Sewing pattern terms and what they mean

Don’t let not understanding a sewing term stop your dressmaking creativity

Sewing Pattern Terms

Do you know your sewing pattern terms and what they mean? We’ve created an A-Z of guide to all sewing pattern terms and what they mean:

Adjustment line:
This line indicates where a pattern can be lengthened and shortened.

Term used to change or revise a pattern or garment to fit an individual.

Anchoring stitches:
These stitches are sewn with zero stitch length and are used when you stitch backwards to anchor your sewing.

This is the opening in a bodice to which you attach a sleeve (also more commonly known as an armhole).

Basting is a row of longer running stitches that temporarily hold the fabric together before sewing properly.

A direction of a piece of woven fabric, usually known as ‘the bias’. This is a 45-degree angle to the grainline or diagonal direction of the fabric.

Buttonhole placement:
This ‘cross’ symbol marks the place where a button will go, and a solid line indicates the length of the buttonhole.

Cutting layout:
These are like a map showing how to fold the fabric and position the pieces for the most economical use – this will vary with garment view, fabric width, pattern size and nap.

Cutting line:
This is the outer line that marks the size.

A tapered fold in a pattern to allow for fullness which helps shape garment to body contours. Mark and fold along the centre line, matching the dots and stitch to the point.

Dots, squares and triangles:
These indicate areas where you need to be precise with matching, clipping, gathering or sewing.


The diff erence in measurement between your body and the garment. The bust of a garment with 5cm positive ease will measure 5cm more than your bust measurement. There is often wearing ease and designer ease. Wearing ease allows your garment to move with the body while Designer ease is the style element. Woven garments need wearing ease to allow for movement.

Easing line:
This short broken line has dots at either end and has a directional arrow and marks the area to be eased.

Material sewn on the inside of a garment for added strength and stability.

Finished measurements:
Measurements taken from the finished garment.

Fold line:
This line indicates where pattern pieces need to be placed on the fold of the fabric and avoids any unnecessary centre seams.

French seam:
A seam tht encloses the seam allowance so all raw edges aren’t visible.

Full bust adjustment (FBA):
A method for adding fullness to the bust of a pattern without changing the fi t of the shoulders
or waist.

Stitching that manages the fullness of fabric by making a longer length of fabric attach to a smaller length to add volume.

Adapting a sewing pattern to change the fit or style.

Hong Kong finish:
A seam finished with bias tape to enclose fabric raw edges on the inside of the garment.

Grain line:
This is the suggested direction in which to place the pattern piece on the fabric with arrow parallel to the selvedge.

Hem allowance:
Amount of fabric allowed for the hemming.

A stiffening fabric that’s added to certain area of a garment that require extra structure like collars.

A diagram that shows you how to lay your pattern pieces on the fabric for cutting out.

Lengthen and shorten line:
Pattern markings that allow you to length or shorten a pattern.

Line drawings:
These show the shape and outline of the design plus any details such as seams and zip location.

Narrow back adjustment:
A sewing technique that narrows the back without changing the shoulder or waist measurements.

These diamond shapes appear along the cutting line for matching seams.

Pattern layout:
Diagram found on instruction sheet, which indicate how to lay out pattern pieces on the fabric.

This involves the sewing machine needle down in place and rotating the fabric to sew in a different direction.

Seam allowance:
The area between the fabric edge and the stitching (usually 15 mm (5/8in) for dressmaking).

Seam line:
Denoted by a long broken line along. These lines must be matched up before sewing your garment together rather than the raw edges.

A row of stitches on a single piece of fabric to help it keep its shape.

Stitch in the ditch:
Sewing in the lowest part of the seam (ditch) to secure in place.

This is a test garment made from inexpensive fabric such as Calico. It’s to ‘prove’ a pattern and make sure the pattern fits perfectly.

Visible stitches on the right side of a garment to hold in place.

A facing that stitched to the seam allowances to help it rolling to the right side of the garment.

Designs that appear on the paper patterns to show optional styles such as length, sleeve and hem variations

Yardage block:
Indicates how much fabric, interfacing and lining you require to make a particular view on a pattern.


Back waist length:
Measurement from middle of most prominent bone at the base of the neck down to waistline.

Bust line:
The horizontal line running across the back and around the fullest part of the bust. It’s an important measurement for correct pattern sizing.

Full bust:
Measurement taken around the fullest part of the bust and straight across the back.

High bust:
Measurement taken above the full bust measurement under the arms and around the back and chest.

TIP: If this measurement is more than 5cm (2in) larger than the full bust measurement – then choose your pattern size by the high bust size and alterations made to fit the fuller cup.

Hip point:
Measurement from around the fullest part of your hips.

TIP: If waist and hip measurements are not both on the pattern – choose pattern for hip measurement.

The inside leg seam that runs from crotch to hem.

This is the thinnest part of your body – tie a piece of string around your middle and allowing it to settle at natural waist.

We hope your found our guide to sewing pattern terms and what they mean, if there is a term that isn’t on our list drop us an email and we’ll add it!

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