Sewing Terms, Tips, and Techniques

This glossary is an on-going collection of terms that I have come across in my sewing journey along with some tips and techniques. I hope you find these helpful.  


Bar Tack

A bar tack refers to a hand sewing technique used to reinforce points of strain. For example, the top of a skirt slit/pleat or the corners of shirt/pants pocket.  

You can create a bar tack by sewing a blanket stitch over two or three long stitches. Many newer model sewing machines come with a bar tack stitch.  

Basting

Basting is a form of hand-stitching. It is not meant to be permanent. Basting is all about preparation. Some people like to baste their zippers in place before machine stitching. Basting can also be used to match plaids, attach interfacing, underlining, linings, etc.  

To make sure your layers do not shift it is best to work on a flat surface. When basting near the seam line it is best to sew inside the seam allowance making it easier to remove the basting threads.  

For light hand-basting work, usually when I'm basting underlining to my fashion fabric, I would chose a cheaper cotton thread. But remember that this thread breaks easily. It may be good for basting underlining since this basting will be removed later but you might want to use a stronger thread for items that are basted for fitting reasons. Silk thread is good for basting fine fabrics.

Basting isn't necessarily a straight stitch along the seam line. Sometimes it may be necessary to baste on the diagonal such as when working with fabric that have a pile in order to prevent them from shifting. When basting velvet, I used a rayon embroidery thread because it didn't leave an imprint on the pile.  

Basting Tape

Basting tape is a two sided sticky tape that helps to hold fabric and zippers in place. I use basting tape whenever I'm sewing an invisible zipper. It is quick and easy and the stickiness washes away. Also a handy little item to have if you carry an emergency travel sewing kit for those hems that might come down.  

Bias


Cutting a garment on the bias of a fabric moulds the fabric to the body unlike straight-grain cut fabric. Pattern pieces are placed at a forty-five degree angle to from the grainline marking on the pattern piece in order to be cut on the bias. Seam edges that are cut on the bias do not have to be finished since these edges do not fray like straight-grain edges would.     

Bias Tape

Making bias tape is pretty easy to make when you have the right tools. And of course you will want to cut your fabric on the bias. This will prevent the edges from fraying and will give the tape some stretch to handle neckline and armhole curves. The tools you will need are
  • Bias tape maker 
  • Iron
  • Bias cut fabric
  • A ruler (I prefer to use a clear one)
  • Tailor's chalk
I have posted a how-to that you can find here on how I have made bias tape in the past. I frequently make bias tape when I want to match a finished edge with my fashion fabric. Making your own bias tape is another great way to use up those larger pieces of left-over fabric.   

Blanket Stitch


There are two methods for sewing a blanket stitch, by hand or machine. Typically, sewing a blanket stitch by machine is seen in sewing a pre-fused appliqué in place. This can also be done by hand for sewing a pre-fused appliqué in place. By hand the blanket stitch is often used to as a decorative stitch often seen on blankets and done in wool or embroidery thread.

Bobbin Thread

Bobbin thread is a fine thread specifically used for machine embroidery. Typically made of polyester it is strong, light-weight and inexpensive, used to reduce bulk of your embroidery work. It is beneficial for machine embroidery on light-weight fabrics. It is used with your rayon, viscose or metallic embroidery thread on top reducing bulk and allowing your completed work to be more pliable. It can also be used for basting and eliminates the need to remove the basting stitches afterwards since is a fine light-weight thread it would be hard to detect through the layers. Bobbin thread comes in two formats, spools to be wound onto a bobbin or it can be purchased in pre-wound disposable bobbins.  

Gussets

Gussets are found in clothing to aid in the ease of movement or to reduce stress on tight fitting garments. They might be found in the under-arm portion of a garment. A gusset is typically cut on the bias so that there is a reduced strain on the fabric.


They can also be decorative as when they are found in a skirt design.

Invisible zipper


There is nothing that makes your home-made garments look like a professionally made garment than a perfectly sewn invisible zipper. My secret (no more) to sewing a neatly hidden invisible zipper is to press open the coil of the zipper before sewing it and prep you fabric edge with the serger and basting tape to hold the zipper in place.

Forget those plastic invisible zipper foots you find at the fabric store, invest in an invisible zipper foot for your machine.  

Jean-a-ma-Jig

Quilters have been using the Jean-a-ma-Jig for quite some time before it I ever learned about this little tool. It is a small piece of plastic measuring 44 mm deep, 5 cm long and 37 mm wide and it has a cut out portion that is 6 mm wide and about 2.5 cm long. When you approach an intersection in your seam that has bulk, it helps the presser foot to travel over the bulkiness without distorting your stitching or breaking your needle.

Oil Cloth

The current use of the term refers to a vinyl which has been bonded with a flanneled cloth or a synthetic non-woven backing. This type of vinyl is used for table clothes and became popular in the mid-1950s.    

Sewing Invisibly

I first came across this term in a vintage pattern. It is used when you are interfacing a section that has a foldline, such as an extended facing, folded cuff or waistband. Sewing invisibly means that you will have 1/2" long running stitches on the interfacing that are caught onto the wrong side of your fashion fabric with only the tiniest invisible stitch.  

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