Glossary of Quilting Terms

Quilting Vocabulary. Quilt Glossary

Quilt Dictionary. Every craft has jargon, and quilting is no different. If you're new to quitting, it can be Like ordering from Starbucks for the first time. But instead of an "extra-hot skinny grande mocha with whip" you may ask for "fat quarter tone-on-tone batiks for a foundation-pieced crazy quilt." Both produce very different, though delicious, results! This dictionary will help you make sense of quilting terminology.

Quilt Dictionary. Quilt Glossary

Analogous colors are adjacent to each other on the standard 12-step color wheel. Yellow and yellow-orange are analogous colors.

Analogous colors. Quilt Glossary

Appliqué is a general term for a technique in which pieces of fabric are sewn on top of one another to create the design. There are many different methods of appliqué, including hand, fusible, and machine.

Appliqué . Quilt Glossary

Asymmetry refers to an irregular shape or object. If you run a vertical or horizontal line down the center, one side is not a mirror image of the other.

Asymmetry refers to an irregular shape or object.. Quilt Glossary

Backing is the bottom layer of the quilt. It can be plain or it can be pieced in a design, as a quilt top would be.

Backing is the bottom layer of the quilt.. Quilt Glossary

Baltimore Album quilts are appliquéd, with each block having a different, and usually elaborate, design. The background is often white, and the appliqué might be embellished with thread or with ink. This style originated in the Baltimore area in the mid 1840s.

Baltimore Album quilts. Quilt Glossary

Batting is the middle layer of the quilt, what makes a quilt warm, and adds dimension to the quilting design.

Batting is the middle layer of the quilt. Quilt Glossary

Bias Grain (see also grain of fabric). The fabric grain that runs at а 45° angle is called the bias. Fabric cut on the bias is very stretchy, which is great for applique pieces with curves but not so good for the outside edges of quilt blocks or for borders.

Binding is a finishing treatment for the edge of a quilt. Binding can be cut from straight-grain or bias strips. It is typically stitched to the front of the quilt, and then the loose edge is wrapped around to the back of the quilt and stitched down by hand. Binding can be single-fold, which requires the raw edge to be folded under before being stitched down on the back, or double-fold, which results in a neat, folded edge on the back. See illustration on page 2.

Border print is a fabric with designs running parallel to the selvage. It is often used for borders or fussy-cut for blocks.

Border print is a fabric with designs running parallel to the selvage.. Quilt Glossary

Borders are strips of fabric that frame the blocks or interior portion of a quilt. They can be one piece of fabric or pieced patchwork; there can be a single border or multiple borders. 

Broderie perse is a type of applique in which motifs cut from printed fabrics are used as the applique pieces.

Broderie perse is a type of applique. Quilt Glossary

Chain piecing is a technique in which many pairs of fabric are sewn together without breaking the threads between each piece.

Chain piecing. Quilt Glossary

A charm square is a 5" x 5" square of fabric. Charm squares are often sold in packs containing all of the prints from an entire Line of fabric.

A charm square is a 5" x 5" square of fabric. Quilt Glossary

Complementary colors are colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Yellow and violet are complementary colors.

Complementary colors. Quilt Glossary

Continuous-line quilting is intended for use in machine quilting. A continuous-line design is one in which the design Line keeps going so you don't have to stop and start in different places. Not having to stop and start makes quilting on both home machines and Longarm machines much easier.

Continuous-line quilting. Quilt Glossary

Quilting Vocabulary. Quilt Glossary

Cornerstones usually refer to Little squares placed at the intersection of sashing strips. Sometimes "cornerstone" also refers to a square placed at the corner intersection of border strips.

Cornerstones. Quilt Glossary

Crazy quilts do not have uniform block patterns but instead are pieced from a variety of fabrics cut in random shapes. They are often heavily embellished with embroidery and beads.

Crazy quilts. Quilt Glossary

Cut size indicates the dimensions of a fabric piece that will be stitched into a quilt and includes the seam allowances.

Cut size. Quilt Glossary

Diamonds are symmetrical four-sided shapes, with parallel sides of the same Length and equal angles at the sharp tips. Two equilateral triangles can be combined to make one diamond.

Diamonds . Quilt Glossary

Directional prints are fabrics in which the printed design has a definite "up" and "down." The motifs are often recognizable objects such as people, animals, and flowers. Pieces cut from directional prints can be cut individually (fussy cut) and carefully sewn so that the objects in the quilt all face the same direction.

Directional prints. Quilt Glossary

English paper piecing uses a paper template for each piece of fabric. The fabric is cut and then basted to each template with the seam allowance turned to the wrong side. The pieces are hand-sewn together and then the templates are removed. Many shapes can be sewn in this manner, but hexagons are the most popular.

