Stitch Dictionary

Stay Stitch

What it is: Single row of stitches along the curved edge of a single layer of fabric.

Uses: Stay stitches help keep curved edges of the garment pieces from stretching out of shape as you sew them together with other pattern pieces.

How to: With a regular size stitch length, sew inside the seam allowance along the curved edge as directed by your pattern (eg if you are sewing with a 5/8" stitch allowance, sew your stay stitches at 1/4" to 1/2"). The stitches should not show on the finished garment (because they are within the seam allowance) and thus do not need to be removed later. Sew from the shoulder towards the center of the garment. For curved necklines, sew from shoulder to center, stop, and then sew from shoulder to center on the other side.

Top Stitch

What it is: Stitches sewn on top of the fabric, as in a hem.

Uses: Hems, decorative stitching, etc.

How to: Fold edge of hem under. Purists would dictate that you must sew from the right side of your fabric with hem folded underneath. If your hem is small or you don't mind the look of your under side stitches, you may sew from the wrong side. Either way, make sure you catch the hem in your seam (if you miss a little bit on one part, you may be able to tack in place with some hand stitches of fusible web). Sew 1/4" (or more) from edge).

Edge Stich

What it is: Stitches sewn on top of the fabric very close to the edge.

Uses: decorative seams, holding facings to the inside of a garment, sewing pieces right sides together (as on this belt to the right))

How to: This process is exactly the same as topstitching but with the stitches sewn 1/8" from the edge.


What it is: An extra seam on the inside of a facing to help hold everything in place.

Uses: Holding facings in place

How to:

Step 1: Put the facing on your garment by sewing right sides together, pressing the seam allowance up towards the facing.

Step 2: Stitch 1/8" above the seam line, through the seam allowance and facing.

Step 3: Fold the facing down over the garment and press.

Step 4: Fold the facing down over the garment and press. The stitch line will only be visible on the facing and not the outside of the garment. If desired, add an edge stitch to hold everything in place.

Check out the tutorial on Burda Style.

Clip Curves

What it is: A way to trim your seam allowances to make it easier around curved edges.

Uses: Allowing for easier curved edges that don't tug on the fabric and allow you to press the seam smoothly.

How to: After sewing a curved edge (don't forget to stay stitch beforehand), clip out little notches in the seam allowance. You can do this by folding a section in half and cutting out a little notch, and it will come out like the V's in this picture.

Trim Corners

What it is: Another thing for trimming your seam allowance.

Uses: Reduces bulk on corners that will be turned inward.

How to: After sewing your corder, trim the edges and then clip off a triangle at the corner so that you are not left with too much extra fabric.

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