Hey sewing besties! One of the most common things I get asked about is sewing terms. Sewing terms can be confusing, because there are so many! However, each term is vital to sewing a successful garment. One of the most common terms sewists will run into is fabric terms! Fabric Terms are simple and apply to the fabrication of fabric you will use for the project you may be doing. These terms help you know what kind of fabric to pick for your project, where to place your patterns on your fabric, and which side of the fabric to use. I’ve created a little cheat sheet for you to reference to go along with today’s post!
Fabric sewing terms
In today’s cheat sheet, we’ve got your basic fabric terms. These terms are your basic terms to know so you can accurately and properly choose fabrics for your projects.
- Bolt – What the fabric is rolled onto and off of for cutting. Could be a long tube or cardboard box.
- Yardage – Refers to the length of material only. The material that is unrolled from the bolt, and you should measure 36 inches or 3 feet for a yard of fabric. US measures in Yards*
- Selvage – The narrow border often of different or heavier threads than the fabric and sometimes in a different weave at the edge of the fabric meant to be cut off and discarded. This edge is on either side of a woven or flat-knitted fabric so finished as to prevent raveling
- Width – The fabric measurement from selvage to selvage. At Joann’s, fabric is folded in half on the bolts.
- Wrong Side – The back of the fabric or the side that will be hidden when the project is finished. Generally can be determined as more of a “muted pattern” or the back of the weave.
- Right Side – This is identified by the “printed” side of the fabric. You usually sew things with right sides together so the stitching will be on the inside of the finished project.
- Crossgrain – Runs perpendicular to the selvage along the weft fibers. Also known as “crosswise grain”
- Bias – Runs at a 45′ angle between the Crossgrain and Straight Grain of the fabric. The “stretchiest” grain line.
- Straight Grain – Runs parallel to the selvage along the warp fibers. Also known as the “lengthwise grain”
Additional terms you may run into with fabric
Bally Ribbon Mills has a great glossary of other fabric terms that you may run into as you go deeper into your sewing journey. You can also always check out the Textilepedia from Fashionary for a list of fabrics that you can use, where to use the, how to sew with them, and even how they are created!
So what’s the difference between a knit and woven?
“Knit fabric is a textile that results from interlocking yarn together with long needles. Knit fabric falls into two categories: weft knitting and warp knitting. Weft knitting is a fabric knit in which the loops run back and forth, while warp knitting is a fabric knit in which the loops run up and down.” – Masterclass, 2021
Knit is a fabric that has stretch. This is the easiest way to indicate whether a fabric is knit or woven. Knit patterns have negative ease, which means that knit patterns and projects will not work with a woven fabric unless you put the ease back into your patterns.
“Woven fabric is a textile that results from weaving two sets of yarn together. Manufacturers use looms to weave vertical warp threads and horizontal weft threads together to create woven fabric. Upon close inspection, woven fabric resembles a checkerboard of straight interlacing threads going under and over each other in right angles, similar to a woven basket.” –Masterclass, 2021
Woven is my favorite to design in. You are able to achieve so many fun textures, drapes, and shapes with a woven fabric. Woven fabric can stretch, but it will contain spandex, lycra, or other fibers that give stretch to the warp or weft of the fibers. Masterclass has an amazing article detailing everything you could ever need to know about the differences between knit and woven fabrics.
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