I say muslin, you say toile…

In the post about re-using muslins, Nic pointed out in the comments that it’s called “making a toile” in the UK, and the fabric itself is called calico. So here in North America, that means that both the fabric and the act of making a test garment are called muslin! (Kind of confusing to have the same word mean both the fabric, and the concept.)

crescent skirt muslin
(a muslin for the Crescent Skirt, sewn using muslin fabric! Or, a toile for the Crescent Skirt, sewn using calico fabric.)
This is what we call ‘toile’ in North America:

It doesn’t have to be red, it can be black or white or blue, but we call these two-colour prints with this style of motif “toile.” That’s what I picture when I think of toile.

And I’m knitting from a knitting pattern that calls for press studs, meaning snaps. I had never heard of press studs before. I thought snap was a universal term, but it just goes to show how you never stop learning new things!
snaps or press studs?
(snaps, or press studs)
So I’m wondering: what else is there? I’m sure these aren’t the only sewing notions or concepts that are called different things depending on where you live. It’s good to know both terms, to make my explanations clearer for everyone, no matter where they live!
What other sewing terms have different names in different parts of the world? Is there anything that you have read about on sewing blogs but have no idea what the equivalent is in your country?

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186 Responses to I say muslin, you say toile…

  1. Annabel Vita April 3, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    A serger is called an overlocker in the UK. I know there are other things, but as a Brit reading lots of blogs you get so used to the North American terms that I find myself using them anyway…

    My FAVOURITE funny sewing translation thing, though, is that a French seam in French is… “couture anglaise” (English seam).

    • Debra April 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      That is amusing – and a term I didn’t know. Thanks,

  2. Lucy April 3, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Those aren’t press studs, they’re poppers! And we do stuff up with zips, not zippers.

    Lucy (from the UK)

    • Maine Mummy April 3, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      Have to disagree, my Nan was a seamstress in the UK for forty years and they are press studs. Poppers is a slang word that has now come into wider use.

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:49 am #

      Ah! I must be mistaken, I’m knitting from a pattern by a UK designer so I thought that’s where the term comes from. I quite like ‘poppers’ too.

      • CuriousGem April 3, 2013 at 10:30 am #

        I agree with Maine Mummy, I’d use both press studs and poppers but never snaps

        • Cate April 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

          I’m in Australia and would call the metal sew in ones press studs and the plastic or metal ones, that you need a special tool to install, poppers.

          also, overlocker not serger; zip not zipper and quick-unpick not seam ripper

          • Dana April 4, 2013 at 12:47 am #

            I am in Australia but it is seam ripper to me

            • Zoe April 30, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

              I’m Australian too. In my family it’s an ‘unpicker poodle’. Because my grandmother is a bit weird.

          • PendleStitches April 5, 2013 at 12:30 am #

            I’m with Cate! I’m in the UK and those are the terms I use. Language is as fascinating as sewing, no?

    • Lauren April 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      I’ve always called press studs “domes”. Not sure where that came from… (I’m in NZ). And yes, we also call them “zips” here too. And it’s a “quick unpick” to me (re comments below)

      • Kieran April 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        I say domes too! (also from NZ)

        • Leigh April 5, 2013 at 11:57 am #

          I’m a kiwi in the UK. You won’t believe the amount of gesturing involved in explaining a dome to a helpful sales lady here! Never occurred to me that the rest of the world might call it something else.:-)

    • Lindy April 4, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      Well, then, what are press studs?

    • Lindy April 4, 2013 at 10:42 am #


    • Petitebluebirdgirl May 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

      Hi Lucy,

      United Kingdom

      I have been sewing for over 38 years and those snaps (the silver ones) have always been called Press Studs. The white plastic snaps which are used generally for duvet covers are called Poppers in the UK (the silver ones are also best for babies/toddlers clothing. Also there are party poppers which and things used to suprise at parties.

      • Petitebluebirdgirl May 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

        Hi Lucy,

        United Kingdom – correction regarding plastic poppers – also now a sexual slang term in the UK

        I have been sewing for over 38 years and those snaps (the silver ones) have always been called Press Studs.

        The white plastic snaps which are used generally for duvet covers are called Poppers in the UK (the plastic ones are also best for babies/toddlers clothing. Also there are party poppers which and things used to suprise at parties.

    • Sally G June 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      50 years ago, I grew up in the UK, and my mum, a working class woman, always called them ‘poppers’ so we children did too. When I was about 8 or 9 and heard someone else call them ‘press studs’, my dad, upper class (and member of peerage), said that press studs was the correct name. It was working class that called them poppers. (He insisted we continued to call them poppers.)

  3. Frances April 3, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    I’m in South Africa, and we call a seam ripper a quick-unpick. :-)

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:34 am #

      Love it! I call seam ripping ‘unpicking’ so I love quick-unpick!

      • Valérie August 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

        My French mother called the seam ripper “un pique-pique,” but I rather think she may have made that up! I wonder if Lholy Chan might help here?

    • funnygrrl April 3, 2013 at 8:13 am #

      I am now going to call my seam ripper a quick-unpick!! I love it!

      • Petitebluebirdgirl May 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

        in the UK a seam ripper as always been called a quick unpick but some people do call the tool a seam ripper – both terms serve the same purpose.

    • Brumby April 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      Same here in New Zealand, it is a quick unpick!

      • Emilie January 3, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

        This term quick-unpick is really funny and reminds me of the french term sometimes used for that object which is “découd-vite” which translates literally to “unsew-quick”!

        • Valérie August 10, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

          Ah, bon!

  4. Sam April 3, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    Yes, what you call “zippers” are “zips” to me! And sergers are overlockers.

    Although I’m in the UK I do call a test garment a muslin, but then I’m used to US bloggers using that term.

  5. Lholy-chan April 3, 2013 at 6:35 am #

    Interesting! In French we say “faire une toile” (= make a toile) for making a muslin, so I guess the UK english version comes from that. And the fabric is indeed called “toile” (or more exactly “toile à patron”, which would mean “pattern toile”). What was very confusing for me at first was that your word “muslin” is very close to the french word “mousseline”, which is a delicate chiffon-like fabric that to me didn’t look like the kind of stuff you use to test patterns. I didn’t know what kind of fabric I was reading about! ^^;
    The fabric you call “toile” in the US is actually called “toile de Jouy” in French (I guess you shortened it), because it originated in the town of Jouy-en-Josas.

    Since I read a lot of English sewing blogs and websites sometimes it’s quite confusing for me to know how things are called in the different languages. There are things I know in English for which I’m not sure what the french names are, and vice versa. The one fabric I’m not sure how to translate is cotton lawn. I’ve seen it called “batiste” in French, but since you seem to also use the word batiste in english for something else, I’m not sure… :s

    • Jenny April 3, 2013 at 6:41 am #

      I’ve seen both cotton lawn and cotton batiste ~ they feel about the same, I wonder if they are? I usually use the batiste to line eyelet or lawn. My Hollyburn skirt is made of cotton lawn with a batiste lining.

