Sewing is one of those skills that is deemed to be very feminine, but really shouldn't be associated with a particular gender. After all, few people sew better than military men who are generally taken to be the very height of masculinity. Sewing isn't just about embroidering pretty things onto fabric, after all; it is also about being able to fend for yourself as an adult. If you need to take your coat to the cleaners or your shirt to your mother's house every time there is a tear in the lining or a button that looks likely to part ways with the garment, then you truly are in a pickle. Sewing is simply one of those things that you have to be able to do, like cooking a basic meal or driving a car.
However, just because you know the basics doesn't mean you're an expert. Only someone with a good sewing knowledge base will be able to ace this quiz about types of stitches, machines you might use for sewing, types of thread, needles and other tools, and of course, handy tricks to get away with not working too hard but still ensuring you haven't cut any corners. Let's get started!
Basting is a cooking term, but it's also a sewing term! It's a big, rather imprecise stitch you put in to hold things in place while you sew.
A bias cut dress is thus one that is cut diagonally to the grain of the fabric. This affects the way it drapes, making it more flattering.
A dart is designed to make a dress fit perfectly. It adds curve to match the human form and creates a nice flattering shape.
Feed dogs help to align the fabric and free your hands to do other things. They are like the rollers on a printing press.
Fabric usually has a side that is meant to face outward and a side that is meant to face inward. The wrong side shouldn't end up on the outside!
As this stitch is visible, topstitch is usually the most precise. Sometimes it is decorative, with a bold colored thread or special pattern.
A hem is designed to prevent fraying by tucking the edge of the fabric under itself and then securing it. It's like the telomere on the end of a strand of DNA!
The warp and weft are the X and Y axes of the fabric. Sometimes you can see them, as in a piece of thick and luxurious wool. Other times you can't, as in a piece of fancy 800-thread-count cotton.
Gathering is named for how it looks as though you literally gathered up the fabric in a hand and then it stayed in place. It's a good way to create a different look in an otherwise boring piece.
Cross stitch is one of the first ones you learn as a child. It's very easy to do and very hard to unpick by mistake! Plus, it's pretty.
Ease is a measure of how much you can move in the garment. Some fabrics achieve this by stretch, others by tailoring. Others do it by a mix of the two.
Applique means adding a whole new piece as decoration. This distinguishes it from embroidery, in which the thread itself is the decoration.
Beeswax won't change the essence of a thread, but it makes it smoother and thus more manageable. Think of it like gel or conditioner.
A bodkin is used to thread elastic. It's a big flat needle-like tool. You've heard the word in Shakespeare and now you know what it means!
Casing is reinforced fabric so that the structure underneath doesn't come out. For example, you might use casing around the boning in a corset to keep the shape of it in place.
Finger pressing sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does! You can temporarily shape fabric using just your hands.
The inseam runs from the inside of your ankle to the groin. Finding out what length it is has to be the most awkward part of getting measured for clothing.
Muslin is a versatile fabric that used to be very commonly used for dresses. You might also have used it to make a little net for a lemon that you squeeze onto your food!
Notches are little marks on a clothing pattern, designed to help in lining up the two pieces. That way, you don't end up with two pieces that are mis-aligned.
This stitch looks like a spiraling binder, as if on a notebook. It's both secure and decorative!
Pique is a way of weaving that causes a three-dimensional texture to the cotton. Cotton is very fine, so this is hard to do well.
Seams are the places where pieces of fabric meet. They are truly the faultlines of sewing - in that, if you get them wrong, whatever you're making will be a natural disaster.
A thimble is worn on the fingertip to avoid poking yourself. It's something that sounds silly until you've stuck your own finger a few times!
Pleats can be for decoration but they can also be functional. A pleat is a way of making fabric fit on two areas of different sizes without going to the trouble of cutting it and putting in a dart.
Overlay is usually translucent, while the layer underneath should be more opaque. Getting the two layers to move well together and actually be the same size is one of the great challenges of sewing.
Millinery is the making of hats. Hats often involve more sewing than people realize!
Bodice doesn't just mean corsets, made to sound less fearsome. It's also the part of a dress that covers the torso, no matter what it's made of.
The armscye is where the shoulder meets the sleeve. If this is badly tailored, your shirt will ride up or simply tear when you move.
The presser foot is a flat piece that keeps the fabric against the teeth. It's basically like putting wood in a vice!
Tulle is cotton at its most glamorous. It's common in veils, as well as in petticoats and evening gowns.
Most buttons have holes to attach them, but some of them have a shank. It's a little stem that sticks out from the back and can make the button easier to attach.
The rise is one of those dimensions that you'd never bother to measure on yourself. However, if you put on a pair of slacks that has too small a rise for you... well, you're going to know about it.
A dolman sleeve is made of a continuous piece of fabric along with the rest of the garment. That's not common; if you look at most of your clothes, you will see that the sleeve is its own piece.
A godet is actually a type of pleat. It helps add fullness to a skirt, thus giving it more movement and drama.
A placket is the little extra piece of fabric that adds stability to the part of your shirt that has buttonholes. Two common types are conventional and French front.