Saturday, May 24, 2014

American vs. British English - The sewing vocab version

As someone who transplanted from the US to the UK about nine months ago, there have been some things to which I've had to adjust.  I figured that the vocabulary differences wouldn't be an issue... after all, half of my extended family lives in the UK, and everyone already knows about basic things like sweater/jumper, truck/lorry, crisps/chips, sidewalk/pavement etc.

What I didn't know was that in the UK they often use different words for various fabrics, notions, or sewing terms than are used in America.  So for all the sewists out there looking to hop the pond in either direction, here's what I've run across so far:

Cheesecloth = Muslin
Muslin = Calico
Burlap = Hessian
Mock-up = Toile
Seam-ripper = Unpicker
Stitch Witchery = Bondaweb
To baste something = To tack something
Serger = Overlocker
Snaps = Poppers

If anyone has any more words to add to the list, please let me know!  I'd love to have a comprehensive list going!

I'm also trying to get better at working with the metric system... having 1 or 1.5 cm seam allowances have at least begun to seem somewhat natural, though it's a work in progress!


  1. In Australia, we call an Unpicker, a Quick Unpick.
    And Press Studs instead of "snaps"
    And I often see Serger used where we would say Overlocker, but otherwise we go with the British version.

    1. Not everywhere in Australia. I live in Canberra and I've never heard of a Quick Unpick. I'd call it an Unpicker. Otherwise, yes!

  2. I think both "toile" and "tack" are more regional than just British versus American. I grew up saying "tack" when you were going to put something up quickly. It wasn't until about five years ago I started to say "baste" - because that's what all the Northern and Cali girls would write. :-) Toile is one that I've seen a lot of the Cali girls use as well. Maybe they are just copying the British but I'd be curious if a lot of the terms are more regional. My Mom says unpicker and she's purely mid-Atlantic. :-)