English paper piecing . Quilt Glossary

Equilateral triangles have three sides of the same Length. All three angles are 60°.

Equilateral triangles. Quilt Glossary

Fat eighth is a piece of fabric cut about 9" x 21" or 11" x 18". Two fat eighths are made either by cutting a 1/4-yard piece of 42"-wide fabric along the fold or by cutting a fat quarter (18" x 22") in half parallel to the selvage.

Fat eighth is a piece of fabric cut about 9" x 21" or 11" x 18". Quilt Glossary

Fat quarter is a piece of fabric cut about 18" x 21". Two fat quarters are made by cutting a 1/4-yard piece of 42"-wide fabric along the fold.

Fat quarter is a piece of fabric cut about 18" x 21". Quilt Glossary

Feed dogs is the name for the teethlike metal mechanism under the presser foot of your sewing machine. The purpose is to feed the fabric through the machine as you stitch. For free-motion machine quilting, you need to "drop" or disengage the feed dogs so that you can move the fabric around yourself.

Finished size is the size of a piece after it has been sewn to all the other pieces. The finished size does not include seam allowances.

Finished size. Quilt Glossary

Flying Geese units or blocks consist of a Large center triangle flanked by two smaller triangles. Usually the resulting rectangle finishes twice as wide as it is high. There are many techniques for making this shape.

Flying Geese. Quilt Glossary

Folded corners is a term used to describe a technique for adding triangles to the corners of a square or rectangle. A small square is placed at the corner of the Larger square or rectangle, with right sides together and edges aligned. A seam is stitched from corner to corner on the small square, and then the excess fabric is trimmed, Leaving а 1/4" seam allowance, and the corner triangle is pressed flat.

Folded corners. Quilt Glossary

Foundation paper piecing uses a paper or fabric foundation that has the seam Lines of the block printed on it. Each piece is machine-sewn to the foundation, with the foundation facing up and visible to the sewer. It's a Little Like sewing upside down and backward, but with this technique you can create tiny shapes with incredibly sharp points.

Foundation paper piecing. Quilt Glossary

Free-motion quilting is done with a sewing machine on which the feed dogs have been Lowered so that they do not touch the fabric. This way, the quilt can be moved in any direction by the quilter. Free-motion designs can be any shape but are usually made with Long, curving, continuous lines.

Free-motion quilting. Quilt Glossary

Fussy cutting is a term used to describe cutting a quilt patch from a particular part of the fabric to take advantage of a specific motif or repeat, such as a flower or a stripe. Rather than rotary cutting by measuring from the edge of the fabric, you can use a window template to center the motif you'd Like to use in your quilt block.

Fussy cutting. Quilt Glossary

Grain of fabric
•    Grain refers to the Lengthwise and crosswise threads that make up woven fabric.
•    Crosswise grain is perpendicular to the selvage (weft) and has a slight stretch.
•    Lengthwise grain runs parallel to the selvage (warp) and has the Least stretch
•    Bias is 45° to the selvage and has the most stretch.
•    A fabric with straight grain (or on-grain fabric) has threads that Lie at perfect right angles, with the crosswise threads 90° to the selvages. A fabric said to be off grain has crosswise threads that are skewed and run at a slant to the selvage.

Grain of fabric. Quilt Glossary

Half-square triangles are made by cutting a square in half on the diagonal, from corner to corner. They're visually identical to quarter-square triangles, but the stretchy bias edge is the Long side of the triangLe rather than on the short sides.

Half-square triangles. Quilt Glossary

Hanging sleeve. See quilt sleeve.

Imperial measurements (inches and yards, quarts, and pounds) are the units used in the USA. (For those of you who Like to be extremely accurate, the U.S. actually uses United States customary units, most of which are identical to imperial measurements.) Imperial measurements are often used in quiltmaking, especially in the U.S. (Is anyone out there old enough to remember when the U.S. tried to go metric? What a disaster!) Metric measurements (centimeters and meters) are used in the rest of the world.

Imperial measurements (inches and yards, quarts, and pounds). Quilt Glossary

Jelly Roll™ is a trademark of United Notions (Moda Fabrics). Each Jelly Roll is a collection of fabrics precut from selvage to selvage into 2 1/2"-wide (6 cm) strips. They're often sold in packs containing all the prints from an entire Line of fabric. Other fabric companies also sell bundles of 2 1/2"-wide strips; they're just not called Jelly Rolls.

Jelly Roll™. Quilt Glossary

Layer Cake™ is a trademark of United Notions (Moda Fabrics). Each Layer Cake is a collection of fabrics cut in 10" x 10" (24 cm) squares. They are also sold in packs containing all the prints from an entire line of fabric.