    • Carolyn April 3, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      In English, the word ‘muslin’ did used to mean what ‘mousseline’ does in French – a very lightweight, gauzy cotton. This was so from the early 18th century (particularly popular during the late 18th & early 19th centuries – think Regency period) until sometime late in the 19th century or at some point in the 20th century. I’ve always kind of wondered when the switch happened. Having examined 18th century muslin dresses in museums I think cotton lawn is now probably the closest equivalent to what used to be called muslin. My understanding is that batiste, while also very lightweight, is smoother in finish and not quite as sheer as lawn.

      • Julianne April 3, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

        I used to work in a fabric store, and at least once a week a customer would ask for “muslim”…

        • Elizabeth April 5, 2013 at 6:09 am #

          Honestly, sometimes my tongue slips up on me and I say “muslim.” It’s ridiculous. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit dyslexic. I always kick myself when I say it wrong!!

  6. Miriana April 3, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    We (in the UK) call the red fabric with the pastoral scenese Toile du Jouy which I’m guessing is from the French. As is Toile and Voile.

    I worry that as I’ve started to think it’s zipper and not zip. But as long as I never say ‘fanny pack’ I can live with it.

    • Nina April 3, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      Yes, “fanny pack” is appalling to British ears, isn’t it?!

      • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:34 am #

        Why? I mean, fanny packs aren’t the most attractive thing but why is the name so bad? Curious :)

        • starryfishathome April 3, 2013 at 7:39 am #

          The f***y is a name for a lady’s most female bits! That’s why it makes us Brits squirm. Not to mention the item makes you look like a tourist, why do people wear them in capital cities?

          • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:51 am #

            Oh!! I did not know that, it’s more of a term for rear end, because the pack hangs over it. Agree that they look touristy! There are other alternatives for sure:)

            • Becky April 3, 2013 at 8:25 am #

              Fanny packs are very touristy, not to mention ugly and dated, but there is something so endearing about guys who wear them. I actually see them most often on foreign tourists visiting the US! And it’s just like, “awwwww”. So fashion clueless it’s adorable. Is it just me??

            • Rachel April 5, 2013 at 12:32 am #

              Which is the funny thing because you call them fanny packs and they hang at back and we call them bumbags and they hang on the front.

              • Tasia April 5, 2013 at 9:44 am #

                Our fanny packs go on the front too! Easier to get at your stuff if it’s hanging in front. There are pictures of ten-year-old me wearing a neon green fanny pack worn at the front on a family trip – embarrassing!

            • dutchdiva June 26, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

              I’m always saying “She almost fell on her fanny” or “He fell on his fanny”!! Had no idea that it meant something else in the UK. In the states it means “butt”. A “bum” is a hobo or a drifter.

              I took my 16 year old son with me on my first visit to the Netherlands to meet extended family for the first time. My son was horrified when he was asked if he needed a “douche”!!!
              We found out that it means “shower”.

        • Maine Mummy April 3, 2013 at 7:49 am #

          In Britain the word fanny is the American Equivalent of See You Next Tuesday. Or at least it carried that kind of cache when I was growing up. At the very least it still refers to anatomy rather than your be-hind. Feel free to hide this comment!

          • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:53 am #

            Thanks for the explanation! Learn something new everyday :) no need to hide the comment, I’m sure more Canadians and Americans will be curious too!

            • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 8:04 am #

              There used to be a fabric store here called Fanny’s Fabrics – bet the owner had no idea of the other meaning!

              • Lucy April 3, 2013 at 11:53 am #

                Her name was probably Frances ;-)

                ‘Fanny’ isn’t as offensive as See You Next Tuesday, it’s more of a snigger-snigger term. At least, it was here in NZ when I was growing up – don’t hear it much any more. I assume it’s pretty recent, otherwise it wouldn’t have become such a commonly used nickname for Frances.

                Oh, and in answer to your original question, sergers are overlockers, zippers are zips, and in knitting you check your tension, not your gauge. And don’t even get me started on the names for the types of yarn/wool.

                • Becky April 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

                  Oh man, seriously I just had to google search “see you next Tuesday” b/c I had no idea what you all meant by that. And I’m an American.


                  • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

                    Who knew the things you could learn on a sewing blog!? :) Not just about sewing over here!

                    • meganleiann April 3, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

                      I’m an American too and I had no idea.

                  • Meigan April 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

                    I had to google “see you next Tuesday too” Too funny!

        • Marie April 3, 2013 at 7:50 am #

          Because in the UK, ‘fanny’ is ‘slang’ for female genitalia. That’s why we would never use that term…we’d say ‘bum bag’ instead ;o) No word of a lie!

        • Lisa April 3, 2013 at 7:54 am #

          Correct me if I’m wrong (uk people) but from what I’ve learned from English friends and family, its a term used for lady parts.

          • Miriana April 3, 2013 at 8:39 am #

            Yup, it’s the child’s version of what I shall euphemistically call ‘front bottom’. It makes the different usage of the word ‘pants’ pale into insignificance.

      • Kelly April 7, 2013 at 4:58 am #

        And Australians. I had to educate a group of US marines why that term in Australia would earn them stares and ridicule….lol

  7. Sewing Sveta April 3, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    In Russia we use a lot of German words in sewing(may be because of the Burda magazine%)). Like formband for fusible stay tape or vliseline for fusible interfacing %)

    Also I like to find out that French seam in France has another name%)

    Peter pan collar in Russia doesn’t have any name at all!

    • Sewing Sveta April 3, 2013 at 6:52 am #

      Serger and overlocker also.

    • Sophie o. April 3, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      I totally agree! A Peter Pan collar is a “col Claudine” in French, Claudine being feminine first name :)

  8. Nina April 3, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    Yes to all the above (poppers, zips, toile de Jouy), and crochet instructions are the worst! For example, American single crochet = British double crochet (because you pull your final loop through two loops, makes sense!). And obviously “pants” are underwear. I didn’t realise your muslin was our calico, I thought people were making test garments from fine muslin (although I did notice your skirt toiles looked thicker).

    • sandra April 5, 2013 at 9:04 am #

      I was just about to comment about crochet instructions – so confusing! Single crochet in the US is double crochet here in the UK, double is treble and so on until it gives me a headache!

  9. Ann April 3, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    In Denmark we make a ‘prøve-model’ that directly translates to ‘test-model’ and we do have a cheap, heavy cotton fabric called ‘stout’ that is often used for that purpose.

  10. Ann April 3, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    In Denmark we make a ‘prøve-model’ that directly translates to ‘test-model’ and we do have a cheap, heavy cotton fabric called ‘stout’ that is often used for that purpose. Some refer to the toile/muslin as ‘the stout’ and just because they call the test-model a stout doesn’t mean that it’s made of the fabric stout. It sure is confusing ;)

  11. annette tirette April 3, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    My first language is Dutch, so a lot of terms are totally different… I find myself being more familiar with English sewing terms since most of the blogs I follow and the books I use are in English. We do use the word toile for muslins, since a lot of words in Dutch (especially Flemish Dutch) originate from French (especially in dialects- the word Tirette in my name is a French word for zipper that found its way into our dialect).

  12. didyoumakethat April 3, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    ‘You say potato, I say potato, you say tomato, I say tomato. Potato, tomato, potato, tomato! Let’s call the whole thing off…’ Two nations divided by a common language. Just had to type all of that!!!!

