Quilting Terminology

Does quilting terminology elude you? If you want to speak the quilter’s language and hone your quilting fundamentals, check out the terminology below. Whether you are attending your first quilt guild meeting or trying to understand quilt patterns, this glossary of quilting terms will help demystify the lingo.


African-American Quilts – A descriptive term that refers to the improvisational way some African American quilters made traditional quilt blocks. Many of these brilliant quilts came from quilt makers in Gee’s Bend, a small rural area in Alabama that is rich with African American quilting culture.

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 an Autograph or Signature Quilt

Amish Quilts – These are quilts made by or in the style of the Amish. Antique Amish quilts tend to use rich jewel toned solid fabrics with black as a background, often in striking geometric patterns, and wide, plain borders. Central medallion square-in-a-square with wide borders is also a popular design. Modern Amish quilts made for resale can use any fabric in any design, but retain the excellent quilting.

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. See needle turned appliqué and raw-edge appliqué.

Art Quilt – Using both traditional and modern quilting methods, art quilts generally combine piecework, appliqué, embroidery, and more.

Assembly Line Piecing – Sewing blocks or sections of blocks efficiently and quickly in an assembly line fashion, completing each unit in sequence. Also called chain piecing.

Asymmetrical Design – A design that is not identical, but has balance. This offers interesting design possibilities when the blocks are turned. Blocks such as the Maple Leaf or any block divided through the middle by a diagonal line, such as Log Cabin, are asymmetrical.

Attic Window Quilt Pattern – An optical illusion quilt pattern that makes it seem as though you’re looking at each quilt block through a window.

Autograph Quilt – A quilt containing signatures from friends or others, often celebrating an important life event. See also signature quilt.


Backing – The bottom or back layer of a quilt, usually a plain unadorned fabric that has been pieced to the width of the quilt. The backing is where you should put your label!

Baltimore Album Quilt – An elegant form of intricate appliqué which was popular in the mid-19th Century, originating from the Baltimore, Maryland area. These quilts are made of a variety of elaborate appliquéd blocks with symbolic designs. They are also called Sampler or Friendship Quilts.

Backstitch – Stitch used to secure the stitch at the beginning and end of a seam by stitching 4 stitched forward, 4 stitches back, and then proceeding with your seam. This technique is done to secure seam and make sure it does not pull apart during piecing or quilting of quilt.

Bargello – Type of quilt design that creates movement by the way strips of fabric squares are sewn in a staggered pattern, usually of the same color going from light to dark. This resembles the needlepoint pattern Flame Stitch.

Barkcloth – A densely woven cotton fabric made from the fibers of tree bark found in tropical places. It was most popular in the 1950s and largely used in home furnishings.

Bare Feet – Device for finding pins in a carpet.

Basting Long, temporary stitches used to hold layers of fabric together (loosely) until the final sewing is completed. It is not necessary to secure thread knot on either end of stitch, it is merely a way to ensure your project stays secure and does not shift. The stitches are removed when the quilt is completed. A quilt can also be basted with curved safety pins, a tacking gun, or a spray adhesive. Fusible batting is also available. 

Batik Fabrics – Made by covering an area of fabric with wax or other substance to prevent the dye from penetrating into that area. Hot water is used to remove the wax. Batiks usually have a high thread count so you should use a #12 Microtex needle.

Batting – The middle layer of a quilt (between the quilt top and back) that provides warmth to the quilt. Batting is also called wadding or stuffing. It is generally made up of cotton, cotton/poly blend, polyester, bamboo, wool, bamboo cotton blend. There are two types of batting – with scrim and without scrim.

Bearding – Bearding occurs when fibers come up from the batting and pass through the quilt top (or bottom), usually via the holes where the needle pierces through the fabric. This is most often associated with cheap polyester battings. Bearding can also occur with unbonded cotton, some synthetics, wool, and silk batting. To help prevent bearding, pre-wash fabric using a quality fabric softener and dryer sheet. Quilt using a mercerized or coated thread. Apply beeswax or spray your thread and/or quilt layers with a fabric silicon spray. This will also help prevent thread breakage. Never store your quilt in plastic. A humidifier in your workroom is beneficial to both the quilt and quilter!

Bed Sizes – While bed sizes vary, standard mattress sizes are: Crib 28″ x 52″, Twin 39″ x 75″, Double/Full 54″ x 75″, Queen 60″ x 80″, King 76″ x 80″, and California King 72″ x 84″. Click here for information on determining quilt sizes for a specific bed size.


Type of Mattress

Mattress Size

Quilt Size



40″ x 40″


28″ x 52″

36″ x 60″



50″ x 60″


39″ x 75″

70″ x 90″

Twin Extra-Long

39″ x 80″

70″ x 95″


54″ x 75″

86″ x 90″


60″ x 80″

90″ x 95″


76″ x 80″

108″ x 95″

California King

72″ x 84″

102″ x 100″

– Short and thin needles that are used for hand piecing and quilting, as well as sewing on the binding. Needle sizes range from 7-12, with the higher number indicating a smaller needle.

Bias – The bias grain runs on a 45º angle to the selvages and has an ample amount of stretch, so it is less stable than the lengthwise and crosswise grain. Be extremely careful when handling the bias, as cutting on the bias grain will cause inaccurate cuts and your blocks can become distorted. See Grain.

