Quilting Vocabulary

Appliqué – Pieces are cut out and attached to the top of a block.  Appliqué can be done by hand, machine or with fusible web.

Backing – The piece of fabric that will be the back side of the quilt.  The backing could be a single piece of fabric or fabrics that have been pieced to the width of the quilt.

Basting – Long stitches used to hold the top, batting, and backing of a quilt together while the quilting is being done.  Basting is temporary and removed when the quilting is complete. A quilt can be basted with a tacking gun, safety pins, fusible batting or spray adhesive.  

Batik – A method of dyeing fabric by which some parts are covered with removable wax to make designs by keeping dyes from penetrating.  Multicolored and blended effects are obtained by repeating the dyeing process several times.  Indonesia is famous for its batiks.

Batting – The filler material used between the quilt top and backing giving it warmth and thickness. Batting can be cotton, polyester, blends, silk, or wool.  Many weights are available.

Betweens – Small, thin needles used for finish quilting. Sizes range from 8-12, the smaller number being a longer length needle.  Longer needles are recommended for beginning quilters.

Bias – The diagonal direction across the fabric at a 45º angle to the selvage. Fabric cut on the bias stretches easily and has “give”.  Works well for applying appliqué stems and curved binding.

Binding – The strip of fabric added to the perimeter of the quilt to cover the raw edges or provide a protective layer at the edge.  Traditionally, a binding is double folded, sewn on the top side, then brought over the edge to the back side where it is stitched down.  Other methods are available.  Binding can be straight or cut on the bias. 

Blind Stitch – A method of stitching, not visible after completed.  It is often used for appliqué and bindings.

Blocks – One part of a quilt top.  The block is often a pieced design in a square or rectangle shape.

BOM – Block Of the Month

Border – A strip of fabric sewn to the outside of a quilt top to frame the interior of the quilt top.  A border can be pieced or a single fabric.  Borders are often used to frame blocks and increase the size of the quilt.

Chain Piecing – A time saving technique in which blocks are fed into the sewing machine one right after the other, without snipping threads in between each seam. By not stopping between each seam, the quilter saves both time and thread.

Charms or Charm Packs – Charm Packs are packs of 5” squares all from the same coordinating range of fabric.  Charm Packs typically include one square of every fabric within a collection.  There are usually about 40 squares, although the number of pieces included varies by collection and manufacturer.  Ideally every square should be from a different fabric, but very often you will find two squares of at least some of the fabrics.

Cornerstones – A small piece of fabric used at the corner of blocks or sashing sections of a quilt top.

Crazy Quilt – A patchwork technique in which irregularly shaped pieces of fabric are assembled with no set pattern or overall design.  Crazy quilts may be decorated with embroidered designs.  Crazy Quilts can be made as small blocks and assembled into a larger piece, or sewn as one complete quilt top.  This was a popular pattern during the Victorian period, made with silks and velvets, and embellished with much embroidery.

Design Wall – A space to hang your blocks or pieces to preview the design before piecing them together.  Design Walls can be as simple as a piece of flannel or batting tacked to a wall, or a premade purchased wall.

Ease – To make two pieces of different sizes fit together in the same seam. One piece may have to be stretched a little, or bunched up slightly in order to get both pieces the same length.

English Paper Piecing – Found in 18th and 19th century English quilts, this method of hand piecing uses paper templates inside the block elements to guide where the edges are turned under.  These papers are later removed.

Fat Eighth – Fabric measuring approximately 9" x 18".  It is half of a fat quarter. 

Fat Quarter – Fabric measuring approximately 18” x 22”.  This unit of measurement is made by cutting a half yard of fabric in half vertically.  This allows for cutting larger pieces than the traditional quarter yard cut of 44” x 9”.

Feed Dogs – The teeth which pull your fabric through the machine, helping you to sew a nice even stitch.  The Feed Dogs are lowered when Free Motion Quilting.

Finger Pressing – Finger Pressing uses your fingers to press a seam or guidelines for appliqué, instead of an iron.

Finished Size – The Finished Size is the final size of a completed block or quilt top, not including seam allowances.