  13. Nela April 3, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    I’ve never found out what the german word for french curve is. I already went to a fabric shop and asked for that, but nobody even knew what it means. So, I’m still using the english term for that.

    • PerlenDiva April 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Kurvenlineal, oder manchmal auch Schneiderlineal.

      • Nela April 4, 2013 at 6:42 am #


    • Claudia April 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

      I think the German word for french curve would be “Kurvenlineal” = curve ruler. And in German there is not really a word for a muslin, we just say “test piece”. And the muslin fabric would be “Nessel”, a sturdy cotton fabric.
      Thanks for the discussion, I learnt a lot of new words :-), sewing and otherwise.

  14. zilredloh April 3, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Press studs, I generally only see that term in my vintage knitting magazines…. by chance are you knitting vintage?! :)

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      Sort of, it’s a Susan Crawford pattern – princess twinset jumper from Coronation Knits. I thought it was a UK term, press studs, but I must be wrong! Must be a vintage term instead like ‘slide fastener.’

      • Maine Mummy April 3, 2013 at 7:50 am #

        I still use Press-studs not poppers, I have many generations of seamstresses in my family, maybe I’m a tad vintage myself.

      • CuriousGem April 3, 2013 at 10:36 am #

        What’s a slide fastener? Is that an old word for a zip?

      • zilredloh April 8, 2013 at 8:34 am #

        Hmmm… I see it a lot in my vintage Stitchcraft magazines, but they’re from the UK too. So perhaps it’s both??? :)

        • Tasia April 8, 2013 at 11:26 am #

          I’ve seen it in your vintage Stitchcraft patterns as well :) I have a couple of the ones you’ve shared in my favourites! That navy and pink one with white flowers is the cutest.
          Back to the term, I suppose it’s both, as further in the comments more people from the UK agreed with press studs!

  15. Emma April 3, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    I’m from the UK and call snaps ‘press-studs’, confused by the US use of Muslin ( a floppy, looseweave fabric I’ve also heard called cheesecloth over here) for toiles and in the UK ‘fanny’ is slang for your private lady bits, hence we cring a bit at ‘fanny pack’.

  16. Maine Mummy April 3, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    My biggest language barrier with my grandmother was that her generation uses “Wool” instead of “Yarn.” I didn’t really take up knitting until I moved to the US so I had to always catch myself and say wool when talking with her. I’m not sure if that’s a UK US thing or just generational. I’ll have to start writing down the words my mum and great aunt use because they have different terminology for everything.

    • CuriousGem April 3, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      I say wool when I mean yarn. I guess it comes from the days when it was made from wool

    • sophie o. (monbouton) April 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      In French we use the equivalent of wool (laine) for yarn, which is automatically confusing – not to mention very inaccurate regarding the actual content of the yarn

      • sewing princess April 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

        in italian you also say wool (lana) for yarn

        • Alessa April 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

          Dito for Germans, actually! It’s “Wolle”. (Incidentally, cotton is “baumwolle”=wool from a tree.) We also have “Garn” for yarn, although it actually mostly means thin yarn like for crocheting or “thread” as in embroidery thread or topstitching/buttonhole/normal sewing thread).

    • Lady ID April 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

      I grew up saying wool but now I just say whichever comes to mind.

      I grew up with British English but I learned most of my sewing in the US so I use mostly american terms with UK english otherwise. I think I go back and forth on zipper/zip

  17. Fiona April 3, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    I’m from the UK and call snaps poppers! I find the different terms really interesting and because so many bloggers I follow are from the USA I’ve found I’ve started using their terms more than English ones!

  18. Tracey April 3, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I’m from a theatre wardrobe background…we call a muslin a “mock-up”, and we call muslin fabric “factory cotton”. I’m not sure why! But those are the terms I picked up in school, and they are what I most often hear at theatre companies…although, people do use the term “muslin”, as well. We call snaps snaps…but the really big ones we call whopper poppers!

  19. Jennifer April 3, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    In the Alabama, the older women call velco, hook and loop tape. I found that odd.

    • Claire (aka Seemane) April 3, 2013 at 8:48 am #

      I think it’s like Hoover (a brand name) is to Vacuum cleaner. In that Hook and Loop is the generic name for the trade-marked product/company name of Velcro :)

  20. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) April 3, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    The one I notice is a fabric name, I have always called the white fabric with little embroidered holes as “eyelet” but I think overseas that term is only used for the metal reinforcing rings that cords go through. I guess those are eyelets also. I think the fabric is “broderie anglaise” everywhere else.
    As for test garments, yes I call them muslins, and make them from muslin. Toile sounds very fancy to me.

  21. Claire (aka Seemane) April 3, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I agree above re: wool (UK) vs. yarn thing – my Grandma when she tried to teach me to knit as a little girl (a big fail LOL!) always called it wool.

    And, I believe that the word “Calico” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calico_(textile) ) whilst used in the UK to describe the plain (usually an unbleached creamy-coloured 100% cotton) fabric referred to in North America as “Muslin”; can also in US/Canada refer to a particular type of floral-printed cotton fabric.

    I copied the text below from Wikipedia :) :-

    In the US:
    – Calico—cotton fabric with a small, all-over floral print [9]
    – Muslin—simple, cheap equal weft and warp plain weave fabric in white, cream or unbleached cotton and/or a very fine, light plain weave cotton fabric (sometimes called muslin gauze).
    – Muslin gauze—the very lightest, most open weave of muslin.
    – Gauze—any very light fabric, generally with a plain weave
    – Cheesecloth—extremely soft and fine cotton fabric with a very open plain weave.

    In the UK, Australia and New Zealand:
    – Calico—simple, cheap equal weft and warp plain weave fabric in white, cream or unbleached cotton.
    – Muslin—a very fine, light plain weave cotton fabric.
    – Muslin gauze—muslin.
    – Gauze—extremely soft and fine cotton fabric with a very open plain weave.
    – Cheesecloth—gauze.

    My Grandma always used to call temporary stitching which she always used to do by hand as “tacking” not “basting” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tack_(sewing) ) although I myself now calls it basting – whether by hand or machine LOL! Although most people seem to use “tacking” to refer sewing over and over a few time in the same spot (e.g. bar-tacks).

    I also prefer to say “Pattern Cutting” rather than “Pattern Making” :)

    Another thing I remembered… until a couple of years ago I always called “Welt Pockets” by the Uk name I’d been told “Jet Pockets” (see Jetted Pockets here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suit_(clothing)#Pockets and http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Bound_pocket.png/107px-Bound_pocket.png )

    • Leigh Ann June 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      I’m from the American West. When I hear “calico,” I always think of a particular kind of floral patterned cotton, the kind frontier women used for everyday dresses in the 19th century. Interesting that the term is used for plain fabric in England.

      Also, I think “zipper” might have originally been a brand name or trademark name. I’m not sure about that, though.

