fabric terms and grain

9:17 PM

Bias: diagonal direction across the warp and weft of fabric. When pulling fabric on the bias, the fabric stretches considerably.

Selvage: tightly woven edge of fabric that is parallel to the warp and doesn't fray.

Warp / lengthwise grain: the direction that the yarns run along the length of the fabric. When fabric is woven on a loom, the warp yarns are strung first.
         -tips for finding warp

Weft / crosswise grain: the direction that the yarns run along the width of the fabric. When fabric is woven on a loom, the weft yarns alternately go over and under the warp yarns.
          -tips for finding grainline


Putting fabric on grain

9:07 PM

Putting fabric on grain: Laying out and/or manipulating fabric to return to it's true form- making the warp and weft yarns lie perpendicular to each other.

This is an important step in preparing your fabric. If you do not put your fabric on grain, the yarns will relax as you wash the item, and the seams can twist, and the fit can become weird.

Steps to putting fabric on grain:

  1. Pre-shrink fabric.
  2. Lay fabric out matching the selvages.
  3. Find the weft and cut or tear along the weft threads on each side of fabric piece (you can do this by either making a snip perpendicular to the selvage and tearing, or following directions below)
  4. Line up selvages. If the corners don't match, you know the fabric is off-grain.
  5. Stretch the fabric the opposite way (so the corners will match up) and repeat step until the corners do match up.
  6. Make sure all edges are perpendicular to each other and you are ready to cut!
          note: if fabric is being stubborn, you can steam it with your iron.

Finding weft:


Non-woven interfacing

8:29 PM

 Non-woven interfacing: interfacing that is made by pressing fibers together. Generally should only be used in craft-making as it is very stiff in nature. There are some non-woven interfacings with a directional comb on the fibers. This makes it more drape-able, but is still stiff and not the best option when sewing clothing.


Knit Weft-Insertion Interfacing

8:25 PM

Weft-insertion interfacing: interfacing that is knitted, but stabilized with an extra thread woven through the loops. This interfacing is good for use on knitted clothing items. ie: peter pan collar on a knitted shirt. Can either be sew-in or fusible.



8:19 PM

Pre-shrink: to wash and dry fabric with normal/future heat settings (Warm/Warm wash and regular dry) BEFORE sewing the fabric.

Pre-shrinking is necessary for fabric made with natural fibers. If you do not preshrink your fabric, your project will most likely shrink and become too small.

Pre-shrinking also relaxes the weave or knit of fabric which makes it easier to put on grain.


Sew-in interfacing

8:11 PM

Sew-in interfacing: interfacing that is simply fabric (no glue dots). It is applied by basting it to the fabric.

 Interfacing is trimmed to 1/8" from seam

General method for insertion:
  1. Cut interfacing to the size of the pattern piece
  2. Baste to wrong side of surface fabric 
  3. Sew fabric to lining/facing
  4. Trim 1/8" from seam


woven interfacing

10:26 PM

Woven interfacing: Interfacing has a plain weave and is structurally more stiff, but still drapes well. Can be either sew-in or fusible. Ranges from very lightweight (organza) to heavy (hair canvas).


fusible interfacing

10:20 PM

fusible interfacing: interfacing that has small dots of glue on one side. Can be woven, knitted or non-woven.

method of insertion:

  1. Use pattern piece to cut interfacing
  2. Trim off 5/8" around edges of interfacing
  3. Attach to fabric piece using a combination of heat and steam (instructions come with interfacing)
To pre-shrink fusible interfacing, hand-wash in warm water and hang to dry.


Pressing Mitt

8:36 PM

Pressing Mitt: a mitten like tool that helps in pressing very tight curves and hard to reach places. You can use your hand to help make the shape you need, but you are protected from the heat and steam of the iron.

An oven mitt works well too as long as there isn't grease all over it.



8:23 PM

Clapper: a pressing tool made of wood specifically helpful in tailoring techniques. A clapper is used to press things flat.

With a hot iron, shoot a bunch of steam onto an area of the item to be pressed (usually a seam, collar or other sort of edge). Immediately place the clapper on top of the area just steamed and hold there for 20-30 seconds or so. The clapper holds in the heat and moisture and helps the fabric to stay flat.

