5:50 PM

Zipper: most people know what this is... a fastener of a strip of teeth that connect with each other.

Here are the different types:

Regular zipper: Plastic or metal. Base has a metal stopper to keep the zipper from completely separating. Used in skirts, dresses, pants and some shirts. Different methods of putting this into a garment are 1. center zipper 2. lapped zipper 3. fly or mock fly zipper

 Front Side of Invisible Zipper

 Back Side of Invisible Zipper

Invisible zipper: Plastic. Usually teeth set behind so they are hidden when sewn into a garment. Usually need a specific presser foot for this. Used in skirts, dresses and some pants.

Separating zipper: Plastic or metal. One way or two way. Stopper at bottom of zipper makes it possible to disconnect tab and teeth completely. A two way zipper has two tabs. Used in jackets and shirts.


Seam Allowance

5:50 PM

Seam Allowance: fabric from seam line to the edge of fabric. Generally the seam allowance is 5/8" unless otherwise stated. On many sewing machines the 5/8" line is marked (and highlighted) on the stitch plate.



5:49 PM

pinning, pin cushion, lavender pin cushion, quilting, triangle piecing

Pinning is a method used to keep layers of fabric or paper together in preparation to sew or cut.

Some tips for pinning:
  1. Always pin pins perpendicular to the intended seam- this helps the fabric lie better when cutting out and sewing. It also makes the pins easier to pull out when sewing.
  2. Always pull out pins as you go when sewing. Sometimes the needle can hit the pin and break or worse- the timing on your machine gets off. This makes for uneven stitches and a whole lot of mess.
  3. Make sure you check your fabric to see if the pins make a permanent mark before you start pinning everything. Fabrics that are light weight, delicate or are tightly woven can pin mark. You may want to see if thinner pins are more discreet on these fabrics.
  4. I suggest getting pins longer than 1 inch and as thin as you can find (fine is the word they sometimes use). I always like the glass head pins because the teeny tiny metal heads can hurt your fingertips after a while (quilting pins are my favorite).
  5. Although you may get sick of pinning all your layers together and you may decide it is a waste of time to pin so much, it is not! Pinning is a much more temporary method of making sure the fabric is placed well together and that you have everything right. Pulling out pins is easier than picking out stitches.



5:49 PM

woven interfacing used for a cuff

 heavy interfacing called Hair Canvas used for a wool jacket

Interfacing: fabric used to create structure in clothing. It is placed between the lining/facing and clothing piece. Interfacing is mostly used for collars, cuffs, button bands, jacket fronts, waistbands, and some yokes.

There are many different types of interfacing:
  1. Woven interfacing: Interfacing has a plain weave and is structurally more stiff.
  2. Knit Weft-Insertion interfacing: Interfacing has a structured knit form and is more soft.
  3. Non-woven interfacing: Interfacing made by fusing threads together. It is very stiff and does not conform to the fabric. Some non-woven interfacings have threads that lie generally in one direction. This is preferable as it flows with the fabric better.
  4. Fusible interfacing: Interfacing with a type of glue on one side. The seam allowances are meant to be trimmed off, and the interfacing is fused (using an iron) to the piece of fabric.
  5. Sew-in interfacing: Interfacing meant to be basted onto the piece of fabric. Once the fabric is sewn to the lining/facing, the edges of the interfacing are to be trimmed off.

There are six rules to follow when choosing interfacing (numbers 1 and 2 are most important):
  1. Use an interfacing that matches the type of fabric. If your fabric is woven, use woven interfacing, if your fabric is knit, use knit interfacing. You generally won't sew with non-woven fabric, so you want to avoid that if possible.
  2. Match the weight of your interfacing with your fabric. You do not want to have heavier interfacing than your fabric as the interfacing will overpower the fabric, and the area the interfacing was used will look stiff and unnatural. You want your interfacing to compliment your fabric.
  3. Make sure the color of your interfacing doesn't muddle the fabric. Place the interfacing behind the fabric to check to see if it makes the color of the fabric change.
  4. Be aware of the washing directions of your interfacing. If the item your making is meant to be machine washable, don't use a dry-clean only interfacing.
  5. Pre-shrink your interfacing.
  6. Follow the grain of the fabric with your interfacing. If your cuff or yoke is on the bias, cut your interfacing on the bias as well.
  • Note: Sometimes you won't be able to apply all the rules-- especially with the options our fabric stores give us now-a-days. I have often used knit weft-insertion interfacings on very light-weight wovens just because the options on woven interfacings are too stiff and I want a softer look.

