Sewing Tips

Sewing Terms {Free Download}

I have added a glossary of sewing terms to my resource library to help beginner sewists navigate sewing pattern terminology!

Not sure what it means to cut on the bias, pivot, or topstitch? Need a quick description of a French seam? Just download and print this list of sewing terms and their definitions! You can laminate it and keep it close to the sewing machine for reference or use it as a teaching tool for students and children.

I have recently updated this (2017)! Just sign-up for access to the resource library to get the free sewing terms download. In addition to the sewing glossary, you’ll get access to some other free downloads and free sewing patterns.



Sewing Glossary of Term | Radiant Home Studio

If you don’t need the pretty version, or just want a quick definition – keep scrolling!

Sewing Terms:


an adjustment to a completed garment to improve the fit


an armhole opening in a garment

Bar Tack:

a tight, narrow zigzag stitch used to reinforce pocket corners or areas of strain


filling layers for quilts, which can be made of cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers


the diagonal direction of cloth

Bias Binding:

strips of cloth cut on the diagonal, which is folded and used to enclose raw edges of material


long strips of fabric, which are folded and used to enclose raw edges of material

Blind Hem:

machine or hand-stitched zigzag stitch that is nearly invisible from the right side of the garment


flexible steel or plastic strips used to provide structure to garments


a hollow channel that holds elastic, piping, or cording


a small cut into the seam allowances to all the  fabric to bend at the curves


thin rope covered in fabric, thicker than piping and used for decorative and functional details

Crosswise Grain:

the direction of the fabric across the width, from selvage to selvage, also called the weft


the tapered seam of fabric at the edge of the fabric, coming to a point, to adjust the fit of a garment

Directional Fabric:

fabric with a print (arrows all pointing one direction) or with a texture (such as suede or corduroy) going one way


the amount of room a garment allows the wearer beyond their body measurements


fabric pieces used to finish the inside of a garment or project, usually cut mirror image and smaller than the full lining

Feed Dogs:

thin metal bars with diagonal teeth that pull your fabric through the sewing machine below the needle

Finished Seams:

seams with neatened raw edges, using techniques such as French seams, over-locking, or binding

French Seam:

a seam finishing technique in which fabrics are sewn with wrong sides together first, and then folded over and stitched right sides together with a slightly larger seam allowance, enclosing the raw edges


small folds or puckers in cloth that is created by making two rows of long stitches and pulling the threads

Grading Seams:

trimming seam allowances to different widths to reduce bulk


the direction of fibers or weaving in fabric


the vertical line of fibers that runs parallel the selvage edge


fabric inserted into a seam to add breadth or reduce stress, used on both garments and bags

Hand Tack:

a quick, temporary stitch, intended to be removed


a finishing method where raw edges are narrowly folded toward the wrong side and sewn in place


the inside seam on a pair of pants, running from the crotch to the end of the pant leg


a layer of material sewn or fused between the exterior and lining of a garment or bag, used to add structure


the inner layer of fabric on a garment or bag, that provides a clean finish and conceals seams


transferring symbols from paper patterns to fabric, using tools such as tailor’s chalk, tracing wheels, or disappearing ink pens

Mitered Corner:

a diagonal joining of bias strips at a corner, usually used on quilt borders


an arrow-shaped marking on a pattern piece used to match pieces for precise sewing


small items used to complete sewing projects, such as buttons, zippers, hooks, thread and pins


thin string covered in fabric, used in decorative seams and thinner than cording


when sewing around the corner, leave the sewing needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric 90 degrees, lower presser foot and continue stitching the next edge


an opening or slit on a garment, usually at the top or front of a shirt or on the shirt sleeves


using an iron to flatten fabric and set seams by lifting it up and down, not gliding it across the fabric

Pressing Cloth:

a piece of fabric used between the garment and the iron to prevent heat damage to the fabric


washing and drying fabric before sewing to avoid shrinking the final garment

Presser Foot:

the attachment used on sewing machines to hold fabric in place as it is fed through the machine and stitched, with various types (such as a zipper foot) for specialized usage

Rotary Cutter:

a tool with a sharp, round blade used for cutting fabric on a cutting mat

Seam Allowance:

the area between the raw edge of the fabric and the stitching line

Seam Ripper:

a small, sharp tool used to remove unwanted stitches


the tightly woven, finished edge of the fabric that runs parallel to the warp


specialized scissors for cutting fabric, usually larger than regular scissors with a slight bend in the handle

Stay Stitch:

a straight stitch in the seam allowance that provides stability and keeps fabric from stretching at the seam

Stitch in the Ditch:

stitching on the outside of a garment or bag, through all layers, in the groove of the seam where it can be hidden


the lengthwise grain, parallel to the selvage


the crosswise grain, perpendicular to the selvage

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Free Downloads | Sewing Glossary of Terms | Radiant Home Studio


Sewing Tips, Tutorials

Sewing Tote Bag Straps from Fabric

In my Water Bottle Tote pattern, I suggest using pre-made cotton or nylon webbing as bag straps. But what if you don’t have any on hand or you can’t find the right color to coordinate with your fabric?

