Handy Reference Glossary
Adhesive: a sticky surface sometimes part of a wash-away, cut-away, or tear-away stabilizer. Or, a spray that adds a sticky surface to the material on which it is sprayed. Adhesive allows fabric or other materials to adhere to the sticky surface.
Adhesive-backed stabilizer: a stabilizer that has a sticky surface. Ideal for fabric or garment sections too small to be hooped, or fabrics on which a hoop might leave an unsightly impression.
All-over design: a design that forms a continuous pattern over the entire area.
All-purpose thread: standard weight three-ply parallel wound thread generally used on a conventional sewing machine. Available in a greater range of colors than serger cone thread. Can be used on a serger, especially for decorative stitching to match a specific color.
Appliqué: a section of fabric or embroidery cut into a specific shape and secured to another fabric by stitching or adhesive. Available in a variety of weights in cut-away, wash-away, and tear-away forms, as well as in liquid form.
Appliqué scissors: a specialty scissors designed for trimming close to fabric or an embroidered design. One blade of this scissors has a “bill” which lifts the section being trimmed without nicking the fabric underneath.
Backing: a stabilizer placed on the underside of a fabric during machine embroidery.
Backing: The pieced or solid fabric that forms the bottom layer of a quilt.
Backstitch: To secure stitches at the beginning and end of each seam, which prevents them from coming out. Sew two or three stitches, adjust the machine to stitch in reverse, sew two or three stitches, and then proceed with the seam.
Balanced stitch: the ideal serger stitch in which upper looper, lower looper, and needle tensions are adjusted so threads meet precisely at the fabric edge.
Bamboo pointer and creaser: Use the pointed end of this tool to get sharp, crisp corners when turning collars, cuffs, lapels, and appliqués. Use the curved beveled end to temporarily press open seams or to shape curved edges (for example, on a round pillow).
Bartack: To stitch in place to secure facings or sew-on buttons.
Baste: using long hand or sewing machine stitches to temporarily hold two or more layers of fabric together.
Basting: Long stitches sewn by hand or machine that temporarily hold fabric together. Basting can also refer to pinning or using spray adhesive to hold layers together.
Batting: The lofty middle layer of a quilt that provides warmth and adds depth to a quilt design.
Bearding: When batting fibers emerge through the quilt top or bottom.
Bias: Diagonal line between the lengthwise and crosswise threads on a fabric. A true bias lies at a 45-degree angle to the selvage and has more stretch than lengthwise or crosswise grains.
Binder attachment: specialty serger attachment used to attach bias binding strips to the edge of fabric. Available for single fold and double fold applications. Usually used with a chain or cover stitch.
Binding: Fabric strips that are folded and sewn to the edge of a project to finish the edge.
Birds nest: twisted, looped, or snarled threads which sometimes accumulate on the underside of fabric during machine embroidery; usually the result of improper threading, tension, or hooping techniques.
Bite: the width of the stitch determined by the distance between the needle and the upper blade on a serger. Affects how much fabric is used to achieve the stitch.
Blades: Parts of a serger that cut the fabric as it is stitched. One blade remains stationary while a second blade moves up and down in synchronization with the needle(s).
Blank card: a medium used with reader/writer systems to save designs for use in a computerized embroidery machine. Cards are machine-specific and fit directly into the embroidery machine. Also known as a Flash Card.
Blanket stitch: a finished edge which incorporates the 2- or 3-thread flatlock stitch using decorative thread in a topstitching needle, and a water-soluble stabilizer to pull the stitches over the edge of the fabric. Decorative thread forms “blanket” stitches on the right side of the fabric.
Blanks: readymade items such as garments, table linens, bed linens, accessories, and home décor that provide a palette for machine embroidery. The construction is already completed, so you can devote your energy to adding touches of embroidery to the item to make it one of a kind.
Blind hem: a hemming procedure that hems and finishes the raw edge in one operation. Using a Blind Hem Foot helps guide the fabric accurately as the serger hems the fabric. In an exemplary blind hem, the stitches produced are nearly invisible on the right side of the fabric.
Blind hem stitch: Machine stitch formed using a special blind hem foot and stitch setting. The machine makes several straight stitches followed by one zigzag stitch, repeated along the entire hem.
Bobbin: the spool or device that holds the lower thread that interlocks with the needle thread to form a stitch.
Bodkin: Tool used to insert ribbon, lace, or elastic into a garment casing.
Borders: Strips of fabric added to the pieced top of a project to frame it, to add color, or to increase size.
Braided elastic: The most economical of elastics. Because it narrows when stretched, it should only be used in casings.
Burr: a rough spot or projection on a needle; often results in poor stitch quality or broken threads.
Buttonhole cutter and block: Set of tools used to open buttonholes for a neat, professional look. The cutter has a hardwood handle with a hardened steel blade; the wooden block comes in various shapes.
Candlelight thread: a decorative metallic thread designed specifically for the serger. Thread is cross-wound on cones so that it winds off the spool with ease and has less possibility of tangling.
