Sewing Vocabulary - Backstitch to Binding

Sewing Vocabulary - Backstitch to Binding
Here is another installment of my glossary of sewing terms. I hope you find it to be interesting and educational.

Backstitch – The anchor stitches at the beginning and end of seams where stitches are made backward over previous stitches to lock them in place. Some sewing machines have an automatic feature for this.
Ballpoint needle – Ballpoint needles have a rounded point to prevent snagging of knit fabrics (for more discussion on needle types, please read my article about sewing machine needle types).

Bar tack – A bar tack is used to reinforce areas of heavy use, such as on pockets and belt loops. It looks like a short, narrow line of satin stitching. Some sewing machines have an automatic bar tack stitch, but if not, you can easily adjust the width and density of your zig-zag to sew a bar tack.

Example of a Basting Stitch
Baste/basting – This is temporary stitching using long stitches to hold parts of a sewing project together that is more secure than simply pinning. Once the permanent seam is in place, basting stitches are usually removed. If you are basting by machine, program the stitch length to be 6-8 stitches per inch. If basting by hand, use a long, loose running stitch. In both cases, you should use a contrasting color so that you will be able to tell which thread is the basting thread. This will prevent bitter tears of frustration when you realize that you have just ripped out the stitches you wanted to keep. Or so I hear, anyway. Examples of good places to use basting are zippers and hems. I often baste when using delicate fabrics that mark easily such as chiffon or velvet. You do not want to be ripping stitches out of these types of fabrics if you can avoid it.

Batting – Flattened goods that are manufactured using natural, synthetic and blended fibers and used to add fullness or “fluff” to items. Natural materials include cotton, wool (or fleece), silk and bamboo. Synthetic batting is typically made from polyester. Batting can also be blends of both natural and synthetic fibers. They are made in different thicknesses (called lofts) and can be purchased by the yard or in precut sizes. The most exotic batting I have encountered was a blend of sheep’s wool and alpaca fleece.

Direction of the Bias

Bias – A diagonal line across the weave of fabric. If your pattern instructs you to cut a piece on the bias, the grain line on the pattern should run at a 45 degree angle from the selvage. The reason for doing this is to give the piece you are cutting more ability to stretch. Fabric cut on the bias drapes differently than when it is cut on straight of the grain and can completely change the look of a skirt or dress.

Bias binding/bias tape – binding strip (see below) cut on the bias. Bias binding has more stretch than straight-cut binding and can be used on curved edges. Bias binding can be purchased pre-made in packages or cut from matching fabric. Bias binding is also thought to be more durable as edging on quilts because the wear on the edges is spread across multiple fibers (at an angle), rather than along just a few threads.

Binding – A narrow strip of fabric used to enclose or cover up raw edges of fabric. It can be used to finish the edges of a quilt or blanket or as a finish on a garment. On garments, binding can be used to finish neck and armhole openings instead of a traditional facing. Binding (whether bias or straight) comes in single- and double-fold variations. With single-fold binding, the opposite edges of the fabric strip are folded to the middle of the strip; double-fold binding adds another fold at the middle of the strip so that the previously folded edges meet, making a “u” shaped fold.

Back to Glossary Index

Recommended Reading:
Sew Everything Workshop
This book is written in an engaging style and is chock-full of useful information. Better yet, it is spiral-bound so it lays flat on your table!

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Content copyright © 2019 by Tamara Bostwick. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.