As a self-taught quilter, up until about 2 or 3 years ago, I had no idea Quilt Blocks had names, let alone any of the other jargon quilters used on a daily basis. To say stepping into that classroom for the first time was strenuous would be an understatement. So, for all of my fellow self-taught and self-teaching quilters, here’s a handy dandy explanation of all things quilting lingo. If you come across something I’ve missed, or have a question about anything listed, shoot me an email to Rona@RonatheRibbiter.com and I’d be happy to assist!
In the meantime, be sure to SAVE this Quilting Terms post for later so you’ll be well prepared for your next class or Guild meeting.
Applique – A piece of cut fabric stitched onto a Foundation fabric using either Hand stitching or Machine stitching.
Art Quilt – Creating a Quilt Top that resembles a piece of artwork such as a painting. Many techniques are used to create Art Quilts such as Applique, Trapunto, and Embroidery, among others.
Backing – Fabric used on the back side of a quilt. The bottom layer of a Quilt Sandwich.
Background Fabric – The part of a Quilt Top that is considered ‘empty space’ and surrounds the main focal point of the Quilt Top design.
Backstitch – Stitching a few stitching in ‘reverse’ to secure a seam.
Bargello – A finished quilt that looks like it has movement. Bargello is made using fabric strips sewn together then sub-cut and resewn in sequence.
Basting – The process of temporarily securing the 3 layers of your quilt sandwich together generally by using temporary basting spray or quilting safety pins.
Batik Fabric – Process of dying fabric using wax to give it a look similar to tie dye. The wax is removed with hot water.
Batting – The middle layer of a quilt sandwich. Usually made of cotton, cotton/polyester blend or wool. The loft and textile of the batting will determine the weight and warmth of the quilt.
Bearding – When some of the batting fibers poke through the fibers of your fabric, either on the top or bottom, when the Quilt Sandwich is quilted. Lower quality batting can cause Bearding.
Bias – The grain of the fabric that runs on the 45-degree angle from the selvage. It provides the most even stretch.
Bias Binding – Binding made from strips cut on the bias of the fabric.
Bias Tape – Strips of fabric cut on the Bias, in single or double fold, that can be used as binding in quilt and other sewing projects. The bias allows for better turning around edges. Prepackaged Bias Tape is made with polyester fabric and doesn’t stand up well to heat. It will warp when ironed or pressed.
Binding – Long strips of fabric folded together lengthwise used to finish a quilt and seal in the quilt sandwich, applied around the outside borders of the quilt.
Blanket Stitch – An embroidery stitch that is commonly used to attach applique pieces to the foundation fabric by hand or machine stitching.
Bleeding – When one color of a fabric ‘bleeds’ into the water and gets absorbed by another fabric during washing.
Block – A square design used in assembling a quilt top. Usually the blocks are made 12” x 12” or larger and sewn together in rows and columns.
BOM – Block of the Month. Group project where a new block is presented each month until the planned Quilt Top is complete.
Border – Strips of fabric along the outside edges of the quilt top. They resemble a frame around the quilt design.
BOW – Block of the Week. Group project where a new block is presented each week until the planned Quilt Top is complete.
Butted – Assembling Borders and/or Binding where the corners form a 90-degree angle.
Chain Piecing – Stitching multiple pieces together without cutting the thread in between. VIDEO
Charm Pack – A set of pre-cut fabric squares, usually 5” x 5” or 6” x 6” sold in sets of various fabrics and various quantities.
Cornerstones – The small blocks joining Sashing strips together on a Quilt Top.
Crazy Block – Piecing randomly shaped fabric together to create random sized and shaped quilt blocks.
Crazy Binding – Using multiple fabrics pieced together to create the binding strip.
Cut Size – The measurement of a cut piece of fabric that includes the seam allowances. See also: Finished Size.
Cutting Mat – Self-healing mat that is used with a Ruler and Rotary Cutter to aide in precise cutting of fabric pieces.
Design Wall – A wall covered in felt or flannel used to place blocks and fabrics on so you can see what the overall blocks and/or quilt top will look like before stitching the pieces together.
Directional Print – Fabric that has a specific up and down side printed design.
Dog Ears – Bits of fabric that hang over the edge of your seam after stitching together triangles.
Double Fold Binding – Binding strip that is folded twice lengthwise.
Dresden – An Applique quilt pattern that uses petal shapes, pointed or curved, to create a circle.
