Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Practical Sewing Dictionary

If you are going to do sewing machine repair, you really need to understand sewing terms that are commonly used by your customers. It is their special language. You may not get a practical sewing dictionary in typical sewing machine repair courses, but you may still need a good sewing dictionary. Here is why.

What is a “1/4 foot”? “A Clapper”? or “In The Ditch”?

Recently a woman came into my store, and overheard some people in the classroom. She got this puzzled look on her face. Finally, she asked, “What language are they talking? It kind of sounds like English, but strange?”

Have you ever overheard a group of people using words you didn’t understand? You might think they are talking a strange language. It sure did not “seam” like English, but it did not sound much like it.

There are many fields of endeavor, hobbies, and interest with their own special terms.
Over the years, the language of sewing has become a bit easier, but every once in a while somebody says something that just leaves me bewildered. If you are new to sewing or quilting, you probably understand.

There is a whole unique vocabulary used by people who enjoy sewing and quilting. There hare hundres of specific sewing terms. It can take years to learn all the ins and outs of this language. While the words themselves may sound familiar, they often have very specific meanings only understood by avid sewers.
You might hear the word “Clapper” and think someone is referring to applause. When the word is used in sewing, it refers to a special tool used to press a crease.

When you hear the word “Yoke”, you might think the person said “joke”. But it is no joking matter. To a seamstress the word “yoke” means the part of a garment running horizontally across it. It includes panels such as garment pieces covering shoulder, waist, midriff, or back.
If you overheard older ladies talking about how important it is to use a “scant quarter” or “1/4 foot”, you might imagine they were quite fugal, penny pinching, concerned about quarters, maybe even skinflints. Instead, they would be talking about using a special part of a sewing machine to insure exact quarter inch seam allowances.

If your sewing teacher told to sew “in the ditch”, she would not be talking about the gutter, or even the drain along side of the road. She would be talking about a sewing technique in which the sewer sews a seam in the well or crack formed when another seam has already been sewn on the opposite side of the fabric. The result is a seam that is all but invisible.

Years ago, my husband heard a salesman use the word “serged edge”. He was embarrassed to say anything, but he had no clue. It made no sense. Later, he came to me and asked. I explained that this was simply a way to overcast the edge of a fabric so that it would not ravel under use.

Without help sewing words like, “CB Hook”, “Chapel Train”, “Cheater Panel”, and “Cut Work”; may have no meaning whatsoever. And that is just a few out of the c’s.

There are literally thousands of sewing terms just like these. The learning process can be tedious and frustrating, but with a little help all these terms will make sense.

There are three ways to find out what these sewing terms mean. First, you can ask your sewing teacher or other experienced sewing what a term means. Second, you can read sewing books which may include a limited glossary. Third, you can find the definitions in a good sewing dictionary.

If this still “seams” strange to you, maybe you need to follow my mother’s old adage: “If you really want to know look it up in the dictionary.” A generic dictionary may not explain the terms in a way that relates clearly to your sewing, but a sewing dictionary will do a good job making sense of these special terms.

Dr. David Trumble has produced such a practical sewing dictionary entitled My Sewing Dictionary.

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