A Glossary of Quilting Terms


applique --a piecing process using small cutouts of fabric which are then sewn onto a background fabric in a decorative design. Typically intricate and curved floral and animal motifs are used.

album --1. a quilt, often appliqued, with designs symbolic to the maker or recipient pieced into each block. 2. a quilt made from blocks which have been signed by friends or family members of either the maker or the recipient (also called a signature quilt).

Amish --pertaining to the quilts made by religious cultures of eastern Pennsylvania and the Midwest. Typical of this style are dark rich fabrics, always solids, the heavy use of black as a background, striking geometric patterns, and wide, plain borders.

backing --the bottom or back layer of a quilt, usually a plain unadorned fabric that has been pieced to the width of the quilt.

bargello --a style of piecework in which fabric is first sewn in horizontal strips, then cut and arranged in vertical steps to produce undulating designs. See Deanna Spingola's gallery for examples.

basting --large stitches made to hold fabric layers or seams in place temporarily, before final seams or quilting is done. One may also use safety pins or straight pins to baste.

batting --the layer of stuffing in the middle of the quilt, giving it warmth and thickness. Can be cotton, polyester, or wool. Known as "wadding" in Great Britain.

bearding --when the batting fibers work their way through the top or bottom fabric layers of the quilt. It creates an unsightly fuzz. Most often associated with cheap polyester battings, bearding can also happen with unbonded cotton.

betweens -- small, thin needles used for finish quilting. Sizes range from 8-12, the smaller number being a longer length needle.

bias --the diagonal of the fabric weave. It stretches.

binding --a strip of fabric sewn over the edges of the quilt layers to finish the raw edges, add strength, and/or decorate the edge. Can be straight or scalloped. A binding can also be a part of the backing wrapped over to the front.

block --a square (or other regularly repeated shape) section which has been pieced into a top to make it a whole.

border --a frame or edge made of strips of fabric surrounding the quilt blocks. Frames can be used around a center block to set it apart, or around the outer edges of a quilt as a finishing technique.

broderie perse --"persian embroidery" --an applique cut from a printed fabric picture, such as a flower or animal.

calico --any small repeated print design on cotton, usually a floral.

chain sewing --to feed block pieces into the sewing machine one right after the other, without snipping threads in between each seam. This allows you to sew many pieces without stopping after each one, saving both time and thread.

challenge --a competition to create a block or quilt using specified fabrics or patterns.

charm square --a smallish, unique patch of fabric. Often traded in quantity, allowing the swappers to develop a collection with a wide variety of prints. When made into a quilt top and called a "charm quilt" the idea is to have a scrap-pieced top with no two pieces alike.

cheater's cloth --fabric printed with an all-over quilt block design, made to look like a pieced or appliqued quilt top.

crazy patch --a block assembled from irregular and often scrap pieces, with no set pattern or design overall. Can be made as small blocks and assembled into a larger piece, or sewn as one complete quilt top. A popular pattern in the late 1800's, made up with silks and velvets and embellished with much embroidery.

cutter --a quilt that is so badly worn or damaged in some areas as to be sold for the purpose of cutting it up into pillows, dolls, or other craft items.

directional print --fabric with a printed pattern that has a definite "up" and "down", or grain. Care must be taken to match the direction when piecing.

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

echo quilting --to make repeating outlines of the block pattern, radiating out from the design, like ripples in a pond.

fat quarter --one quarter of a square yard (or metre) of fabric, cut to about 18x22 inches (~50x56 cm), as compared to a regular quarter-yard cut which measures 9x45 inches (~25x112 cm).

foundation piecing --assembling a block by sewing pieces to a foundation of muslin or plain fabric, adding strength and stability to delicate or stretchy fabrics.

friendship quilt --a quilt made by friends (who make friendship blocks) as a gift or rememberance to someone who has moved. The blocks may be signed, dated, or contain verses.

grain --the direction of the fabric, along the warp and weft threads. When aligning templates "with the grain" they need to be parallel to the warp, or length of the yardage.

griege -- from the French "grege" (raw silk) and the Italian "greggio" (grey), also called "gray goods" it refers to woven textiles as they come from the loom, before they are dyed or printed and sold as finished goods. Also spelled greige.

lap quilting --a method of completing the finish quilting one block at a time and then assembling the finished quilt from those pre-quilted squares. Squares are quilted in small lap frames rather than large ones.

loft --a reference to the thickness and resilience of batting. A high loft batting is thicker and fluffier than low loft batting.

medallion --a central, usually large, block or patterned area on a quilt top, defined in some way (by space or a border).

memory quilt --a quilt pieced from scraps of a loved one's clothing. May be made of children's outgrown baby clothes, or the clothing of a deceased relative or friend. More recently, memory quilts include transferred photographs of the loved one.

millenium quilt --a quilt made to commemorate the year 2000, usually made with 2000 pieces. May be a charm quilt.

mitered corner --corner (usually of a border) that is joined at a 45* angle, like a picture frame. Often a sign of an experienced quilter.

muslin --a plain, undyed cotton fabric, available bleached or unbleached. A fine quality bleached muslin is used in quilting as a neutral background or as a foundation under thinner fabric.

novelty print --a fabric printed with small whimsical designs, often for a holiday or for craft use. Also called "conversation" prints and "craft" prints. Examples are cute ghosts for Halloween, pictures of Elvis, and anything based on Saturday morning cartoon characters.

one-patch --any quilt pattern that uses a single shaped patch for the pieced top. May be squares, triangles, hexagons, etc. repeated in color patterns or random scraps.

