Are you new to sewing? If you are, then you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed right about now. There are just so many new things to learn and know. There are hundreds of words and terms you probably don’t know the meanings of. Not to mention the dozens of sewing techniques you’ve never even heard of before.
The trick is not to try to learn everything all at once. Instead, you should start with a few basic terms, and let your knowledge slowly grow over time, right along with your sewing skill.
In the meantime, here are a few basic sewing terms and techniques to help get you started.
1. Darning. A technique used to repair holes in a piece of fabric. Using needle and thread, a “weave” is created to fill in the damaged area. When a garment is ripped, torn, or has worn patches due to heavy use, darning can be used to salvage it, meaning you don’t have to toss it out and spend money on a replacement. While you can darn with a sewing machine, most do it by hand, especially when the area in need of repair is relatively small.
2. Embroidery. Embroidery is a type of decorative needlework that employs a variety of different needles, threads and stitches. Using threads of different colors, a “picture” can be created using nothing but stitches. While it’s possible to use a machine to create embroidery, many prefer embroidering by hand. While hand embroidery is more challenging, it can also be more relaxing.
3. Muslin. Considering how expensive some fabrics can be, the last thing you want to do is use one of them to create a garment you end up not liking. Instead, you should use a less expensive fabric to create a test garment, or muslin, first. A test garment allows you to judge whether or not you will like the finished garment. You can also test whether or not it will fit properly and comfortably. Creating a test garment is also a good way to try out unfamiliar sewing techniques. You can afford to make mistakes on a test garment that could be costly on the real deal.
Muslin is also the name of the fabric often used to make these test garments. This unbleached, loosely-woven cotton is usually much less expensive than other fabrics, and makes for an affordable “test subject” for your new sewing creations.
4. Needlework. Anything you do with a needle can be called “needlework.” But the name is usually applied to decorative sewing techniques, like those used in embroidery, quilt making, knitting, crocheting, tapestry making, and lace making. All of these sewing crafts require a great deal of creativity, finely-tuned motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. However, while challenging, needlework can also be very relaxing and rewarding.
5. Notions. Notions are the little odds and ends used in the sewing crafts. Anything that gets sewn on or attached to something else can qualify, including buttons, appliqués, zippers, and snaps. The small tools and supplies used in sewing can also be referred to as notions. These can include thimbles, pins, thread, tweezers, and threaders.
6. Patchwork. When you sew two pieces of fabric together, that’s called patchwork. The first type of patchwork most people probably think of is quilting. However, this technique is good for more than making quilts. In fact, it can be used to make everything from diaper bags, to jackets, to curtains, to decorative art pieces. One impressive type of patchwork tries to simulate stained glass windows using nothing but fabric and thread.
7. Pattern. In sewing, the word “pattern” has two definitions. First, it can refer to any garment you might use as the inspiration for a creation of your own. If you like a dress enough to make your own version of it, that original dress is your pattern. “Pattern” also refers to the paper template you can use to make garments. These templates are pinned or taped to a piece of fabric. The fabric is then cut into the proper shapes before being sewn together. Using patterns is an affordable way to fill your closet with a stylish and fashionable wardrobe.
8. Quilt. Quilting is probably the most common and popular type of patchwork. In this technique, pieces of fabric—or “blocks”—are sewn together to make a much larger piece, like a bed covering or wall hanging. Quilting, which was born of necessity, has truly become an art form. Many quilters spend hundreds of hours creating a single quilt, from design, to creating the individual blocks, to assembly.
9. Yarn. Yarn is the backbone of all of the sewing crafts. Without it, we couldn’t sew a ripped shirt, knit a sweater, make a quilt, or even weave fabric. For home sewers, the type of yarn used most often is sewing thread. Yarn can either be made with natural materials (like cotton, wool and cashmere) or synthetic materials (like acrylic and nylon). And yarn is available in every color of the rainbow. If you can imagine a color, you can probably find thread to match.