  22. Michelle April 3, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    We had an Irish intern at our office last summer; she and I had fun comparing our different names for a lot of everyday things, i.e. a “soccer field” in the U.S is referred to as a “pitch” in Ireland, “cotton candy” is “candy floss”, “fries” are “chips” and “chips” are “crisps”, etc… It makes total sense that our words for crafting vary too. Like a few people have mentioned above I run into most differences when I’m knitting: yarn forward= yarn over, gague=tension, stockinette=stocking stitch, etc…

  23. PerlenDiva April 3, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I think all fabric terms are quite complicated to get right in a different language – or point in time, “muslin” being the prime example. I think the German “Musselin” is closer to the historic English muslin (think Jane Austen) than to the fabric used for test garments (German: “Nessel”). Stuff like batiste and lawn are also confusing: my favorite online dictionary translates the German word “Batist” as batiste, lawn and cambric ;-)

    The funny thing about Canadian English I noticed is that you can never figure out when the British and when the American English term is more appropriate ;-)

  24. PerlenDiva April 3, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Very confusing also: the different crochet terms. Or rather: the terms are the same but they mean different stitches. You really have to know if the pattern is British or American!

  25. Thea April 3, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    All of the above… I’m never sure if it’s a zip or a zipper, but then, in my defence, I struggle with verbs ending with -ise/-ize. English as second language doesn’t help! I don’t think I’d get very far in a German fabric shop, either, since I picked up sewing in the UK.
    I also find it fascinating, though, how different things are done, too: I knitted at home, in presence of my mum and sister, both of whom knit much more than me. They were completely intrigued by the concept of knitting a jumper top down, and even more intrigued by my increases, which they’d never known. It baffled me.

  26. alison April 3, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Another term that changes meaning depending on if you are speaking USA English or British English is the word “jumper”… My understanding is that jumper in British English is a knitted garment for the upper half of the body, either a cardigan or pullover. that in USA English that is called a sweater. Jumper in USA English is a kind of sleeveless over-dress, usually made from woven fabric, that is worn over another top or blouse; I believe in British English such a sleeveless over-dress called a pinafore…

    • CuriousGem April 3, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Alison, you’re right, to a Brit a jumper is a woolly pullover although I wouldn’t tend to use it for a cardi myself. We would also use sweater for the same thing but not so much.

      And baste is definitely the one that always gets me. We’d do that to a turkey!

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      I forgot about this one! I have a book of vintage knitting patterns and they all are called jumpers! (I’ve gotten used to it and have referred to my work-in-progress as a jumper so it’s starting to sound normal to me now.) Yup, here in Canada a jumper is a sleeveless dress that you wear over a blouse. I’ve heard it called a pinafore before in books but not in real life. (It’s not that common of a wardrobe item either way.)

      • Elizabeth April 5, 2013 at 6:23 am #

        I agree that jumpers (the North American type of clothing) aren’t very popular anymore. I feel like they went out with the ’90s. Didn’t long denim jumpers used to be fairly popular? Now, maybe you’d layer a sundress over a t-shirt for a boho kind of look, but wear a jumper, nope, not fashionable.

        • Tasia April 5, 2013 at 9:42 am #

          Oh yeah, long denim jumpers. Or floral rayon jumpers over tee shirts, that kind of thing. Unless you’re going for the full on retro look, like a wiggle-dress jumper and a blouse, then it’s kind of pretty when done right!

    • Cori April 3, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      I am an American living in England and I could probably write an English to English dictionary with all the different terms they use here. I can’t think of everything right now, but my son wears a jumper to school (what I call a sweatshirt) and I’ve heard many people referring to thread as cotton and yarn as wool. Many of the other terms people have mentioned are also true. It’s amazing that we speak the same language, yet it’s so different. When my daughter started at her preschool, the teachers were talking about the uniform required. She has a purple jumper she has to wear, and I asked if there were any particular pants she should wear. They looked at me kind of funny, so I said, “like jeans would be ok?” and they said, “Oh,you mean trousers!” I didn’t realize quite what I was asking at the time… Whoops!

      • KristiEllKay April 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

        Haha the pants (underwear) and vest (cami) thing I only just recently discovered, on ‘So, Zo…’

        Also, wow! I never knew that “fanny” didn’t refer to a butt! Haha wow, saved myself potential embarrassment, I suppose.

        Growing up, I’ve always been a big reader, and Roald Dahl was THE BEST. The only problem with his books is they made me mess up spelling certain words. I still get caught up on practice/practise and theater/theatre and the like.

      • Sewing Sveta April 3, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

        Also braces and suspenders like pants and trousers.

    • Jane April 4, 2013 at 4:34 am #

      Oh yes, the ‘jumper’ thing confused me for a bit too! I’m Australian and a jumper to me has always been what Americans would call a sweater. A dress to be worn over the top of a t-shirt or shirt would be a pinafore or tunic. Oh and that brings up the whole tunic thing. I didn’t get the ‘tunic’ as in, long shirt/short dress to be worn over jeans/leggings to begin with. A tunic was what I wore in primary school – a grey pinafore thing over a skivvy (um, turtleneck?) in winter. Ah I love all these different terms! And then we could start on swimwear… in South Australia we wear bathers but in other parts of Australia it’s a cossie or swimmers!

      • Catholic Bibliophagist April 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

        Although I usually consider myself well versed in non-American English, the use of skivvy for a turtleneck is new to me. When I was a little girl “skivvies” was used to mean men’s “briefs” or “underpants.” (I don’t know if that was perhaps a
        word my dad picked up during his career in the U.S. Navy.)


        • Tasia April 5, 2013 at 9:44 am #

          I thought skivvies were underwear too!

          • Kelly April 7, 2013 at 5:08 am #

            Oh, no! Just ask The Wiggles about their skivvies! I remember wearing my school ‘tunic’ with a ‘skivvvy’!

        • dutchdiva June 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

          I think you are right about the word “skivvies”. My ex was in the Navy and he called his underwear skivvies. I had never heard the word before that and I have 6 brothers.

          My parents used to refer to girls or women’s underpants as “bloomers”.

    • Daniela April 7, 2013 at 8:44 am #

      ..and the Germans call a sleeveless jumper (what used to be a tank top) a pullunder.

      Quite logical really, a pullover goes over your shirt/blouse, and a pullunder goes under your jacket.

      • Alessa April 9, 2013 at 11:03 am #

        Oh I never realized that is the origin of the word!
        “Psych” has taught me that Americans call it a sweater vest, btw.

  27. Charlotte April 3, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I’ve always used the term toile. When I first started reading blogs it muslin and serger got me really confused but I’m so used to it now I’ve started mixing the different words.

    The printed fabric is also called Toile and to get even more confusing muslin and calico are different fabrics. I tend to use calico for toils/muslins as you can often match the weight of the fabric to your garment fabric.

  28. Aline April 3, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I have troubles with the descriptions of a (US) muslin as well. In German it’s a “Probe-Modell” (test-garment), but I have no idea what the fabric is called like in Germany. In German speaking Switzerland we call it “Moulure” (not sure about the spelling, though). Also, a serger is called “Overlocker” in German.

    • Malina April 4, 2013 at 3:18 am #

      The fabric for a muslin in German is called “Nessel”, but guess what when I wanted to buy some in a fabric store I just remembered the English terms (calico as well as muslin).

  29. Sandra April 3, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    To me they are domes not snaps of poppers. Isn’t language great!!

