Essential knowledge

This glossary in not an exhaustive list of sewing terms. You will find some technical notions in there that appear in our sewing patterns, along with basic knowledge that should help you to understand what we mean in our instruction leaflet if it is not crystal-clear to you. Please feel free to ask for another definition (use the contact form available below).

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  • Baste

    Basting is making a temporary seam, most of the time hand-sewn with large stitches that will be easy to undo. This seam holds together pieces before the final seam is made. It is particularly useful for complex assemblies such as sleeves with give at the head, or to sew slippery fabrics.

  • Bias

    The word “bias” refers to fabric bias: 45° from the grainline. Cutting a piece of fabric this way (“bias cut”) means aligning the grainline arrow of the pattern piece to a line placed 45° from the fabric grainline. Bias cut woven pieces have more elasticity that can be useful in a garment (for example for the upper part of a collar).
    You can easily find bias-cut ribbon (bias binding) at the haberdashery. Most of the time it is pre-folded and really useful to finish armholes or necklines neatly.

  • Collar fall

    There are several parts to a collar: a shirt collar has two main parts, which are the collar band (the part that gives height to the collar, and that is hidden under the collar fall once worn) and the collar fall (made with the upper collar sewn to the under collar). Sometimes the collar band is included in the collar pattern pieces, but it still exists and keeps its function.

  • Crotch

    The part of pants that follows the inside leg from the center front of the waistline to the same point at the center back.

  • Dart

    Sewing a non-elastic fabric does not allow the shape of the body to be follwed accurately. Making a dart is a way to get around this issue and to handle the body volumes. A dart is made by folding the fabric and sewing that fold to form a “dart”, which is an amount of fabric that is hidden on the wrong side of the garment. On the right side, the garment creates a curve along the dart seam. One typical example is the bust dart.

  • Ease

    Two meanings for the word “ease” as far as sewing is concerned:

    – The ease is the extra amount of fabric placed in every pattern piece in addition to the measurements of the body itself. When ease is minimal (for a close-fitting garment), it is nonetheless essential for the body to be able to move inside the finished garment. Adding more ease also allows more volume to be created depending on the style of garment you wish to make.

    – The ease is an excess of fabric that can be found in some pieces of a garment. When a piece has ease, that implies that its edge is longer than the edge of the corresponding piece that will be sewn with it. Ease is typical on set-in sleeves for example: the length of the head of the sleeve, between the notches, is longer than the corresponding measurement on the armhole. You will have to absorb the ease when sewing the two pieces together (one can use the gathering threads method to do so).
    Ease is essential to create the volume needed for body movement on close fitted pieces.
    Please note that, on our patterns, the ease is always marked.

  • Facing

    A piece of fabric that reproduces the shape of the edge of a garment (armhole, neckline, lapels of a collar etc). The facing is sewn to the edge concerned, then turned to the inside of the garment. The seam is thus invisible and the final edge is very neat. Using a facing is recommended for curved shapes, where making a regular hem is hard, and inside jackets and coats, since the inside is often visible when these garments are worn.

  • French curve

    This dress-making tracing tool is made of various types of curves and is quite strong and flat. It is used to trace curved lines when creating or modifying a sewing pattern.

  • French seam

    A French seam is a a finishing technique that allows a neat finish inside a garment, by hiding the seam allowance. Sew a first seam close to the edge (for example 0,5cm/0.2” from the edge), placing the two pieces wrong sides facing, then turn your work over (right sides facing) and sew a second (and final) seam 1cm/0.4” from the edge, that will lock the seam allowance of the first seam inside.
    Note that, with the values taken as exammple in this explanation, you have to prepare wide seam allowances (0,5cm+1cm=1,5cm) when the fabric is cut. In our patterns, when French seams are recommended, the seam allowance is already the right width where needed.

  • Gorge line

    On a collar with a lapel (such as a tailored collar), the gorge line is the seam that separates the collar itself from its lapel. This seam is a distinguishing feature of the tailored collar.

  • Grainline

    The grainline corresponds to the direction the fabric is woven. This direction has to be considered when cutting garment pieces, otherwise you might experience distorsion or a difference in the aspect when comparing two pieces. Every pattern piece shows an arrow that you have to place parallel to the grainline of the fabric. Unless otherwise indicated, the grainline that we use is warp-wise, parallel to the selvage of the fabric.

  • Interlining

    When you fix interfacing to the inside of certain pieces it will make them more rigid and they will hold their shape better. Today you can buy fusible interlining (iron-on vlieseline for instance) which can be fixed by ironing it onto the wrong side of the fabric.

  • Jersey

    Jersey refers to different kinds of knitted fabrics. They are “knitted” as opposed to woven fabrics. Among knitted fabrics, jersey is easily identifiable: the stitch used does not look the same on the right side and on the wrong side. Jersey can be stretched in both directions (length and height), its surface is smooth and its edges do not fray, but roll.

  • Kimono sleeve

    A kimono sleeve is cut in a single, same piece with the body of the garment. There is no armhole seam. A kimono sleeve must not be confused with a raglan sleeve, which has seams, but not placed on the shoulder like a usual sleeve.