Casing: Channel formed by two layers of fabric connected by two or more rows of stitching, in which elastic, a drawstring, or a curtain rod is inserted.
CD: a computer medium containing programmed designs that can be stitched on an embroidery machine. Using CD designs requires a separate IBM compatible home computer with a CD ROM drive, and in most cases, sewing machine software or a reader/writer system such as The Amazing Box™ II. CDs hold more information than disks.
Chain stitch: a stitch produced on a cover stitch serger when only one of the needles is used in conjunction with the chain looper. The top side of the stitch looks like that of a sewing machine, while the bottom forms a chain.
Chain stitching: Sewing blocks or strips together in a continuous fashion with a chain of stitches between them to save time when quilting.
Chalk or chalk wheel: Tool used for marking darts, pleats, and button or buttonhole placement on fabric.
Charm square: a small (2-1/2" or 5") patch of fabric often traded in quantity, allowing the swappers to develop a collection with a wide variety of prints. The square charms were made into quilt tops and called “charm quilts”.
Clean finish: To finish the cut edges of a seam by zigzagging, serging, or turning under and stitching a narrow hem.
Clips: Short cuts made perpendicular to the seamline after joining two garment pieces. Clips are used to help curved pieces lie flat after being turned.
Computerized embroidery: the ability to automatically stitch embroidery designs on a computerized embroidery machine.
Cone serger thread: Two-ply thread used primarily in sergers. Because this thread is lighter weight than all-purpose thread, it reduces bulk at the seamline.
Coordinates: numbers that identify the precise vertical and horizontal positions within an embroidery hoop.
Copyright: a legal term that prevents people other than the designer or artist who developed an embroidery design from unauthorized selling or profiting from that design.
Cornerstones: Solid or pieced blocks of fabric added to the corners of a quilt, attached to the borders or sashing for added color and design.
Couching: The process of laying down a thread or fiber and fastening it with small stitches at regular intervals, often times with monofilament thread.
Cover Stitch: a stitch produced on a cover stitch serger using two or three needles in conjunction with the chain looper. The top side of the stitch looks like a sewing machine straight stitch using a double or triple needle, while the bottom forms a chain connecting the two or three rows of stitching. An exceptional stitch for hemming knits, as the chain looper builds stretch into the seam.
Crosswise grain: Yarns that run across the fabric from one selvage to the other. Crosswise yarns stretch more than lengthwise yarns. Most projects are cut with crosswise yarns going around.
Curved basting pins: curved nickel-plated brass pins angled for easy insertion in quilting projects. These pins will not rust and can safely remain in fabric until the project is completed.
Curved embroidery scissors: a lightweight, easy to handle scissors designed specifically for trimming threads cleanly and closely following machine embroidery. The first curve of the scissors easily reaches over hand or machine hoops, while the second brings the blade tips close to the fabric to snip thread tails.
Customizing: changing an embroidery design in some way (for example, rotating, mirror imaging, resizing, or adding lettering) to make the design unique for specific purposes.
Cut-away: a type of stabilizer removed by cutting with a scissors after embroidery is completed. A cut-away is appropriate for delicate fabrics and designs that might be distorted by tearing away the stabilizer.
Darning foot: a sewing machine presser foot used for free motion stitching. This foot doesn't fit tightly against the fabric, so you can move the fabric around as you stitch.
Dart: Triangular fold of fabric with wide ends tapering to a point. Darts help shape a garment so it fits around curves such as body contours.
Decorative thread: thread other than two-ply serger cone thread used to accent various stitches or to give them more depth.
Density: how close together stitches are in a design; influenced by the number and type of stitches in a design.
Differential feed: two sets of feed dogs on a serger that are able to move independently. The front feed dog moves the fabric faster or slower than the back feed dog. Set to a higher number, it eases or gathers fabrics; set to a lower number, it builds stretch into a seam.
Digitize: the process of converting artwork into computer-generated machine embroidery.
Dimensional embroidery: stitching designs onto a sheer fabric such as organza and cutting close to the outer edge of the design to make a free-standing motif or appliqué. Dimensional embroidery can be used independently, or it can be stitched or glued to another project.
Disengage blade: adjusting the blade to prevent the fabric from being trimmed when serging on a folded edge or serging beads or trim into position. On some machines the blade is turned up and out of the way, while on others it is moved down and tightened or locked into position.
Disk: a computer medium that stores programmed embroidery designs and/or software. Embroidery designs on disks require an IBM compatible computer with a floppy disk drive, and in most instances, sewing machine software or a reader/writer system such as The Amazing Box™ II. Also referred to as a 3-1/2” floppy.
Double eyed needle: a hand sewing needle with a large eye on each end. Handy for pulling the thread chain back through the overlocked edge.
Double needles: Used only on zigzag machines. Two needles joined together at one shank; used for decorative stitching. The needle threads stitch two parallel lines, while the bobbin thread zigzags between the two needle threads. Double needles are also known as twin needles.