Fun Fact: My favorite interfacing to buy at basic fabric stores?
Fusible Weft-Insertion



5:48 PM

Hem: A folded finish stitched at the bottom of a piece. The raw edge of fabric is folded up  and stitched into place. The makes a piece more durable and clean-looking.



5:48 PM

Grainline: line that follows the warp threads or knit ribs. The grainline is parallel to the selvage on all woven fabrics. Most selvages on knits are parallel to the grainline.

When laying out pattern pieces they will have an arrow showing the way the pattern should lay on the fabric. When pinning the pieces on, measure to be sure that the arrows are paralell to the selvage or fold. Sometimes, the pattern piece will show to place it on the fold. The fold is along grainline as long as the selvages are matched up. Place the piece along the fold.

For more details on different grains of fabric click here.


Sewing Machine Needles

5:45 PM

Believe it or not, there is not only one needle for your sewing machine. Sewing machine needles come in many shapes and sizes. The ones you need depends on what you are sewing.

Two things to consider when choosing your needle:
  1. The weight and delicacy of the fabric- coordinates with needle size
    • The lighter weight and more delicate the fabric is, the smaller the needle will need to be- this is shown by a lower number on the needle package. The most common size is12/80.
  2. The type of fabric- coordinates with type of needle
    • There are needles specifically made for denim, stretch knits, taffeta, and leather. For most projects, you will probably be fine with a universal needle. You may just need to adjust the size for the weight of the fabric.

Here are some general suggestions for needles to buy for certain fabrics:
  • taffeta- sharp 10/70
  • fleece- stretch 14/90 or *ballpoint 14/90
  • china silk- sharp 8/60
  • denim- denim 14/90 or 16/100
  • quilting fabric- universal 12/80
  • broadcloth- universal 12/80
  • nylon spandex- stretch 12/80
  • lining- sharp 10/70 or universal 10/70
  • upholstery fabric- universal 14/90
  • vinyl or leather- leather 14/90 (size depends on thickness of leather)

If you are having a problem it may be your needle. Here is some troubleshooting:
  • stitches skipping- usually happens when sewing on a knit- switch to a stretch needle.
  • large holes where needle pierced- needle is too big- choose a smaller needle.
  • needle catches on the fabric a little bit when piercing- switch to a sharp needle. If still having problem after switch, choose a smaller size. 
  • Needle breaks easily or a lot especially when sewing through multiple layers of fabric- needle is too small. note: sometimes this is a threading problem, so rethread the machine if you are certain the size is right.
You can often buy multipacks of needles so you don't have to spend money on 5 sharp needles just to put in a lining.

You can also buy double needles- these just make 2 parallel rows of stitching. Most often they are used for topstitching but sometimes I use them on knits.
note: double needles only work on front loading bobbin machines

To learn more, click here.

*Although ballpoint needles can be used for stretch fabrics. I prefer stretch needles.



5:22 PM

Lining: fabric used on the underside of piece of clothing.

Lining purposes: to make a piece of clothing more opaque, to hide interior construction of a garment and/or to make a garment easier to put on (lining is often a slippery sort of fabric).

Lining also can aid in making lovely clean necklines.


  • Lining is always a lighter weight fabric than the fashion fabric.
  • Choose a lining fabric that is compatible with the fashion fabric and type of garment- usually lightweight cotton lining for a cotton dress, or silk, polyester or rayon for a jacket.
  • Remember that lining can be tricky to sew on if slippery. Pin a lot and use a the right needle.


Fashion Fabric

5:19 PM

Fashion Fabric: the fabric used on the surface of the piece of clothing. (The main fabric that you see.)



4:37 PM

Trimming: cutting away excess fabric in the seam allowance to reduce bulk. Trimming can be done along seams and also at corners. Often times, trimming is used in combination with grading.

What to trim?
  • Always trim seams to be pressed open (usually trim to 1/2").
  • Trim corners

1. For acute corners trim more so that when the piece is turned right side out, there will be less bulk.
2. For square corners trim at 45 degree angle about 1/8" away from seam.
3. For obtuse corners, trim less because there will be less bulk when turned out.
The idea is to trim just enough so the the seam allowance will fold back on itself without having extra fabric creating bulk.

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