Dissection: Pattern Jargon
It's come to my attention that sometimes I speed ahead and just expect people to keep up.
I don't mean to confuse. I've been patterning and sewing and making DIY for so long that I forget to explain myself! Unfortunately, it's kind of like Sherlock Holmes explaining his methods to Watson. It's obvious once you get the details. Here are some definitions of terms that are pretty standard for patterns and sewing.
Grain Line is the line on a pattern that follows the grain of the fabric. This concept gets a little complicated, but applying it is easy. Fabric usually has a long side and a shorter side, and it's made up of a bunch of threads. The long side of woven material (the stuff that doesn't stretch) is the part that stays in place while the fabric is being woven. It's also called the lengthwise grain or the warp threads. The shorter side is the crosswise grain or the weft thread. The weft threads are woven in and out of the warp threads, making up the fabric.
The lengthwise grain or warp is stronger, because it stays in place during the weaving process. It's less likely to shrink up than the crosswise or weft grain, which has to weave around and can get bunched up or pulled too tightly. So when you're using a pattern, the grain line indicates what part of the pattern piece needs to line up with the lengthwise edge of the fabric. That edge is also called the selvedge or "self-edge" of the fabric. You find it on either side of the length of your fabric.
Knit fabrics also have a lengthwise grain, but that's another story. We'll talk on this another time. Just line your grain line up with the selvedge and you'll be fine.
A seam is where material is sewn together. Seams are everywhere. They're in car covers and draperies and clothing and sails and parachutes and equipment carriers. All of these seams have a name. The name of the seam usually indicates where the seam is, like on the side or at the shoulder or on the seat bottom.
Seam allowance is the amount of extra material added to the outside of each seam. It is what's allowed for you to sew your seam. This can be a half inch, 5 centimeters, 1 1/2" inches... the amount varies. But it's an important amount. Without seam allowance, you can't sew stuff together without making the pieces smaller than you meant to. This can lead you to believe you've gained a lot of weight while you were sewing. Don't do this to yourself. Add seam allowance, then sew using the amount you added. Write it down on your pattern so you remember.
A dart is a type of seam. Instead of joining up one piece of material to another, like a side seam or a shoulder seam, a dart takes a little bite out of a larger piece and ends somewhere inside that piece. A dart is great for taking in an area that is smaller (like a waist) and leaving extra room in places that are larger (like busts). They can be shaped like triangles, fish eyes, curved arrow points, footballs and diamonds, among other things.
Bust or Chest. This is the widest area of your bust (if you have boobs) or chest (if you don't).
Center Front is the center of the front. This can be your front, the car's front, the dinosaur cover's front. It's abbreviated CF.
Center Back is the center of the back. For short, it's CB.
Side Front is a seam in between the Center Front and Side Seam. The abbreviation is SF. Sometimes there's more than one seam in between the Center Front and the Side Seam. You can have a Side Front (SF), a Side Side Front ( SSF), a Side Side Side Front (SSSF) and so on. The seam closest to the center is the Side Front, and you add esses as you move towards the Side Seam. If there are more than 4 seams people start numbering them, because they run out of room on the pattern pieces for all those esses.
Side Back. The seam between the Center Back and the Side Seam, abbreviated SB. It works the same way as the Side Front seams. Add more esses as your seams get closer to the Side Seam.
Side Seam is the seam along the side. On a person, this runs from under the armpit down to the hips and sometimes beyond.
Shoulder Seam is the seam at the shoulder.
Under Bust Seam is a seam under the bust line.
Hope this is helpful!
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A. Laura Brody
I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. Sometimes I staple drape.