Double Wide Strips™: developed at Nancy's Notions, these fabric strips measure twice the width of a jelly roll strip. The 5" x 44" (approximately) strips are perfect for quick strip piecing projects. Double Wide Strips can be cut into sections—5" square creating charms.
Download: the process of transferring a design from the Internet or a reader/writer box to a computer, or from the reader-writer box or computer to the embroidery machine.
Easing: The process of gathering extra fullness in one piece of fabric to make it fit with another piece. This technique is used often when setting in cap sleeves.
Echo quilting: A method of quilting in which you stitch about 1/4” from the pieced or appliquéd design and then continue to echo that stitching in 1/4” increments that diffuse outward.
Edgestitch: Straight stitching close to an edge.
Edit: using features built into an embroidery machine or computer software to modify a programmed embroidery design, for example, by eliminating part of a design, rotating, mirror imaging, etc.
Elastic guide: a guide clipped or screwed to the bed of the serger and used in attaching elastic. Narrow elastic can be drawn through it and tightened with a screw-like mechanism, which forces the guide to tighten or loosen the grip on the elastic. Turn the screw clockwise to stretch the elastic, and counterclockwise to decrease the stretch.
Embroidery card: a small, flat medium containing programmed embroidery designs. An embroidery card usually fits directly into a special slot on an embroidery machine, where it can be read by the machine's computer.
Embroidery foot: a sewing machine presser foot used for free motion stitching. This foot doesn't fit tightly against the fabric, so you can move the fabric around as you stitch.
Eye: the hole in the needle through which the needle is threaded.
Facing: Garment piece that covers and encloses a raw edge.
Fat eighth: Pre-cut piece of cotton cloth, taken from one yard of fabric that was folded and cut to reveal a 9" x 22" piece of fabric. This size eighth yard is generally thought to be a more useful size cut for quilters than a traditional eighth yard.
Fat quarter: Pre-cut pieces of cotton cloth, taken from one yard of fabric, cut in half lengthwise, and in half widthwise, rather than lengthwise, approximately 18" x 22". This size quarter yard is generally thought to be a more useful size cut for quilters than a traditional quarter yard.
Feed dogs: The grooved metal teeth under the presser foot on a sewing machine that gently grip and move the fabric forward.
Feller attachment: a specialty serger attachment that forces the fabric to turn to the reverse side for hemming usually using a cover stitch or chain stitch. One to three needles form stitches on the topside of the fabric depending on the stitch used for hemming. The looper thread finishes the raw hem edge of the fabric.
Filler cord: a heavier decorative thread or gimp used to serge between two layers of fabric to add the look of piping, as in corded pintucks. Also added for stability in a seam or for gathering.
Fill stitches: closely spaced machine embroidery stitches that are used to cover an area within an embroidery design.
Finishing: the final step in machine embroidery during which stabilizer is removed, jump stitches are trimmed away, and the embroidered design is pressed or steamed.
Finger press: To apply pressure to an area by compressing the fabric layers with your fingers.
Fishline ruffles: an edge created by serging over a 30#-40# test fishline with a narrow rolled edge. Ruffles using fishline will form a large lettuce type edge when the opposite edge is gathered.
Flash card: a medium used with reader/writer systems to save designs for use in a computerized embroidery machine. Cards are machine-specific and fit directly into the embroidery machine. Also known as a Blank card.
Flat construction: serging edges which will be seamed on a garment before construction so that seams can be traditionally sewn and pressed open. It is much easier to serge flat pattern pieces before construction.
Flatlocking: a serger stitch created by tightening the lower looper tension and loosening the needle tension on a 2- or 3-thread overlock. Serge a seam or the fold of a fabric; pull the two layers apart until the serging lies flat and it becomes a flatlock stitch. Upper threads form an overlock stitch while the threads on the underside of the fabric form a ladder stitch.
Floppy disk: a computer medium containing programmed designs that can be stitched on an embroidery machine. Most machines require a separate IBM compatible computer with a floppy disk drive and in most instances, sewing machine software or a reader/writer system such as The Amazing Box™ II. Also referred to as a 3-1/2” floppy.
Format: a computer language that can be read and interpreted by an embroidery machine. Each embroidery machine can read only formats specific to that machine. With embroidery designs, the letters following the period designate the machine format capable of reading that design. Examples of formats include PES, ART, SEW, EMD, JEF, PCS, PES, HUS, and SHV.
Full fuse: Interfacing the entire fabric piece. Cut interfacing to the pattern size instead of trimming away the seam allowance.
Fusible interfacings: Interfacings treated with a special heat-activated resin. When pressed with an iron, a fusible interfacing is bonded permanently to the wrong side of the fashion fabric.
Fusible web: A thin layer of manmade fibers that will melt and bond two layers of fabric with the heat of an iron.