Bias Binding – Binding that is cut on the true bias, which is helpful when binding a quilt that has curved or rounded corners.

Bias Tape – Pre-made strips of fabric in various sizes that are cut diagonally across the grain to give the fabric some movement so it will turn curves nicely. Used for binding a quilt.

Big Board – A very large ironing board, usually 24" x 60", which is placed over an existing ironing board to give you a larger surface to press fabrics. It can be purchased commercially 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. 

Big Stitch – A type of quilting in which embroidery or crewel thread is used in a large stitch for a decorative effect. It is a great way for hand quilters to show off and embellish their quilts.

Binding – A strip of fabric that is sewn over the edges of the quilt after the quilt has been quilted. Binding adds extra strength and support to a quilt, and this is when a quilt is considered finished by many quilters. Normally a binding is sewn on one side, then brought over the edge to the other side where it is secured. However, binding can also be a part of the backing wrapped over to the front. Binding Instructions.

Birthing a Quilt – A birthed quilt is basically a quilt without binding and involves layering the right sides of the quilt together (like the inside of a pillow case) and sewing around all four sides, but leaving a gap to turn through. Then turn the quilt right side out and sew the gap closed.

Blanket Stitch – A simple embroidery stitch used to attach appliquéd fabric to a main fabric. Can be machine or hand stitched.

Bleeding – When color or dyes from one fabric transfers to another during washing. This is due to hand dyes or color saturated fabrics losing their dyes when they are wet. This most commonly occurs when washing vividly colored fabrics, particularly purples and reds. It is always best to wash colors separately before cutting and piecing.

Blind Stitch – A type of invisible stitching often used for sewing appliqué or binding by hand. A blind stitch can also be done on a sewing machine.

Block – A quilt design unit generally comprised of multiple squares that are repeated and formed together to make a quilt top.

Block of the Month (BOM) – A program offered by quilt shops/classes where quilters make a new block for 12 consecutive months with the intention of sewing the block into a sampler quilt at the end of the year. You can find many BOM options online or in quilt patterns.

Blocking – When a block is not square, a process that requires wetting and pressing fabric to a proper square block. This is also done using steam to help stretch portions of your block to match other blocks.

Borders – Strips of fabrics that frame the edges of the quilt. A quilt can consist of one or many borders, and you can also have borders surrounding your quilt blocks, also known as sashing, or as part of quilt block design. Click here for help on measuring a quilt border.

Broadcloth – A plain weave cotton blend of sturdy fabric, typically solid in color.

Broderie Perse – The French for Persian Embroidery. A type of appliqué in which separate motifs are cut from a printed fabric and applied to another background fabric.

Bubble Jet Set (BJS) – A liquid product which makes ink color fast on fabric. Plain fabric is soaked in BJS and hung to dry. The dry fabric is then ironed to a piece of freezer paper and used in an ink jet or bubble jet printer to print pictures or text.

Butted Seams – Two border seams that meet in the corner by simply butting up against one another.


Calico – Medium-weight cotton fabric, printed with a small repeated design, often consisting of leaves or florals. The name calico originates from Calicut, India. In the 19th century, calico referred to any type of cotton fabric. It is still used in that sense in England and Australia.

Cathedral Window – An advanced traditional quilt pattern where folding and stitching is used to create a three-dimensional look in quilt blocks. Cathedral Window blocks are intricate and add a touch of elegance to your quilts.

Cake Layers – Fabric that is cut into 8-9″ squares, consisting of 3-4 squares of each piece of fabric in a fabric line. These are great for creating fast quilts or crazy quilts. It is a good idea to pick up additional fabric in yardage for bordering your quilt that matches the fabric in the Cake Layers package.

Cats – Purring device designed to add enjoyment and hair to your latest quilt.Cat sleeping peacefully on quilt

Chain Sewing – Technique used 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, patterns, or theme.

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.

Charm Pack – An assortment of a fabric line, cut into 5½- 6″ squares. Charm Packs are sold in many quilt shops and are packaged by many fabric retailers. Always remember to choose yardage in fabric for borders or backing.

Cheater Cloth – Fabric printed that looks like a traditionally pieced quilt top. It removes the need for cutting and piecing, so it can be quilted as-is.

Clamshell – A quilt with symmetry and curves that overlap and remind you of fish scales. You can create the clamshell design by using a glass or cup to trace.

Coin Quilt – A scrappy quilt made with rectangular fabric pieces that are arranged in stacks around the quilt.

Color Wheel – A circle of primary, secondary, tertiary, complementary, and analogous colors that help quilters explore color theory and fabric selection.

Continuous Line Quilting – A type of quilting pattern in which the design line continues from start to finish so there are not multiple stop and starts.

Corner Square – A square that is sewn to the ends of the top and bottom border before added to quilt. Side borders will already be sewn on quilt when adding top and bottom borders.

Corner Triangles – Half square triangles are the four triangles set in the corners of a quilt that is set on point. They are usually sewn on to square up (stabilize) a quilt top made from blocks that are joined at diagonal rows. Click here for an illustrated article on this technique.

Cornerstones – A small block that joins the sashing strips to surround a block or multiple blocks in a quilt top.