DSM – Domestic Sewing Machine or Desktop Sewing Machine
Easing – Process of carefully stitching together pieces that are curved or do not exactly match. *The 1/8th Inch rule: If it’s under 1/8th of an inch difference, it can be eased. If the pieces are off by more than 1/8th of an inch, you may have to redo.
Echo Quilting – In Free Motion quilting, the process of outlining a pattern following the same distance around. Then, repeating with another outline again and again. This process can also be used around applique piece edges.
English Paper Piecing – A technique of folding fabric around a paper template and hand stitching the pieces together. This process is generally used in place of machine stitching odd shaped pieced blocks. Example: Hexagons or Hexies.
Fat Eight – A 1/8 yard piece of pre-cut fabric that is approximately 9” x 21”. It is shorter and wider than a standard 1/8 yard of fabric that is cut directly from the bolt.
Fat Quarter (FQ) – A ¼ yard piece of pre-cut fabric that is approximately 18” x 22”. It is shorter and wider than a standard ¼ yard of fabric that is cut directly from the bolt.
Feed Dogs – Metal teeth that sit below the presser foot on your sewing machine. The feed dogs rotate up and down while you sew to pull your fabric forward and control the stitch length.
Fidget Quilt – Quilt made with various things to ‘play with’ stitched in the top. Example: zippers, ribbon, etc…
Finger Pressing – Pressing a seam with your fingers either before or instead of pressing with an iron.
Finished Size – The measurement of a completed Quilt Block after it has been sewn and without seam allowances. See also: Cut Size
Five Patch Block – A Quilt Block that consists of 5 units.
Flying Geese – Piecing two smaller triangles to the sides of a larger triangle to form a rectangle Unit.
Foot / Presser Foot – Holds the fabric flat as it is fed through the sewing machine. A Presser Foot can be metal or plastic.
Foundation Piecing – Technique using Muslin or Paper Pattern as the foundation to which you stitch your fabric Block pieces one by one. You will stitch the pieces directly on to your foundation. This process aides greatly in stitching accuracy.
Four Patch Block – A Quilt Block that consists of 4 units.
Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) – The process of sewing the quilt sandwich where you control the stitching. The feed dogs are dropped down so that you have complete control of the design, stitch length, speed and direction. This process requires a special quilting foot.
Freezer Paper Applique – Turned Edge Applique method that uses Freezer paper to turn the edges of the fabric before stitching.
Fusible – Interfacing or web that has glue and can be fused to fabric using heat.
Fussy Cut – Purposely cutting a piece of fabric to center a design.
Hand Stitch Applique – Hand stitching the applique pieces onto the foundation fabric.
Half Square Triangle (HST) – A quilt block that consists of two triangles face to face to complete a square.
Hanging Sleeve – A long tube sewn to the back of a quilt so that a rod or dowel can be placed through for hanging a quilt on a wall.
Interfacing – Material that is either Fused or sewn onto the Wrong side of your fabric to give stability or Loft. See also: Webbing
Irish Chain Quilt – Quilt top design dating back to the 1700’s that consists of Nine Patch Blocks and solid square blocks. Irish Chain quilt designs can be single, double or triple.
Ironing – The process of sliding your hot iron on the fabric. Only suggested BEFORE cutting into your fabric.
Jelly Roll – A collection of pre-cut fabric strips that are 2 ½” x WOF. They usually come in a collection of 40 strips in varying prints and are rolled up end to end.
Landscape Quilt – A finished art quilt where the Quilt Top resembles a landscape picture.
Lattice – Strips of fabric sewn between the quilt blocks. Lattice is usually referred to when your Blocks are set On Point. See also: Sashing
Layer Cake – A collection of pre-cut fabric squares, usually 10” x 10” sold in varying prints and quantities.
LOF – Length of Fabric, measured from cut edge to cut edge. When a pattern calls for 2 yards, it is asking for the LOF of 2 yards cut from the fabric bolt.
Loft – This refers to the thickness of quilt batting. The higher the Loft number, the thicker the batting.
Log Cabin Block – A common Block made by adding strips of increasing size around a center square.
Long Arm – A long arm is a quilting machine with a long neck (arm) that is used in conjunction with a long arm table. The quilt sandwich is placed on rollers and attached to the long arm table for ease in all over quilting. Long arm quilting, you move (or drive) the machine. In desktop quilting, you are moving the quit sandwich.
