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How to Understand Basic Sewing Terms

Learn how to understand basic sewing terms from founder Cynthia Mann in this Howcast video.


Hi, I'm Cynthia Mann and we're here today at Birch Fabrics in Paso Robles, California. This is also the home of Hi, I'm Melissa Lunden; I'm the resident seamstress here at Birch Fabrics. I teach sewing lessons here, prepare blog tutorials and sew samples of Birch's line of organic cotton. And I am here today to talk to you about sewing. Let's talk about how to understand basic sewing terms. It's like learning a foreign language, but if you take the time to learn the terminology, everything goes off smoother. The first term we are going to talk about is bias. Bias is the diagonal line running through a woven fabric. When you have a regular cotton like this, you have vertical and horizontal yarns being woven together to create this. It's pretty stiff this way. It's really stiff this way, but if you pull on a diagonal, you can see how it stretches. And that's the bias. You can also use the bias to create biased tape which is a very narrow piece of fabric that's been folded over and you can use that to finish your edges. The next term we're going to talk about is selvedge. Selvedge is the finished edge of the fabric. When you have a roll of fabric like this, it's been folded over once and rolled up. And so when you open it up, it has 2 finished edges. And this edge here which has the manufacturer and all of the color information is called the selvedge. You usually don't sew with this. What you're going to do is trim that off before you use the fabric to sew a garment or something else. The next term we're going to talk about is ease. Ease has 2 different definitions. The first way to use ease is when you're talking about sewing a garment. A commercial sewing pattern is going to give you the measurements of the finished garment. But that's going to be a little bit bigger than what your body is so you have ease in the movement of the fabric so you don't pull and rip your seams. And so you can actually move around in your garment. The second definition for ease is when you have 2 pieces of a sewing pattern. 1 piece might be a little bit bigger and you have to ease that piece in to fit the smaller piece. You do that by running some basting stitches and gently tightening that first piece to fit the exact size of the second piece. So, the next definition we're going to talk about is innerfacing. Innerfacing is a type of material that you use in conjunction with the primary fabric. It will give that fabric a little extra structure or stiffness. As you can see in this purse, it's made from regular quilting-weight cotton, but innerfacing has been used to make this purse nice and sturdy and keep the fabric nice and stiff. You can iron on innerfacing and you can sew in innerfacing. So, the next term we're going to talk about is basting. Basting is when you temporarily sew 2 pieces together so they're nice and secure for when you sew your permanent stitches. You'll change your stitch length setting to the longest stitch and you won't backstitch in the beginning or the end. That way it's easy to remove when you're all done.

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