Cotty Thread – An embroidery thread formerly sold by Pfaff dealers. It is now sold by Sulky.

Couching – An embroidery technique to stitch down one thread with another. In quilting, this method can be zigzag stitched over thicker threads, attaching them to the surface without putting them through the needle of your sewing machine. This technique can also be done by hand.

Crazy Quilt – A quilt made from blocks assembled from irregular and often scrap pieces of fabric, with no set pattern or design overall. A popular pattern during the Victorian period, it was made with silks and velvets and embellished with much embroidery.

Crocking – When dry fabric rubs excess dye onto adjacent fabric. This most often happens with very dark colors.

Crosswise Grain – The threads of woven fabric that run across the grain of the fabric, which runs the length of the bolt. The crosswise grain runs from selvage to selvage. Crosswise grain also runs width of fabric, salvage to salvage.

Cross-Hatching – Quilting in parallel lines both vertical and horizontal, forming a grid of squares or diamonds.

Curved Piecing – Used in Drunkards Path and other blocks. Click here for a curved piecing tutorial from Carolina Pieceworks.

Cutter Quilt – 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.


Design Wall – A vertical surface often covered with batting or felt used by quilters to lay out fabrics and blocks for a quilt before stitching them together. Design walls are an excellent way to try different layouts before making a final decision on your quilt.

Die-cutting – The process of cutting layers of fabric by rolling it through a die-cutting machine, which is a time-saving alternative to rotary cutting.

Dining Room Table – Also known as a quilting studio, this piece of furniture can also be used to serve a meal. J

Directional Print – Fabric with a printed pattern that has a definite direction or grain (nap). Care must be taken to match the direction when piecing.

Disappearing Nine Patch – A beginner’s quilt, which is made by cutting a nine-patch block into four quarters, putting them into different positions, and piecing the blocks over again. There are many layout options in this quilt pattern.

Double Wedding Ring – A vintage quilt pattern of interlocking rings that originated in the 1930 and it still a quilter’s favorite.

Drape – This is the way your quilt will feel after it is quilted, does it drape over your arm in a soft, comforting way? Batting choice and how much quilting is done will determine how the quilt drapes after being quilted. Higher quality batting is able to take more stitches and still retain the soft, cozy feel, whereas cheaper battings will turn to a cardboard feel.

Dresden Plate – An appliquéd quilt with petal shapes radiating from a center circle. Dresden Plate is one of the most popular quilts during the 1920-30s, and is also known as Sunflower and Grandmother’s Sunburst.

Drunkard’s Path – A classic quilt block pattern with a lot of curved piecing consisting of a quarter circle set inside a square and using light and dark for each. The blocks can be arranged differently to create several designs.

Dryer Sheets – Can be used for appliqué. Sew the used dryer sheet to the front of your appliqué piece, cut a slit in the dryer sheet, turn it inside out, and iron. Your piece will automatically how have the edges turned under. Click here for more. One caveat – dryer sheets can be flammable. A thin piece of cheesecloth is probably a better choice.

Dye Magnet – A great dye magnet is a piece of undyed, untreated terry cloth. Because untreated cotton will absorb fugitive dyes, this plain little piece of cloth will collect all the dye in your wash water. When it is saturated, just bleach it all out and keep using it. However, if it is exposed to fabric softener, the fabric softener coats the fibers and will interfere with their ability to absorb dye.


Easing – The process of maneuvering and redistributing fabric when two pieces do not align properly, so they match at the seams.

Ease – Distributing fabric evenly while longarm quilting so the quilt lies flat. This common occurs with quilt borders that are not measured properly.

Echo Quilting – A free motion technique of quilting, done by stitching an even distance away from the first line (echoing). The stitches echo the shape. Generally, one would use a hopper foot to determine the distance between echoes. Continue to do this until the block is filled or desired effect is achieved. It is also known as Shadow Quilting.

Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8) – A designing software that can be used to design quilts. (previous versions EQ7, EQ6)

English Paper Piecing – A method of stabilizing pieces of fabric together, using a paper template, for accuracy. Often used with complex shapes or pieced patterns with set-in corners, such as the hexagon shapes in Grandmother’s Flower Garden.


Fabriholic (Fabraholic) – One who can’t control the urge to buy fabric they don’t have a project for. Is this really a problem…no one can have too much fabric!

FART – Fabric Acquisition Road Trip.

Fat Eighth (1/8) – A quarter yard of fabric that is cut in half at the fold (approximately 9" x 22") tht produces a “fatter″ square piece of fabric, providing more options for use. It is half of a fat quarter (see below.) 

Fat Quarter (FQ) – A half yard of fabric that has been cut in half again vertically (approximately 18" x 22"). This allows for cutting larger pieces than a regular quarter yard (9" x 44"). See https://quiltersresources.com/measurements.html for information on what you can get from a fat quarter.

Feed Dogs – The metal teeth on the throat plate of a sewing machine that helps to pull fabric through the machine. They also control the length of stitches. Free Motion Quilting can be done when feed dogs are dropped.

Feedsacks – Material from the early 1900s originally used to hold flour, feed, sugar, salt, etc. They are highly sought after for authentic reproduction quilts. See the history of Feedsacks.