  30. Fiona April 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    No-one has mentioned bias (UK) when you cut at a 45 degree angle to the selvedge, and cutting on the grain means cutting straight across the fabric at 90 degrees to the selvedge.
    I have a feeling these are completely different in other parts of the world.
    I’m sure I’m not the only one in the UK who is laughing very loudly and repeating to their other halves all the rude variations of bum-bag! Can I call it a ‘see you next Tuesday’ bag?

  31. Erin April 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    In Saskatchewan, a hooded sweatshirt or “hoodie” is a “bunnyhug”, underwear is “gitch” for girls and “gotch” for boys (gitchies or gotchies are also acceptable). Add an “n” to either when you are one province over (ginch and gonch). I grew up using the term “thongs” for flip flops not the horribly uncomfortable underwear.

  32. Lesley April 3, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Regarding ‘practice/practise’. I note that Wikipedia states that ‘ice’ is the noun as in “usual practice, best practice, medical practice” (not a medical office down here in Oz), whereas ‘ise’ refers to the verb – ‘practise law, practise piano’ etc. It also staes that the distinction is made everywhere except the US.
    ‘ize’ is almost never used at the end of a word in british english except when spellcheck gets the better of me!
    Excellent post BTW

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      Interesting! The distinction isn’t made in Canada either. We’re mostly US English but we like ‘u’ in our colour, neighbour, etc. (WordPress must be American, it is giving me red squiggles indicating errors under colour and neighbour..)
      Glad you enjoyed the post – I’m really enjoying the comments!

  33. Tessa April 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    This is great! I work/teach in a sewing machine store, and TODAY we had a conversation about the differences in terms from here to the UK. Pretty much all we talked about has already been covered in the comment, but what a coincidence!

  34. kaitui_kiwi April 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    English is a funny language isn’t it?!

    When I first heard about “making a muslin” I thought that sounded weird because muslin to me is more like cheese cloth. I went to a local fabric store to ask for some muslin and sure enough, what they showed me was a light weight, gauzy kind of cloth. After some discussion I learn’t that “muslin” in the US is more like NZ/Australian calico, so now that’s what I buy to make my “muslins” and it comes in different weights which is handy.

    Now I call my “muslin” or “toile” a test of trial garment since it seems less confusing!

  35. kaitui_kiwi April 3, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    English is a funny language isn’t it?!

    When I first heard about “making a muslin” I thought that sounded weird because muslin to me is more like cheese cloth. I went to a local fabric store to ask for some muslin and sure enough, what they showed me was a light weight, gauzy kind of cloth. After some discussion I learn’t that “muslin” in the US is more like NZ/Australian calico, so now that’s what I buy to make my “muslins” and it comes in different weights which is handy.

    Now I call my “muslin” or “toile” a test of trial garment since it seems less confusing!

    I also say ‘quick unpick’ or unpicker and overlocker (instead of serger) that really confused me when I was investigating them online!

  36. Elise Lin April 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Fun! I’ve only recently started to learn how to sew, mostly through the internet (some things I learnt from my mother, but I don’t remember the terms). So often I don’t know the Dutch words (my first language). A French seam is an English seam over here, and a panty is actually a pantyhose.

  37. Chi April 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Oh well, if we’re having this conversation…
    US suspenders are UK braces. (Braces are for teeth too, like in the US. No it’s not that confusing, we struggle though on context.) UK suspenders hold up your stockings, not your trousers. So your fella might not want to announce in the office that he’s getting dressed up in his suit with suspenders for your date night. Talking of trousers, that’s pants. British pants are American underpants. When we hear there’s a sale on khaki pants in the Gap, the combination of the word pants and khaki prounounced ‘cacky (childhood slang for … I’m going with: ‘pertaining to fecal matter’)’, is going to illicit some giggles for sure. We usually pronounce khaki “cah-key” which is incidentally an old Pashtun word from the northwest of Pakistan and into Afghanistan which means “dusty”. Makes sense, like taupe being french for mole. (And while we’re on the Indian subcontinent and garments, Hindi also gives us ‘pyjamas’ for baggy trousers/pants, which are worn, of course, in the day time.) If you wanted wear a classier outfit out, you might want to double check whether the “fancy dress” invitation came from a Brit or an American. An American friend who had recently moved to a new rural English life, turned up to a fancy dress party in a twin set and pearls with her son in a shirt, sweater vest and bow tie … only to find all the local kids wearing supermarket spiderman outfits. Fancy dress in England = dress up costumes. The American sweater vest, incidentally, is called a tank top in England. A tank top in the States, as I understand it, is what we call a vest. (Not to be confused with the french ‘Veste, which is a jacket). And we do say sweater in England, but mainly use jumper, which takes me back to the other fantastic posts, including on American jumpers, which are pinafore dresses in England.
    Great fun to read this post and the comments. Thanks!

    • KristiEllKay April 5, 2013 at 6:24 am #

      For any “fancy dress” parties I’m invited to, I’ll just wear a bow tie. Then I’m covered either way; either I’m dressed up, or I’m the Doctor. =D

      Thanks for the helpful hints!

  38. Lauren April 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    The yarn/wool and thread/cotton distinction (I use the latter terms, though have noticed myself veering towards “thread” recently) has reminded me that when I was younger, mum and I used to call fabric “material”.

    • Leigh Ann June 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      “Material” is still used in my area. I mean, we talk about fabric stores, but it’s not unusual the hear someone say, “What kind of material is that?” or, “I haven’t decided what kind of material to use for my skirt.” I say that myself, a lot, but I’ve started to feel self-conscious about it since I started haunting sewing blogs and everyone else only calls it fabric.

  39. missjoiedevivre April 3, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I’m in New Zealand, and I think we have an interesting heritage of mostly British English, but with lots of exposure to American culture to blend in so sometimes I’m not really sure which one I am using!

    I use calico to make a toile, but our calico is your muslin and our muslin is your cheesecloth and our cheesecloth is your gauze, or something like that. There’s an excellent post about these fabric terms here: http://thedreamstress.com/2010/06/calico-muslin-gauze-a-history-of-fabric-terminology-part-i/

    We also refer to that two-tone fabric as toile, but confusion isn’t that common place. However I’ve started calling toile a mock-up just to ease the linguistic pain.

    I have an overlocker, zips, and a quick-unpick. The snaps you have I call domes.

    I also use cardigan for a front buttoning top half outer garment and jumper for a pullover top half garment (never sweater) but sometimes sweatshirt for a jumper made out of sweatshirting (as opposed to knitted). A “jumper” dress would be a pinafore most likely, or posibly a tunic, or maybe just a sleeveless dress. But I use both pants and trousers to refer to the things we wear on our legs. And knickers for the things we wear on our bottom, never pants or panties (which is a horrible word), and undies, underwear, or gruds is acceptable. What So Zo calls a vest I’d call a camisole or singlet if it goes under a shirt or probably a singlet or tank top if it was designed to be seen in public. A vest is another word for waistcoat and it goes over a shirt, not under it.

    And as mentioned above, braces hold your pants up and suspenders hold your stockings up (and when a Canadian colleague was talking about her suspenders at the office I was very confused as to why she was talking about her underthings in such detail).

    Oh, and our word for the things you wear on your feet is completely unique to New Zealand. We wear neither flip flops or thongs (which is another word for g-string so why would you put it on your feet?) but jandals.