Layer Cake™. Quilt Glossary

Medallion quilts have a Large center block (often appliqued) with multiple pieced borders surrounding the center.

Medallion quilts have a Large center block. Quilt Glossary

Mitered borders come together at the corners at a 45° angle, forming a picture-frame Look around the quilt.

Mitered borders. Quilt Glossary

Needle-turn applique is a type of hand applique in which a small portion at the edge of the applique shape is turned under by the needle just before it is sewn to the background.

Needle-turn applique. Quilt Glossary

On point or diagonally set refers to quiLt blocks rotated 45° so the corners are at the top and the bottom.

On point or diagonally set refers to quiLt blocks. Quilt Glossary

Piping is made by enclosing cord in a strip of fabric. It's a good method for creating even, thin borders around a quilt.

Piping is made by enclosing cord in a strip of fabric.. Quilt Glossary

Prairie points are three-dimensional triangles commonly used to embellish the edges of quilts.

Prairie points. Quilt Glossary

Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. They are the colors that, when combined, make other colors.

Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.. Quilt Glossary

Quarter-square triangles are created by slicing a square twice diagonally, from corner to corner, Leaving the square in quarters. The resulting triangles are visually identical to half-square triangles but the stretchy bias edges are on the two short sides.

Quarter-square triangles. Quilt Glossary

At its most basic, a quilt is a textile comprised of three Layers: a top, a filler of some sort (most often batting), and a backing. The Layers may be stitched together, tacked, tied, or secured with buttons or other embellishments.

A quilt block is a common unit of patchwork or applique. Blocks are generally square but may also be rectangular. Multiple blocks are stitched together (either side by side, or separated by sashing strips) to assemble the quilt top.

In some quilts, the same block design is used repeatedly; in others, two blocks alternate to form a secondary design; and in still others, each block is different, making a "sampler quilt." Block designs are traditionally given names, which may be Literal, such as Nine Patch and Square in a Square, or based on what they represent, such as Log Cabin, Carolina Lily, or Flying Geese. Beware! Block names can be confusing because the same name may refer to different blocks, or one block may be known by several names.

quilt block. Quilt Glossary

quilt block. Quilt Glossary

quilt block. Quilt Glossary

quilt block. Quilt Glossary

quilt block. Quilt Glossary

A quilt sleeve is a strip of fabric attached to the upper edge on the back of a quilt. It is open at both short ends but stitched down along both Long edges, allowing a rod to be slipped inside for hanging the quilt.

A quilt sleeve . Quilt Glossary

Quilting is a versatile term used to describe three different things: the process of stitching the quilt Layers together ("I'm hand quilting this quilt for my daughter"); the stitches themselves ("The quilting on that applique quilt is lovely"); the technique or process of making quilts ("I enjoy quilting with my friends").

Quilting is a versatile term used to describe three different things. Quilt Glossary

Reverse applique is a method of hand or machine applique in which the top Layer of fabric is slit and then turned under to reveal the bottom Layer of fabric.

Reverse applique is a method of hand or machine applique. Quilt Glossary

Reversed shapes are mirror images. You can cut both reversed and nonreversed shapes at the same time by layering two pieces of fabric wrong (or right) sides together.

Reversed shapes are mirror images.. Quilt Glossary

The rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat are modern-day tools that have revolutionized quiltmaking. The razor-sharp blade on the rotary cutter (think pizza cutter!), makes quick work of slicing through multiple Layers of fabric at once. Guiding the rotary cutter along the edge of an acrylic ruler Lets you make accurate cuts, and using a self-healing cutting mat beneath the fabric protects your table surface from the cutter. The mat also protects the blade in the cutter from becoming dull too quickly.

The rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat. Quilt Glossary

Examples of a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat

Sashiko quilting originated in Japan as a method for extending the life of garments by sewing two of them together. Sashiko uses the same type of stitch commonly used in quilting, but the stitches are larger and made with a heavier thread such as pearl cotton. The stitching thread contrasts sharply against the background, and the quilting patterns are usually geometric or curved and Japanese in design.

Sashiko quilting. Quilt Glossary

Sashing refers to strips of fabric placed between blocks to separate them.

Sashing refers to strips of fabric placed between blocks to separate them. Quilt Glossary

Saturated color has a strong intensity. It's pure and does not have gray, black, or white added to it.

Saturated color has a strong intensity.. Quilt Glossary

Scant indicates a little less. For example, a scant 1/4" (6 mm) seam allowance would measure about 3/16" (5 mm).