LQS – Local Quilt Shop
Machine Applique – Using a desktop sewing machine to stitch applique pieces onto the foundation fabric.
Meandering – Process of Free Motion Quilting using continuous curves so the stitching line does not cross over itself. This technique is generally used to fill in empty background space to allow the more defined quilting to be stand out. See also: Stippling.
Medallion Quilt – A quilt top made of several Borders surrounding one single Block or design.
Memory Quilt – A finished quilt made with a person’s clothing. Example: t-shirt quilt.
Mitered Corners – A corner of Binding or Borders made by joining fabric pieces together so they form a 45-degree angle.
Monofilament Thread – Also known as ‘Invisible Thread’. It resembles fishing line.
Mug Rug – A miniature quilt similar to a coaster.
Muslin – 100% cotton plain fabric that comes in bleached (white) or unbleached (light beige). Muslin is available in various sizes and weights. Traditionally, it was used as the Backing for quilts. It also is used for testing or practicing new quilting techniques.
Needle Turn Applique – Applique process where the edges of the applique fabric pieces are turned under and stitched in pace. This method can be stitched by hand or by machine. See also: Turned Edge Applique
Nine Patch Block – A Quilt Block that consists of 9 units.
Notions – Notions are the extra supplies used in quilting and/or sewing. Example: needles, marking pens, quilting pins, etc…
On Point – Quilt blocks that are positioned on their side. Example: a square block becomes a diamond.
PhD – Projects Half Done
Pieced Border – Stitching together multiple strips of fabric to get the full length of a border stip.
Piecing – The process of sewing small pieces of fabric together to make quilt blocks and, ultimately, a quilt top.
Pinwheel – Quilt Block where 4 Half Square Triangles are pieced together on point so they resemble the blades of a pinwheel.
Pivot – When stitching, the process of leaving your needle in the ‘down’ position and turning your fabric to continue stitching.
Photo Transfer – Process of printing a photo on to cotton fabric to be used in quilting. An inkjet printer is best used for this process.
Preshrinking – Washing your fabric before you cut into the piece the quilt top.
Pressing – Once you’ve cut the fabric and sewn your seam, pressing refers to the process of literally setting the iron down on your open seam, pressing firmly, then lifting the iron up and away. Pressing does NOT include moving or sliding the iron in any way as this will stretch and/or distort the shape of the fabric/seam.
Quarter Inch Foot – A presser foot that measures exactly ¼” inch form the needle to the outside edge of the foot.
Quarter Square Triangle – A pieced unit where 4 triangles form a square.
Quillow – A unique quilt that has a pocket sewn into the back. The quilt is folded in on itself and tucked into the pocket to use a pillow.
Quilt as You Go – Piecing process where you stitch the Quilt top and Quilt Sandwich layers together at the same time.
Quilt Sandwich – The three layers that make up a quilt. 1) The Backing, laid face down. 2) The Batting, lain on top of the backing fabric. 3) The quilt top, laid face up over the batting.
Quilt Top – The top layer of the Quilt sandwich. The quilt top is usually pieced or can be an all-over single fabric design.
Quilting – The process of securing all three layers of the quilt sandwich together. Quilting can be done by Hand stitching, machine stitching or tying. See: Tied Quilt
Quilting Frame / Hoop – Used in Hand Quilting, the Quilt Frame or Quilt Hoop is used to temporarily secure the quilt sandwich to avoid puckering.
Raffle Quilt – A finished quilt used in a raffle to raise money.
Raw Edge Applique – Applique process where the edges of the cut applique pieces are kept raw.
Reverse Applique – Process of stitching the applique fabric to the bottom of the background fabric. Cutting into the background fabric and turning the edges show the applique fabric underneath.
Rotary Cutter – A cutting tool that uses a circular blade. The Rotary cutter is used with a Ruler and Cutting Mat to cut more accurate fabric pieces. Blades come in many sizes.
RST – Right Sides Together, where the pretty sides of the fabric face each other.
Ruler – A heavy plastic straight edge ruler used with a Cutting Mat and Rotary cutter to measure and cut fabric pieces. Quilting rulers come in various shapes and sizes.
Sashing – Strips of fabric sewn between the quilt blocks.
Scrap Quilt – A quilt made using leftover fabrics from previous projects.
Scrim – A thin layer of polyester added to cotton batting to give stability so it won’t break apart in your finished quilt.