Fibonacci Series (Golden Ratio) – A number sequence which converges on phi (1.618) discovered by the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacchi, where the relationship of one number to the next or previous one provides perfect proportions. Quilters can use this sequence to determine block or border size relationships. In this sequence of numbers, each number is the sum of the previous 2 numbers (in other words – 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, etc.).

Filling – See Batting.

Finger Pressing – Technique of using a finger to press along a seam to crease it without the use of an iron. See also Hera.

Finished Size – Final sewn size of a completed quilt block, without seam allowances.

Flannel – A soft kind of loosely woven fabric usually made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers, which is very warm. Its tendency to ravel makes it a good choice for Rag Quilts. Flannel shrinks about 5% in the first wash, and will continue to shrink with each consecutive wash until it is no longer loosely woven.

Flying Geese – A common unit of patchwork made by piecing two triangles onto the sides of a larger triangle to create a rectangular piece of patchwork. Visit Craftsy on three methods to make Flying Geese.

Foundation Piecing – A method of assembling a quilt block by sewing fabric pieces to a foundation piece of muslin or plain fabric. This method ensures accurate and stable blocks.

Foundation Paper Piecing Foundation Piecing sewn onto paper.

Four-Patch Block – A block with four squares of the same size, sewn together to make one large square. It is one of easiest quilt blocks to make. 4-Patch from Sewn Strips Tutorial.

Freezer Paper Appliqué – The process of using freezer paper (found in most grocery stores by the aluminum foil) 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 hot and dry iron. These templates can also be used on the underside of fabric, by turning the seam allowance over the freezer paper before appliquéing to the base fabric. You will need to cut the base fabric to remove the paper. If the freezer paper doesn’t adhere well, it can be attached to fabric using silk pins, basting stitches, or a glue stick. 

Free Motion Quilting – Quilting in a free-motion on a domestic sewing machine using a darning foot (or quilting or hopper foot) with the feed dogs down so the fabric can move freely in all directions. Special gloves marketed for free motion quilting help control the fabric.

Frog Stitching – Rip it, rip it, rip it!

Friendship Quilt – Generally a single pattern quilt made by a group for one person. Each person makes a block for the quilt top and includes their signature. Also known as a Signature Quilt.

Friendship Star – A quilt block pattern that looks like a four-pointed star.

Fusibles – A variety of webs or interfacings that can be ironed onto a fabric for easier appliqué or to provide support to the fabric.

Fussy Cut – To cut a piece from printed fabric as opposed to cutting a strip so you can get a the specific image you want.


Glass-head Pins – Pins with a glass head that is heat-resistant, so they don’t melt when ironed.

Glazed Finish – A thin resin finish applied to batting to prevent bearding and shifting of the fibers in the finished quilt.

Grain – The lengthwise and crosswise threads of fabric [warp (length) and weft (crosswise)]. 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.

Greige Goods – The raw material from which fabrics are processed, that has not been bleached or dyed. It is pronounced "gray goods".


Half-Square Triangle (HST) – A 90 degree triangle formed when a square is cut in half diagonally. 

Hand – A term used to the feel and texture of a fabric. “This fabric has a nice hand to it.″

Hand Quilting – A small and even series of Running Stitches that is made through all three layers of a quilt using a needle and thread, both preferably of high quality.

Hand Quilting Thread – Thread used to quilt the three layers together by hand. This thread should not be used in a sewing machine. It is a very thick thread that says hand quilting on label and will leave ridges in the tension guide.

Hanging Sleeve – A tube of fabric sewn to the back of a quilt to allow it to be hung on a wall or to be put on display.

Hawaiian Quilting – Symmetrical, intricate appliqué designs where one large appliqué is cut from folded fabric (similar to how paper snowflakes are cut), then basted to a background fabric. Hawaiian quilts usually consist of two solid colors of fabric.

Hera – A small tool from Japan made of wood or plastic that is used to put a crease in fabric.

Herringbone Stitch – A decorative needlework stitch used in embroidery with many variations.

Homespun Fabric – A type of fabric in which the weave is looser and the threads have a larger diameter than commercial cotton quilting fabrics. This type of fabric is easy to identify because there is no front or back, and the colored threads are woven throughout. Homespun fabric is typically solid, stripe, or plaid.

Hopping Foot – A special sewing foot that is common on longarm machines used to provide greater visibility on the stitching, especially useful for intricate design.

Hourglass Quilt – A beginner patchwork quilt pattern using quarter-square triangles to make blocks that mimic an hourglass.


Ikat (ikkat) – A fabric dyeing technique that uses resist dyeing on the yarns prior to dyeing and weaving.

Improvisational Quilts – A term for art quilts made in a creative, free-spirited manner without worrying about the rules of quilting. Pieces are usually cut freehand.

Indigo – A dark blue dye deriving from the indigo plant.

Interfacing – A textile used on the wrong side of fabric to give it more stability.

Intentional Mistake – The reason quilters give when a quilt is not perfect. Also called creative sewing.

Invisible Thread – A very fine monofilament thread, ideal for invisible quilting and appliqué.

Irish Chain – A quilting pattern that creates designs that resemble the classic designs of Celtic crosses and chains; best known for their diagonal designs. Since this pattern is generally made up of only squares and strips, it is a great beginner quilt.

Isosceles Triangle – A triangle with two equal sides.