Gathering: Used to pull fabric into soft folds when joining a larger section of fabric to a smaller one. Accomplished by stitching a side zigzag over heavier cord or thread, or stitching several rows of basting stitches, then pulling up the cord or bobbin threads to finished size.
Grading: Cutting each enclosed seam allowance to a different width to reduce bulk. Facing seams are generally trimmed to 1/4” and garment seams to 3/8”.
Grain: Lengthwise and crosswise threads of a woven fabric. The lengthwise grain is parallel to the selvage and has the least amount of stretch. The crosswise grain is perpendicular to the selvage and has a little more give.
Grainline: Threads in a fabric running in the lengthwise direction. Also referred to as the warp threads in the weaving process.
Gridded cutting mat: Mat made of a special “self-healing” material that is not damaged by the blade of a rotary cutter; often marked with horizontal and vertical lines for ease in measuring. The cutting mat protects the work surface and is a must when using a rotary cutter.
Gridded ruler: Heavyweight transparent plastic ruler marked with horizontal and vertical lines for ease in measuring. The gridded ruler is used with a rotary cutter and cutting mat.
Grid line quilting: Machine quilting in straight lines spaced uniformly vertically, horizontally, or diagonally to form a grid.
Half-square triangles: Formed by stitching two squares together diagonally and cutting them apart on the diagonal to yield two half-square triangles.
Hardware: equipment such as an embroidery machine, a computer, or a reader/writer box that are used during the embroidery process.
Hem: Technique for finishing a piece of fabric by turning under a cut edge and stitching (or fusing) in place.
Hemmer attachment: a specialty serger attachment that turns under the cut edge of the fabric twice to finish the edge while it is serged with a chain stitch from the wrong side.
Hoop: a tool that usually consists of inner and outer rings. A hoop is attached to the embroidery unit and used to secure the fabric and stabilizer during machine embroidery.
Hoop bib: a protective cardboard cutout positioned over the rings of the hoop when using spray adhesives to prevent adhesive build-up.
Hooping: the process of securing fabric and stabilizer in the embroidery hoop in preparation for machine embroidery.
Hooping aids: tools such as the Cap Hoop, Embroiderer's Buddy, and Perfect Placement Kit which make it easier to hoop unique garments or projects for machine embroidery.
Hue: Another name for a color.
Intensity: The brightness or dullness of a color.
Interfacing: an additional layer usually fused to the wrong side of fabric to add body and stability. Interfacing also prevents stabilizer from showing through the base fabric after embroidery is completed.
Iron-on stabilizer: a stabilizer with a surface that temporarily adheres to another fabric; especially suited for knits and loosely woven fabrics.
Jamming: a condition which occurs when thread wraps around the loopers and won't let the machine operate. Usually occurs when a serger is not threaded in the proper sequence. Gently trim the threads that are jammed together and rethread the serger in the right sequence, making sure the loopers are not crossed.
Jelly roll: strips of fabric measuring 2-1/2" x the width of a fabric, generally 44". Perfect for quick strip piecing projects. Jelly roll strips can be cut into sections—2-1/2" square creating charms.
Jet-Air Threading™: an exclusive threading feature on many Baby Lock® sergers. One touch of a lever sends the thread through a tubular looper with a gust of air. The tubular loopers are engaged for threading and released for serging. Jet-Air Threading is used for upper, lower and chain stitch loopers.
Jump stitches: the threads between the various portions of an embroidered design that are trimmed away after embroidery is completed.
Knit fabric: Fabric created by interlocking loops of yarn—one loop of yarn pulled through another loop. Most knits stretch. Examples of knit fabrics include interlock, sweatshirt fleece, and sweater knits.
Layering: Placing two or more layers together for the purpose of quilting. Generally a quilt top, batting, and quilt bottom are layered for a quilt, but if you use flannel or another fabric with loft for one of the layers you may be able to eliminate the batting.
Lengthwise grain: Yarns that run the same direction as the selvages. Lengthwise yarns are usually stronger and heavier than the crosswise yarns. Most projects are cut with the lengthwise yarns going up and down.
Lettuce edge: a rippled edge created by serging a short rolled or balanced stitch while stretching gently in front of and in back of the presser foot. Differential feed is usually set at a minus setting. Use on edges of stretchy knits such as ribbing, interlock, and lycra, or on bias cut wovens.
Lock stitch: Two or three stitches sewn in on place to secure threads.
Loft: The thickness of a batting.
Long arm quilting machine: A quilting machine which can handle a large quilt to stitch a design which holds the quilt layers together.
Long stitch: a serger stitch using a length setting of 4 mm-5 mm.
Looper threader: a tool with a long pointed loop at one end used to simplify threading a serger looper. Thread is inserted through the loop and pulled back through the looper to finalize threading.
Loopers: large-eyed metal parts within a serger, used to control the overlocking stitches. Sergers have an upper looper, a lower looper, and (on some models) a chain looper.
Lower looper thread: Serger thread on the right on most sergers. This thread does not pass through the fabric. It passes underneath the fabric, catching the needle thread on the left and the upper looper thread on the right.
