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Sewing Vocabulary - Tack to Two Piece Sleeve


Tack/Tacking – Temporary stitches used to baste pieces in place, that are typically removed after the project is completed. Different from basting in that tacking is usually just a few stitches rather than a continuous line of stitching.

Tailor’s tack – A tailor’s tack is a length of thread that is drawn through layers of fabric as a marking tool instead of chalk or pins. Places where a tailor’s tack might be used include darts, buttonholes or seam match points. Tailor’s tacks are removed after construction.

Tape – A shortened name for the measuring tape used in sewing. Sewing measuring tapes are flexible, usually fabric or plastic coated fabric, and are 60” long. They are marked on both sides with measurements, sometimes inches on one side and metric on the other. Older fabric tapes had a tendency to stretch causing measurements to be inaccurate, so be sure to use a newer tape.

Tension – While some sewing can be fraught with tension when it is not going well, tension in sewing actually refers sewing machine tension. Sewing machines create stitches through an elaborate mechanism of interlocking threads coming from the bobbin below and the needle above. Tension refers to the pressure placed on the threads by tension disks that regulate the tautness of the stitches. If one or the other (or both) tensions are out of balance, the stitches will not form properly. The upper tension is more frequently adjusted than the bobbin tension. If you have problems with tensioning your machine, the sewing machine manual is the best place to start.

Textile – The word textile refers to anything that is made out of fibers, whether they be natural, synthetic, woven, felted, or otherwise processed.

Thimble – A protective covering for a finger when doing hand work, usually worn on the finger pushing the needle through the fabric. The earliest surviving thimble, made of bronze, was found during excavations at Pompeii, a Roman city that was destroyed after Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. They have been made out of many types of materials including metal, wood, leather and ceramic. The surface of the thimble is frequently pitted with dimples to help hold the needle while it is being manipulated through the fabric.

Thread count – This refers to the number of threads found in a square inch of woven fabric horizontally and vertically. The higher the thread count, the finer and smoother the fabric, typically. The term is most familiarly used in reference to sheets.

Toile – The term toile has multiple meanings. A toile can be a test garment made from inexpensive fabric to perfect or adjust fit of a pattern before it is made into the intended garment fabric (this is also known as a muslin). Toile is also a type of fabric (shortened from the full term Toile de Jouy), that originated in France in the late 18th century. Toile fabric has a design printed on a white or off-white background using one color such as black or blue. The design is typically a larger pastoral scene such as people picnicking outdoors, although there are also those printed with floral and vegetal elements. The most common colors of toile are black, blue and red, but I have also seen green and brown toile. Toile fabric is most often used for home décor items but can also be used in apparel.

Top stitch/ing – A line of stitches sewn 1/4" from the seam edge on the right side of the fabric. Top stitching is frequently used as a decorative element to create design interest. Top stitching can be done in either matching or contrasting thread depending on the desired effect.

Tracing paper - This is a special type of paper made to be used with a tracing wheel to temporarily mark fabric. Tracing paper comes in different colors and is coated with a substance that rubs off onto the fabric when the tracing wheel is run over it. Tracing paper is especially useful for marking dart locations. Be sure to always test that marks made by tracing paper will easily come off the fabric you are using and always use the lightest color that you can.

Tracing wheel - The device used with tracing paper to mark fabric. A tracing wheel looks like a miniature pizza cutter that has spikes instead of a smooth blade. The points can be sharp so it is important to not press too hard to avoid puncturing the pattern, paper, or fabric.

Trim - The term trim has two meanings. It can mean decorative elements such as ribbon or lace that are applied to a project or refer to the the act of cutting fabric, such as trimming seam allowances.

True bias - See Bias

Tuck - A fold in the fabric that is permanently stitched, either to embellish the surface or shape a garment (or other sewn project). Multiple rows of tucks are often used in heirloom garment construction.

Tuft - A tuft is the dimple created when a button is pulled tightly against a padded or cushioned surface such as a cushion or a pillow.

Two piece sleeve - As it sounds, it is a sleeve created from two pieces, an upper sleeve that fits into the sleeve cap and a narrower, lower sleeve that runs under the arm. Two piece sleeves allow for more detailed fitting and are often used in jackets and other tailored items.

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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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