    In terms of things we can’t get here, I’m not entirely certain we have “seam binding”. We have bias binding, which I think is the same as what you call bias tape. It took me a long time to realise that American blogs weren’t referring to bias binding when they said seam binding, and a search on A Fashionable Stitch and other American stores to find out exactly what seam binding is. I’m not sure if that is just me or if it is just not available in New Zealand, but my googling would lead me to believe it’s just not available in New Zealand – or at least, not under that name!

    • Lucy April 3, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      I KNOW! The number of times I’ve gone looking for something I’ve seen referenced on an American sewing website and cursed living down here!

      Some of your NZ terms are interesting though. What you call domes I call snap fasteners, and what you call a jumper (not sweater) I call a jersey.

      I still own five pairs of jandals, though ;-)

  40. Dianne April 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I love everyone’s comments today!
    This is a fantastic interaction from so many ladies.

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

      I totally agree!

  41. Sue April 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    Seam binding is not bias tape. It is a plain woven ribbon about 1/2 inch wide, comes in many colors, sometimes made of lace instead. You sew it to the raw edge of your hem and then use hand stitching to sew the edge of the binding to the wrong side of the garment. It is not bias, but straight grain. This way, the raw edge is between the garment and the binding, and it will not ravel.

    • missjoiedevivre April 3, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      Thanks! I’m pretty sure that NZ just has, well, ribbon. If you want to use ribbon to cover a hem then go for it! But I have never seen or heard of any type of ribbon being sold here as seam binding.

      it was only on a blog I read where someone said they used bias binding on their armholes and neckline and seam binding on something else that I even realised it was two different things!

  42. Sue April 3, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    One more . . . (US) we unravel something we’re going to do over, say in knitting. Okay, then what does it mean to ravel something?

    • Miriana April 4, 2013 at 6:05 am #

      Ravel and unravel mean the same thing! Like flammable and inflammable.

    • Francesca April 6, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      Unravel? for me that would be akin to untangling something knotted up. When I joined Ravelry (there’s a use of the word for you!) I was totally baffled by “frog” and it took me a while to work out that it was what we call “unpick”. I am from Malta, where we speak English – bilingual with Maltese – and I think our English is a tad archaic – the Brits left here in 79 and I think after that we picked up stuff from travelling, friends and TV – so Maltese speak English with words used more in the 70s (think – cooool) along with whatever current slang is happening in the UK and the States :).

      If I go shopping to a haberdashery, I ask for press studs, zips, scissors – never shears – unpicker, thread – some do ask for cotton but not me. I say yarn but most people say wool. I say fabric but grew up using material. Malta’s main incoming mags and books are British so the patterns for knitting and crochet are UK terms, but quite honestly I find the US ones more logical so I prefer them:).

      Oh yes – we wear jerseys and jumpers and woolies and sweaters:). They’re all the same thing – torso covering in warm yarn. I wore a pinafore dress when I was a kiddie – what the US call a jumper – and a polo neck for me is a tightish long tube coming from a high round neck that really keeps your neck warm – not a collar and three buttons…. Crew neck is a plain round neck sweater, I can’t think of an equivalent name for a Henley – that’s a buttoned sweater without a collar, right?

      I say knickers, and we call them trousers. And the summer non-shoes are called flipflops:).

  43. Sue April 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    One last term for the bag in question. (US) I have heard it called “belt bag” and that’s probably the best. You belt it around your waist, guys or girls, in front or in back. Unless that term means something else somewhere else . . . !

  44. Adele April 3, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Hi, love this thread, love our diverse languages, at least we can mostly make ourselves understood. I am in New Zealand and agree with most of what other kiwis have said.. I will just add that today i am wearing sneakers (not ‘trainers’) and usually I would call a knitted jumper/pullover a jersey. If it was sewn out of a knit fabric it would be a sweatshirt, never a sweater! Sweat pants I would call ‘trackies’. The biggest problem I have with trans-continental sewing though is measurements.. we are metric here and I hate having to fish out a tape measure to figure out what certain measurements equate to.. like a 5/8th seam allowance.. wha.. inches AND fractions to deal with! Have to agree with the comments about ‘fanny packs’, when I first heard the term I had no idea it referred to a bum bag, i thought it must be a purse or something for menstrual items to be carried in!

    • Tasia April 3, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

      I am laughing out loud at the ‘menstrual items purse’ – ha! Could you imagine if we all carried special purses to fit those type of items? Haha!

      We wear runners (not sneakers or trainers) and knitted pullovers are sweaters, but it would also be a sweatshirt if it was sewn from sweatshirt fleece. Sweat pants are sweat pants or sweats.

      I’m lucky to think in both measurements – as soon as you type 5/8″ my mind fills in the blank with 1.5cm. Must be annoying when you’re not used to both, I can go either way very easily.

      • Vita April 7, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

        Purses is another one. Purses are what we (UK) keep money and bank/credit cards in, but it goes in a handbag…

        • dutchdiva June 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

          Where do you put your wallet or your bill fold??? lol

    • Francesca April 6, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Cute! In Malta we call them trackpants. And mostly call trainers tennis shoes, beleive it or not.
      We went metric when I was a little kid and i use both – if I’m measureing for grain, whichever is easier to keep in mind as I move my ruler around – like, 11 inches is easier than 29.70cm…. I think of my body measurements in inches, buy fabric in metres, and use patterns from the UK, US, France and Germany in both.

      I love this post.

  45. emma April 4, 2013 at 3:19 am #

    I made my first muslin with muslin(cheesecloth) and it really put me off making them. Now I understand why. I’m glad it didn’t put me off sewing too.

  46. Stephanie Lanzetti April 4, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    For me in Australia:

    1. Press studs (never heard of poppers)
    2. Calico to make a toile
    3. Bum bag not a fanny pack
    4. Sneakers or runners
    5. Jumper can be both knitted or out of fleecy wool – generic term (sweatshirt material).
    6. Tracksuit pants or trackies not sweatpants
    7. Trousers not pants
    8. Zip not zipper
    9. Bias Binding not Seam binding/ribbon (ribbon is what little girls where in their hair).
    10. Vest are sleeveless tops you were over a shirt.
    11. Underpants for men and knickers for women
    12. Thongs go on your feet not up your backside.
    13. Quick unpick not a seam ripper.
    14. Braces hold up your trousers or go on your teeth
    15. Suspenders hold up your stockings.

    Love this conversation.


  47. Chi April 4, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    I have always loved the idea of sneakers, because I don’t run or train a lot but I might still want to have special shoes for sneaking in.

    • Cheryl April 19, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      Ho ho ho – I love it! I will never think of sneakers in the same way again.

  48. Malina April 4, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    I wonder whether the terms “notions” and “haberdashery” also count. Because English is my second language and I don’t live in an English-speaking country, I’m not sure if they are synonyms used in different parts of the world or if there is actually a difference!

    • Heide April 4, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      I think they would count. In the US we go shopping for notions when we need buttons, buckles, snaps(press studs), zippers(zips). Which I believe is called haberdashery in UK. It might also be an old-fashioned term too.

  49. Tabatha Tweedie April 4, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Ok, how about pattern ‘sloper’ (US) versus pattern ‘block'(UK)?