Machine lock button: button exclusive to the Baby Lock® machine. Used to engage the tubular loopers for Jet-Air Threading™.
Marking: using fabric marking pens or other devices to identify the starting point and vertical and horizontal center of an embroidery design.
Medium length stitch: a stitch length of about 3 mm. Equivalent to about 10 stitches per inch, ideal for seaming most fabrics.
Medium width stitch: a stitch width of about 3.5 mm from the right needle or 6.0 mm from the left needle. Measured from the left needle, it would be equivalent to a 1/4” seam.
Memory: the area on a computerized embroidery machine where designs can be saved or stored for future use.
Memory card: a medium containing programmed designs that can be read by a specific embroidery machine. A memory card fits directly into the embroidery machine. Always select the format required for your machine.
Miter: A diagonal seam (45° angle) formed in a corner. In quilting, corners of borders and the binding are often mitered.
Monofilament thread: a lightweight transparent synthetic thread which blends easily with multiple colors. Often used as a bobbin thread during machine embroidery.
Monogram: embroidering one or more initials of a name.
Motif: a stitched embroidery design.
Multi-sized pattern: Pattern with several different sizes in one pattern, for example, sizes ranging from 8-12. Each pattern piece has cutting lines for all the sizes included in the pattern.
Muslin: A simple cotton fabric that has not been overly processed. It can be purchased in its natural cream color with small cotton seed flecks or it can be purchased bleached. It is a very economical substitute for quilting fabric used on the backs of wall hangings, table runners, and more.
Multi-zigzag: Variation of a machine zigzag stitch formed by sewing three stitches in each direction. It is often used when a stretch stitch or understitching is recommended.
Nap: The pile and hair on fabrics that have a definite “up” and “down”. Napped fabrics include camel's hair, mohair, brushed denim, corduroy, velvet, and sweatshirt fleece.
Napped fabric: a fabric that has a one-way texture. The pile or nap on the fabric reflects light differently when viewed from top to bottom than from bottom to top, so all sections of the fabric must be positioned in the same direction in a project.
Needle felting: The interlocking and compacting of wool fibers by using pointed, barbed felting needles either by hand or machine. Some synthetic fibers work as well.
Needle size: the higher the number, the heavier the needle. For example, a size 90/14 needle is heavier than a size 60/8 needle.
Nip: 1/4” clip cut into a seam allowance prior to sewing. A nip marks a notch, dart, tuck, fold line, or other important point on the fabric.
Nonroll elastic: Type of knitted elastic that retains its shape and stays flat when stretched.
Nonwoven fabric: Fabric formed from fibers forced together with heat, moisture, and pressure. Examples of nonwoven fabrics include synthetic suede, felt, and many interfacings.
Notch: Single-, double-, or triple-diamond markings found on sewing patterns that are used to match garment pieces accurately.
Notions: Items you need to complete a sewing project, such as zippers, buttons, hooks and eyes, and thread.
One-way design: Fabric design that has a definite top and bottom.
One-way layout: Method of placing all pattern pieces for a project with their tips facing in a single direction to avoid directional shading. One-way layouts are important when cutting napped fabrics (such as velvet and corduroy) and many knits, as well as fabrics with one-way designs; also referred to as “with nap” layout.
On-point: When quilt blocks are sewn together in diagonal rows, with sides of the blocks at a 45° angle to the sides of the quilt. On-point settings require the addition of setting triangles and corner triangles.
Open Toe Foot: a presser foot sometimes used during machine embroidery. The underside of this foot is grooved, allowing dense stitches to more easily pass through the machine. The opening at the front of the toe gives a clear view of where you're stitching.
Outline stitch: stitching which goes around the perimeter of an embroidery design; often stitched as the final color/stitching of the design. Also used to create a template of a design.
Overcasting: the process of finishing a raw edge of fabric by stitching on the serger with a 3- or 4-thread overlock and trimming the edge as you serge.
Overlocking: using a 3- or 4-thread serger to overcast an edge. The loopers and needle(s) are used to “knit” the threads together on the edge of the fabric.
Overlock seam: The most common stitch produced by a serger, also often used to finish seams stitched on a conventional sewing machine.
Paper-backed fusible web: Fusible web with removable paper backing. Used for fusing hems and appliqués; you can trace on the paper backing.
Pearl Crown Rayon: a heavy cross-wound rayon thread used in the loopers of a serger for a decorative edge. The sheen and thickness of this thread create an attractive overcast edge.
Pick 'n Choose: a technique in which only portions of an embroidery design are stitched.
Piecing: Sewing smaller pieces of fabric together to form blocks for a patchwork project.
Pinking shears: Shears with special serrated blades that cut a decorative zigzag edge.
Pins: Necessary for any sewing project, pins temporarily hold layers of fabric together.
Pintucks: small decorative folds in a fabric that are sewn or serged in multiples for a decorative effect. Achieved on a serger using a rolled edge or narrow cover stitch.
