General Textile Terms

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The act or result of rubbing during laundering or normal wear.Generally synthetic threads have superior abrasion resistance than cellulosic threads. Poly core yarns have good abrasion resistance needed in many pre-washed garments.


Refers to the appearance of the thread in the finished seam and can be affected by: Contrast stitching Color matching Sheen of the thread Size of the thread.


Advanced Fiber Information System made by Uster.This instrument is used for measuring fiber length and diameter, short fiber content, and neps short fiber and fiber imperfections.

Air Splice:

A means of joining ends of thread with high pressure air. Produces a union not as thick as weavers knot so a better quality product is produced.

Anti – stat:

A chemical used to reduce the static electric charges produced in a thread. The finish is usually required on synthetic threads.

Anti – wicking:

Usually refers to finish put on the thread to prevent liquid from migrating through the thread. This finish is sometimes put on cotton threads used in tents, awnings, and tea bags.




A pattern of stitches sewn on a cycle machine used to re – enforce seams, attach belt loops etc. Bartackers are available to make either a lockstitch or a single – thread tack. The most common single thread bartacker is a Reece S – 2 machine.


Refers to temporary stitch used in tailored garments to hold garment pieces together until another operation is performed. Most manufacturers use 100% cotton thread which is later pulled and thrown away.


Refers to a 103 Efc – 1 hemming operation. Many manufacturers use either a spun or a textured polyester thread for this operation.


A bobbin is a yarn package in which single yarn is wound in a textile mill.

Bobbin thread:

A small round source of thread used as the bottom thread in a lock stitch machine. It does not go back and forth like the needle swing thread does. Also called bottom thread in lock stitch machine or looper thread on a chasinstitch or overedge machine.

Bonded finish:

Refers to the finish applied to continuous filament synthetic threads which coat the fibers giving the thread better ply security and abrasion resistance.

Bottom weights:

They are heavy weight fabrics used for jeans, overalls, jackets etc. These fabrics require heavy thread size with good needle resistance.

Bound seam:

A seam where a binding or a piping is sewn on the edge of the seam usually with the assistance of a folder on a sewing machine .


Thread breakage can be caused due to a number of variables viz. Weak thread or wrong thread for operation Thread defects including knot slubs etc. Thread with too much stretch or elongation Mal adjusted sewing machine Operator handling

Busted seam construction:

Seams that are pressed flat after the panels have been serged and then sewn. Used on tailored garments like coats, slacks, dresses etc.


Is usually sewn either a single thread or a lock stitch cycle machine set up to attach the buttons. Usually a 100% cotton thread is recommended on machines that do not have a thread trimmer. On machines with thread trimmers, most core or spun polyester threads can be used.


Is usually sewn on either a single machine thread or lockstitch cycle machines set up to make buttonholes. Buttonhole machines can be complicated and cause many sewing problems. Many manufacturers use 100% cotton thread or a core thread on these machines to minimise thread breakage or skipped stitches.

Blow room:

The first department in pre – spinning unit of any yarn whose main functions include: Opening Cleaning Mixing Formation of a product suitable for carding.




A process used in the manufacturing of staple yarns which separates, cleans, aligns, and delivers the fibers in a sliver form. The machine consists of a series of rolls , the surfaces of which are covered with projecting wires or metal teeth.

Chaining – off:

Refers to what a sewing operator does when he sews off the fabric at the end of a seam but the machine continues to form a stitch.


Usually refers to a 401 double – locked stitch where the needle thread is inter looped with a bottom looper thread on the underside of the seam. Usually a size smaller, the looper thread can be used and still maintain the seam strength, because of the way the threads are interlooped. Most main seams sewn in apparel are sewn with this stitch formation.


A Uster testing machine used to measure the frequency and grade the size of yarn imperfections in single yarn or plied sewing thread.


The ability of the thread to retain its color during wear, laundering and/or when exposed to sunlight. Polyester threads usually exhibit the best colorfastness. Vat dyed cotton have reasonable colorfastness qualities. Threads used to contrast stitching should have “AA” colorfastness rating.

Color matching:

Refers to the selection of the thread that will match the fabric it is sewn into.


A step subsequent to carding which straightens the fibers and extracts neps, foreign matters and short fibers. Combing produces a more stronger, more even, finer, compact and smoother yarn.


Usually refers to the thread to follow another thread supplier, thread type or thread color on the sewing floor with minimum machine adjustments.

