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.

There is often wearing ease and designer ease. This will affect how close or loose fitting a garment is. 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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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