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Quilting Glossary


A design made by cutting one or more fabric into shapes and applying them to a background fabric.


Fabric that is used on the back of a quilt. In general, the backing needs to be four inches larger on all sides than the quilt top.


A style of piecing where you sew fabric strips together horizontally then cut and arrange the pieces vertically in steps to form a geometric design that looks like a wave.


A means of temporarily holding the three layers of the quilt sandwich- top, batting, and backing - together in preparation for quilting. Hand quilters use long loose stitches, and machine quilters use safety pins.


The middle layer of a quilt. This can be cotton, wool, silk, polyester, or a blend. 100% polyester is not recommended for machine quilting as the quilt layers tend to slip. Called "wadding" in Great Britain. Choose batting at least four inches larger on all sides than the quilt top.


When the batting seeps through the surface of the quilt. Can be caused by cheap, low thread count fabrics, fat needles, burrs on your needles, or cheap quilting thread.


The true 45-degree diagonal of a woven fabric. Bias has the greatest amount of stretch. Curved-edged quilts must be bound with bias strips. To achieve a flat quilt top, care should be taken to avoid bias edges on the outside of blocks or borders


 Strips of fabric used to cover the raw edges of a quilt sandwich.  Crosswise grain or bias strips are appropriate binding for straight-edged quilts. Curved-edged quilts must be bound with bias binding.


The basic unit of a quilt top.  Care should be taken that the outer edges of a block are not bias edges.  Either crosswise or lengthwise grain will work for the outer edges.


The outer edge of the quilt used to frame the central section of the quilt top.  Can be plain, pieced, or appliqued.


A multi-colored patterned type fabric.  Usually a tiny floral print.  Called "muslin" in Great Britain.

Chain piecing

The recommended method of sewing patchwork on the machine. Patches are butted up one after the other, without lifting the presser foot, and without cutting the threads connecting them. Saves time and thread, and avoids thread snarls. The ends of the thread only have to held when sewing the first patch.

Charm quilt

A one-patch quilt where each patch is cut from a different fabric.


square of fabric joining sashing to sashing

Crosswise Grain

threads of a woven fabric running perpendicular to the selvage.; Crosswise grain has a slight amount of stretch, which makes it appropriate for binding straight-edged quilts.

Directional Prints

A printed fabric that has a clear direction.; There are both 1-way directional and 2-way directional prints.

Fat Quarter

A quarter yard of fabric, formed by first cutting a half yard of fabric and then cutting the half yard in the other direction to make two fat quarters.; Thus fat quarters can range from 18"; x 20"; to 18"; x 22 1/2",; depending on the width of the fabric.;; A conventional 1/4 yard is 9 inches wide x the width of the fabric. Fat Quarters are often a more useful configuration for both patchwork piecing and applique, plus they don′t wrap around the machine agitator as bad during pre-washing.

Feed Dogs

The mechanical teeth on the sewing machine bed that moves the fabric through the machine.;

Finger Pressing

A method of temporarily pressing with your fingers. Sometimes used during the preliminary steps of block construction, to avoid stretching bias edges with your iron.

Finished Size

The final sewn measurement of a patch, block, or quilt without the seam allowances.

Four Patch Block

A block design based on a 2 x 2 grid.; A simple four-patch block will comprise of four square fabric patches.

Foundation Piecing

A method of assembling a block by sewing fabric pieces to a foundation of fabric. This gives the block added stability during piecing. Foundation piecing consists of sewing the printed fabric on top of the foundation which is left inside the quilt. Paper piecing is sometimes referred to as foundation piecing, but the process is different. See paper piecing.

Free Motion Quilting

Machine quilting with the feed dogs down. The quilter is thus in full control of moving the quilt and can sew in any direction.


An applique technique that involves adhering a webbing to the back of the fabric and fusing the fabric to the background with the heat of the iron.

Fussy Cutting

Carefully selecting a specific area or image of the fabric.


Squares of uniform size


The lengthwise and crosswise threads of a woven fabric.

Hand Quilting Stitch

A small evenly-spaced stitch used to hold the layers of the quilt together and to form a design on the surface of the quilt.

Hanging Sleeve

A tube sewed on the back of the quilt so that it can be hung.



In the Ditch

Quilting on the edge of the appliqued shape or right next to a patchwork seam on the side of the seam with no seam allowances.; Both a machine quilting and a hand quilting style.


The strength of a color.; Color intensity is diluted when white, black, gray, or any other hue is added.


A term used to describe the thickness, height, and resilience of the quilt batting

Long Arm Quilting

Machine quilting using a commercial long arm sewing machine.;;; Fundamentally different than standard machine quilting on a domestic machine, as in this system the machine head is moved, while the quilt is held stable.;; The three layers on the quilt are set up on a roller system, which makes basting unnecessary.;;;

Lengthwise Grain

threads of a woven fabric running parallel to the selvage. A good choice for borders.

Meander Quilting

machine quilting a loose meander throughout the quilt top. Similar to stippling but the quilting lines are much further apart. Does not require marking, and is done on both domestic and long arm machines.

Medallion Quilt

A quilt with a center block surrounded by multiple borders.

Mitered Corner

A method of making borders by joining a Vertical and Horizontal Strip of fabric in a 45 degree angle.


A plain cotton fabric available bleached or unbleached.; Called "Calico" in Great Britain.

Nine Patch Block

A block design based on a 3 x 3 grid.; A simple nine-patch block will comprise of nine square fabric patches.

One Patch Quilt

Any pieced quilt pattern that uses a single patch shape.

Paper Piecing

A technique of sewing your fabric under a thin substrate of printed paper. Excellent method for making perfect points. When the block is completed, the paper is removed by tearing it out.

Quilting frame

A large free-standing floor apparatus made of wood or plastic tubing used; to hold the three layers of the quilt together during the hand quilting process.

Quilting hoop

A circular, square, or oval apparatus made of wood or plastic tubing used to hold the three layers of the quilt together during the hand quilting process.

Quilt sandwich

the three layers of the quilt together:; quilt top, batting, and backing

Quilt top

the top layer of the quilt sandwich.; Can be pieced, appliqued, a combination of piecing and applique, or whole cloth.

Rag Quilt

A quilt style where the seam allowances are intentionally exposed and allowed to fray.


A strip of fabric used between blocks to set them together.

Seam Allowance

The distance between the cut edge of the fabric and the stitching line.; In quilting, the seam allowance is usually 1/4 inch.


The finished edges of the woven fabric.  Along the lengthwise grain.; The selvages should be cut off and not included in the seam allowance.


the arrangement of completed blocks forming the quilt top.

Setting square

A plain fabric square used to set completed patchwork or applique blocks in a quilt top.


A graduation of a color made by adding black to lessen its saturation.;


a term used to refer to a quilter′s fabric collection.;; Important to a serious quilter as certain colors are not available every year, and fabrics are rarely reprinted.

Straight of grain

lengthwise or cross grain.; Not bias.


Very closely stitched background quilting.; Can be done by hand or machine.


A gradation of a color made by adding white to it to lessen its saturation.;


A shape cut from cardboard or plastic used to cut units of a pattern for patchwork or applique.


A graduation of color made by adding gray to it to lessen its saturation.


An abbreviation meaning unfinished quilting projects.


The lightness or darkness of a color.

Walking Foot

A necessary sewing machine accessory for straight-line machine quilting and binding.; Ensures an even feed of the three layers of the quilt.

Whole Cloth Quilt

Quilt top that is composed of one fabric only.; Minimal piecing may be required if the quilt is wider than the fabric.; Usually a solid fabric is used in order to display the quilting.
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