Contrast Stitching:

Refers to the sewing of thread into fabric of a different color. It is recommended that a 100% polyester thread be used to reduce the chance of color migration. If 100% cotton thread are used, they should have an “AA” rating.

Corespun thread:

Thread made by wrapping a cotton or polyester staple cover around a continuous filament bundle of polyester fibers. Two or more of these yarns are then plied to make sewing thread. When using a cotton wrap, the yarn had good needle heat resistance. Core threads are used in everything from fine blouses to heavy coveralls depending upon the thread size. Core threads are recommended on automatic sewing machines.


Another term used for the number of plies in thread construction.


A stitch generally used to seam knit underwear, athletic wear, etc and consists of at least two needle threads, a looper thread and a top spreader or cover thread. Usually a spun polyester or textured polyester is used on machines producing these stitch formations: 602 2 needles, 1 looper, 1 spreader 605 3 needles, 1 looper and 1 spreader 606 4 needles, 4 loopers and 1 spreader 607 4 needles, 1 looper and 1 spreader.

Cut Stitches:

Refers to threads of a previously sewn stitch line being cut during a subsequent sewing operation. Decorative stitch: The sewing thread to accent a pocket, collar or some other part of the garment. Usually this thread is a different color from the body fabric (contrast stitching).




Refers to a quality imperfection found in the thread. Some thread defects may include: Slubs Slack twist Knots Corkscrew twist Neps Singles kinks.


Is the gram weight of 9000 m of thread. This thread numbering system is used for continuous filament threads and is called the direct numbering system.


The process of winding two or more single yarns or filaments parallel to one another on the bobbin used for Two – for – one twisting machine.


A process used to blend 6 to 8 ends of sliver and draft the sliver down to the appropriate grain weight for the next operation.



Edge finishing:

Refers to a class of seams where a single ply of fabric is either folded on the edge (hemming) or serged.


Refers to how much a seam will stretch before the thread ruptures. Usually the threads with higher elongation will give greater seam elasticity. Also stitch formations that use more threads will have greater elasticity like overedge or coverstitch seam construction. The number of stitches per inch and the stitch balance can also affect seam elasticity.


Refers to how and when a thread stretches which is usually measured at the breaking point of the thread. Threads that stretch excessively under normal sewing tension can cause excessive skipped stitches and thread breakage.


The sewing thread with small and numerous stitches for identification or for decoration. If a high sheen is required, either a filament polyester or rayon is generally used. Care should be taken when using 100% cotton threads which might bleed on the fabric unless the thread has “AA” specification.




A lab testing machine used to test the long – term effect of light on sewing thread color and strength.

False twist:

The process where continuous filaments of polyester or nylon are entangled usually by pin, disc or belt texturing machines.


This term usually refers to a double – lapped seam used on jeans; or it refers to blindstitching operations used on tailored garments.


Usually refers to the thread lubricant that is applied to the thread to protect it form needle heat and to give it good lubricity characteristics. Two methods are used to apply lubrication: “lick – roll” lubrication and “exhaust lubrication”. We use both the processes depending upon the thread type and size.


Usually refers to an OSHA requirement on children wear where the seam should not support combustion.


Refers to a sewing problem caused by the fabric moving up with the needle as the needle rises to form a needle loop. Flagging can cause poor loop formation and skipped stitches.


606 coverstitch machine using 4 needles, 4 loopers and a top cover thread. Usually right twist cotton or spun polyester are recommended in the needle positions on this feed – off – the – arm machine.


607 coverstitch machine using 4 needles, 1 looper and a top cover thread. Usually textured or spun polyester are used for this type of feed – off – the – arm machine.


A work – aid used on a sewing machine to help fold the fabric as it is being sewn.



Garment dyeing:

Generally refers to as process where 100% cotton garments are dyed after they are assembled to minimise finished good inventories.


The process where spun cotton thread is passed through one or more flames at high speed to reduce the hairs on the surface of the thread.


Refers to the buttonhole gimp which is used in eyelet buttonhole machines to give the buttonhole better strength and a more defined appearance.

Glace finish:

A finish put on cotton thread which is made of starches, waxes and other additives. This coating protects the thread during sewing giving it better ply security and abrasion resistance.




The folding and sewing of the bottom edge of the fabric.

Hook (shuttle):

Stitch forming device used in Lock – stitch machine which includes a bobbin. On rotary hook machines, the hook makes two revolutions for every rotation of the handwheel or stitch formation.



