Quilting Glossary

Fabric Cuts

Pre-cuts – A pre-measured cut of fabric, such as a Fat Quarter or Charm sampler, usually sold in packs that include one of every fabric in a collection, or a group of coordinating fabrics. Generally, every fabric in a pre-cut pack is the same cut.

Fat Quarter – One quarter yard of fabric, but cut to be more usable for quilters – measures approx 22” x 18”. Fat quarters are cut by starting with one half yard, cutting it in half.
Fat Eighth – Half of a Fat Quarter, usually 9” x 22”

Jelly Roll Strips – Strips of fabric that measure 2 ½” x width of fabric, usually sold in packs of 40 strips that include at least one of every fabric in a collection.
Charms – 5” square of fabric, usually sold in packs that include one of every fabric in a collection, or a group of coordinating fabrics.

Layer Cake – 10” square of fabric, usually sold in packs that include one of every fabric in a collection, or a group of coordinating fabrics.

Collection – A group of fabrics designed to work together.

Here is a list of some manufactures and they names that they give to their pre-cuts:

  • Bali Bitty Bundles – eight fat-eights (9″ x 22″)
  • Bali Pops by Hoffman are 2 1/2″ wide x WOF
  • Charms by Moda are 5″ squares
  • Charms by RJR are 5 1/2″ squares
  • Chunky Strip collections – twenty 4″ wide strips
  • Desert Rolls by Moda are 5″ strips x WOF
  • Fabrications by Blank Textiles are 2 1/2″ strips x WOF
  • Fat Rolls by Windam are 5″ wide x WOF
  • Honey buns by Moda are 1-1/2″ strips
  • Jelly Rolls by Moda are 2 1/2″ wide X WOF
  • Layer Cakes by Moda are 10″ squares
  • Lil’ Bits by Marcus are 5″ squares
  • Noodle Jelly Rolls by Fabric Freedom are 2 1/2″ strips
  • Pastry Rolls are 12″ wide strips
  • Spoonfuls by Moda are 8-1/2″ squares
  • Sushi rolls by Lecian are 2-7/8″ strips x WOF
  • Sweet Rolls 6″ strips x WOF
  • Sweet Sixteens by Maywood are 9″ x11″ rectangles (1/16th of a yard)
  • Tonga Dimes by Timeless Treasures are 10″ squares
  • Tonga Nickles by Timeless Treasuresare 5″ squares
  • Turnovers by Moda are 6″ half-square triangles
  • Twice the Charm by RJR are 5 1/2″ x 22″ strips
  • Watercolor Wraps by Hoffman are 7″ squares


BOM – Block Of the Month

DSM – Domestic Sewing Machine

FART – Fabric Acquisition Road Trip

FOB – Fear Of Binding

FQ – Fat Quarter

HIPS – Hundreds of Ideas Piling Skyward

HST – Half Square Triangle

LAQ – Long-Arm Quilter

LQS – Local Quilt Shop

MAQ – Mid Arm Quilter

PhD – Projects Half Done

PIGS – Projects In Grocery Sacks

RST – Right Sides Together

SABLE – Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy

SEX – Stash Enhancing eXperience (or eXcursion)

STASH – Special Treasures All Secretly Hidden

TGIF – Thank God It’s Finished

TOT – Tone On Tone

UFO – Unfinished Object

WHIMM – Works Hidden In My Mind

WIP – Work In Progress

WISP – Work In Slow Progress

WOF – Width Of Fabric

WOFQ – Width Of Fat Quarter

WOMBAT – Waste Of Money, Batting And Time

WOW – White On White

WST – Write Sides Together

Quilting and Sewing Terms

Album Quilt – A quilt made of many different blocks, often with symbolic designs appliquéd or stamped on each block. If each block is signed it would be a Autograph or Signature Quilt.

Appliqué – A piecing process using small amounts of fabric which are then sewn onto a background fabric in a decorative design such as curved floral or animal motifs. Appliqué can be done by hand, machine or with fusible web and is often combined with pieced blocks or placed in the border to frame a pieced quilt. Appliqué is a great technique to cover stains, rips or other problem areas.

Backing – The back layer of a quilt that covers the middle batting section. Also see Quilt Sandwich. A backing could be a single piece of fabric, or pieced into a unique design.

Baltimore Album Quilts – An elegant form of intricate appliqué which was very popular in mid 19th century in Baltimore, Maryland.

Basting – Very large stitching used to temporarily hold fabric layers together. Could be machine or hand basted. Can also be done using a temporary adhesive spray that washed out of the finished quilt.

