Web glossary of terms

Stumped by terms, tools, or techniques mentioned in our publications? Below you'll find a glossary that should help elucidate some of the terminology. We will be updating this glossary regularly so keep checking back.

Angelina® fibers - Fine, glossy synthetic fibers that melt and fuse when heat is applied. Angelina comes in a wide variety of iridescent colors and can be stitched, fused with other fibers, or impressed with a rubber stamp and a warm iron to create an embossed design.

Cardstock - Stiff paper typically used for greeting or postcards.

Dremel® tool - A small, lightweight rotary drill that comes with a variety of bits to use on glass, pottery, wood, shells, and other substances used in craft and art projects.

Dupioni - A type of silk known for its rich sheen and "slubbed" texture caused when two silkworms form cocoons close together, crossing the threads.

Dye-based inks - Fade-resistant and often water-resistant inks.

Embossing powders - Usually used with rubber-stamp techniques, embossing powders are dusted onto pigment-inked images, then heated with a heat gun causing the powder to give the ink a shiny, enamel-like finish. Powders come in clear, colors, metallic, and iridescent.

Ephemera - Vintage or antiquarian paper items other than books, such as postcards, photographs, greeting cards, decorative cutouts, paper dolls, signs, and so on.

Escutcheon pins - A type of nail made of brass with round heads, shorter and thicker than brads and wire nails.

Fixative - A spray acrylic that, when applied to artwork, keeps the medium (paint, ink, pastel, etc.) from smudging. Comes in matte and glossy.

Fluid acrylics - Made by Golden® Paints, fluid acrylics are liquid paints that can go on sheer yet retain the intensity of their color.

Free-motion embroidery/stitching - A type of machine stitching that allows you to move around the fabric sandwich in any direction, creating geometric, flowing, or random patterns. Sewing machines must be specially equipped for this function, or must have the capacity to lower the feed dogs (the "teeth" that normally keep the fabric moving through the machine in a straight line).

Fusible webbing - Very thin sheets of webbed, dried glue that can fuse fabrics and other fibers together when activated by heat. Comes in cut sheets or on a roll, housed between two layers of "release paper."

Gel medium - An acrylic polymer medium that can accept color media and other additives, such as glitter or fine beads, to create texture when applied to a surface.

Gel pens - Gel-inked ballpoint pens. They come in many different sizes and in a huge variety of colors. They are primarily used for thin patterns or writing, but can be used for coloring small areas in a specific color. The distinguishing characteristic is, of course, the gel ink, which is made of pigments suspended in a water-based gel.

Gesso - A thick white or black chalky mixture that can be painted onto paper or fabric to provide a rough-textured surface.

Heat gun - This tool blows hot air in a focused direction in order to melt, heat set, or burn fibers, powders, and other materials.

Heat set - Using heat (from an iron, heat gun, or clothes dryer) to make dyes, transfers, paints, or inks that have been applied to fabric permanent.

Japanese tissue - A strong paper that comes in different patterns and colors and can be stitched.

Kona cotton - A 100-percent cotton broadcloth often used for dyeing.

Kunin felt - A blend of acrylic fibers that melt when heated.

Tyvek® - A "paper" that is made from high-density polyethylene fibers and has the characteristics of paper, film, and fabric. It can be stitched and when heated it shrinks and distorts.

Lokta paper - Lokta paper, or Lama-Li, is cultivated from the Daphne Bush that grows high in theHimalayan Mountain region of Nepal. Tibetan refugees create the most exquisite and versatile handmade lotka papers on the planet. Lotka has four deckled edges and is a very strong fiber. This bush completely regenerates in about 4 years after being cut to about 6" from the ground. Therefore, the cultivation of this "tree-free paper" is an eco-friendly resource and a reliable revenue stream for the village artisans of Nepal's rural and urban areas.

Matte medium - An acrylic polymer medium that can be used to extend paints, increase translucency, and decrease gloss.

Metallic rub-ons - Wax-based polishes that are housed in small pots and come in a variety of colors. You apply them with your finger and they are great for accenting raised areas.

Molding paste - A water-based, acrylic polymer emulsion that dries to an opaque, semi-gloss finish. Once hard, acrylic paint and other media can be applied.

Mulberry paper - This paper has lots of texture and its edges feather easily when wet.

Overdye - Literally, to dye or paint fabric over another dye or printed pattern. Many artists like to alter commercial and vintage textiles by overdyeing, thus creating unique fabrics.

Pébéo Gel - A transparent, non-yellowing gel medium. You can mix this with acrylic paints to produce a thick, self-colored textured surface on fabric.