Initial modulus:

Refers to the initial resistance to stretching under normal sewing machine tensions. Higher the initial modulus, the better loop formation characteristics the thread will have therefore fewer skipped stitches and thread breakage.



King tube:

A thread cone with vertical tube and a horizontal base which is used for filament polyester and nylon threads, and glaced cotton threads.


Fabric construction in which the adjacent yarns are interlooped. Some common types of knit fabrics are: Double knit Tricot Warp knit Rib Knits are susceptible to needle cutting and fabric damage.


Knots are used to join ends of thread together. In thread there can be single knots or ply knots. Knots can be eliminated by the use of air – splicers. Knots can cause thread breakage, as it is not able to pass through the needle hole during sewing.


Lockstitch (301 stitch):

A term used for machine that uses a needle and hook or bobbin to form a stitch. This is the most common stitch used on industrial sewing machines. Usually a good quality thread is needed to sew on a Lockstitch machine because the number of times the thread goes back and forth through the machine before being sewn into the seam. A textured polyester thread is NOT recommended.

Loop formation:

Usually refers to the formation of the needle loop on the back side of the needle which must be picked up by a hook, looper or spreader in order to form a stitch.


A stitch forming device used to interloop the bottom thread with the needle thread on a chainstitch, overedge or coverstitch machine. In many cases, the looper thread may be one or two sizes smaller than the needle thread without significant loss in seam coverage.

Loop strength:

Refers to the strength of the thread when broken with one end looped to the other end similar to the interlocking of the thread in a lockstitch formation. With most threads, the loop strength is greater than the single yarn strength.

Looper thread:

Refers to the bottom thread used in a chainstitch and coverstitch machine; and the threads that cover the edge of the overedge seam. Many manufacturers use a textured polyester thread in the looper position to reduce their thread cost and get the optimum thread coverage.


Refers to the frictional characteristics the thread possesses as it passes through the sewing machine into the seam. Good lubricity will minimize the thread breakage and enhance sewability.




Refers to the process by which the cotton thread is treated under tension in a solution of caustic soda which causes the fibers to swell and become more uniform in cross – section. This allows the fibers to accept dyes more readily, enhances lustre and increases the strength of the thread. Usually mercerised threads are gassed prior to mercerization.

Mock safety stitch (512 stitch):

512, four thread overedge that looks like a safety stitch on the top side of the seam, but the looper thread joins both needle threads with the edge of the seam. Usually a textured polyester or spun polyester is recommended on mock safety stitch machines.


A single filament resembling fishing line. It is extruded through a spinneret with a specific diameter. Usually monofilaments are used on blind stitch operations because the thread is translucent and blends with many colors. It is also very inexpensive when compared to other sewing threads. It is NOT recommended for general sewing operations as it is irritating to touch and unravels easily.


Made of nylon or polyester continuous filaments which are twisted and plied into a cohesive bundle. They can be soft and twisted or bonded and twisted. Both these threads are used in luggage etc. Bonded threads are recommended in the needle positions when sewing hard to penetrate fabrics because the bond holds the fibers together allowing better ply security and abrasion resistance.




All sewing machines use a needle to carry a loop of thread through the seam to form a stitch. The nine basic parts of a needle include Butt, Shank, Shoulder, Blade, Tip, Groove, Eye, and Scarf. Needles come in a variety of types and sizes depending upon the type of sewing machine and the operation and the fabric being sewn.

Needle cooler:

Usually refers to special tubing used to direst forced air on to the needle of high speed sewing machines to reduce needle heat. This is sometimes necessary while using polyester or nylon sewing threads.

Needle cutting:

Refers to the damage on the fabric by the needle. This is usually more of a problem with the knits than the wovens.

Needle Heat:

It is caused by the rubbing action of the needle with the fabric as the needle moves up and down. Needle heat can cause thermoplastic threads like nylon and polyester to melt. Because of this, lubricants are put on the thread to lubricate the needle as it passes through the fabric and also act as a barrier between the hot needle and the thread when the operator stops sewing. Cellulosic threads will not melt so they are not affected by the needle heat.

Needle size:

Refers to the diameter of the needle generally measured at the needle eye. Three numbering systems are commonly used: Size 100 Size 040 (All of these are the same size) Size 16


Small yarn imperfections caused by the immature fibers, fibers that are not straightened properly etc.

Non – wicking:

Refers to a finish that can be put on thread to prevent liquids from migrating through the thread. Quarpel is such kind of a finish that can be put on cotton wrappeDuro Soft threads.