Japanese Quilt – A quilt made from Japanese fabrics such as Kasuri and Indigo.

Jelly Roll – A coordinated bundle of pre-cut fabric strips (2½″ x width of fabric), wound into a roll. They are used for strip piecing. Check out Moda’s free jelly roll patterns.

Juvenile Quilts – A quilt whose theme and design is appropriate for children.


Kaleidoscope Quilt – Created from a single quilt block that is repeated. The arrangement of pieces and the angles make a secondary pattern that resemble patterns one might see looking in a kaleidoscope. Using fussy cutting can create a mirrored or optical illusion design. Check out this video tutorial.

Kasuri – Japanese word for fabric (textiles) that has been woven with fibers dyed explicitly to create geometric patterns and images in the fabric. This technique uses an Ikat (resist-dyeing).

Kente Cloth – A traditional, ceremonial fabric made from interwoven cloth strips and originating from Ghana in West Africa.

Knot on the Needle – A tiny knot that can be pulled through a layer of fabric so the end is hidden on both sides. It is also known as a Quilter’s Knot.

Knotwork (Celtic Knots) –The knots are visual and formed by interlocking designs of bias binding strips.

Kuba Cloth – A hand-woven fabric made by the Kuba people of the Condo using leaves from raffia trees. Kuba textiles are known for their elaborate and complex designs and often include embroidery and other embellishments.


Landscape Quilt – An art quilt depicting scenes from nature.

Lap Quilting – A method of making a quilt by finishing blocks individually and putting them together later was popularized by Georgia Bonesteel in the 1980s. 

Lattice – Same as sashing. A border that is created around blocks set on point is often called lattice.

Layer Cake – A bundle of pre-cut coordinating fabric squares measuring 10″ x 10″. Free Layer Cake patterns on Craftsy.

Layout – The arrangement in which blocks are sewn together to make a quilt.

LeMoyne Star – A distinctive, eight-pointed star block.

Little Foot – Quilting foot measuring exactly 1/4" from needle point to inner edge of the foot. Most sewing machines come with a quilting foot.

Loft – The thickness of batting used in quilts. The higher the loft of batting, the thicker the quilt will be. This does not necessarily mean warmer, as there are thin wool battings that are super warm. Note that thick batting will be more difficult to baste.

Log Cabin – A quilt pattern in which narrow fabric strips (logs) are assembled in a numerical sequence around a center square, forming a block. Log Cabin blocks are a popular design and have many variations.

Long Arm Quilting – Quilting using a long bed quilting machine.


Machine Appliqué – The process of attaching fabric motifs onto fabric using a sewing machine.

Machine Piecing – Sewing blocks together with the use of a sewing machine as opposed to hand piecing. This ensures stronger seams and makes the process go much more quickly.

Machine Quilting – Sewing through all three layers of a quilt top with a sewing machine, usually done with a walking foot or a darning foot.

Matching Points – The intersection where the seam line joining two pieces begins or ends.

Medallion Quilt – Quilts made from a series of decorative borders that surrounds one central block or design.

Metallic Needle – A thin needle designed with an elongated eye (for easier threading) for use with metallic or monofilament threads.

Metallic Thread – A synthetic thread that has a shiny, metallic appearance.

Memory Quilts – Quilts made to remember people and/or events. These quilts can contain clothes from a loved one, such as t-shirts or baby clothes. Find a quilter who makes Memory Quilts.

Mercerized Cotton – Cotton thread treated with Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda) to swell the fibers and increase the fiber’s luster and its ability to accept dye by increasing the surface area of the fiber. The swelling of the fibers makes the cotton stronger, providing for less shrinkage. Originally developed and patented by John Mercer in 1844.

Micro Quilting – Quilting that is done as background fill. Micro quilting contrasts with the primary motifs and makes them stand out in a quilt. This technique adds visual interest, definition, and texture.

Miniature Quilts – A quilt made as a miniature of a full-sized quilt. They can include mug rugs, potholders, placemats, wall art, etc.

Mitered Corner – A corner formed when two strips meet at a 45 degree angle (like a picture frame), such as on a border or binding. Mitered corners ensure the edges of the quilt have neat finish. Because mitered corners are sewn on a bias, be careful not to stretch and distort in the sewing process. Tutorial.

Molas – Elaborately embroidered, reverse-appliqué panels used in traditional blouses worn by Kuna woman of Panama. They consist of many layers of brightly colored fabric that form bold designs rich with symbolism.

Motif – A design element that can be repeated or used only once.

Mud Cloth (Bogolanfini) – Homemade coarsely woven Malian cotton fabric, dyed using a process of fermented mud.

Mug Rug – A small quilt similar to a coaster.

Muslin – A plain cotton fabric of medium weight and low thread count that is unbleached. It’s available in a wide range of qualities from light to medium weight and delicate to coarse.

Mystery Quilt – A quilt pattern written in steps that are disclosed one at a time to hide the appearance of the finished quilt. Quilt guilds tend to do mystery quilts for group projects.


Negative Space – In art, this is the unoccupied space around and between an item that gives definition and depth. This is the area that micro quilting is used to create movement and added interest to a quilt.

Nine-Patch Block – A quilt block consisting of nine squares arranged in three rows horizontally, like a tic-tac-toe grid. They are perfect blocks for beginners to make. Tutorial.

