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Common sewing and pattern making terms defined

Do you want to know the difference between drape and draping, or what a selvedge is? Then this mini glossary has got you covered!


The point at which a dart tapers and comes to an end.


The armhole opening.

Basting (or tacking)

Temporary stitching, either done by hand or machine, that is used for holding pieces of fabric together before sewing.


Where the straight and cross-wise grains are at a 45 degree angle to each other (i.e. at the diagonal).

Blending (or truing)

The process of smoothing out any angular or curved lines on a pattern.


A base, or foundation pattern piece, usually made from a thicker card that can be repeatedly traced around.

Bust point

The most prominent point of the bust.

Centre front/centre back

Marked on a pattern piece to indicate the centre of the body.

Commercial patterns

Patterns designed by a large pattern company (e.g. Burda, New Look, Butterick, McCall's), and are intended to appeal to the masses. Given they are created by such big companies who then go on to sell them across the globe, they have to meet some pretty high standards.


A triangular section of fabric that is folded and stitched to remove excess fabric. They are usually positioned in areas where shaping and fitting are required, such as the bust, shoulders, waist, hips, even the elbows.


A line or wrinkle in a garment that is caused by the fabric being pulled or stretched in a particular direction. These lines can be caused by various factors, including poor fit or construction, or unsuitable fabric selection.


The way in which fabric hangs or falls. Different fabrics have varying degrees of drape, ranging from stiff and structured to soft and flowing. You can determine the drape of fabric by observing the way in which it flows or conforms to the shape of the body, or draping it over an object (a closed fist works quite well).

Draping (or form pattern making)

Involves manipulating fabric directly on a dressmakers mannequin or model to create a garment. This technique involves pinning, folding, and shaping the fabric to attain the desired silhouette and fit. The fabric is then used as a guide to create a final pattern.


The additional fabric that is included in a pattern that allows for movement and overall comfort. It is essentially the difference between the body and garment measurements. Ease is typically added to areas such as the bust, hips, or sleeves. The amount of ease can vary, ranging from minimal for close-fitting garments, to generous for loose-fitting designs.


A piece of fabric that is used to finish the raw edges of an open area of a garment (e.g. neckline or armhole).

Fit sample

A prototype that is used to assess the fitting and construction of a garment. These prototypes enable adjustments to be made prior to proceeding to the production phase. Fit samples are typically made using cost-effective fabric and may often omit certain elements (e.g. facings, pockets, binds, linings).

Flat pattern making

Involves utilising body measurements and transferring them onto a flat piece of paper or cardboard to create a pattern. Patterns are manipulated by using such methods as slash (cut) and spread. This technique is predominantly employed in mass production or when designing patterns for standard sizes due to its higher level of precision.


Creates fullness by taking a longer piece of fabric and making it shorter (think curtains pulled open on a curtain rod).


The process of scaling up or down the size of a pattern in order to produce a size range.

Grain line

The lengthwise yarns or straight grain of the fabric, running parallel to the selvedge. On most patterns the grain line will be marked with a line and arrows.

Grams per square metre (GSM)

The weight (or density) of fabric is typically measured in grams per square metre (GSM). A higher GSM indicates a heavier and denser fabric, while a lower GSM indicates a lighter and less dense fabric.


The bottom edge of a garment that can be finished in a variety of ways, for example, single or double fold hem, blind hem or rolled hem. Hemming a garment will typically prevent the fabric from fraying.

Independent (or 'indie') patterns

Patterns designed and created by individual people, or in some cases smaller companies. These designers often have their own unique style and aesthetic.

Knit (or stretch) fabric

Made from continuous interlocking loops of yarn, providing them with stretch and flexibility (think t-shirt material).

Notches (or balance points)

Positioned around the edges of pattern pieces, indicated by a line or v shape, and used to match and align pattern pieces.

Seam (or stitching) line

The path along which to stitch, where two pieces of fabric are sewn together.

Seam allowance

The additional fabric added around the edge of a pattern piece, between the edge of the fabric and the stitching line.


The tightly woven edge of the fabric that runs parallel to the lengthwise grain.

Toile (or muslin)

Essentially a test garment that is used to check sizing, fit, and proportion. There are typically two different types of toiles - wearable and true.


Visible stitching, usually done in a longer stitch length and often in a thicker thread, with the intention of being decorative.

Warp threads

Positioned lengthwise on the loom before weaving begins, forming a sturdy foundation for the fabric. They run parallel to the fabric's length and provide strength and stability to the woven fabric.

Weft threads

Run horizontally, perpendicular to the fabric's selvedge edge, creating the crosswise lines. During weaving, they are interlaced over and under the warp yarns, filling the gaps between them. Weft yarns offer greater flexibility in shaping the fabric's design compared to the warp yarns.

Woven fabric

Created by a process of weaving, whereby the lengthwise (warp) and crosswise yarns (weft) are interlaced.


Shaped pattern piece that offers support to particular parts of a garment, for example the neck or waist.

Please get in touch or leave me a comment. I would love to know if you found this mini glossary helpful, or if you think something is missing!

Thanks for reading.

Emma xx

This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions contained on this site are my own. I am not affiliated with any brands, products, or organisations mentioned, and do not receive any sponsorship, payment, or other compensation for any of the content on this site.

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