Piping: a folded fabric strip with cording inside used to add interest and dimension.
Piping foot: aids in preparing a piping strip because the groove in the bottom of the foot helps it glide over the piping as it is stitched in place, close to the cording. Also allows you to make and attach piping in one step.
Pleat: Fold of fabric similar to a dart, but with not point at the end.
Press cloth: Piece of lightweight fabric place between the iron and fabric when pressing. It protects the fabric surface from damage and keeps the bottom of your iron clean when fusing interfacing.
Presser foot: Part of the sewing machine or serger that holds the fabric against the feed dogs as the stitches are formed. The edge of a presser foot can be used as a stitching guide to achieve straight seams.
Pressing ham: Pressing tool with a large curved surface. Use a ham to press curved areas such as darts or curved seams so they keep their shapes.
Pressing seams flat: First step of the two-step procedure for pressing all seams. Press the seam flat, then press it open or to one side.
Pressure control: a screw or knob usually located on the top of a serger to increase or decrease pressure of the presser foot while serging. Turn clockwise to exert more pressure; counterclockwise for less pressure. Use more pressure on heavy fabrics, and less on stretchy fabrics.
Prewashing: Process of washing and drying washable fabric prior to cutting and sewing. Prewashing reduces shrinkage in the final project, and removes resins from the fabric, and helps to prevent skipped stitches during sewing.
Prewound bobbins: cardboard or plastic bobbins that are prewound with thread specially designed for the bobbins of embroidery machines.
Pucker: Undesirable bunching of fabric that usually occurs where two seams of different lengths are joined, such as the seam that joins the sleeve cap and the armhold.
Puckering: fabric that is drawn in and wrinkled around the edges of an embroidered design, rather than being smooth and flat. Often caused by inadequate hooping or stabilization, improper tension, or a blunt, burred, or incorrect needle.
Quarter marks: Points indicated with pins or a washable marker to divide fabric into four equal parts. Quarter marks are used to position and distribute fabric evenly when sewing ribbing or elastic, for example, to the waist, neckline, or the sleeves of a garment.
Quarter-square triangles: Formed by joining two half-square triangle blocks with a diagonal seam stitched from the opposite corners of the first seams, and then cutting the blocks apart on that diagonal to yield four quarter-square triangles.
Quilt: The result of fabric and batting layered together and stitched or tied to hold the layers together.
Quilt frame: A frame or hoop to which a quilt is attached for quilting the layers together.
Quilt label: A label that is usually attached to the back of a quilt to identify the quilter, date, occasion, and/or other pertinent information.
Quilt sandwich: The quilt top, batting, and backing—layers that make up a quilt.
Quilting: The process of piecing fabrics together to make a quilt.
Reader/writer box: hardware that makes it possible to read embroidery designs in one format and convert them into a different format which can be read by the embroidery machine or computer. Also offers the ability to save designs onto a card that can be inserted directly into the embroidery machine.
Registration: the alignment of various portions of a design to form the final embroidered design.
Regular cone thread: a 2-ply, cross-wound cone thread. Regular cone thread is finer and not as bulky when used in the interlocking loopers and needle threads of a serger.
Release lever: a lever specific to the Baby Lock® serger with Jet-Air Threading™ which releases the Machine Lock Button, opening the tubular loopers so the thread flows freely through the loopers as you serge.
Ribbing: Knit fabric used to finish the neckline, waist, and wrists of garments.
Right side: Side of fabric that shows on the outside. With printed fabrics, the design is printed on the right side. With napped fabrics, the nap is pronounced on the right side.
Rod pocket: A tube fastened to the top of a quilt back to fit a rod or hanger that will hold a quilted hanging on the wall.
Rolled edge: the narrowest 2- or 3-thread stitch. Created by loosening the needle thread and tightening the lower looper for a 3-thread rolled edge. When the lower looper thread is tightened, it wraps the upper looper thread around the edge of the fabric. For a 2-thread rolled edge, the needle thread is tightened and the lower looper tension is loosened, wrapping the lower looper around the edge of the fabric. A Two Thread Converter is necessary for a 2-thread rolled edge.
Rotary cutter: Special fabric cutting tool that looks and works like a pizza cutter. Used in combination with a special cutting mat and gridded ruler, it is used to cut one or more layers of fabric accurately.
Rotary cutter and mat: A sharp cutting tool with a rotary blade used in combination with a straight edge quilting ruler and self-healing mat to cut quilt fabric, strips, blocks, and so forth, during the quilting process. Cut through one or more layers of fabric with ease.
Safety stitch: also referred to as a back-up stitch. An additional stitch which is sewn with one of the needle threads (the fourth thread in a 3/4 thread stitch or the chain stitch in a 5- or 6-thread stitch).
Sample cloth: prestiffened muslin often used to pretest an embroidery design's stitch density, colors, and placement. Back the muslin with the same stabilizer you plan to use on your project.