Seam Allowance – The distance from the seam line to the edge of the fabric. A standard seam allowance for quilt piecing is ¼”.
Seam Ripper – Also knows as “Jack the Ripper.” Tool used to pick or rip out seams. One of the most widely used tools.
Selvage – The finished outer edges of woven fabric. You will usually cut off the selvage when cutting your fabric as it does not stretch and can hinder evenness when piecing your blocks together.
Setting the Seam – Process of Pressing your seam before you press your fabric to one side. The heat from the iron flattens the thread in place allowing your fabrics to lay more flat and secure.
Single Fold Binding – Binding strip that is folded once in half lengthwise.
Star Block – A series of pieced blocks that resemble a star. Usually made as a Nine Patch Block.
Stash – Collection of fabric
Stippling – Process of Free Motion Quilting using continuous curves so the stitching line does not cross over itself. This technique is generally used to fill in empty background space to allow the more defined quilting to be stand out. See also: Meandering
Stitch-In-The-Ditch – A process of sewing your quilt sandwich together where you stitch in a straight line following the seams on your quilt top.
Strip Piecing – Process of stitching together multiple strips of fabric to create a quilt top. Often times the sewn strips are then sub-cut into smaller pieces to complete larger Blocks. See also: Jelly Roll.
Sunbonnet Sue – A traditional applique pattern of a girl wearing a dress and large sunbonnet that covers her face. The design originates from the 1920’s but remains very popular among quilters.
T-shirt Quilt – A finished quilt where the top is made using cut up t-shirts. These quilts tend to be heavier than standard cotton fabric quilts. See also: Memory Quilt.
Tacking – A form of basting the Quilt Sandwich to help keep it secure while Quilting.
Template – A plastic or cardboard shape that is used to Fussy Cut fabric to a specific shape or size. Templates can be used for English Paper Piecing, cutting Applique pieces or tracing lines onto a Quilt Top for Free Motion Quilting.
Tension – The tension refers to how tightly the sewing machine “pinches” the fabric as it’s fed through the machine. The higher the tension number, the tighter the thread is pinched. Less tension is used for thinner fabrics to prevent puckering.
Tied Quilt – A quilt that is finished by tying yarn pieces periodically to secure the Quilt Sandwich together. This process is used in place of Quilting the Sandwich.
Throat Plate – The metal plate on your machine that surrounds the Feed Dogs and, in most machines, covers your bobbin case.
Top Stitch – Stitching along the outside seams or folds of a project to secure the fabric in place.
Trapunto – Placing an extra layer of batting or stuffing under the top fabric to create an extra layer of dimension to the quilt top design. It will make pieces of the quilt top more 3-dimensional.
Turned Edge Applique – Applique process where the edges of the applique fabric pieces are turned under and stitched in pace. This method can be stitched by hand or by machine. See also: Needle Turn Applique.
UFO – Unfinished Object or Unfinished Project
Unit – Multiple sections of a Quilt Block that are stitched together to create a finished block or quilt top.
Walking Foot – A special presser foot that moves up and down as you sew. It is used in the sandwich quilting process to help keep the stitches uniform in length and help prevent the backing fabric from bunching.
Wall Quilt – Small size quilt made to hang on a wall as decoration.
Warp – The threads of a fabric that run parallel to the selvage.
Webbing – Material that is Fused to the Wrong side of your fabric to give stability. See also: Interfacing
Weft – The threads of a fabric that run perpendicular to the selvage.
Whole Cloth Quilt – A quilt design that uses one solid fabric as the Quilt Top. A whole cloth quilt shows off the stitching design in the Quilting.
WIP – Works in Progress
WOF – Width of Fabric, measured from selvage to selvage. The standard WOF for Quilting Cotton fabric is between 42” and 45”.
WOW – White on white
WST – Wrong Sides Together. The ‘ugly’ side or the back sides of your fabric pieces are facing each other.
Y-seam – Seam that brings together 3 pieces of fabric creating a ‘Y’.
Zigzag Stitch – A running stitch that goes from side to side. The zigzag ranges in both stitch length and width and is widely used for Machine Applique and decorative stitching to secure Binding.
If you didn’t find what you were looking for, let me know in the comments or send me an email to Rona@RonatheRibbiter.com and I’ll be sure to add it to the list!
As always, Hoppy Quilting!
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