Batik – Fabrics made by covering a design area with wax or other substance to prevent dye from penetrating into that area. Indonesia is famous for its batiks.

Batting – The middle layer of a Quilt Sandwich, intended to provide warmth to the finished quilt. Can be made from cotton, wool, polyester, bamboo, silk, or a blend of any of these.

Bearding – The migration of fibers from the batting passing through the quilt top and forming a fuzz on the surface of the quilt, thought to be caused by static electricity. Most often associated with cheap polyester battings, bearding can also happen with unbonded cotton. Some synthetics, wool and silk batting are also prone to this problem.

Bias – The diagonal of fabric is known as bias. Strips cut from the bias of fabric are extremely stretchy with plenty of “give.” Excellent for appliquéd stems, binding, etc.

Big Board – A very large ironing board, usually 24″ x 60″, which is placed over your existing ironing board to give you a larger surface to press your fabrics. It can be purchased commercially for $99 – $130, or you can make one at home. Use 1/4″ plywood with 1″ x 1″ strips on the underside to keep the ironing board in place. Use batting or mattress pads for the padding and muslin or ironing board material with for the cover.

Binding – The finishing touch on a quilt. After a quilt is quilted, a narrow piece of fabric is sewn all around the perimeter of the quilt, covering all raw edges and providing a protective layer at the edge. Binding can be made from bias, cross grain or straight of grain fabric. It can be one fabric, or many fabrics pieced together, end to end. It traditionally is double folded to provide extra strength around the edge, where a quilt often gets more wear and tear.

Blanket Stitch – Embroidery stitch done by hand or by machine that works well to finish an appliquéd edge. Also known as Buttonhole Stitch.

Blindstitch – A type of invisible stitching often used for appliqué.

Border – A strip of fabric sewn to the outside of a quilt top to serve as a frame for the interior or to enhance the design.

Chain Piecing – A time saving piecing technique where block components are sewn on to their blocks at the same time without cutting the threads.

Charm Quilt – A quilt made of many small pieces of fabric where each piece is a different fabric. The idea is to have a scrap-pieced top with no two pieces alike. The pattern is usually a one-patch design. Charms are often exchanged and traded by quilters.

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

Crazy Quilt – 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 during the Victorian period, it was made with silks and velvets and embellished with much embroidery.

Cross grain – Fabric as measured from selvage to selvage. Cross grain fabric has more natural stretch or “give” than straight of grain.

Design Wall – A space to hang your blocks or segments and preview the design before piecing them together. Can be as simple as a piece of flannel or batting tacked to a wall, or fancier purchased walls are available.

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 – Quilting stitches that are placed right next to a shape or block, thus echoing the shape.

Embellishment – The addition of trims, buttons, thread, etc to the surface of a finished block, quilt or project. Could also be embroidery or appliqué.

Embroidery – Hand or machine stitching to create a unique design on top of a finished block, quilt or project.

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.

Feed Dogs – The mechanism on a sewing machine that is under the plate and moves forward and backward when the sewing machine is engaged. This assists the fabric movement. Feed Dogs are lowered, or dropped, for free motion stitching. See Free Motion.

Feedsacks – Material originally used to hold flour, feed, sugar, salt, etc. Now highly prized for authentic reproduction quilts. From the early 1900’s.

Finger Pressing – Using your fingers to press a seam or guidelines for appliqué turned edges or seam allowances, instead of an iron.

Finished size – This is the measurement of a block or quilt or section, after all of the seams are completely finished and no raw edges remain.

Free motion – Free form sewing that can be quilting or thread embellishment. Feed dogs are lowered, or dropped, on the sewing machine so the quilter is in control of where the fabric is moved. For accurate stitch length, the quilter then must achieve a balance of how fast the stitching goes vs how much the fabric is moved.

Foundation Paper Piecing – A method of assembling a block by sewing pieces to a foundation of muslin or plain fabric. Sewing on a foundation of paper is known as Paper Piecing or FPP.

Freezer paper appliqué – Freezer paper is a wrapping paper for meat that has a light coating of a wax-like plastic on one side which can be purchased in most supermarkets. Quilters like to use it as a template for appliqué by drawing the design on the paper side, cutting it out and ironing the template to the fabric using a very hot, dry iron. These templates can be use the on the underside of the fabric by turning the seam allowance over it before appliquéing to the base fabric. You would then need to cut the base fabric to remove the paper. You can also use the template on top of the fabric by using the edge of the freezer paper to guide your needle turn. If your freezer paper doesn’t stick well, it can be attached to fabric using silk pins, basting stitches or a glue stick.

