How to Build a Better Garment

SXP 120 Product Development Essentials
Professor Bernard Kahn, Fashion Institute of Technology

Terminology used in describing sewing operations:

Joining: Sewing two parts (or more) together.

Make: Any sewing operation (or sequential series of operations) that joins two or more parts together.

Topstitching: Overstitching a seam already sewn.

Backstitch: Overstitching a seam on one side only.

Piecing: Sewing together small parts like collars and cuffs.

Turn: Turn the part inside-out after piecing.

Seambusting: Opening the seam (usually with a hand iron) so it will lay flat. This often requires the assistance of pressing to cause the fabric to remain in a flat orientation.

Hem: Sew an edge finish on the bottom edge of a cuff, leg, skirt, blouse, jacket or dress.

Attach: Sewing a smaller part onto a larger part.

Set: Similar to Join or Attach. Used when the task is more detailed.

Bind: Using a binder to sew a strip of fabric to the edge of a larger panel of fabric.

Tack: Repeated stitches in a small area, can be done with a regular machine, back and forth over a one or two stitch area, or with a tacking machine that will automatically sew a fixed number of stitches in a given space and then stop.

Spread: When a seam is to topstitched, or backstitched, the fabric at the edge of the stitch line is spread to lay flat and tight.

Close: When a part is an open sleeve, leg or other tube or conical part, sewing the last seam to form the tube, the operation is described as “close”. 

Box End: To close the end of a tab, belt or waistband.

Shirring: Gathering fabric in small pleats. 

Easing: Small amounts of shirring to fit a larger part into a smaller part

Pleating:  Folding fabric over ¼” in continuous folds.

Felling: A seam that incorporates a fold.

Smocking: Parallel, narrow rows of stitched pleats.

Seam Allowance SA: Distance between the raw edge of the seam and stitch line closest to the center of the pattern.

Seam Width SW: Width of the seam stitch itself.  Single line of stitch has a seam width of “0”.

Gauge: Width between the any two pairs of sewing needles in a multi needle stitch

Seam Let Out SLO: Distance between the raw edge of the seam and the nearest needle penetration in each layer of fabric. 

Seam Header SH: Distance between the fold of fabric in a seam and the nearest needle penetration in each layer of fabric. 

Full Seam Width FSW: Overall width of the finished seam.