Sewing tote bag straps from fabric is a simple change you can make to add more personality and color to your bag!  Usually the fabric store choices for trim and ribbon is limited, but I’ll show you how you can use any quilting cotton or home decorating fabric to make custom tote bag straps.

You can use these directions to replace nylon webbing on any bag pattern — just adjust the measurements to fit your pattern.

Sewing Fabric Tote Bag Strap Tutorial | Radiant Home Studio

First, decide how wide your straps will be. My tote bag straps are 1.5 inches wide, so I used that as a starting point.

Next, multiply that number by 4 — this is how wide you want to cut your fabric. I cut 6 inch wide strips of fabric.

Cutting Fabric Tote Bag Straps | Radiant Home Studio

The Water Bottle Tote strap is 90 inches long. I didn’t want to use up yards of fabric by trying to cut a 90 inch strip, and another seam can be easily hidden on the bottom of the bag. In order to conserve fabric, I cut 6″ across the width of the fabric and joined the strips together. Most quilting fabric is 44-45 inches wide, so two 6 inch strips cut across the width were just the right length for tote bag straps.

You can join the two strips together by placing them right sides together and stitching across one short end of the fabrics (the seam allowance isn’t very important here). Press the seam open and trim the bulk away.

Do you want you straps to be more durable? Choose a fusible interfacing to add strength and stability to your fabric. (This article is a great resource to help you decide which interfacing you need.) Generally, lighter weight fabrics will need a heavier weight interfacing. Thicker home decor fabrics or specialty fabrics like faux leather may not need interfacing at all.

Interfacing Fabric Tote Bag Straps | Radiant Home Studio

Apply interfacing according to the manufacturer directions. (They are usually included on a sheet of paper with cut interfacing or on the packaging if you buy it pre-cut. So don’t throw them away!)

Next, fold your fabric strip in half, wrong sides together, and press along the fold.

Pressing Fabric Tote Bag Straps | Radiant Home Studio

Open the fabric back up, and fold the raw edges in until they meet at the fold. Press again.

Folding Fabric Tote Bag Straps | Radiant Home Studio

You should have 3 equally spaced folds and four equal sections. Fold the raw edges to the center, and then fold the center seam so that all of the raw edges are enclosed.

Folding Fabric Tote Bag Straps| Radiant Home Studio

To finish, stitch along the edges (about 1/8 inch from each edge). Several layers of  fabric plus interfacing will be pretty thick, so choose a needle for heavy-weight fabrics and make sure your stitch length is set to a slightly longer stitch.

Sewing Fabric Tote Bag Straps | Radiant Home Studio

For the Water Bottle Tote, I recommend using using your longest machine stitch to baste the layers together first. You will be using another line of stitching to attach it to the bag, and too many lines of stitching will look messy and unprofessional.

Fabric Tote Bag Straps | Radiant Home Studio

To add this orange strap, I basted the strap together, then attached it to the bag as directed in the pattern. I carefully removed the basting stitches so that only one line of stitching was visible on the straps.

Try making your straps with a patterned or textured fabric to add some style and interest to your bags. I’d love to see your finished tote bags with custom made straps! Add a link to your blog or photo to share what you have made!

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Introducing: The Water Bottle Tote Pattern

It’s finally ready! The Water Bottle Tote Pattern.

Several months ago, I drafted a pattern for a divided tote bag designed to carry 6 water bottles. We keep color coded bottles for the children to keep the dishes under control and avoid buying drinks when we are  out. The tote was only meant to be a quick project to help keep our bottles organized with a more durable bag than the one we had been using.

A couple of versions later—the bag became essential for family outings. We received questions and comments about our bag and decided that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to make the Water Bottle Tote pattern available for PDF download.


Though the bag was originally designed for families to carry their water bottles with them on outings, the tote can also be used to make custom water bottle carriers for sports teams.

Or try it as a reusable shopping tote for glass bottled goods like wine, olive oil, and juices!

The pattern design includes reinforced corner seams, a removable insert for bottom reinforcement, and tips to make the tote durable and professional.

And I have included full-color, step-by-step photos so that anyone with basic sewing skills can make a stylish and functional tote bag. More details are available on the product page.

Try it out yourself, or share my site with friends that sew!