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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *