Sewing Vocabulary - Pad Stitch to Prick Stitch

Sewing Vocabulary - Pad Stitch to Prick Stitch
Pad stitch – Pad stitches are used in structured garments, such as jackets, to add stiffness and body to the fabric. They also function to shape fabric in areas such as the lapels or collar. The diagonal stitches are taken through the interfacing and/or stiffening fabrics into the garment material as shown in the image to the right. Image courtesy of

Patch pocket – This type of pocket is applied on top of a garment rather than incorporated into a seam such as on men's shirts.

Pattern matching – This is the process of matching patterns such as stripes or plaids so that they match at seams, pockets and closures. This requires extra fabric depending on the pattern repeat.

Pattern weights – Small, heavy objects used to hold patterns down on top of fabric while cutting. They can be purchased or you can make your own by wrapping large hardware washers in strips of fabric.

Pile – A plush or shaggy surface on a fabric resulting from loops or ends of yarn or fiber projecting above or below the surface of the fabric such as terry cloth, corduroy, or velvet.

Pinking shears – Pinking shears are specialty scissors with v-notched blades that create a zigzag edge on the cut item. Fabric that is cut with pinking shears resists raveling so it makes an attractive finished edge that does not require overlocking.

Pin tucks – Pin tucks are small sewn pleats or folds that add dimension and texture to a garment or other sewn item. They are frequently used in heirloom styled garments.

Piping – This is a fabric covered cord that is inserted into seams for decorative effect on garments and home décor items. The fabric is applied on the bias to allow the piping to follow curves.

Placket – A placket is a finished and reinforced opening in a garment such as a sleeve cuff, button-down shirt opening, or skirt/pant zipper opening.

Pleat – This refers to when fabric is pinched and folded over onto itself to create fullness or shaping in a garment. There are several types of pleats including: knife pleats, box pleats, inverted pleats, and accordion pleats.

Ply – The word “ply” refers to a single layer or strand of yarn or thread.

Pre-shrink – Most fabrics, especially cotton and wool, shrink a certain amount when they are washed. It is important to wash or dry-clean your fabric prior to cutting out your pattern so that the shrinkage occurs before construction. The reason this is so important is that fabric does not shrink evenly in both directions; often, it shrinks more in the length than in the width.

Presser foot – On your sewing machine, this is the part that holds the fabric in place while the needle and thread pass through the fabric. There are many different presser feet that serve specific purposes. An all-purpose foot is used for most sewing tasks and has a wide opening to allow for zig-zag stitching. There are special feet for installing zippers that allow the stitching to occur close to the zipper. My favorite presser foot is the edge-stitch foot which has a small blade that guides the fabric evenly through the machine for consistent edge- and top-stitching. Below, you can see some of the many presser feet that are available.

Pressing cloth – This is a special piece of fabric used between the sewing project and the iron to protect the fabric from the heat and/or steam of the iron.

Prick Stitch – This stitch is used to secure fabrics with minimum visibility on the front of your fabric. You take a small stitch through the top and have longer stitches on the wrong side of the fabric. This stitch can be used to insert zippers by hand. You can read a more detailed and illustrated explanation of prick stitching if you would like to learn more about this technique.

Below, I have linked to some of the sewing notions mentioned in this article that are available at

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