sewing is about 11-12 stitches per inch, basting/gathering/bunching/sleeve easing is about 6 stitches per inch (plus or minus 1 or 2 stitches for some applications). There are rare occasions when stitches need to exceed 12 per inch, but they are few. Stitch length for zig-zag is the same as with regular straight stitching; it refers to the number of stitches per inch. The scale varies from machine to machine, so be sure and check your manual. A satin stitch can be created using a zig-zag stitch length of zero.
Stitching made with single stitches moving in a line. This is the regular stitch that most sewing machines make and may or may not require a special presser foot.
Refers to the pressure being placed on your needle and bobbin thread by your machine. There are two types of tension on your sewing machine – the thread and bobbin tensions. It is best to read your sewing machine manual for specifics. Rarely does one need to adjust bobbin tension. Your sewing machine manual will show you the appropriate settings and offer you examples of what the threads should look like on the right and wrong sides of your stitching.
A complementary thread is chosen for a garment or project construction on a machine. The bobbin should be wound of the same type of thread or the exact same thread whenever possible, to prevent knotting, bunching, etc. The first step for most sewing machine trouble shooting is to change the thread and needle. To prevent raveling and knotting when hand sewing with one thread, cut the end of the thread that is nearest to the spool before tying a knot in the same end.
A sometimes decorative, sometimes functional stitch that is usually 1/4″ from the edge of a seam. It is visible because it is done on the top of the item.
A special foot attachment for a sewing machine that allows for sewing through several layers of fabric (i.e., with quilting) without shifting the lower fabric and the upper fabric. Good also for sewing slippery fabrics.
The wrong side of the fabric is the side upon which there is no decorative design or print. There are some instances of fabric with no wrong side visible, the user then decides which side they would like to use. Sometimes, people use the wrong side as the right side to mix things up a bit or to accent the right sided design.