  • Lapel

    There are several parts to many collars (collar band, upper and under collar). Some collars, such as notched lapel collars and shawl collars, also have a lapel: the lapel is the part that turns itself over on the bust, along the roll line, when the garment is worn.

  • Notch

    Notches are marked on the pattern pieces, in the seam allowance. They have to be transferred onto the fabric, then opened with scissors (without cutting the future seam line!).
    Notches help for the assembly of two fabric pieces: you must place the notches face to face. Notches can also indicate the beginning and end of a zone where there is give (for example at the head of a sleeve).

  • On fold line

    Indicates the way the fabric has to be cut: it must be folded in half before you place the pattern piece edge along the fold. You have to cut both layers at once, to obtain a symetrical fabric piece (the fold line is the axis of symmetry).

  • Open/press a seam

    Press a seam to open the seam allowance and to place it flat each side of the seam. Iron the right and wrong sides to flatten, neaten and fix into place.

  • Pattern grading

    All the steps and calculations needed to adapt a pattern piece from one size to another.

  • Piping

    Piping is a ribbon or a piece of fabric that is used to decorate a part of a garment (a pocket, a bound buttonhole, a seam or a cut out, for instance). In our Londres trench coat, the finishing technique that requires piping on the inside of the garment is often called “Hong Kong finish”.

  • Placket

    The placket is a piece of fabric added onto a garment, where buttons and buttonholes (or any closing system) are put in so the garment can be closed.

  • Seam allowance

    The seam allowance is the excess fabric that is added all around avery pattern piece, and that lies on the other side of the seams (inside the garment) once they are made. In our patterns, the seam allowance is 1cm/0.4” or 1,5cm/0.6” wide in most case. Some pattern designers include the seam allowances directly in the pattern design (that is what we do), some other designers prefer to exclude them, so you have to trace them by yourself around the pattern pieces on your fabric. Make sure you check which option is used when you are about to sew a garment from a sewing pattern. Also check the width of the seam allowance, as it depends on the pattermaker’s habits and country of origin.

  • Selvage / selvedge

    The selvage is the edge of a fabric. It is where the weft threads turn around when the fabric is woven. Most of the time on a woven fabric, the selvage is different from the rest of it: we can see different threads there, indicated marks or even the maker’s name. The selvage sometimes also has small holes. The selvage determines the maximum width of the fabric (width between the lists): when you buy some fabric, you can chose the length you need (yardage) but not the width, that is limited by the selvage.

  • Shoulder flap

    Fabric flap that protects shoulder on a trench-coat or a raincoat. Historically, the shoulder flap (like raglan sleeves) was invented on military garments to offer soldiers better protection from the rain.

  • Tailored jacket

    A tailored jacket must have tailored sleeves (made of two separate parts) and a notched lapel collar (or “tailored collar”), meaning a collar with a lapel and a gorge line.

  • Topstitch

    Making a visible decorative seam. This seam can also help to reinforce a join when it is made a few millimeters from an existing seam.

  • Trim

    Cutting fabric again after a seam has been sewn, for example, in an angle, to thin the layers of fabrics that have piled up and to obtain a neater finish.

  • Understitch

    We recommend understitching to ensure a better finish when we want no seam to be visible on the right side of the garment, where the facings are sewn to the other pieces (notched lapel collar, armholes on a sleeveless top, neckline etc).
    The understitch is made after the facing is sewn with the matching piece. The seam allowance of this join is stitched with the facing, parallel to the joining seam, from about 2mm/0.08” from this seam, leaving the garment in itself separate from the understitching.

  • Weaving

    Weaving is one of the methods used to create fabric (among others such as knitting for example). Woven fabrics are made of interlaced threads (warp and weft). No matter what kind of fibers are used, there are three main basic weaves:
    – plain weave: weft thread regularly passes over and below warp threads. Many fabrics are woven this way: poplin, chambray, crepe etc
    – twill: one can see a diagonal pattern, due to the way threads are interlaced (gabardine, denim, serge, twill etc)
    – satin weave: the weft thread is more visible, the warp thread disappears. These fabrics are shiny and smooth.

  • Whipping machine

    A specific type of sewing machine that cuts, sews and finishes the edges (whipstitch) of fabric at the same time.

  • Width between lists

    This measure is the maximum width of a piece of fabric, between its two selvages. Our patterns refers to common french width values (140cm/55”) most of the time.

  • Woven fabric

    A woven fabric is made of interlaced threads: the warp threads are parallel to the selvage of the fabric (height wise). The weft threads are at right angles to the warp threads (lengthwise). The weft threads are woven through the warp threads : there are several methods of doing so, and they create different types of woven fabrics (see “weaving” in this glossary for more information).
    You can use any fiber you like in a woven fabric, even fibers with elasticity. Note that, when no elastic fibers are used in a woven fabric, one can observe a slight elasticity in the direction of the weft threads, but never in the direction of the warp threads.
    The grainline of a fabric can refer to one of these two directions, but most of the time, when making clothes, following the direction of the warp threads ( parallel to the selvage) is recommended, to avoid any distorsion of the fabric.

    Woven fabrics have their own properties, and must not be confused with knitted fabrics, that are used for different purposes.