It is a synthetic fiber which has good strength and excellent abrasion resistance. Both type nylon 6,6 and nylon 6 an be used to make threads.



Ornamental Stitching(OS):

Refers to the class of seams where stitches are sewn into a single ply of fabric for a decorative effect. Hemming a back pocket for a jean is an example of an ornamental stitching. See embroidery or contrast stitching.


It is a stitch formation found in the 500 class of stitches. These stitch formations can be formed by making a triangle of thread aournd the edge of the fabric being sewn. Three stitch formation devices are required to form any overedge stitch. Below is a list of more common overedge stitch formations: 501 single thread using a needle, a lower spreader, and upper spreader. 502 & 503 two thread using a needle, lower looper and upper spreader. 504 & 505 three thread using a needle, lower looper and upper looper. 512 & 514 four thread using two needles, lower looper and upper looper. More manufacturers use textured or spun polyester on these types of stitch formations.


Usually refers to an over edge stitch formation.


Plain sewer:

Usually refers to a single needle lockstitch machinr using a needle and a bobbin thread.

Ply or plies:

Refers to the number of single threads twisted together to make a sewing thread. Most core and spun polyester threads have two or three ply construction.

Ply security:

Refers to the ability of the fiber in the thread to stay together during the sewing process. Ply security depends upon the thread construction, twist per inch, frictional properties of the thread, special finishes and the degree of entanglement.


Refers to the wrinkled appearance of a seam which can be caused by a number of factors. This can be categorized into the following groups: Inherent pucker Feed pucker Drawing pucker Operator handling

Purl stitch:

Refers to an overedge stitch usually sewn on the edges of the napkins. Many manufacturers use textured nylon or polyester sewn with a dense stitch count to cover the edge properly.




It is a regenerated cellulosic fiber similar to cotton in its physical characteristics. Rayon is primarily used for embroidery applications.


In spun yarn production, it is an intermediate state between sliver and yarn.


Refers to the thread sliding out of a seam causing thread failure. This occurs on knit shirts and under garments that are sewn with an overedge with a narrow bite. Sewing with light machine thread tensions will reduce the problem. Also a fuzzy thread like Tora and Duro Poly will runback less than a textured or filament polyester thread.



Safety stitch:

Refers to the stitch formations that include both chainstitch and overedge stitch formations which are made simultaneously. The most common safetystitch include: 515 (401 & 503) 516 (401 & 504)


Seam is a series of stitches used to join two or more plies of fabric together. There are four classes of seams viz: Superimposed seam Lapped seam Bound seam Flat seam

Seam grinning:

The opening up of a seam when stress is applied to it either due to much needle thread in the seam or high thread elongation.


Refers to the over edging of a single ply of a fabric to prevent it from unraveling. The most common serging stitch is a 503 two thread stitch formation.


Refers to the performance of a sewing machine. Good sewability means that the thread seldom breaks or skips stitches. Generally 100% cotton or core threads give the best sewability depending on the machine and the product being sewn.

Sewing machine:

A machine which uses a needle or needles to form a stitch by interlocking or interlooping the threads. There are 66 different stitch formations being formed on 13,000,000 sewing machines worldwide.

Shade matching:

Refers to the selection of a thread color that is close to the fabric color being sewn into but not necessarily a color match. This is often done to reduce thread inventories and use up old thread inventories.


Refers to the dimensional stability of a thread when it is subjected to heat or boiling water. ASTM Test methods D – 204 describes the standard test procedures for sewing thread either using boiling water or dry heat.

Single yarn strength:

Refers to breaking strength of a piece of thread which can be measured in pounds, ounces, grams etc.

Single equivalent (Resultant count):

The yarn size divided by the number of ply.

Single needle machine:

Refers to a plain sewer or a single needle lockstitch machine using a needle and bobbin thread to form a stitch.

Single yarn:

Refers to the individual yarn that is spun prior to twisting.

Skipped stitches:

It is caused by a loop being missed during stitch formation causing an unlocked stitch. A skipped stitch on a chainstitch or overedge stitch will unravel during laundering causing the seam to open up. Usually a thread will lower elongation and high initial modulus.

Slack twist:

Refers to a yarn where insufficient twist is applied to the thread so that it has very poor ply security.

Slubs: These are the defects that are sometimes found in spun or corespun threads that resemble cocoons. They are caused by fibers in the air getting caught in the yarn as it is spun.

