Sewing lexicon

En termes de BA-BA de la couture, voici les mots essentiels à connaitre :










Endroit contre endroit

Entoiler / Thermo-Coller

Fronces & embus





Point droit & point d'arrêt

Point élastique

Point glissé


Surfiler ou surjeter


Tête de manche

Valeurs de couture


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.

Bias binding

The bias is a strip cut in the diagonal of the fabric, at 45° to the straight edge. This gives this strip a certain elasticity and makes it possible to cover sharp edges (even curved ones) to reinforce them or to achieve a clean finish.

Pre-folded bias strips are available in haberdashery shops. However, it is very easy to make them yourself and coordinate them with your fabric. Find our photo tutorials

Make a bias binding and Assemble a bias binding.


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.


The sewing machine use 2 main threads : one (the needle 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 wooly nylon (in polyamide) on to the bobbin for stretchy fabrics and lingerie.

    This thread is a soft yarn-like thread that will create a soft strong edge or seam. It is ideal for edging and producing professional rolled edges and hems. Serge stretchy fabrics as the thread will stretch with the fabric.

  • 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.

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).


To make small scissor notches in the seam values of the garment pieces. These cuts make it possible to manage over-thicknesses, especially at corners, and above all they help to ensure that the seams are correctly positioned in the rounded corners. Curves are thus better positioned and you will avoid pulled materials and creases at necklines or armholes for example.


Trimming or clearing means cutting the excess material in the seam allowances, seam inserts (folds at the top of pockets for example) or in the corners when stitching at an angle. It is recommended that the excess material is not removed within 3-4mm of the seam edge at the edge of the workpiece.

Straight line & Fabric direction

Straight line or grainline is a term used when talking about the placement of pieces in relation to the meaning of weaving or knitting. A fabric is in fact formed by a crossing of warp threads (stretched on looms) with a weft thread (a shuttle that passes from one row to another by turning around and forming at the ends of each row a border called the "selvedge". In the case of stitches knitted with needles (a process of loops of threads that form a stitch, unlike warp and weft fabric), the rows also follow one another and form a border or selvedge.

The straight grain is either the direction of the warp (length of the fabric, direction of the selvedge) or the weft (width of the fabric, perpendicular to the selvedge). In general, fabrics are cut in the straight line corresponding to the direction of the border (i.e. lengthwise).
However, special effects can be achieved by cutting the fabric width or bias.

Tip: Finally, I recommend always cutting the velvet (smooth or corduroy) in the same direction of the pile; absolutely avoid "head to tail" cuts of the different pieces to avoid moiré effects and visual variations in colour due to different reflections of light rays.


Facing is a piece of fabric sewn under certain garments, especially around its openings, to reinforce it and maintain its shape . It is often an almost exact copy of a piece, and thus forms a kind of lining and neatly finishes the borders and openings. It can be covered to be itself reinforced.

Fusible interfacing

Fusible interfacing is used to stiffen parts of workpieces. It consists in hot gluing (with a steamless iron) the glue precoated side of a canvas (more or less thin depending on the support and the desired rigidity) to the fabric to be reinforced; for example, a buttonhole flap of a thin fabric or the back of a buttonhole, a collar foot... There are double-sided glued fabrics to make applied patterns (type ®Vliesofix from ©Vlieseline).


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.

Gathers, excess of fabric

Gathers are very much used in children's fashion, especially for girls. They can be used to create pleats or to give volume to a garment, or to add ruffles.

There are also invisible gathers; these are used to sew together pieces of slightly different lengths, helping to close the gap almost invisibly (the forces are not marked). Thus this type of gathers are useful to distribute the the excess of material linked to the different lengths on the sleeve head of the armholes in particular.

Gathers can be made by hand or with a sewing machine. 

Elastic or extensible point

Some sewing machines offer elastic stitch options, useful for working with stretch fabrics. The stitches are narrow zigzag.

Hand-slipped stitch

Almost invisible stitch, handmade, which is done on the reverse side of the work, by stitching successively on a border and then on the opposite one.

Overcasting or overlocking


Overcasting: 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.

Overlocking: 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.

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. But 1cm=3/8 in. for women's styles

Sleeve head

The sleeve head is the upper part of the sleeve that joins to the armhole at the shoulder seam. At the time of assembly, you usually start pinning the middle of the sleeve head at the shoulder seam and then the edges of the under-sleeve at the beginning of the side seam. Finally, any possible fogging (excess material due to slight differences in length between two pieces, which is often the case with armholes) is distributed at the sleeve head by invisible gathers.


Embroidery stitching over the gathers of a fabric or piece. Straight stitch and lock stitch

The straight stitch is the main stitch used in sewing. The stitches follow each other in a straight or curved line. 

The lock stitch is necessary at the beginning and end of the seam to prevent the seam from unravelling. First a few stitches forward and then a few stitches backward are made with the "back" button on the machine; this is at the beginning and end.

NB: When gathers are to be made, do not make a stop stitch at the beginning or end of the stitch line. In this way, it will be possible to pull the threads at the ends and form gathers.


The topstitch is a visible stitch on the outside of the work. It is generally used to decorate a border line, flatten a stitch or simply to reinforce a seam. It is often done very close to the seam or border (about 2mm).

It is strongly recommended to iron the seams carefully before stitching.

With right sides together

Positioning pieces right right sides together is the indication that you will certainly read most in sewing. It is a matter of placing the right side of fabric 1 on the right side of fabric 2 that you wish to assemble together.

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