Fusible Web – A product that is applied with heat (like an iron) to fabric. Fabric bonded with fusible web is then used to embellish or appliqué projects.

Fussy Cut – To select a specific area of a motif when cutting fabric, instead of allowing random cuts.

Grain –The lengthwise and crosswise threads of a fabric, along the warp (length) and weft (crosswise) threads. The lengthwise grain parallel to the selvage stretches the least and should be used for borders whenever possible. The crosswise grain perpendicular to the selvage has slightly more give. Selvedges are created as the weft threads are tightly woven through the warp threads.

Griege goods – Refers to woven textiles as they come from the loom, before they are dyed or printed and sold as finished goods. This fabric has been removed from the loom, but has no further processing, bleaching or finish applied to it. It is pronounced “gray goods”.
Handquilting – Hand quilting is a running stitch that is made through all three layers of a quilt to hold them together.

Hanging Sleeve – A tube sewn to the back top of a quilt to allow it to be hung. To make one, cut a strip of fabric 9″ wide by the width of the quilt (seamed if necessary) and hem the ends. Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and sew to the unfinished edge of your quilt. Your binding will later cover this seam. If your quilt is already bound, fold the strip right sides together and sew into a tube. Turn the tube inside out and attach to the top of the quilt under the binding. With either method, you will have to hand sew the loose bottom edge of the tube to the quilt. If you made the quilt, make the sleeve out of fabric used on the top so that if fabric is needed to repair the top in the future, it will be readily available.

Label–   Usually placed on the back of a finished quilt, the label includes information such as who made it and when, who was the recipient, perhaps what is special about it. Especially important for dating heirloom quilts 100 years from now! Can be written in water soluble ink and embroidered directly on the quilt, or on a piece of fabric that is then finished and appliquéd onto the back.

Lap quilting – First used in the 19th century, this method of making a quilt by finishing the blocks individually and putting them together later was popularized by Georgia Bonesteel in the 1980’s.

Layout – The arrangement in which blocks are sewn together to make a quilt. A straight set layout occurs when quilt blocks are simply sewn next to each other in rows and the rows are set together. An on-point quilt is a straight set layout with the blocks set on a 45 degree angle. Bargello quilting consists of off-set blocks of color in a rising or falling “flame-like” pattern. One patch or tessellating quilts depend on fabric placement for their design. Wholecloth quilts depend on the quilting for their design. Cheatercloth quilts have a stamped design.

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

Long Arm Machine – A large free motion sewing machine used to quilt the three layers together on a quilt. Generally has a throat measurement of 24” or longer and can be computerized. Allows the Long Arm Quilter to stitch 24” or greater sections at a time.

Long Arm Quilter – A quilter that uses a Long Arm Machine to stitch the layers of a quilt together.

Mid Arm Machine – Same as a Long Arm machine, but generally with a 15-20” throat. Allows the quilter to stitch larger sections of a quilt than on a traditional machine.

Mitered corner – Corner (usually of a border) that is joined 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.

Motif – A patch used for appliqué.

On Point – A block or section of a quilt that has been turned on it’s side (at a 45 degree angle), so the points of the square are facing north, south, east west.

One Patch – A single shape used repeatedly in a quilt or a section of a quilt. For example, a hexagon one patch is used in a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt.

Paper Piecing – See Foundation Paper Piecing

Patchwork – An older term, still used in England, for piecing quilt squares together to make blocks. Sometimes pieced quilts are referred to as patchwork.

Piecing – The act of stitching two pieces of fabric together to form a new design.

Pin-baste – To use curved safety pins to temporarily hold together the three layers of a quilt in preparation for finish quilting. Beware of rusting pins.

Redwork – Simple outline embroidery designs worked in running stitch with turkey red color floss and used for quilt blocks. Traditionally, animal themes, children’s themes, nature themes, and kitchen themes. 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 motif (the design piece) on top of a background. Reverse appliqué sews the motif underside of the background and then cutting away and turning under the edge of the top fabric to reveal the motif. Mola’s and Hawaiian quilts are made using reverse appliqué.

Quilt Sandwich – A traditional quilt is comprised of three layers. Before the three layers are “quilted” together, a sandwich is created: The top which might have been pieced, the batting in the center, and the backing, which is traditionally one large piece of fabric, or a few large pieces of fabric pieced to slightly larger than the top. The “sandwich” is then basted together as a temporary hold until the quilting is completed.