  50. Sarah April 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    I am an australian with an american mother (who moved to england at 15) and an english father. I wear pants under my pants, a cossie to go swimming, a jumper over clothes, and thongs on my feet. I use a seam ripper to unpick sewing, make a mock-up out of calico, and I use an overlocker. I’d also put a snap or a zip in something rather than press studs or a zipper. My american husband gets very confused trying to figure out what I’m talking about sometimes. We’ve had lots of discussions over the correct usage of ‘undies’ ‘knickers’ or ‘panties’ – he won’t accept pants. The one we had most problems sorting out however was singlet. He’s been her almost nine years and he still pauses and looks confused for a second while he translates it to tanktop.

    I’m also confused about pronunciation, crochet in particular. I’d always heard people talk about cro-shay when I was little, but suddenly now everyone I hear is doing cro-sher instead. Is this a difference accross countries, or is it more small-region?

    • Sarah April 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

      On a similar note to singlet – camisole. Until I moved to the US, a camisole was like a half slip, but for your top half – woven, usually slippery, often embelished with lace, but definitely underwear, and never meant to be seen. Over there is seems to be also used as a designation for any sleeveless top worn under something else, often knit fabric, and often seen because its worn under something with a low neckline, for modesty. Is that right?

      • Joy April 5, 2013 at 7:14 am #

        You’ve got it! Also shortened to “cami”. I believe the stretchy/knitted version has replaced the silky version of our mother’s time.

  51. Tania April 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    I loved reading all these comments! Divided by a common language indeed! Or becoming bilingual/trilingual in just one language- is that even possible?!

    As an English sewer I know that press studs also get called poppers- but a second meaning for poppers is the drug amyl nitrate, so be careful where/who you ask for them with that word!

    Another difference is that rayon is viscose here…

    • Thea April 5, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Tania, you’ve just cleared up a major confusion for me, thanks – I never knew rayon was viscose! No wonder I never found it. Tsssss… Mind = blown.

    • Francesca April 6, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      LOL! you just took me back to the 90s! I had forgotten poppers…

  52. ClareInStitches April 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Here in England, the National Trust – that is to say the rather more fully and grandly titled National Trust for the Preservation of Historic Buildings, Places Of Interest and / or Natural Beauty, has it’s own pricey shops, selling pricey and thoroughly tasteful items. They couldn’t possibly sell anything as down market as a ‘Bum Bag’. (Try saying that like Lady Bracknell!)
    So, they had a sporting accessory type version, labelled, “Posterior Pouch”.
    I don’t think it caught on! ;-)

  53. Jan A April 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    In am Canadian and many years ago, when I was taking sewing in high school, (near Victoria, BC) my teacher called a pattern instruction sheet, a “delta” and a muslin of a top, was called a “shell”.

    We also were required to make our “Basic” dress to fit our measurements.

  54. laurier-rose April 5, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    In France “se faire une toile” = going to the cinema and watching a movie. nothing about sewing.

  55. Joy April 5, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    The term that makes we Americans squirm (at least me, anyway) is “pussy bow blouse.” Yikes! Pussy is the equivalent to fanny. I have the boys on the school bus to thank for that. But I just love all the pussy bow blouses I see on the UK blogs. And I love the pussy willow plant, but I always pause and cringe before I say it.

    Thanks, Tasia, for starting this fabulous thread. Who knew your short little post would make us all long winded!

    • Tasia April 5, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      Yeah, pussy-bow isn’t my favourite, I didn’t know that in the UK it didn’t mean the same thing! I just thought people were OK with the word :)

      • Francesca April 6, 2013 at 9:21 am #

        ACtually, it does. It’s not used so much but it can totally mean the same thing. It’s used more to mean coward though – when you call someone a pussy – at least my Brit friends use it both ways and so do we in Malta. In fact I don’t use it to mean coward because I feel it’s kind of denigrating to our private parts… like calling someone a see you next tuesday.
        I cannot stand the term pussy bow either. But then I can’t stand the overuse of a lot of terms nowadays – since when did longline become a word? Fashion and sewing mags overuse both this and the bow term. and there are others I can’t think of right now but sassy is another one.

    • dutchdiva June 26, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

      Joy, I hate to tell you but pussy is not the equivalent to fanny. Close but a little farther toward the front on a girl. Must have been very young boys on the bus who didn’t know what they were saying.

      Francesca’s comment below refers to guys calling each other that word and it supposedly means they are a coward.

      It is actually a form of an insult to the male masculinity and means that they are ‘weak like a woman’, or are displaying ‘female qualities’ and so they use this derogatory expression. It’s both disgusting and untrue. Women are by far the stronger of the two sexes.

  56. Pam April 5, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I like Haberdashrey, Haberdash. I believe its regarding notions.

  57. Janice April 5, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Ha ha.. This is such a fun conversation. Just watched Project Runway and one of the designers had to teach another how to sew a french seam! Maybe she should have said English seam LOL

  58. Angela April 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    This is so interesting! Tasia, you should make a reference document on your blog with all these terms, they can get so confusing! I’d be happy to contribute a little Japanese, for example zippers are called fasteners. It took some creative pointing at my fly the first time I needed to buy one here. Also, fanny packs are popular with the hip kids in Tokyo, but they wear them crosswise over their chests. I’m still learning all that *other* kind of slang. (-_^)

  59. Jenni April 6, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    Sat killing time at an appointment laughing madly at this, thank you Tasia and all x

  60. Liz April 6, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    I love all these! Adding to the confusion of flip-flop vs thong vs jangle…. here in the US I’ve heard flip-flops mostly, occasionally thongs (but rarely)….however in Hawaii they’re called slippers! Not to confused with the comfy footwear you put on while lounging in your PJs….which are also called house shoes :-)

    Everyone’s been talking about international differences…but I also love all the regional differences in language. In the US you can tell what part of the country someone’s from by what they call a carbonated beverage (coke, soda, pop, etc).

    • dutchdiva June 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

      Liz, do you drink from a bubbler or a water fountain? Another interesting difference in your location in the US.

      Years ago, when I was a child, we drank “pop”. Now we drink “soda”. But, specifically, I like Coke best.

      My friend in Tennessee calls all carbonated beverages Coke, no matter what flavor or brand. I once made a funny mistake when her nephew asked for some tea. I brewed up a nice hot cup and just before I gave it to him I asked my friend if he took it with milk and sugar. She laughed and said “He takes it with ice.” Such are the differences between the north and the south!