Sashing: The strips of fabric, plain or pieced, used between blocks to increase size, separate designs, add color, and give the quilt pizzazz.
Satin stitch: a closely spaced zigzag stitch sometimes used to fill or outline embroidery sections.
Scaling: changing the size of a design.
Scalloped edging: a decorative stitch that is achieved by serging a narrow 3-thread overlock and then stitching over it with a mirrored blind hem on a conventional sewing machine. It forms a scalloped edge—a nice finish on the edge of a lightweight project such as a receiving blanket.
Scallop shears: Shears with special blades that cut a rounded scalloped edge on fabric.
Scarf: the indentation on the back of a needle, just above the eye, which holds the thread during stitch formation.
Scissors: Cutting tools with blades less than 6” long and have identical handle bows for the finger and thumb. Scissors are perfect for trimming, clipping, and crafts.
Seam allowance: The distance from the stitching line to the cut edge of seamed fabrics. The most common seam allowance for quilting is 1/4”.
Seam finish: a stitching method used to prevent the edges of a seam from raveling. Examples include overcasting or overlocking the edge.
Seam ripper: Used for removing stitching mistakes. A seam ripper has a special sharp point that slides under and cuts the thread.
Seam roll: Pressing tool used to press open seams. The rounded surface of a seam roll prevents the imprint of the seam edges from showing on the right side of the fabric. You can make a seam roll by tightly rolling and taping a magazine and covering it with fabric or a terry towel.
Seam sealant: a product such as Fray Check™ or FrayBlock™ used to seal thread ends to keep a seam from unraveling.
Seamline: Stitching line followed when sewing a seam. On pattern pieces, it usually appears as a broken line inside the solid cutting line.
Selvages: The woven edges on fabric, running the length of the fabric, parallel to the lengthwise grainline.
Serged seams: Seams stitched on a serger with a 3 thread or 3/4-thread overlock stitch.
Serger: Special sewing machine that uses three, four, or more threads instead of the two threads used on a conventional sewing machine. It stitches a seam, finishes the raw edges, and cuts off excess fabric all at the same time.
Serger patchwork: using the serger to sew pieces or stratas together for quilting.
Serger piping: piping created with thread by serging a rolled edge on bias cut tricot. Using a decorative thread gives more definition to the piping.
Setting Triangles: Used to complete the outer edges of quilt blocks that have been set on-point.
Shades: Colors to which black has been added in varying degrees.
Shank: Wrapped thread that connects a button to a project. Button shanks make it possible for the buttonhole placket to fit under buttons without puckering.
Sharpening stone: Tool used to sharpen shears and scissors periodically to ensure clean-cut edges.
Shears: Cutting tools with blades longer than 6” and different-sized handle bows or loops (a small loop for the thumb and a larger loop for two or more fingers). Shears are perfect for cutting out fabric.
(Six) 6” hem gauge: Sewing gauge with a double-pointed slide to guide in marking hems, pleats buttons, and buttonhole placements. The sliding pointer makes it easy to get even measurements.
Sleeve board: Pressing tool with a free arm for pressing small openings and hard to reach areas such as sleeves and pant legs.
Software: computer programs, CDs, memory cards, or disks used in the embroidery process.
Squaring: The process of using a square ruler or T-square on quilts or quilt blocks to make sure they are the same measurement vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.
Stabilizer: a material used to support the fabric and improve stitch quality during machine embroidery. Stabilizers are available in a variety of weights in cut-away, wash-away, and tear-away forms, as well as in liquid form.
Stash: A term used to describe a sewer's fabric collection.
Stencil cutter tool: a heated tool, originally designed for cutting templates, that is useful for removing excess synthetic fabric from the outer edges of embroideries stitched onto a fabric such as organza or nylon tulle. A Stencil Cutter can be used to produce clean edges on an appliqué or three-dimensional embroidery.
Stencils: Designs that are usually die cut in plastic template material and traced onto a quilt or blocks before stitching.
Stitch count: the number of individual stitches in an embroidery design.
Stitch finger: a small metal prong on the presser foot or throat plate. The stitches form on this prong when serging.
Stitch in the ditch: Stitching in the well or groove of a seam on the right side of the project, through all thicknesses to secure sections and keep them in place.
Stitch out: a design that has been embroidered onto a fabric as a test of the actual design.
Strata: Fabric strips sewn together in the piecing process.
Strip piecing: A timesaving quilting method involving sewing strips together into strata and then cutting them into sections instead of cutting and sewing each small piece for a section separately.
Tape measure: Tape used for larger measurements such as measuring fabric grainline and determining pattern size. Choose a 60” long tape made of durable, nonstretching material with metal or plastic on the ends to prevent fraying. Some tape measures have markings on both sides in metric and American measurements.
Tear-away stabilizer: a stabilizer that can be removed from fabric by carefully tearing the stabilizer from around the design after embroidery is completed. Appropriate for dense stitching where tearing won't distort stitches or the fabric.
