Sewing lexicon

Basting (or tacking)

Temporary stitching to prepare and tack any assembly work. Basting or tacking is done by hand or machine with long stitches. It is recommended to do it with a contrasting thread. When work is secured by machine sewing, take off the basting thread.


The diagonal direction of the fabric, cross grain of fabric between the weft and the warp threads. Bias cut allows to handle and shape around edges or curves. It also improve the draping characteristics. Bias cut fabrics hang with elegance and softness.

Bias binding

Folded bias strips are used to neaten and strengthen raw edges. The bias cut allows to curve the binding smoothly. You might buy pre-made binding or make any very easily by our own (please see our tutorial "Making bias strips").


The sewing machine use 2 main threads : one (the neddel thread) comes from top through the reel of thread while the other comes from under through the bobbin. The bobbin releases a thread under tension which links with the needle thread and make a stitch.

2 sewing tips:
  • Use a moss crepe thread (in polyester) on to the bobbin for stretch fabrics and lingerie. This thread is soft and stretching as well.
  • Use elasticated thread on to the bobbin to sew to gather gathering rows. Then pull up the thread when winding it on to the bobbin ; it increases the tension and improve gathering.


Buttonholes are generally made as finishes. Today's sewing machine offer pre-selected buttonhole programs with either 4-step or 1-step automatic setting. You might also sew buttonholes by hand. Training is highly recommended : practice several buttonholes on extra fabric. Use a fusible interfacing or double layer of fabric for fine textile or stretching fabrics.

Casing or channel

Elastic can be inserted through a casing or channel. This allows to pull on and off the garments easily. These channel might be done at waist, cuffs, leg cuffs. Create the casing first at edge (this should be wider than the elastic). 

French seam

A French seam cases the raw edges. No need for additional neatening. It allows a perfect seam finish. It looks like a tuck on the wrong side of the seam. It is ideal for refined clothes. I recommend it for blouse, shirt or dress side seams.

Grading a seam

Grading or trimming a seam is an important step to eliminate bulky seams. Eliminating bulk prevents the appearance of a 'home made' garment.

Interlining or underlining

This is a second layer of fabric cut fully similar to a fabric piece but symmetrically and placed against the wrong side of the piece. It is often used at openings or collars to get neaten finishes.


It is the basic way to neaten raw edges to prevent these from fraying. Overcasting seams can be made by hand or using a zigzag stitch with a sewing machine. It covers the raw edges regularly by making diagonal or zigzag stitches over the edge.


 This is the perfect way to neaten raw edges: the fabric edge is trimmed and stitched at the same time. You get a neat finish. If you use a three threads on you serger/overlocker machine, you sew the seam and neaten the raw edges at the same time. This is ideal for gain time and perfect to sew stretch fabrics.

 Princess line

A blouse or a dress with a curved seam going from armhole or shoulder to the waistline or hem. It is used on the front and back as well.

Seam allowance

Seam allowance are excess fabric around the pieces to account for sewing. They are here to have enough room to sew. At Ikatee, we always seam allowance around the pieces, using 0.7cm or 1/4 inch for stitch and 3cm for hem except otherwise noted.


Embroidery stitching over the gathers of a fabric or piece.

With right sides together

It is a really used sentence in any sewing guidebook. When you assembly two pieces "with right sides together", place the right side of the fabric 1 over the right side of the fabric 2.