*Note: the tool pictured above is a clapper and a point presser combined. The clapper is the bottom portion of the tool--basicially just a piece of wood.


Sleeve Board

8:14 PM

Sleeve Board: a convenient pressing tool that makes pressing sleeves and other smaller items easier. It's like a mini-skinny ironing board.


Tool Tips

7:43 PM

If you're new to sewing, or you've sewn before and given up because it has become too frustrating, let me let you in on a little secret. Your tools will make a huge difference in your experience.

Think about it. What is something you do every day? Cook? Well, if you have the wrong size bowl or pan, you may find yourself spending a little extra time to make things work. Then, if you tack on dull knifes, a messy kitchen, lack of some ingredients and dingy lighting, does cooking sound fun anymore? No. If you know me, you may think this is my excuse for not liking to cook... and yes, I sincerely believe that's part of it. Of course, nausea and increased sense of smell while I'm pregnant not only doesn't make cooking fun, but unbearable.

Anyway, my suggestion to you is to set yourself up to give sewing the best chance you can. Don't feel bad if despite your best efforts, you still are not passionately in love. I can cook in a nice kitchen and like it, but I still can't honestly say I love it. Everyone has their own passions and interests.

Here are some essential things I wouldn't skip in beginning to sew:

  • Use sharp scissors that cut through fabric easily. 
  • Use long thin pins that make the process nicer. (I use quilting pins that are longer than 1 3/4")
  • Have pretty fabric on hand that makes you happy when you look at it. 
  • Do your research on which sewing machine needles work best for the type of fabric so you're not breaking your needles all the time. 
  • Have your machine tuned up so the tension is right and it sews smoothly. 
  • Do NOT use the thread in little sewing kits they sell. It is extremely weak and will not work in your machine.
  • Read a few basic instructions in the manual before you begin. This will help you get to know your machine better.
  • Make sure you have the tools for a basic beginner sewer.(for a complete sewing kit list, click here)
    You don't have to go crazy... especially if you're just starting (although, I would say that a Bosch mixer, nice knives, a ventilator, a gas stove and more storage would probably motivate me to cook more). Nice used machines can work just as well as the new ones with all the bells and whistles (AKA: crazy embroidery options). $8 scissors can cut fabric pretty much as well as $40 scissors. You get the point.


    Sewing Kit (for Starters)

    7:42 PM

    To begin sewing, you need some tools. Here is a list of the tools you would need if you are just getting started (aside from a sewing machine and an iron). For some tool tips, click here.

    For the beginner:
    • One pair of sharp shears. Get a new pair, label them and guard them how your grandma guards hers.

    • Pin cushion

    • Pins 1 3/4" or longer. I use quilting pins because they are nice and sharp, thin, long and easy to work with.

    • Hand sewing needles in various sizes (make sure they're Sharps)

    • A few safety pins

    • One flexible measuring tape

    • One seam ripper (as much as I wish we didn't have to use this, it is essential) 
    • Black and white thread
    • A few extra bobbin spools (Make sure they fit your machine specifically.)

    •  Press cloth (this is just a white piece of cotton about 18"x18")
    For a printable list, click here.


    Seam Roll

    7:41 PM

    Seam Roll: a pressing tool helpful in pressing smaller curved seamss. It makes pressing darts and small seams easier as well as zippers and some areas of collars. Sometimes, I use the ends of a seam roll to press smaller tight curves.



    7:40 PM

    Ham: a pressing tool that is helpful in pressing curves. Can be used to press curved seams open or flat and can be used to help press a piece of clothing- place ham where a curve or bump would be in the body.


    Seam Ripper

    7:09 PM

    Seam Ripper: a tool used to take out stitches. Slide the little point under the stitch, and cut the thread on the inside of the hook. Continue pulling out the stitches until they all have been removed.


    Seam Gauge

    7:05 PM

    Seam Gauge: a 6" long metal ruler with a sliding guide. Seam gauges are helpful when determining a seam allowance, marking a hem and various other tasks. It is very convenient because it is so small.


    Point Presser

    7:02 PM

    Point Presser: a pressing tool made from wood that has a sharp point sanded into one end. Point pressers are helpful in making very crisp points. ie: collars and pockets

    Pressing your seams open always helps make crisp edges, but sometimes, it is impossible to press a seam open on a small corner (like the points on a collar). A point presser makes this job possible.