Needle-Punched Batting – The mechanical way of making batting more firm and dense by punching it with needles. A needle punched batting makes quilts more durable.

Needle-Turn Appliqué – A traditional hand appliqué technique where the seam allowance is turned under when shapes are sewn to the background fabric; hiding the stitches.

Notches – A tiny “V″ shape on a curved seam to indicate points along the seam that should be matched. This technique is used when sewing curved seams.

Notions – Accessories used to aid in sewing and quilting (scissors, needles, thread, seam ripper, etc.).

Novelty Print – A fabric that is printed with a theme such as holidays, pets, sports, etc. It is referred to as conversation prints.


One-Patch – A quilt pattern that uses a single shaped patch for the pieced top (squares, triangles, hexagons, etc.), repeated in color patterns or different fabrics.

On Point – When a block is placed at a 45 degree angle diagonally (like a diamond) on a quilt top. Be careful not to distort the quilt as this type of block is on bias.

Opportunity Quilt – See raffle quilt.

Orvus – Known as Horvus in veterinary circles, this is a mild cleaning product often used to clean fine washables such as quilts. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.

Outline Quilting – A quilting method where one stitches around a shape.

Outline Stitch – A decorative embroidery stitch used that forms a narrow line.


Panel Quilt – A quilt made mostly from a pre-printed fabric panel. Fabric panels are ready to use, so there’s no need to cut them up for patchwork.

Paper Piecing – See Foundation Paper Piecing.

Patchwork The process of making a quilt by sewing small pieces of fabric together to create different designs. It is also known as piecework.

Penny Squares – A form of embroidery designs popular in the late 1800s that uses red floss to trace simple line drawings on quilt blocks. It is also known as redwork.

Percale A closely woven fabric with a high thread count (180 to 250 threads per inch). Higher thread count fabric is excellent for photo transfer but not for quilting.

Photo Quilt – A quilt made with fabric blocks that have photographs transferred onto the fabric. It is also referred to as a memory quilt.

Pieced Border – A strip of fabric that has been sewn together to make a single border for a quilt. Pieced borders can make more of an impact, adding dimension to a quilt.

Piecing – The process of sewing fabric pieces together to form a block.

Pima Cotton – A premium cotton fiber that is known for its fineness and strength.

Pin Basting – Using pins (preferably curved safety pins) to temporarily hold the three layers of a quilt together in preparation for finishing a quilting. Do not use rusty pins.

Pinwheel – A quilt block pattern consisting of four triangles arranged in a pinwheel pattern and sewn into a four-patch block.

Prairie Points – Folded triangles used to embellish quilts. Quilts with Prairie Points do not require binding.

Pre-Cut Fabric – Coordinating fabric bundles that are pre-cut by the manufacturer (Charm Packs, Jelly Rolls, Fat Quarters, Layer Cakes, etc.).

Presser Foot – The part of the sewing machine that surrounds the needle and stabilizes the fabric—keeping it flat—against the throat plate as the needle goes up and down

Pressing – To use an iron to press seams and blocks by simply pressing the iron down onto the fabric without moving the iron back and forth, as that can stretch and distort the fabric. The iron shouldn’t be too hot nor should you use steam.

Pre-wash – A practice of pre-washing fabrics to preshrink it and to check for color-fastness before using the fabrics in a quilt. This process helps to ensure that dyes will not bleed in future washings.

Putting a Quilt in Batt – A finished quilt top does not become a quilt until batting and a back has been added and the three layers are sewn together.


Quarter-Inch Foot – See quilting foot.

Quarter-Square Triangle – Triangle made when a square is cut in half on the diagonal, then cut again from the other diagonal; creating four triangular pieces.

Quillow  A quilt that is a combination sleeping bag, quilt, and pillow. A Quillow folds up into a carrying bag.

Quilt As You Go – A quilting method where a quilt is made as you piece.

Quilt Challenge – A quilt project with pre-determined rules/criteria; a friendly competition.

Quilt Frame – Can be a small quilt hoop or a large floor frame that holds the 3 layers of a quilt (top, batting, and backing) as it is hand quilted.

Quilt Guild – An organization consisting of quilters of varying skills who come together to share projects, get instruction, and provide community service.

Quilt Hoop – Two circles that hold quilt layers together during the quilting process. One of the circles has an adjustment to fit over layers.

Quilter’s Knot – See Knot on the Needle.

Quilt Label –A way of autographing a quilt to provide identifying information, such as the quilter’s name, name of the quilt, and when it was made.

Quilt Sandwich – The three layers of a quilt (top, batting, and backing).

Quilt Sleeve – A strip of fabric that is attached to a quilt to enable hanging, a rod is often slipped through the sleeve.

Quilters Guild – An organization made up of quilters. Also called a Quilter's Group. An organization of quilters which may provide opportunities to share projects, instruction and community service. Click here for a list of Quilt Guilds worldwide.

Quilting – The process of sewing together the three quilt layers, using stitches (decorative or straight lines). Quilting can be done by hand or machine. Quilting serves to secure all three layers to each other, add to the beauty and design of the finished quilt, and to trap air within the quilted sections, making the quilt as a whole much warmer than its parts.