Pellon® - A non-woven polyester backing. Fiber artists use different weights of Pellon to create a support for unstable textiles that require more body, and a firm, smooth application, such as silk, gauze, and chiffon. It can also be used on its own for painting.

Perle cotton - Mercerized twisted, non-divisible, lustrous 100% cotton thread in a skein.

Pigment inks - These inks typically come in vibrant colors. They are quite thick in consistency and dry slowly; for this reason they are excellent for use with embossing powders and rubberstamping.

PFD - Fabric that has been "prepared for dyeing," meaning it is cotton and free of whiteners or sizing. This makes the fabric better able to absorb and hold the color. Can be bought by the yard at fabric stores or online.

Polymer clay - Not a true clay, this is instead fine particles of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) suspended in plasticizer. Polymer clay is very versatile. It comes in a huge array of colors that you can blend yourself to make new colors, or leave "side-by-side" to make patterns or marbleized effects. It takes only low temperatures, such as those in a home oven, to fire, resulting in a hard, durable, paintable surface.

Polymer stamps - Transparent stamps that make it easier to position your stamped image where you want it.

PVA glue - A white, water-soluble glue good for most mixed-media projects. It dries transparent.

Rag paper - The symbol of quality is still a paper that is made from 100 percent cotton rags. At one time, rag meant cotton taken exclusively from cotton textile remnants. Now very few cotton papers are made from rags, either entirely or partially. The difference between true rag papers and cotton papers made from linters is that the rags have longer cotton fibers and the weaving seems to add strength. Today rag and cotton are terms that are virtually interchangeable.

Raw-edge appliqué - Stitching or fusing one piece of fabric to another without turning the edges under.

Repositionable adhesive - A tacky film that allows you to stick fabric or paper in one place and then move it without harming the substance, usually paper, underneath. Comes in tape, dots, spray, etc.

Rotary cutter - A sharp cutting device, similar in shape and function as a pizza cutter, that can be used with a straight edge to accurately cut fabric.

Sandwich - Two or more fabrics or fibers stitched on top of each other. For example, two pieces of fabric with batting in between, or a piece of felt stitched or fused to another fabric.

Shisha mirrors - Small, round mirrors used to decorate fabric, often a feature of Asian Indian clothing.

Shiva® Paintstiks® - Sticks of oil paint in solid form that look like a large crayon. The outer coating must be peeled off before each use because the sticks self-seal after 24 hours.

Sobo®  Glue - A white glue designed for use with fabrics.

Space-dyeing - Applying dye selectively different parts of a textile, randomly or in a pattern.

Stippling - A faux painting technique that gives new surfaces an elegant, aged look made by repeatedly tapping on a surface with paint or ink and a stiff brush. While most methods of faux painting hide imperfections, stippling actually highlights them.

Synthropol - A detergent made for rinsing excess dyes out of fabrics without damaging the set colors.

Tea dye - Using tea to alter the color of fabrics. Tea dyeing is often used to "age" new fabric, giving it a vintage appearance. (Coffee can also be used for this purpose.) Depending on the kind of tea and the length of time it comes in contact with the textile, colors range from pale yellow to green to dark brown.

Transfers - Applying inkjet or toner copy images to fabric using different media, such as water, polymers, and other media.

Transparencies - Clear acetate sheets that can be printed on and stitched to paper or fabric. Can also be used to make transfers.

UTEE - Ultra-thick embossing enamel. Similar to regular embossing enamel, but, as the name suggests, is thicker and can be impressed after heating.

Walnut ink - Made from walnuts, this very dark ink can be used to "age" papers and other materials and to tone down bright colors.

Viscose thread - A natural polymer made from wood pulp. In the 1920s the word rayon was adopted, replacing viscose. Viscose was first used for coating fabrics, which it did quite successfully. Further development led to viscose being spun into thread for embroidery and trimmings.

Water-soluble wax pastels - Sticks of color that draw like a crayon but that turn paint-like when water is applied.

Water-soluble fabric - Fabric that "disappears" in cold or hot water (depending on the brand and its use) after it has been stitched on, leaving only the stitching.

Water-soluble stabilizer - This fine polyvinyl fabric feels like very thin plastic. It needs to be doubled in an embroidery hoop to be stitched on, but is ideal for creating lacy patterns. When immersed in hot water, the background polyvinyl disappears leaving just the lacy embroidery.

WonderUnder® - A fusible web product with a paper backing (often called "release paper"). It must be ironed to adhere it to fabric. You can also fuse other fibers to it, as well as apply other art materials like paint and foil.

Xpandaprint - A thick, creamy medium that can be applied with a brush, roller, or sponge. It expands when heated, can be painted, and it is non-toxic.