Flying Geese – A popular small shape in quilting.  It consists of a center triangle and two right angle triangles attached to it on either side.  There are many different ways to construct a flying geese unit. 

Foundation Piecing – A method of assembling a block by sewing fabric pieces to a foundation of muslin or plain fabric.

Free-Motion Quilting – A method of quilting by machine where the feed dogs of a sewing machine are lowered or covered and the quilter controls the movement of the fabric under the needle.  The quilter can create designs this way.

Fusible Web – A product that is applied with heat (possibly from an iron) to fabric.  Fabric bonded with Fusible Web can be ironed onto a fabric for easier appliqué.

Fussy Cut – To select a specific area of the fabric pattern when cutting fabric, instead of using random cuts.

Half Square Triangle – The most used pieced unit in quilting. It is a square with a diagonal seam line.  Two different fabrics are on each side of the line, usually forming a light/dark configuration. 

Hanging Sleeve – A tube sewn to the back top of a quilt to allow it to be hung.

Homespun Fabric – Fabric which looks hand woven.  The weave is looser and the threads have a larger diameter than commercial cotton quilting fabrics.

Jelly Rolls – Jelly Rolls are rolls of at least forty strips of fabric, 2  1/2″ wide.  The strips are about 42″ long.  They are machine cut so the sizing is accurate.  The exact number of strips varies between manufacturers and often can be different in jelly rolls from the same manufacturer.  This is a great way of buying a wide variety of different fabrics in small quantities.

Kits – Usually, a kit includes the pattern and all the fabrics needed to complete a quilt top or project. 

Label – Usually placed on the back of the quilt, the label gives the name of the quilt, who made it, the name and town of the maker, as well as the year made and pattern used.  The more information you can include about the maker, the recipient and the reason it was made, the better.  Quilt in the label if possible so it cannot easily be removed.  

Layer Cakes – A Layer Cake is a pack of 10″ squares of fabric. Usually there are forty-two squares to a pack, but this can vary.  These are useful if you need larger squares for a particular quilt pattern.  As the squares are bigger than those of a charm pack, they can be cut into a greater variety of smaller squares, rectangles or triangles.  This makes them more versatile than some of the other pre-cut fabrics.

Length of Fabric – This is the measurement that runs along the selvage.

Long Arm Quilting – Quilting using a large free motion quilting machine to quilt the top, batting, and back together.  This machine allows the quilter to stitch 15 – 24” sections at a time.

Mat – Cutting mats provide a smooth, firm base for cutting fabric with a rotary cutter and ruler.  Cutting mats are usually "self-healing", meaning that they can withstand several cuts without getting damaged.  A cutting mat comes with premarked grid lines that are useful for measuring and cutting material.

Mitered Corner – Joining a border or corners at a 45 degree angle, like a picture frame.  Tip: If your quilt plan calls for multiple mitered borders, stitch all the strips together first, then apply and miter them as a single unit.

Notions – A term used to group all the small sewing supplies a quilter needs, such as pins, scissors, rulers, seam ripper, and so on.

On Point – A square block, or section of quilt, that is turned on its side, with the points of the square facing North, South, East & West.

Paper piecing – Like Foundation Piecing, but paper is used instead of muslin as the foundation of the block.

Prairie Points – A simple folded fabric triangle made in multiples and attached as a decorative edge finish on quilts and garments with the point facing out.

Quilt Top – The top layer of a quilt.  The Quilt Top may be pieced or wholecloth.

Quilting – Quilting is the term used for stitching the three layers of the quilt together.  This can be stitched by hand, machine, or tied.

Quilting Foot – A Quilting Foot is a special sewing machine foot used to sew scant quarter-inch seams during quilt construction.  It measures exactly 1/4" from needle point to inner edge of the foot.  Some have a guide on it to prevent the fabric from going past the edge. 

Redwork – Simple outline embroidery designs worked in running stitch with turkey red color floss and used for quilt blocks. Redwork was popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Redwork can be done in other colors, changing the name to greenwork or bluework, etc.  Redwork done in black is called Black Redwork, because Blackwork refers to a specific single thread embroidery technique. 

