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The Secret Language of Sewing

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The Secret Language of Sewing

Posted by Blog 29 January, 2017 No Comments

Have you ever tried to learn French, Spanish, or German?  Any language other than English?  If you have, you know that it takes time, studying, asking questions, and taking classes. Some say the the easiest way is complete immersion.  Sink or swim.

This is how I feel learning how to sew.  It IS a foreign language.  For example, what do you see when you look at the photo below?

Thread right?  Yes and No.  Thread yes, but not all threads are created equal! When I tell Darren to bring me home black thread, he responds with, “What kind?” I say, “I told you, BLACK!”

He says, “Do you want cotton, nylon, wool, metallic, designer, silk, serger, poly, 30, 40, 50  weight, 2 or 3 ply?”   WHAT?!!  Stop talking.  When I first started to sew I called it “string”, GASP. You can see I have a long way to go.

It is not just thread that has all these options either, needles too.  Jeans, leather, beading, ball point, darning, embroidery, double, milliners….the list goes on.  AND they all have numbers associated with them.  I’ll take the universal needle with the universal numbers, thanks!

Fabric, same thing.  You must consider things like drape, flow, cotton, warp, knit, lawn, nap, etc.

However, the worst is reading a pattern.  They truly are written in a foreign language.  They actually have a “glossary of terms”.  I speak English. I have my whole life.  I should not need a “glossary”, but I do.  I really do. The image below is a simple glossary.  Some patterns have an entire two pages!

I was at the store working on a project when this sewing language really hit me.  I was listening to Kerry tell a customer about how she made her last quilt. I thought to myself, “When did Kerry start working for NASA?!”  I didn’t understand one word of what came out of her mouth.

“I used a 60 on top, 30 on bottom with medium tension, medium loft cotton with a double wedding ring. Then I sprinkled it with a little moon dust, really it was easy!”  I made the moon dust part up, but the rest are REAL ENGLISH words that mean something.  Just not to me. Those who sew or quilt, they know.  They are part of the “secret sewing language club.”

I have been trying to sew garments lately.  I find that they don’t fit me very well.  I am always having to take in the top and make a slightly bigger bottom.  When I asked about this problem to one of my sewing peeps, she said that I need to do a SBA.  I nod my head as if I understand her.  I do not.  I go home and hope Google knows what a SBA is in sewing language.  Google knows.


It’s an actual technique.  I giggle.  I giggle because it is true and apparently obvious to the garment sewing world.  Do garment sewers look at me and say “YUP, another SBA on the loose?”  I signed up for a class on how to create the perfect SBA adjustment.

My point is this, I have immersed myself in a world that is out of my box. It’s full of failure and unexpected surprises.  I love it. I am far from fluent, I do not use the word STRING anymore, I call that progress!