    How To

    Lapped Zipper

    9:24 PM

    definition: a technique of sewing in a zipper commonly used in dresses, skirts and dress pants. This type of zipper has one row of topstitching.

    How to sew a lapped zipper:

    1. Sew seam up to the end point of where the zipper will be.

    2. Press the right side of the seam along the seamline (at 5/8").

    3. Press the left side of the seam at 1/2". It is important that you continue pressing 1/2" below the end point of the seam.

    2. Pin the left side of the zipper to the left side of the fabric. Continue pinning to 1/2" below end point of seam. Be sure the fold of the fabric buts up against the zipper.

    3. Use a zipper foot and move the needle over to the right side. Edgestitch along the fold of the fabric. Continue stitching 1/2" past the end point.
    Note: The zipper foot is helpful because you won't have to sew with the foot over the zipper teeth.

    It should look like this when you are finished.

    4. Close the zipper. Place the right side of the fabric over the previous edgestitching. The fabric should lay as if the seam had continued all the way up the fabric.

    5. Pin the right side of fabric in place.

    6. Move the needle over to the left side. Using a seam gauge, place the needle at 3/8" from the fold.

    7. Sew parallel to the fold.

    8. When you reach the end point of the zipper. Stop, pivot and carefully sew across the zipper to the end point. Do not back stitch- instead, pull the top thread through and tie a square knot in the back.
    Note: If you are using a zipper with metal zipper teeth, do not sew across the zipper. Stop at the end point and hand sew across the zipper.

    It should look like this when you are done. (Sorry, the stitching isn't completely straight, but with a matching thread, it should be fine.


    French Seam

    8:50 PM

    French Seam: a type of seam finish that encases raw edges so the seam does not fray at all. This type of seam can only be used on lightweight fabrics, and straight (not curved) seams.

    To make a French seam:

    1. Sew seam at 3/8" with right sides together and trim seam allowance to 1/4".

     2. Press seam open.


    4. Fold and press seam back on itself with right sides together.

    5. Sew pressed seam at 1/4".

    6. Press seam to one side (towards back if applicable). Now you have a completely finished seam allowance. No fray here!

    Note: Only use the French seam finish on straight seams (not curved) like side seams or CB seams. The heaviest weight fabric to use French seams is quilting cotton. French seams are perfect for chiffon skirts.


    Whip Stitch

    12:39 PM

    Whip Stitch: A stitch made by going around the edge of a piece(s) of fabric.

    A whip stitch is sewn by inserting a threaded needle 1/4"-1/8" away from the edge of a piece of fabric, pulling the thread through and then inserting the needle again on the same side of the fabric next to the previous stitch.


    Reinforcement Stitching

    9:13 PM

    Reinforcement Stitching: Smaller length stitching that make a seam stronger (12-14) stitches per inch). Reinforcement stitching is used in places like crotches and corners.

    Reinforcement Stitching: A second row of stitching to make a seam stronger. This type of reinforcement stitching is used in places like armholes.


    regulation stitching

    9:10 PM

    Regulation stitching: Basic stitching used for most techniques. Regulation stitching has 10-12 stitches per inch.



    8:46 PM

    Gathering: a technique used to add fullness or create shape by bringing the fabric together creating small tucks.

    To gather:

    1. Sew 2-3 rows of basting with out back stitching. For 2 rows, sew at 3/8 in and 5/8 in. For 3 rows, sew at 1/4 in, 1/2 in and 3/4 in.

    2. Pull the threads from the right side of the fabric to gather the fabric together.

    3. Measure the piece of fabric that you'll sew the gathered piece to.

    4. Pull the threads until the length matches the other piece.

    5. Anchor using a pin to wrap the threads into a figure eight. This allows you to bring the gathers to the edge of the fabric so they are more even.

    6. Even out the gathers, and pin to the other piece.

    7. Sew the pieces together with the gathered piece facing you. This will help you even out the stitching as you go.

    *One little tip: When you are sewing with lighter weight fabric, sew with smaller basting stitches. (Set your machine closer to a 4 or 10-12 stitches per inch.) A general rule is to make the basting stitches as small as you can while still being able to pull the threads. This just makes your gathers more even.

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