Reverse Appliqué– Traditional appliqué sews a design piece on top of a background.  Reverse appliqué sews the motif underside of the background and then cuts away and turns under the edge of the top fabric to reveal the motif.

Right Sides Together – Fabric is sewn together with the finished (Right) sides together.  Some fabrics have a “right” side and a “wrong” side that is obvious.  Solids and Batiks generally can be used on either side.

Rotary Cutter – A rotary cutter has an extremely sharp, circular blade (like a pizza cutter) to cut several layers of fabric on a cutting mat.  It must be used with a thick Plexiglas ruler.

Ruler – A quilt ruler is a heavy plastic measuring guide. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Sampler Quilt – A Sampler Quilt is made of many different block patterns, usually as an exercise in piecing techniques. 

Sashing – Sashing is strips of fabric sewn between pieced blocks to separate them while joining them together into a top.  Sashing can be continued around the outside of the quilt top to act as a border.  

Satin Stitch – A machine zig-zag stitch used to cover raw edge appliqué.

Scrap Quilt – A quilt made with fabrics leftover from other quilts, from your stash, or from salvaged fabric from clothing or other items.

Scant ¼” Seam – This is a term used to warn the quilter to stitch slightly less than a true ¼” seam.  A scant 1/4” seam allows for the thickness of fabric and thread.

Seam Allowance – The measurement used to stitch pieces of fabrics together.  It measures the amount of fabric that is hidden inside a sewn unit.  It is the fabric between the stitches and the edge of the fabric.

Selvage – The outer edge of the length of a fabric which is usually more tightly woven to prevent raveling.  The Selvage is different from the fabric and normally not used in a quilt.  You will usually find manufacturers information in the selvage.

Sharps – Sharps are small, thin needles used for piecing and doing appliqué. They have a really sharp point that is better for joining pieces than for quilting.

Sleeve – see Hanging Sleeve

Stacks – Stacks are packs of 10” squares all from the same coordinating range of fabric.  Charm Packs typically include one square of every fabric within a collection. 

Standard Mattress Sizes
Twin:  39"  x 75"
Twin Extra Long: 39"  x 80"
Full: 54"  x 75"
Queen: 60"  x 80"
King: 78"  x 80"
California King: 72"  x 84"

Stash – The pile of fabric and notions hidden in a quilter’s sewing room, closet, under the bed, and behind the TV.  A prepared quilter collects fabric without a plan for immediate use.

Stippling – Quilting stitches following an irregular free form, wiggly line that does not cross.  Stippling is often used to fill background space and create surface texture.

Stitch in the Ditch – Placing your quilting stitches in the "ditch" created by the seams of the pieces in your block.  Your quilting pattern will echo your block pattern.

Straight of Grain – The straight of grain is the direction of fabric that is parallel to the selvage.  Fabric cut from the straight of grain will have no stretch or give.

Strip piecing – A time saving technique that requires cutting and sewing long strips of fabric and then cutting the individual geometric shapes from the strips. 

T-Shirt Quilt – A t-shirt quilt is a unique way of turning your memorable tees, sweatshirts, or jerseys into a beautiful one of a kind quilt.  Blocks are created from printed parts of the t-shirts using a fusible interfacing to eliminate stretch.

Template – A shape used as a pattern for tracing either piecing or appliqué patches prior to being pieced into a block. Templates can be made from cardboard, acrylic, or plastic.

Tied Quilt – A quilt in which the three layers of the quilt are held together with a knotted strings or ties.  

Trapunto – A form of quilting in which areas of the quilt are stuffed with extra batting to create a quilted design.

UFO – UnFinished Objects.  A project in which you have lost interest.

Walking Foot – A walking foot is a special sewing machine foot with built-in feed dogs.  The walking foot grips and advances the quilt top as it travels through the sewing machine in unison with the machines feed dogs, which grip the underside of the fabric.  This action helps keep the layers from shifting apart as they move through the sewing machine.

Width of Fabric (WOF) – This is the measurement that runs from selvage to selvage.  Current quilting fabric is 44” – 46” wide.

Work in Progress (WIP) – A good quilter has an abundance of these.