A listing of historical sewing terms and techniques as well as period and modern fashion terms.
- Awl: A pointed metal tool used for punching holes in fabric and leather. They come straight or tapered. Used when making hand eyelets, inserting the stud side of a corset busk, and for guiding fabric into your sewing machine.
- Basque Bodice: A fitted bodice or jacket that extends past the waist. The length can be just a few inches down from the waist or past the hips.
- Cartridge Pleats: Tiny pleats made with two or more identical rows of hand stitches that are pulled up to fit the fabric into a smaller area. Cartridge pleats are a historical method of reducing a great deal of fabric into a small space. Some uses are: on the waistline of skirts, tops of sleeves to set into an armhole, and on lower sleeve edges to fit into a cuff.
- Coutil: A herringbone-weave cotton twill fabric, tightly woven. Primarily used for corsets but also as an underlining.
- Cuirass Bodice: A long bodice fitted tightly to the body like a corset. The term is used mostly in late Victorian fashion.
- Fashion Fabric: The top, outermost fabric used for a garment. When asked what a particular piece is made from, the answer will be the fashion fabric. “What is the skirt made out of?” “It is black silk taffeta with pink organza ruffles.” Here, the taffeta and organza are the fashion fabrics. The fashion fabric can be, and usually is, the most costly fabric of an ensemble. Any type of historical costume can be made with more than one kind of fashion fabric.
- Mock-up or Muslin: A trial garment sewn from the sewing pattern using muslin or other inexpensive fabric. The pattern is made up to test the garment fit, make any alterations, and practice required skills to create the project.
- Plackets: Finished strips of fabric or bias strips that finish off your opening on a bodice, skirt or sleeve to which the fastenings, such as hooks, bars, eyes, and thread bars are attached.
- Pressing Ham: A firmly stuffed pressing aid shaped like a ham. It is usually covered with a wool flannel on one side and twill cotton on the other for use with a variety of iron heat settings. You use it to shape armholes, shaped seams, collars, etc. over the ham to aid in pressing these areas.
- Quartering a skirt: Dividing a skirt into 4 or more sections (quarters) to make it easier to pleat or gather onto a tape or waistband. To do this, mark centers (front and back) with pins, hold together and fold the fabric finding the quarter marks, pin these side marks.
- Self-Fabric: When you see this term it means you are using your fashion fabric for the purpose described. For example, self-fabric trims are cut from your fashion fabric.
- Sleeve Board: A mini ironing board with two arms mainly used to iron sleeves and hard to get to areas. One arm is even the entire length and rounded at each end. The other arm is tapered from a point to a wider base.
- Sleeve Roll: A firmly stuffed tube about 10” long with wool flannel on one side and twill cotton on the other. A pressing aid used in pressing sleeves, collars and other areas that are hard to lay flat on a regular ironing board.
- Turn Under: The allowance added to fabric that will be turned under (or turned towards the wrong side) to be tacked for finishing. It is found on bias strips, piping, hems, facings and plackets.
- Understitch: After a seam is graded and clipped, the seam allowances are pressed to the underlining side. Move the fashion fabric out of the way so you have the underlining flat on top of the seam allowances only. Sew close to the seam (about 1/8” to ¼” away) on the underlining side, catching the seam allowances underneath. Understitching keeps the underlining (or lining) from rolling to the outside of the garment. It makes for a flat finished edge. Not all seams need understitching.