Quilting Foot – Apresser foot that has a guide to achieve the standard ¼ inch seam allowance in quilting. It is very important that this seam allowance remain consistent. It is also known as a quilting foot.

Quilting Needles – Short and thin needles that are used for hand piecing and quilting, as well as sewing on the binding. See Betweens.


Raffle Quilt – A quilt made to be raffled for the benefit of a charity. Also called an opportunity quilt

Rag Quilt – A type of piecework that has exposed seams on the front and finished seams on the back to produce a ragged look. Rag quilts have a top, batting, and backing, but are assembled differently than a traditional quilt.

Raw Edge – The unsewn edge of a piece of fabric or block.

Raw Edge Appliqué – Technique where fabric shapes are fused to another piece of fabric. A decorative stitch is used to adhere it permanently to a quilt block. Appliqué is used to embellish or create interest to a block or quilt.

Redwork – A form of embroidery designs popular in the late 1800s that uses red floss to trace simple line drawings on quilt blocks. Preferred stitches include backstitch or stem stitch. This technique is also stitched in black or blue for variation. See also penny squares.

Repeat  The measurement of fabric before the design is repeated. 

Retayne A product used to prevent commercial dyes from running or bleeding when washed.

Reverse Appliqué Sewing the motif underside of the background and then cutting away and turning under the edge of the top fabric to reveal the motif. Molas and Hawaiian quilts are made using reverse appliqué.

Right Side – The printed side of the fabric.

Rocker Quilting Stitch – Stitch used when hand quilting when you gently rock needle down through quilt and then back up in a running stitch.

Rotary Cutter – A tool with a sharp circular blade attached to a handle that is used to cut fabric on a cutting mat. It comes in a variety of diameters.

Rotary Mat – A flexible, self-healing cutting mat used when cutting fabric with a rotary cutter. Do not depend on the mat for accurate cutting lines. Always double check with your ruler.

The new plastic smell in cutting mats can be removed by washing them with a citrus based dishwashing soap and water. Let air dry out of direct sunlight. Other options are to let it sit flat in a tub with a vinegar/water solution or to spray it with Febreeze.

Rotary Ruler Made out of Plexiglas, these rulers partner with the rotary cutter to give clean, straight edges on multiple geometric shapes.

Ruler – A heavy plastic measuring tool that is available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Running Stitch – A style of stitch where the needle goes in and out of fabric in a continual motion.


Sampler Quilt – A quilt constructed of a collection of blocks in different patterns and usually no pattern is repeated. The Sampler Quit is perfect for the beginner quilter.

Sandpaper Circles – Circles made of sandpaper with adhesive on one side. Place adhesive side to bottom side of rotary rulers to prevent slippage.

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.

Sashing – See borders or lattice.

Sashing Squares – Squares used to sew sashing together. See cornerstones.

Satin Stitch – A zigzag stitch sewn close together to form a closed line of stitching. Often used around appliqué pieces to cover raw edges.

Scrap Quilt – Quilts that are made from various fabrics, often scraps from other projects or clothing. See also charm quilt.

Scrim – A term used in batting where a thin layer of polyester is added to the cotton to be needle punched into, this gives stability to your batting so it won’t break apart within the quilt.

Seam – The line where two pieces of fabric are joined together by sewing them with thread.

Seam Allowance – The fabric that is hidden inside a sewn unit. It is the fabric between the stitches and the edge of the fabric. In quilting, it is usually very important to have a perfect 1/4" seam allowance. When sewing garments, the seam allowance is usually 5/8".

Seam Ripper – A tool used for picking or ripping out sewing stitches. Generally one of your most used tools.

Self-Healing Mat  See rotary mat.

Selvedge Manufacturers finished edges of fabric which is usually more tightly woven. The selvage is usually trimmed off and not sewn into a quilt. The selvedge is printed with the name of the fabric line, the company that supplied the fabric, and the color wheel (colors that were used in the printing of fabric).

Seminole Patchwork – A style of strip piecing in which strips of fabric are sewn together and the units are cut apart, repositioned, and sewn again to create intricate geometric designs.

Serger – A type of sewing machine that makes overcast seams and cuts off the excess automatically.

Serging – A method of looped threads over the raw edge of the fabric to finish the edge to prevent fraying.

Setting – See Layout.

Setting Block – A block used with pieced or appliquéd blocks in a quilt top. The block can be a solid or pieced.

Setting the Seam – Setting an iron on the seam before pressing it to the side or open. Allows the thread to relax into your fabric and become more secure.

S.E.X – Stash Enhancing eXperiences. Also known as a FART (Fabric Acquisition Road Trip).

Shadowing – When a dark fabric shows through a lighter colored fabric. When this happens in the seam allowance of pieced blocks, you can grade away the dark seam to reduce the problem.

Sharps – Small, thin sewing needles used for hand piecing or appliqué. Can be used this for bindings.

Side Setting Triangles – Triangles used on top and sides of quilt where blocks are set on point. These are quarter square triangles, and the long side has the straight of grain. Be careful when sewing on bias as not to stretch and distort.

Signature Quilt – A quilt with signatures collected and signed on individual blocks. See also album quilt or autograph quilt.

