Sewing terms for beginners

When you first begin to sew, whether that’s by hand or machine, you’ll likely come across some terms that you have no idea what they mean.  Hopefully this handy guide will help you as you begin the learn the ropes of sewing.

Fabric grain

the grain of a fabric is the way in which the woven threads run.  In woven fabrics you’ll see threads running one way over threads which run another way.  If you have to cut with the fabric grain you’ll be cutting along one of these lines.


The bias of a fabric is when the grain is at a 45 degree angle.  You would find where the grain is and either turn it so it’s at the right angle or, the way I do it, is that I’d have my fabric in front of me with the grain running straight and them fold one corner to the opposite diagonal corner.  This will find the bias.

selvage (selvedge in british english)

The selvage is the manufactured edge of the fabric that you have.  Often it will bear the name or design of your fabric on it.

Raw edge

The raw edge of your fabric is where you have cut the fabric yourself and it’s the cut edge.


Notions is a word that describes all the small items that come with a sewing kit or just random sewing accessories – needles, thread, bobbins, pins are all notions.


The bobbin is a small round, normally plastic item that goes with your sewing machine.  It holds more thread that is then used in the sewing machine to stitch from underneath.

Fat quarter

A fat quarter is a name used to describe when a yard of material is cut in to four pieces.  A fat quarter usually measures a minimum of 18” x 22


The seam is the part of the fabric that is between the sewn area and the edge of your fabric.

Seam allowance

The seam allowance is a measurement of how big your seam should be – a normal size is about 5/8”

Right sides

The right sides of your fabric is the sides that will be seen on the finished piece.  This is easy when you are using patterned fabric that looks very different on the other side.

Wrong sides

Wrong sides are the opposite of the right sides.  It’s the sides that won’t be seen.

Top 5 easy clothes to sew for beginners

When you’re a beginner sewer with lots of ideas on how you want to transform your wardrobe, the potential projects out there can seem dizzying and overwhelming.  It’s always a good idea to choose some easy patterns when you are new to sewing so that you can learn the basics of pattern cutting, sewing straight seams and hemming.  With that in mind, here’s my tips for easy clothes to sew for beginners:



I guess more in the accessories section, but a headband is a great small project to work on.  It will give you great practice in sewing in straight lines, working with different fabrics and finishing off neatly.  You can never have too many headbands can you?


A skirt is the ultimate classic beginners sewing project.  You could tackle a super simple, short A line skirt or perhaps a wrap around one.  If you’re ready to learn about zips then choose something with a zip opening.  You’ll also learn about hemming, adding a waistband or perhaps even using bias binding.  There’s no end to the types of skirts around so you’ll always be learning and improving your dressmaking techniques.

Tunic top

A simple top is another nice project to get your teeth into.  You can get plenty that are really just the pattern pieces sewed together which will give you practice in hemming and finishing, especially around the sleeves.  Sleeveless will be the easiest or choose something with just two pattern pieces to put together.  If you want more interesting techniques then a pattern that has darting to give shape will be a good thing to learn.

Simple shift dress

Along the lines of a tunic top, a shift dress is generally simple lines.  It will challenge you to get your measurements right and you can learn about shaping by using darts as well as hemming and finishing.  You could also use a variety of techniques for fastening the dress such as zippers and buttons as well as lots of fabric choice ideas.

Pajama pants

My favorite of all of the beginner projects are pajama pants because it’s something that can be worn inside even if it’s not perfect!  It’s a good item of clothing to learn about sewing elasticated waistbands, making sure you’re measurements work out (I had a disaster making some in my early days that my legs couldn’t fit in!) and also for dealing with jersey fabrics if you want more of a lounge pant.


I hope that these ideas will get your creative juices flowing and give you a starting point to search patterns that are suitable for beginners.  Keep it simple while you’re starting with simple fabrics such as cotton or polycotton and you’ll not go too far wrong.  And remember that we all start somewhere – don’t fret if it doesn’t work out!  Keep trying, and let me know how you get on.


So, any ideas for what are you planning to make for your first clothing project?  Have you any other ideas of what would be easy clothes to sew for beginners and newbies?  Don’t forget to take a look at my guide to the best sewing machines for beginners too!