Soft finish:

Refers to the thread that receives no further processing to change its general physical characteristics. It is dyed to the proper shade and degree of colorfastness, wound on the proper size package and lubricated for sewability.


The process used in the production of single yarn where the fibers are drafted down to the final size and twisted together. Twist in the individual single yarn is normally applied in ‘S’ direction.


Refers to a stitch formation device used in an overedge, coverstitch, blindstitch, button sewer etc to carry another thread to a position so it can be entered by another stitch forming device. Except for coverstitch machines, a spreader does not have its own source of thread.


A stress – strain testing machine used to evaluate the strength, elongation, modulus and tenacity of a thread.

Stitches per inch (SPI):

Refers to the number of stitches made in one inch of seam starting at a needle penetration and measuring the lengths of thread between thread penetrations.

Spun polyester:

A thermoplastic thread made of staple polye`ster fibers which are spun into single yarns and then plied into a thread.


Refers to a process where the elongation the thread is reduced to enhance loop formation and sewability. This usually increases the initial modulus or resistance to stretching under normal sewing conditions. Staple Small fibers with crimp in them used to spin a yarn or sewing thread. All spun sewing threads are made of staple fiber.

Static electricity:

An electrical charge which affects synthetic materials and threads during spinning and sewing. An anti – stat is usually put in the finish and used on synthetic threads to reduce the effect of static electricity.


According to Federal Specification 751A, stitching is the sewing of a single ply of fabric for the purpose of finishing the edge or to decorate the seam.

Stitch balance:

Refers to balancing of the top and bottom of the sewing machine tensions so that the stitch has the correct seam appearance. Usually it is desirable to balance the stitch with minimum sewing machine thread tensions.


Refers to the elongation of the thread which can effect the sewability and sewing performance.


Trim items like thread, zippers, buttons, linings etc used in the manufacturing of a garment.




Usually refers to the sewing machine tension needed to set a stitch. The lightest sewing machine tension is desirable to minimize sewing problems and enhance sewing performance.

Tex size:

A ticket size of sewing thread that is based on gram weight of 1000 m of undyed (grey) thread. Tex sizes are rounded off to a smaller size. For example a Tex size of 42 would be labeled as Tex 40. Textured threads: Usually refers to the threads that have been false twist textured to entangle the parallel continuous filaments.


Refers to the tendency of the thread to twist back on itself(snarl). This affects loop formation, thread breakage etc. Minimum torque should be built into a thread by having the correct twist, heat setting and frictional characteristics.


Total Quality Management refers to the quality management system committed to customer requirements, processes, employee participation, and process control.

Twist direction:

Most of the sewing threads are ply twisted with a left hand or Z twist. The reason for this is that in most sewing machines stitch formation devices enter the needle loop from the right hand side and this reduces the untwisting of the thread on most plain sewers.

Twist balance:

The absence of torque in a sewing thread.(see torque)

Twist per inch:

Refers to the turns per inch used to spin the single yarn and ply twist. Usually this twist is determined by a twist multiple.



Ultra Violet
Light (UV):

Refers to the light rays that can affect the durability and colorfastness of a thread. Sometimes an UV inhibitor is used to reduce the amount of harmful rays from being absorbed by the thread.




Refers to a problem with moisture passing through the thread by capillary action. Many manufacturers use 100% cotton or cotton wrappeDuro Soft thread to reduce the amount of wicking. This is because cotton swells up when it is wet and it prevents the moisture from passing through the seam. Sometimes an impregnal finish is given to the thread to increase its resistance to wicking.


Refers to the fabrics that are formed by the warp and weft yarns which are interwoven together. Wovens have a tighter construction and stretch less than knits.



Yarn defects:

Refers to the thick and thin places in the yarns caused by knots, slubs, neps, stretching or other imperfection during yarn manufacturing.

Yarn size:

Equal to the equivalent size multiplied with the number of plies. The cotton count system is used for most spun anDuro Soft spun threads. This is an indirect numbering system meaning larger the yarn size, smaller the diameter of the thread. (A 2/28 yarn is bigger in diameter than 2/45 yarn)


Refers to the length of the yarn in yards which will break under its own weight(in pounds). Given by yards/lbs. This can be calculated by multiplying the equivalent size (resultant count) by 840 yards.



Zig Zag:

Can be made with a lockstitch machine where the needle moves right to left as the material is being fed through the machine. Usually a thread with good ply security is needed for these machines.