Templates: clear plastic, paper, or fabric guides that include the outline of an embroidery design and are used to aid in positioning designs prior to embroidering them.
Tension: the tightness or looseness of the needle and bobbin threads during stitching or embroidery.
Test swatch: Small square of fusible interfacing and fabric used to determine the suitability and fusing time required for your selected fabric and interfacing.
Thread: All-purpose thread made of cotton-covered polyester or 100% polyester is the type most often used for machine sewing. Available in a wide variety of colors this thread works with all types of fabrics for all-purpose sewing.
Thread chain: the chain formed by overlocked threads in back of the presser foot when serging with no fabric underneath.
Thread net: a mesh plastic net used to cover serger cones and spools during serging to prevent the thread from coming off too fast and pooling around the spools. Especially helpful when using slippery threads such as rayon.
Tint: A color to which white has been added in varying degrees.
Topping: a stabilizer placed on the top of a fabric during machine embroidery, generally to prevent stitches from sinking into the base fabric.
Topstitch: Decorative straight stitch a uniform distance from an edge on the right side of fabric.
Trace, or “walk-about”: a machine feature that identifies the stitching area of the selected design within a hoop, as well as the center of the embroidery area.
Tracing wheel and paper: Tools used to transfer pattern marks to fabric. Tracing wheels may have pointed (serrated) or smooth edges. Serrated edges make a dotted line, but may leave holds in the pattern. Smooth edges make a solid line, which puts more marks on the fabric. Tracing paper is specially designed for use with tracing wheels on fabric.
Transfer: the ability to move an embroidery design from one piece of hardware or software to another using a cable.
Trimming: Reducing the width of a stitched seam to eliminate bulk.
Tubular loopers: tubular loopers specific to Baby Lock® machines with Jet-Air Threading™. When the loopers are closed for threading they form a tube to the eye of the looper, making threading easier and preventing threads from tangling.
Two thread converter: a spring type mechanism that fits in a small hole at the top of the upper looper. It “tricks” the upper looper into thinking it is threaded so that two threads (needle and lower looper) can be used for a specific stitch. Also referred to as Auxiliary Looper and Subsidiary Looper.
Tying: An option for quilting the layers of a quilt together. Usually yarn or floss is used to tie a quilt at intervals or between blocks.
Unbacked fusible web: Fusible web with no backing. Often used for fusing hems and appliqués.
Understitch: Pressing seam allowances toward a facing or under collar, then stitching close to the seams on the facing to prevent the facing from rolling to the right side.
Universal point needles: All-purpose sewing machine needles used for general sewing on knit and woven fabrics.
Under looper thread: Second or third thread from the right on a serger. This thread does not pass through the fabric. Instead, it passes over the surface of the fabric, catching the needle thread on the left and the lower looper thread on the right.
Value: The lightness or darkness of a color.
Walking Foot: Used to feed fabrics evenly when sewing multiple fabric layers. The teeth on the bottom of a walking foot firmly feed the top fabric precisely as the feed dogs move the bottom layer to eliminate shifting.
Wash-away stabilizer: a stabilizer designed for washable fabrics. Can be easily removed by spraying or immersing in water, leaving no visible residue.
Water-activated adhesive stabilizer: a stabilizer that becomes sticky when a small amount of water is applied to its surface.
Water- or air-soluble marking pens: Marking tools used to transfer pattern markings to fabric. The marks from water-soluble pens will disappear after being washed; the marks from air-soluble pens will disappear within 12 to 48 hours, depending upon the humidity in the air.
Wave stitch: a decorative 3-thread overlock serger stitch exclusive to Baby Lock® sergers in which the upper looper thread is alternately pulled and released while serging to form a wavy stitch.
Wide stitch: a stitch length of approximately 7.5 mm from the left needle or 5.0 mm from the right needle.
Window technique: Positioning an item for embroidery by positioning it on top of a hooped adhesive surface. Ideal for napped fabrics, fabrics on which hooping might leave an impression, and items too small to hoop.
Woolly nylon: a texturized nylon thread. When pulled it looks like regular thread; when allowed to relax it “fluffs up” or fills in the stitches.
Woven fabric: Fabric made by interlacing threads over and under one another. Examples of woven fabrics include denim, corduroy, muslin, and broadcloth.
Wrapped corners: a technique developed by Nancy Zieman to get sharp points on collars and other corners. Instead of stitching or serging around a corner in a continuous motion, one edge is serged first, then wrapped or folded toward the next corner before continuing to serge.
Wrong side: Side of fabric that doesn't show; faces the inside. On printed fabrics, the unprinted side is the wrong side. On napped fabrics, the nap is less pronounced on the wrong side.
Submit a sewing, quilting, embroidery, or serging term that begins with the letter “X”.
Yardage: Amount of fabric needed to complete a project. Fabric is measured in yards or meters.
Zipper: a fastener made of two rows of protruding teeth that are interlocked by means of a sliding tab, linking the rows together.