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Sewing Vocabulary - Quilting to Running Stitch


Quilting – A process by which layers of fabric are joined together with either machine or hand stitching, usually in a decorative pattern.

Raglan Sleeve – A type of sleeve insertion where the sleeve is attached to the garment with a seam that runs diagonally from the underarm to the neckline of the garment. This type of sleeve is often used in sweatshirts or sportswear (for playing sports) because it allows more freedom of movement than a standard set-in sleeve.

Raw Edge – A cut edge of fabric that is unfinished and may be prone to fraying or raveling.

Ready-to-Wear (RTW) – This term refers to clothing that is mass-produced and purchased off the rack.

Reinforce (seam) – The process of making a seam more durable and less prone to breakage is called reinforcing. Methods include sewing a secondary seam next to the original seam or sewing seam tape or elastic into the seam (seam tape stabilizes the seam and prevents it from stretching, while elastic allows the seam to stretch without breaking). An example of a seam that frequently needs reinforcing is the crotch seam.

Released dart – A type of dart where the tip is not stitched. This seems to be a fairly common feature in vintage patterns from the 50s and was used to control the fit of garments. I haven’t seen this application in very many modern garment patterns.

Repeat – The term “repeat” in sewing often refers to the distance between motifs on fabric whether printed, woven or otherwise applied to fabric. A repeat can occur across both the length and width of the fabric. It is important to be aware of the repeat measurement especially if you are planning to match seams or motifs so that you can determine how much extra fabric you need to purchase. The longer the repeat distance, the more fabric you will need.

Right side – The right side is the side of the fabric that you want facing out, usually the printed side. Some garments, such as the Hawaiian shirts made by Reyn Spooner, are deliberately constructed using the “wrong” side.

Rise – This is the measurement of the crotch seam from crotch level to the top of the waistband. Just for reference, if you fold a pair of pants in half and pull the crotch out to the front, that curved section is the rise.

Roll Line – The roll line is the location on the collar and/or lapel where it should fold over.

Rolled hem – A small hem made by folding the unfinished edge under 1/8” - 1/4" twice and stitching in place. Rolled hems are often done by hand on fabrics such as satin or silk.

Rotary cutter – The sewing version of a pizza cutter. The blade is circular and mounted on a handle that allows for continuous cutting. Rotary cutters revolutionized quilting, allowing for quick and accurate cutting of strips and other quilt block elements. I use a small one for cutting out patterns and it works wonderfully, especially around curves such as the armhole.

Ruffle – Gathered fabric that is attached to another piece of fabric, mostly for decoration.

Running stitch – A continuous hand sewn stitch made by passing the needle and thread over and under the fabric in even increments. Half of the stitches will show on top and the other half on the underside. It is frequently used for basting.

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This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Tamara Bostwick for details.

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