Confused by all the new jargon associated with machine embroidery? Here's an alphabetical glossary of basic definitions to help you "come to terms" with this exciting and evolving technology.

Appliqué: Decoration or trimming cut from one fabric piece and stitched to another to add dimension.
Back Appliqué: A fabric piece used behind a design, where the front fabric will be cut away to reveal the fabric beneath it.
Backing/Stabilizer: Woven or nonwoven material used beneath the embroidered fabric to provide stability and support. Can be hooped with the fabric or placed between the machine's throat plate and the hooped item: Available in various weights and styles.
Birdnesting: Thread collection between the fabric and the needle plate, resembling a bird's nest. May be caused by inadequate upper thread tension; upper thread not going through the take-up lever; upper thread not following the correct path; or flagging--the up and down motion caused in part by improper hooping.
Bobbin: Spool or reel that holds the bobbin thread in a sewing machine; this thread forms stitches on the fabric underside.
Bobbin case: Unit holding bobbin in a sewing machine.
Bobbin embroidery: Designs worked with the fabric hooped facedown and the specialty thread or ribbon wound onto the bobbin: Most effective for simple designs such as leaves and vines, or special effects with threads too heavy to be threaded through the needle.
Bonding: Permanently joining two fabrics together with a bonding agent. Also called heat sealing.
Buckram: Coarsely-woven fabric stiffened with glue, used to stabilize items for embroidery: Commonly used in caps.
Canvas: Closely woven heavy hemp, flax or cotton cloth used for tote bags, covers, etc.
Card: Disk containing computerized embroidery designs read by the embroidery machine's computer.
Cross Stitch: Two stitches that cross to form an X.
Custom Designs: Designs created by digitizing artwork or manipulating existing patterns.
Density: Number of stitches per given area.
Digitizing: Conversion of artwork into a series of commands, read by an embroidery machine's computer via a card.
Embroidery: Decorative stitching on fabric.
Emblem/Patch: Embroidered design with a finished edge, applied to a garment or item after stitching.
Facing/Stabilizer/Topping: Material hooped or placed on top of fabric, with a nap or surface texture to contain the nap and hold the embroidery stitches above it.
Felt: Nonwoven fabric made from wool, fur or hair matted together by heat, moisture and pressure. Often used for patches or stitched samples.
Fill Stitch: A series of running stitches commonly used to cover large areas. Different fill patterns are created by altering the stitch angle, length or repeat sequence.
Finishing: Processes done after the embroidery is completed, including trimming loose threads, removing excess facing or backing, and pressing or steaming to remove puckers and hoop marks.
Flagging: Up-and-down motion of the fabric under the needle action, caused by improper hooping. Results in poor registration, unsatisfactory stitch formation and birdnesting.
Float: Longer-than-normal satin stitches that lay on top of a design, or the stitches made when the needle is disconnecting from the design; later removed.
Frame: Holding device for inserting the hoop beneath the needle to maintain stability during the embroidery process.
Free Motion: Hand-manipulated embroidery done with a zigzag stitch, available on most machines.
Guide Stitch: Series of stitches used to align embroideries in multi-hooping situations or to assist in fabric placement for appliqué.
Hardware: Computer equipment, digitizer, modem and sewing machine.
Hoop: Wood, plastic or steel device used to tightly grip the fabric and stabilizer between an inner and outer ring; Attaches to machine's frame; Designed to hold fabric taut against the machine bed for embroidery.
Hooping Board: Device that aids in precise placement and uniformity in hooping, subsequent garments or items for embroidery.
Lock Stitch: Formed by three or four consecutive short, tight threads stitched at end of embroidery to prevent raveling.
Marking: Making temporary marks on fabric to aid in hoop placement and to reference needle beginning points.
Metafill: A needle with an elongated eye, especially useful when using decorative or metallic threads.
Monogram: Embroidered design composed of one or more letters, usually one's initials.
Motif: A single embroidered design.
Network: Links computer, digitizer and embroidery machine together, usually via a modem.
Pattern: The digitized design.
Puckering: Result of fabric being gathered by the stitches. Possible causes include loose hooping, lack of or improper backing, incorrect tension or a dull needle.
Puff Embroidery: Stitching a dense motif over embroidery/craft foam to create a three-dimensional effect.
Registration: Correctly aligning all stitches and design elements.
Resizing: The ability to scale a design to different sizes; May cause density problems unless stitch count can be altered.
Running Stitch: A single stitch between two points, used for outlining and fine detail.
Satin Stitch: Formed by closely arranged zigzag stitches; Can be stitched at any angle and with varying lengths.
Software: Computer programs or design cards.
Specialty Fill: Fill stitch capability that produces a design in relief.
Specialty Threads: Threads designed for effects such as shine, glitter, iridescence or thickness. The threads often are made from synthetic materials including rayon, mercerized cotton, metallic and textured nylon.
Stabilizer: See "Backing" and "Facing."
Stock Designs: Embroidery designs readily available on disks or brand-specific cards.
Tension: Thread tautness.
Thread: Fine cord of natural or synthetic material with two or more elements twisted together and used for stitching. Machine embroidery threads come in rayon (high sheen), cotton (duller finish), polyester (strong and colorfast), metallic (synthetic core wrapped with metal foil or thin slivers of metal foil) and acrylic (sheen similar to rayon).
Underlay Stitch: Stitches, laid down before other design elements to help stabilize fabrics.