Quilt Top – Top layer of a quilt (see quilt sandwich for all three layers). This layer could be pieced or wholecloth.

Quilting – The term used for stitching the three layers of a quilt together. Can be done by hand or machine. Also see Free Motion and Stitch in the Ditch

Quilting – Free Motion – Free form stitching of the three layers of a quilt. Feed dogs are lowered, or dropped, on the sewing machine so the quilter is in control of where the fabric is moved. For accurate stitch length, the quilter then must achieve a balance of how fast the stitching goes vs how much the fabric is moved.

Right sides together – Fabric units are sewn together with the finished side of the fabrics together. Some fabrics have a “right” side and a “wrong” side that is usually obvious. Solids and batiks generally can be used on either side.

Round Robin – A quilt project for a group. Each member of the group sews a “round” onto the center block.

Row Robin – A quilt project for a group. Each member of the group adds a row to the project.

Sampler Quilt – A quilt that is comprised of many different block designs.

Sashing – Strips of fabric used between blocks

Sashiko quilting – A Japanese style of precise quilting designs using embroidery or crewel floss. The stitches are large on top, but small on the back.

Satin Stitch – A machine zig zag stitch done very close together used to cover a raw edge appliqué piece.

Scant ¼” seam allowance – A term used to warn the sewest to stitch slightly less than a true ¼” to allow for the thickness of fabric and thread.

Scrap quilt – Any quilt made with fabrics leftover from other quilts (your stash), or from salvaged fabric from clothing or other items. See charm quilt.

Seam Allowance – The measurement used to stitch two fabrics together, leaving this amount of space raw on the wrong side of the block or quilt.

Selvage – The edge of woven fabric finished so as to prevent raveling, often in a narrow tape effect, different from the body of the fabric. The selvage should not be used with the rest of the fabric.

Setting Triangles – Triangles of fabric used between blocks that have been set on point to frame the design of the blocks, generally around an edge to form a border. See On Point.

Square Up – A final trimming of a block or section to ensure the measurement is exactly as directed. Also see True Up.

Standard Mattress Sizes:

  • Twin Mattress Size 39″ wide x 75″ long
  • Twin Extra Long Mattress Size 39″ wide x 80″ long
  • Full Mattress Size 54″ wide x 75″ long
  • Full Extra Long Mattress 54″ wide x 80″ long
  • Queen Mattress Size 60″ wide x 80″ long
  • King Mattress Size 78″ wide x 80″ long
  • California/Western King Mattress 72″ wide x 84″ long

Stash – The pile of fabric hidden in a quilter’s closet….and under the bed, and in the pantry and behind the shoes. Quilters are known to collect fabric with no real plan for a project. This is known as a stash.

Stippling – Closely spaced quilting stitches following an irregular design that does not cross used to fill background space and create surface texture.

Stitch in the ditch – Straight stitching, either by machine or by hand, directly into the seams of a quilt top. This is generally used when quilting the three layers together of a quilt. See Quilting.

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

Strip Piecing – A timesaving technique that calls for sewing long premeasured strips of fabric together.

Templates – A shape used as a guide to cut fabric pieces prior to piecing into a block. Could be made from plastic, acrylic, paper, etc.

Tied Quilt – A technique for securing the three layers of a quilt together by hand. Yarn or thread is pulled through the layers with a needle, then knotted. These knots are sprinkled throughout the quilt. The knots are often left with the yarn or thread hanging loose for a decorative effect.

True Up – A final trimming of a block or section to ensure the edges are straight and the measurement is exactly as directed. Also see Square Up.

Unfinished size – The measure of a block, section or quilt before all of the edges are sewn into seams. This will mean the piece still has raw edges when it is measured.

Value (color value) – It’s value that does all the work in a quilt, although it’s often color that gets the credit. Usually described in terms of light and dark, value determines how close a color is to either white or black. The right values can make the difference between a quilt that sparkles and a quilt that doesn’t.

Walking Foot – This is a special foot which can be attached to a sewing machine. It helps to feed the top layer of a quilt fabric sandwich evenly with the feed dogs feeding the bottom fabric.
Wholecloth quilt – This is a quilt top that is one solid piece of fabric – no piecing or appliqué is used. The design is all in the actual quilting of the layers.

Width of Fabric – Current day quilting fabric is 44” – 45” wide, from selvage to selvage.

Zig Zag Stitch – Z shaped stitch usually done by machine to secure or finish raw edges. Also see Satin Stitch.