Orvus --brand name of a veterinary cleaning product that is very mild and often used to clean fine washables such as quilts.

outline quilting --to make quilting stitches which follow the outline of your pieces or applique design, usually at 1/4 or 1/2 an inch from the edge of the seam. See also echo quilting.

paper piecing --to use paper templates with the fabric basted onto the paper shape in order to retain accurate piecing. Fabric is folded over the edge of the paper shape, basted into place, and the edges of adjoining pieces whipstitched together by hand. This is typically used when making the hexagonal Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern.

paper foundation piecing --a method of piecing (particularly for miniatures) where fabric is sewn to a paper foundation with a printed block pattern, in a specific order, to more accurately assemble a complicated design.

piecing --to assemble quilt blocks from pieces of fabric sewn along their edges to form a whole. Compare with applique.

pin-baste --to use saftey pins or straight pins to temporarily hold togther the three layers of a quilt in preparation for finish quilting. Beware of rusting pins.

quilting --in general, the process of making a quilt; in specific, the stitching of patterns into the quilt layers to add strength and decoration to the quilt.

Retayne --brand name of a product used to prevent commercial dyes from running or bleeding when washed.

reverse applique --designs made by sewing on a patch to the underside of the block and then cutting away and turning under the edge of the top fabric.

rotary cutter --looks like a pizza cutter, but with a rolling razor wheel. The modern quilter's version of scissors, to be used with a special mat designed for it and a variety of clear rulers and templates to speed the fabric cutting process.

sampler --a quilt made of different block patterns, usually as an exercise by the maker in piecing techniques. Historically it served as a block library for the quilter to refer to if she left her home or family when she married.

sashing --strips of fabric sewn between pieced blocks to separate them while joining them together into a top. Can also act as borders.

scrap quilt --any quilt made with leftover fabrics from other projects, or from salvaged fabric from clothing or other items. Also, a quilt planned to use many fabrics in order to make it look as though pieced from leftovers.

selvedges --the warp (long) edges of the fabric, finished and usually thicker than the rest of the fabric. Cut off when being pieced into a quilt.

seminole piecing --a method of cutting joined strips of fabric into sections and re-piecing them with either plain contrasting fabric strips in between, or in staggered rows similar to checkerboarding. Adapted from the bright patchwork of the Seminole Indians in Florida, this technique is often used in borders and quilted clothing.

setting --the arrangement of completed blocks forming the quilt top. Blocks can be set side by side, or on point, like diamonds, with or without sashing. Arrangements can also vary with certain asymmetrical block patterns.

sharps --small, thin needles used for piecing and doing applique. They have a really sharp point that is better for joining pieces than for quilting.

squishy --quilter's slang for an envelope full of fabric, especially one that comes in the mail as a result of an exchange or mail-order purchase.

stash --a supply of fabric and notions used for quilting (and other sewing projects). Usually squirrelled away in every conceivable nook and cranny in the house, garage, neighbor's attic, etc.

stippling --quilting stitches, when done by hand they can consist of closely spaced tacking stitches, when done by machine the pattern is of closely spaced squiggly lines. Both patterns are used to fill background space.

stitch in the ditch (to)--a method of quilting where you sew your stitches in the "ditch" created by the joins of the pattern pieces. Your quilting pattern will be that of your block pattern. Compare with outline quilting.

strip piecing --a time-saving method of cutting strips of fabric instead of individual shapes, and piecing the strips before cutting adjoining smaller block pieces from it.

Synthrapol --brand name of a product used to remove excess dyes from fabrics in order to prevent them from bleeding or wicking color into other fabrics.

template --a cardboard or plastic shape used as a pattern for tracing either piecing or applique patches, or for tracing lines to be quilted.

trapunto --a dimensional design created by parallel outlining stitches that are then stuffed with yarn or batting.

tying --a traditional method of securing the quilt layers with knotted ties at intervals across the quilt.

wall quilt --a smallish quilted piece designed and constructed to be hung on the wall for decoration. Can contain specialty fabrics and embellishments that are not meant to be washed or undergo strain or wear.

warp/weft --the woven threads in the fabric. Warp threads are long and run from top to bottom in the length of the material. Weft threads run from side to side and are shorter.

watercolor quilt --a technique where you use 2" squares (or thereabouts) of floral fabrics to color a quilt pattern in the style of an Impressionist painting. Also called colorwash quilting.

white work --a quilt where the entire design is in the quilting stitches, there is no patchwork on the top (although the top may be pieced from large squares or may be whole-cloth). Usually made up in solid white fabric as a display of the quilter's stitching skills.

whole cloth quilt --a quilt where the top is made from one single, large, piece of fabric.


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