This is my quick guide to sewing terms A-Z glossary. 

There are many sewing terms to wrap your head around when you start sewing. It can be confusing and overwhelming to know what everything means. 

I have compiled this glossary of sewing terms A to Z for you to read through or reference when needed throughout your sewing journey. Use the table of contents below to jump to the term you’re looking for quickly.

You will learn new sewing terms as you become more confident and expand your skills. 

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Sewing Terms – A to Z Glossary


Appliqué – A sewing technique where small pieces of fabric are cut into shapes and hand-sewn onto a larger piece of fabric. Mainly used for decorative purposes.

Armscye – Also known as the armhole. This is where a sleeve will be sewn.   


Back tacking – To sew forward and back a few times at the start of a seam and the end. This ensures the row stitched won’t unravel. 

Ballpoint needles – Needle with a round end. They are mainly used for knit fabrics to push through the fabric weaves rather than through, causing them to be cut. 

Baste Stitch – A long stitch length used to hold the fabric in place temporarily. 

The Bias – Term refers to the bias grain on woven fabrics. Found between the straight and cross grains at a 45-degree angle. Learn how to cut fabric on the bias.

Bias Binding – Strips of fabric cut on the bias of the fabric. It is often used to finish off edges like necklines or seams instead of overlocking.

Bobbin – Small round piece used to wind on the thread for the bottom of the sewing machine. Learn how to wind a bobbin.

Buttonhole – A slit stitched into fabric allows a button to slide through. 


Casing – Folding fabric over and sewing closed to create a casing for elastic or drawstring to go through. This technique is used in my tutorial on how to make a drawstring bag.

CB and CF – Abbreviations commonly used on patterns to indicate the centre front and centre back.

Chalk – Powdered piece used to draw markings on the fabric. 

Contrast – A contrasting fabric to the main. 

Crossgrain – The fibres going horizontally across the fabric. Learn more about types of fabrics.

Clip – Cut small triangles into a curved seam to remove fabric bulk and allow the curve to sit nicer.

Cutting mat – A mat used to cut fabric on with a rotary blade.


Dart – A technique to fold the fabric to shape it into the body. 

Drape – A method to make clothing without a pattern by draping on a mannequin or body and pinning it in place. 


Ease – Extra room in a garment to make the wearer comfortable.

Embroidery – Illustrations sewn onto fabric to add detail or, more traditionally, used to tell a story.


Feed-dogs – Small piece on a sewing machine that feeds the fabric through the sewing machine. 


Gather – To bunch up a piece of fabric to create ruffles and fullness. Learn how to sew gather stitches to make ruffles.

Grain or Grainline – Term used when sewing with woven fabrics to explain the direction of yarns in the fabric. What is the grainline of fabric in sewing & why is it important?


Hem – To finish off the bottom edge of a garment. 

Hook and eyes – Two metal pieces that latch together. Used to help close a garment. 


Interfacing – A layer of fabric used to add weight and structure to a fabric. What is interfacing?


Lining – Fabric used to finish off the inside of a garment. Learn more about different types of clothes linings.


Nap – A term used when sewing with fabrics like velvet to indicate directional pile. If you run your hand down the velvet one way, it will be smooth. This is the nap. 

Notions – Objects like buttons, pins, and elastic that are needed to complete a project. 


Pattern – A template or guide used to create a project like a skirt. Shop my sewing patterns.

Pintucks – Small folds of fabric stitched in place for detail. 

Pleat – A way to fold fabric that often creates volume and detail. Learn more about types of pleats.

Presser foot – The foot on a sewing machine that holds the fabric in place when sewing.

Raw edge – The cut edge of the fabric which can fray. 


Seam – The joining of two fabrics created by sewing together. Learn how to sew basic seams.

Seam allowance – Measurement between the raw edge of the fabric and where the stitching line is to be sewn. Most patterns include this. You can add a seam allowance to any pattern following this tutorial.

Selvages – The self-finished edge of the fabric to stop it from fraying. Also known as the uncut edge of a fabric roll. 

Shears – Fabric scissors for cutting fabrics.

Straight stitch – Individual stitches looped up and down to form a straight line of stitching. 


Tacking – Tacking is the same as a basting stitch. It is a large stitch used to hold the fabric in place.

Topstitch – A line of stitching made on the outside of a garment for visual purposes. Often seen on pants or pockets. 


Under stitch – To edge stitch a seam to a facing or waistband on the inside of a garment. This helps prevent the top fabric from rolling out to the wrong side. 


Right side – A common term used to indicate the upright side of the fabric. E.g. the printed side. 


Spool – A cylindrical device that holds thread on for sewing. 

Stay stitch – A stitching line often sewn on one layer of fabric to help stop it from stretching out of place. 


Warp – The lengthwise thread in woven fabric.

Weft – The crosswise threads in woven fabric.

Wrong side – A common term used to indicate the underside side of the fabric. E.g. the non-printed side. 


Yarn – Fabric fibres twisted together to create long pieces of yarn.

Yardage – Length of fabric cut to 1 yard. 

Sewing Glossary Conclusion

I hope this list of sewing terms from A to Z has helped demystify any questions you may have. It’s not all terms in sewing, but it’s a good amount of important ones you should get familiar with.

More Sewing Tutorials


  1. I have a pattern instruction directing me when sewing a seam to join pieces – at a certain point “merger off and clip thread”. Can you tell me what “merger off” means?

    1. Hi Amy, how interesting. I think it means to serge both pieces together with a serger. So simply overlocking the two seams together. I’ve never had a sewing pattern instruct this before. I hope that helps you 🙂

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