  61. Tempest April 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    As a Brit now living in the USA I’m constantly having to use sign language and “it does this” with pointing. I’m trying to think of all the words I’ve learnt…. Zipper instead of zip, snap instead of poppers, plaid instead of check or tartan or madras, challis instead of crepe, rayon instead of viscose, notions instead of haberdashery, pants instead of trousers, a jumper instead of dungarees or a pinafore dress, sweater instead of jumper, yarn instead of wool, serger instead of overlocker, thread instead of cotton, vests instead of waistcoats, undershirt or beater instead of vest, drapes instead of curtains, basting instead of tacking, pump instead of court shoe, cuffs for turn-ups (on trousers), panties instead of knickers, knickers instead of Bermuda shorts or plus fours, trim instead of fringing, raincoat instead of mac, diaper instead of nappy, suspenders instead of braces, coverall instead of overalls…..there are probably lots more but I can’t recall them at the moment……and don’t even start me having to forget sensible metric for imperial measurements (inches and yards) or as you call it American Standard ;) Though to be honest, learning the new words so I could sew in America was loads easier than the trouble I’ve had with DIY words (or remodeling to Americans ;))

  62. Katja April 11, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    I’m late to the discussion… But I live in Switzerland, and most of the things I relearned about sewing I learned from english (that includes american and canadian) blogs. It drives me nuts when I venture to the fabric store and have to explain with hands an feet and possibly expressionalist ballet what I need to the lady at the shop. I feel like a lunatic, but the shop ladies are mostly very sweet and patient and we usually figure out what I mean ;) The most difficult thing to find was horsehair braid. Yeah, don’t even ask how I explained that one. I did find it eventually, there is one single little shop in Zurich that carries it, hurray!
    Hihi, fanny pack always makes me cringe, too.
    Thanks Tasia and all the commenters, I learned a lot today!

    • Flossie April 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

      Notions means ideas in English, so I have no clue why Americans use it to mean sewing equipment/embellishments or ingredients, if you will, for knitting up a pattern. Also we have the past tense of knit (knitted) rather than just using the verb as a noun too.

  63. Roni April 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Yes! I live in Israel were we speak Hebrew. Since all I know about sewing comes from the internet (English websites) , I don’t know the Hebrew terms for most things. It took me a while to find the Hebrew word for “muslin”. I went to fabric shops and they couldn’t understand what I wanted!

    And the list goes on… “piping”, “boning”, I have no idea what these things are called (in my own language!) and always have trouble explaining myself.

    My next goal is to buy “gimp” to make hand-made buttonholes. does anybody know what they’re called in Hebrew? ;)

  64. Kath M April 16, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    I am so glad I found this. I’m in the UK and had no idea I should be making the muslin in calico!!!

  65. Anna April 30, 2013 at 4:54 am #

    I’m originally from Finland and I learned sewing in school, so it has been a bit of an adjustment for me to start reading all the instructions in English. Even if my general English is ok, the sewing vocabulary was totally new. Then again, it’s not that hard to learn. I had a bit of trouble in the beginning with muslins/toiles since I read both American and UK blogs, but once you get used to it, it’s fine. For me, the hardest thing is the different fabrics. I haven’t sewn a lot since school (so not much in ~15-20 years) and I don’t always know them in English (or French, since I’m now living in France). I think I should just go around fabric stores and study, since you can see the picture on a website, but you can’t touch it (insert your MC Hammer joke here).

  66. wp May 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    A little late, but love this discussion. I have been working on a dictionary list of Chinese-English sewing terms, for those who are curious or for those who want something to point at for help in a fabric market. ^-^

  67. Marti May 8, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    I was an American Army nurse working with British Army nurses at a NATO peacekeeper camp in Kosovo. I discovered we use different terms for the garment that patients wear which is wide open in the back. Which explains why the young Irish enlisted soldier came out of the supply closet and said, “Mum, I couldn’t find any,” when I asked for a jonny to put on a soldier who was going to the OR. Excuse me, operating theatre. Evidently a jonny is a latex item that prevents conception, not a hospital gown. I include this story because it is a kind of clothing, in keeping with this blog. Don’t get me started about the differences in medical lingo!

    • Tasia May 9, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      That is really interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  68. Serendibgirl May 20, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    And speaking of Chinese English, I worked in a school that had a large number of international students, who would choose ‘English’ names when they enrolled. So I once taught a pair of close friends named Fanny and Wincey. they’d chosen the names out of Jane Austen, I think but not realised that language moves on. Winceyette, in my youth was a type of flanelette – brushed cotton.

  69. hemstitch May 25, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    Just come across this thread (!) and I’m fascinated. I lived in Canada for some years and absorbed quite a lot of the N. American words for stitching things which is useful now I read sewing blogs! A U.S. jumper is a U.K. pinafore dress, strictly speaking, as a U.K. pinafore is/ was an apron with a bib. And I always called it a “pussycat” bow- maybe that was to avoid the Mrs. Slocomb effect. (A character in a 70’s sitcom, who always used double entendre- unintentionally). And what’s all this about gymslips? Did any other country have them? Tempest, don’t forget that the U.S. pint is only 16 fl. oz., not 20 as U.K. ( have you started baking using cups?) A polo-necked sweater (there’s a mixed prase for you) isn’t the same as a polo shirt, which is a casual, knit shirt with a collar and a placket with 3or 4 buttons. Oh, and a ski by was a maid-of-all-work,who did all the dirtiest jobs in a house. I had to explain to my children that the meaning of Bart Simpson’s expression ” Eat my shorts!” was ruder than they realised. (Underpants, briefs, boxers here -for males and knickers – not really used now- just pants for females.) Shorts are short trousers.
    All good fun.

  70. hemstitch May 25, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    I meant “skivvy” – didn’t check that spellchecker didn’t know it!

  71. dutchdiva June 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    I was soooooo embarrassed recently when I was shopping for fabric. I approached the sales assistant and mistakenly asked for “Muslim”. She was so nice and didn’t even flinch but said “Yes, our muslin (just a little emphasized) is right over here.” Suddenly I realized my faux pas and asked her “Did I just say “Muslim”????” She said “Yes” and laughed a little uncomfortably. I wanted to fall through the floor!!! It was just a slip of the tongue but what a slip!

  72. dutchdiva June 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Can someone tell me if “duoplex” is the same as 100% polyester? I cannot find duoplex in the U.S. and nobody seems to know what it is.

    Also, is there an American term for “simplex”?

    • Tasia June 26, 2013 at 9:56 am #

      I’m not familiar with the term duoplex either! It’s not used in Canada or the US I suppose. We have ‘supplex’ which is used for activewear, a brand-name. http://fitcouture.com/supplex.html

      • dutchdiva June 26, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

        Actually, the “duoplex” fabric is from a bra maker and supply store in Canada. I would like to start making my own bras and this is the fabric that they recommend for my pattern.

        If anyone knows an alternate name for this fabric that is used in the U.S. I would sure love to know what it is.

  73. Mandie YOUNG August 21, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Interesting discussion here – Fanny was a common girls name right up until WWII. It was also a contraction of Frances, and was used extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries. A Fanny is used as a slang term for women’s genitalia throughout the UK, although there are other terms used on a more regional basis.

    Regional identity in the UK is very marked – more so than in the US or Canada. In the North East of England where I now live, fanny is sometimes used as an offensive term for a woman. In East Anglia (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk), fanny is quite an acceptable term to use to describe female genitalia, and is a term often used by children. Of course there is always the term “fannying on”, which means wasting time.

    The fabric terms I have come across demonstrating the American/UK language barrier are Muslin/Calico, Cheesecloth/Muslin/, Burlap/Hessian.

  74. Michelle September 24, 2014 at 11:45 pm #


    I might be a year too late but this one is funny. Im an Aussie living in The Netherlands, and the sewing talk is not about Muslin but waistbands- the Dutch translation is Tailleband. ´knip de Tailleband` ` cut the Waistband `It can sound a little disturbing if you step into the room at that point of the conversation!!


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