1 selvage (n.)
Selvage (U.S.) and selvedge (British) are the same word, a corruption of “self-edge,” and have been in use since the 16th century. They describe the self-finished edges of fabric that do not fray. The selvage edges run parallel to the warp (the longitudinal threads that run the length of a piece of fabric), and are created by the weft thread (“weft picks”) looping back at the end of each row. Historically, the term selvage applies only to woven fabric.
The weave used to make the selvage may be the same as or different from the weave of the fabric itself. Most selvages are narrow, but some can be as wide as .75 inches (19 millimeters). Some selvages contain woven descriptions using special jacquards, colored or fancy threads for identification purposes. The menswear designer Paul Smith is famous for incorporating such descriptive selveges into his designs. Selvages are often discarded, but they can be used as a structural component; they obviate the need to turn the edges or finish them to prevent fraying. Using a selvage edge means that a garment can be made more quickly and that the finished garment is less bulky and can be stitched entirely by machine, which is a major benefit for mass-produced ready-to-wear clothing. A disadvantage of selvage edges is their tendency to pucker. Selvage edges are also used when fabric must be stretched in any finishing processes, and may sometimes have to be punctured.
2 grading (n.)
Once a pattern is approved for fit and style, it is ready to be graded. Grading is the process of adding multiple sizes to what was originally a single-sized pattern. Original patterns are usually made in a medium size, so additional sizes might be XS, S, L, XL and XXL. Nowadays most patterns are digitized and grading is done using CAD tools on a computer.
3 marker (n.)
Once a pattern has been made from an approved sample, approved for production and graded, it’s ready to be made into a marker. The marker ensures that the fabric is used in the most economical way by careful placement of the pattern pieces, taking the grain of the material, pattern or nap into consideration. Sample markers are a full-size plot of the pattern.
Production markers are made for multiple pieces (6, 12, 18, 24) so that they can be cut in bulk. When the pieces are laid on the fabric this is known as spreading the lay; the layers of fabric can often be as much as five inches high. Yield markers are made to estimate optimum utilization of any fabric width. The cut fabric is then bundled into groups.
4 merrow (n.)
Merrow is also known as “overedging,” “merrowing,” or “serging.” The same effect, when done by hand, is called “blanket stitch”; it may also be called a “whip stitch” or a “crochet stitch.” Merrow stitch (normally referred to as “merrow”) is used to finish edges and prevent them from fraying. It is usually decorative and visible on both sides of the fabric.
The word comes from the overlock sewing machines made by the Merrow Sewing Machine Company, a Connecticut manufacturer established in the town of Merrow in 1838. Merrow pioneered this overlocking stitch on its machines. The company originally made gunpowder, but after its mill was destroyed by an explosion in 1837, it was rebuilt as a knitting mill on the same site, using water power from the adjacent river; in 1887 the company evolved into designing, manufacturing and marketing sewing machines exclusively. The company is now based in Fall River, Massachusetts (infamous as the hometown of the 1892 axe murderer Lizzie Borden).
5 ligne (n.)
In shirtmaking, the word ligne measures a button’s size. It’s from the French word meaning “line,” as well as a unit of length that was in use prior to France’s adoption of the metric system in the late 18th century; it is still used by French and Swiss wristwatch makers to measure the size of a watch movement.
In the 19th century “ligne” came into use among German button makers, who used it to measure the diameter of buttons, and the term was probably introduced in the U.S. by German immigrants. The consensus definition was that a ligne was the breadth of a candle wick, an item whose dimensions were relatively standardized even before the existence of formal printed tape measures. A ligne measures 1⁄40 of an inch, though this was not always exact, for there were several different “inches” in the kingdoms and petty states of Germany at the time. Today a ligne measurement is inches divided by .0888, or centimetres divided by 2.2558.
6 bias (n.)
This is the direction of a piece of woven fabric positioned at 45 degrees—i.e., diagonally—to its warp and weft threads. Non-woven fabrics such as felt or interfacing do not have a bias. The bias direction of woven fabric is more elastic as well as more fluid in comparison to the on-grain direction; this property can be exploited for garments and garment details that require extra elasticity, drapability or flexibility, such as “bias-cut” skirts and dresses, neckties, piping trims and decorations, bound seams, and so on. In the Middle Ages, before the development of knitting, hose were cut on the bias in order to make them fit better.
The bias-cut technique has often been used by designers to let a fabric accentuate body lines and curves and drape softly; it was an important feature, for instance, in the designs of Madeleine Vionnet in the 1920s and 1930s. Bias-cut styles are revived periodically; in the mid-1990s John Galliano, designing for Dior, reinvented the 1930s bias-cut dress and made it modern.
The term “cross-grain” is not the same as bias: in the U.S., cross-grain refers to the direction perpendicular to the length-of-grain (selvage edges), not the diagonal.
7 interfacing/fuse (n.)
Interfacing is an extra layer of fabric added to provide shape and support in detail areas. It is commonly used in collars, cuffs, lapels, necklines, pockets, waistbands, buttonholes, facings and opening edges; interfacing keeps these areas of a garment crisp through repeated washings and wearings. The weight and type of interfacing depends on the kind of fabric being used, where in the garment it is going to be used and the desired effect. The two basic types are sewn-in and fusible (ironed on). Sew-in interfacings are stitched by hand or machine, while the fusible type has a resin coating on the back that binds to the fabric when steam, heat and pressure are applied. Both types are usually applied to the wrong side of what will be the outermost layer of fabric. Fusible interfacings are great for stabilizing small areas such as buttonholes, slashes and plackets. Fusible web can also be used to put up hems, hold appliqués in place and secure patches before stitching.
Woven interfacings are made of synthetic fabriic, cotton or a blend of fibers, and are available in a variety of weights and crispness, from lightweight polyester to heavyweight canvas. Other fabrics such as organza, cotton batiste and light-weight underlining fabrics are sometimes used for sheer, gauzy fabrics. The rule of thumb is that interfacing should ideally be lighter—definitely not heavier—in weight than the garment’s fabric, although it can be crisper.
8 points and spread (n.)
The points are the corners of a collar; in a button-down collar, the points are fitted with buttonholes that attach to small buttons on the body of the shirt to hold the collar neatly in place. The spread is the distance between the points of a shirt collar.
9 French seam (n.)
This type (also “superimposed” or “double machine” seams) makes very tidy-looking seams. The raw edge of the fabric is essentially encased within the seam. They are perfect for light, delicate fabrics such as silk. To create a French seam, the right and wrong sides of the fabric first have to be established. Then the two pieces of fabric are sewn together with the right sides of the fabric facing out. Once sewn, the outer edge may be trimmed to a narrow strip, after which the fabric is unfolded, pressed the other way so that both wrong sides face out, ironed flat (not open) and then stitched again so that the first sewn, raw seam is now concealed inside the second sewn seam. In France this seam is called couture anglaise—an English seam!
9 Women’s Wear Daily (n.)
WWD is an American daily newspaper read by everyone in the fashion and garment industries, including those in the accessory and beauty markets. It covers national and international designer collections, trade shows, industry goings-on, store openings, changing staff, related industrial and political news, obituaries of notable people in the industry and gossip. WWD is famous for its run-ins: the late designer Geoffrey Beene refused to kowtow to it and feuded with it for years after an assistant at the paper gave one of his shows an unflattering review.—LUCY SISMAN
Lucy Sisman is a designer, shirtmaker and writer, as well as co-founder of wwword. You can find her shirts and other clothing, accessories and gifts at MiddleBlue.