Scant indicates a little less. . Quilt Glossary

Scrap quilts are usually made from pieced blocks, and the blocks are all made from different fabrics. A design is created by the placement of light and dark fabrics within each block. A scrap quilt might include anywhere from about 20 to hundreds of different fabrics.

Scrap quilts. Quilt Glossary

Seam allowance is the distance from the sewn seam to the raw edge of the fabric. In quiltmaking, the seam allowance is usually 1/4" (7.5 mm). In dressmaking, a seam allowance is often 5/8" (15 mm).

Seam allowance . Quilt Glossary

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors. Mix blue and yellow, and green is created. In the classic color wheel, secondary colors are orange, violet (purple), and green.

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors.. Quilt Glossary

Selvage is the tightly woven edge of fabric. A selvage may or may not be printed or have a fringe and sometimes has permanent Little holes. Machines grip the selvage during manufacturing. If you don't trim off the selvages before cutting, you may have trouble when sewing pieces together. Because the selvages don't stretch, those pieces might wash and wear differently, they Look different than the nonselvage part of the fabric, and those pesky Little holes simply won't go away!

Selvage is the tightly woven edge of fabric.. Quilt Glossary

Seminole quilting is a style of quilting created by the Seminole Tribe in Florida in the early 1900s. It uses strip-piecing techniques to create intricate-looking designs and patterns.

Seminole quilting. Quilt Glossary

Set-in seams. When three seams meet at different angles, you can't simply sew from edge to edge of the pieces. Instead, each of the three seams has to be sewn carefully just to the 1/4" seam margin, with the other pieces folded out of the way. Sewing set-in seams is time-consuming but not difficult once you are familiar with the technique.

Set-in seams.. Quilt Glossary

Setting triangles are added to a quilt top to fill the empty spaces when blocks are set at a 45° angle (on point).

Setting triangles. Quilt Glossary

Shades are colors that have black added to them. Shades are darker and Less intense than pure colors. The term tone is often used interchangeably with shade, although technically a tone is a color with gray added to it instead of black.

Shades are colors that have black added to them.. Quilt Glossary

Square in a Square blocks look as though there is a small square inside of, and tilted 45° to, a larger square. They are made by adding four triangles to a center square.

Square in a Square blocks. Quilt Glossary

Stipple quilting is a quilting design usually made by machine. Sometimes called meander quilting, it consists of curvy jigsaw puzzle or whale-tail shapes and is often used to quilt large spaces.

Stipple quilting. Quilt Glossary

Stitch in the ditch is a quilting design that is almost invisible because it is made by stitching in the seams of blocks.

Stitch in the ditch. Quilt Glossary

Straight grain (see also grain of fabric). The straight grain runs vertically and horizontally through the fabric; it is less stretchy than the bias grain.

Strip piecing is a method of quiltmaking in which Long strips of fabric are sewn together along the Long edges and then crosscut into smaller segments. Segments from different strip sets can then be sewn together. Strip piec-ing can save a lot of time.

Strip piecing. Quilt Glossary

Symmetry. An object has symmetry if it Looks exactly the same when viewed in a mirror (the Left side is identical to the right). This is an oversimplification, because there are types of symmetry other than mirror images, but in quilting this is the type most often referred to.

Symmetry. Quilt Glossary

Tertiary colors, also known as intermediate colors, are made by mixing a primary and an adjacent secondary color. Yellow-green is made by mixing the primary color yellow with the secondary color green.

Tertiary colors. Quilt Glossary

Tints are colors that have white added to them. Pastels are tints.

Tints are colors that have white added to them.. Quilt Glossary

Trapunto is a method of quilting in which bits of batting are stuffed inside quilted shapes, giving a three dimensional effect to the quilting. It is often done on solid, unpieced fabric. The quilting can be done either by machine or by hand.

Trapunto. Quilt Glossary

Trapunto. Quilt Glossary

Value refers to how light or how dark fabrics appear when compared to each other. Value is relative—that is, it depends on the fabrics being compared. The same fabric can have a light value in one grouping and a dark value in another. The placement of different values is critical in the majority of quilt designs.

Value. Quilt Glossary

Walking Foot (also called even-feed foot). The walking foot is a mechanism that works in conjunction with a machine's feed dogs to help feed multiple layers of fabric through at the same rate. It's built in on some machines but is more often a presser-foot attachment. A walking foot makes machine quilting easier and helps avoid puckers and wrinkles on the back of the quilt.

Walking Foot. Quilt Glossary

Wholecloth quilts are not pieced or appliqued. They are made from a solid, unpieced fabric and are elaborately quilted.

Wholecloth quilts. Quilt Glossary

Yo-yos are three-dimensional circular flower-like shapes made from gathered circles of fabric.

Yo-yos. Quilt Glossary

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