Sleeve - see Hanging Sleeve

Squaring Up  The use of a square ruler used on units, blocks, or quilt tops to assure a right angle in all of the corners. It is important to use this technique rather than using only a straight edge. Otherwise, it is possible to end up with a non-square shape.

Squishy – An envelope full of fabric, especially one that comes in the mail as a result of an exchange or mail-order purchase.

Stab Stitching – Process where the needle is pushed (stabbed) to the back side of quilt sandwich with one hand and returned to top side with the other hand (pushing the needle from back to front).

Standard Mattress Sizes See Bed Sizes. Click here for information on determining quilt sizes for a specific bed size.

Stash (Special Treasure All Secretly Hidden) A supply of fabric used for quilting. Also known as a Fabric Resource Center. Click here for a list of Quilters Acronyms.

Stay Stitch – Pre-sewing along the edge of a curve to help prevent stretching along the bias when assembling a garment.

Stencils – Designs that are cut into a plastic template. Stencils are used for marking quilts during the quilting process.

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

Stitch In the Ditch – A stitching technique where stitches are sewn in the seams of blocks.

Straight Cut Borders – Top, bottom, and side borders that meet at a horizontal seam. Sew sides on first, then top and bottom.

Straight Grain – The lengthwise and crosswise grain on fabric.

Stretcher Bars Used to stretch fabric taut. Primarily used when dyeing and painting fabric. Bars can be purchased or easily made at home.

Strip Piecing – A technique of sewing fabric cut into strips together accurately and quickly, and then cutting those fabric strip sets into new blocks and designs.

Stippling – A technique used in both hand and machine quilting to flatten an area of a quilt and create texture. Stippling is continuous closely spaced waving and curving quilting, resembling a puzzle.

Stuffing - See batting.

Summer Quilt – A quilt with a top and a back, but no batting.

Sunbonnet Sue – An appliqué design of a girl with a sunbonnet hiding her face. The design has been around since the 1920s.

Sweatshirt JacketsMany patterns use an oversize women's sweatshirt as the base for a quilted jacket. Depending on the pattern, the sweatshirt will need to be about two sizes larger. If used as a base for sewn strips, it will lose its stretchiness.

Symmetry Design – Where one side duplicates the other.

Synthrapol A product used to remove excess dyes from fabrics to prevent bleeding onto other fabrics


T-Shirt Quilt  Memories you can snuggle with. Quilts made from t-shirts. See also memory quilts. Find a quilter who makes T-Shirt Quilts.

Tacking Gun – A tool used instead of a pin or thread to baste a quilt sandwich together prior to quilting.

Template – A shape used as a pattern for tracing either piecing or appliqué patches, or for tracing lines to be quilted. Can be cut from cardboard or plastic

Tension – The amount of “pinching″ done to thread as it flows through the sewing machine. Thicker fabrics need a higher tension (a harder pinch so the thread doesn’t flow out too quickly), and thinner fabrics need less tension (a lesser pinch to let the thread out easily to prevent puckering).

Thangles – A paper piecing method of making perfect half square triangles

Thimble – Protective covering for your finger used during hand quilting or sewing binding and appliqué.

Instead of having to throw away a leather quilting thimble after it gets too many holes, put a penny inside of it. This will extend the life of the leather and adds strength.

Tied Quilt A quilt in which knotted strings or ties are used to hold the three layers of the quilt together.

Top – The top part of the quilt sandwich; the completed pieced layer of a quilt.

Top Stitch – The process of stitching on the exterior side of a quilt to finish seams or folds and to keep them in place. Also can be known as Edge Stitching if it is done near a fold of fabric.

Trapunto – A quilt that is stuffed to make it fluffy or to give it more dimension.


Unfinished Objects (UFOs) – Quilt projects that are unfinished. It is common for quilters to have many of them. Also known as works in progress.

Unit – Two or more sections of a block or border that forms together to construct a quilt.

Utility Quilt – A plain, basic practical use quilt that is made without fancy materials. It is meant for warmth and for your everyday bedding.


Value – The lightness or darkness of a particular color.

Variegated Thread – Thread used in quilting that changes in color throughout the strand.


Wadding - see stuffing.

Walking Foot – Presser foot attachment that feeds more than two layers at the same rate. It has an even feed which makes it perfect for working with fabrics that are cut on bias.

Warp (Weft) – The woven threads in the fabric that run parallel to the selvedges.

Watercolor Quilt Using small squares of floral print fabrics of different color varieties to make a design similar to a painting.

Water-Soluble – Accessories used in quilting such as threads, markers, and stabilizers that dissolve when wet.

Whole Cloth Quilts – Name given to three single pieces of fabric sandwiched and sewn together in the quilting process. The design is in the quilting.

Width of Fabric (WOF)Salvage to salvage.

Wonky – A style of imperfect patchwork in which fabrics are cut at awkward angles and sewn together with no rhyme or reason.

Wrong Side – The back side of fabric.


X-Ray Film – X-Ray film can be used to make templates.


Y-Seams – A sewing technique of joining three different pieces of fabric to form a “Y″. While sewing, you should stop ¼″ from the seam so as to not sew over the seam allowances.

Yo-Yo Quilt – A fabric embellishment made with three-dimensional circles.


Zigzag Stitch – A stitch that goes from side to side and is often used for machine appliqué. Stitches can be short or long.