Common Quilting Terms

Block - a quilt made up of a series of coordinating or unique blocks.

Scrap - creating design in your quilt using fabric scraps based on color and value, rather then purchasing coordinated fabrics.

Charm - each square is a unique, different piece of fabric, often based on a theme (i.e. butterflys, flowers, dogs, etc).

Memory - incorporates memories from someone's life into a quilt using pieces of clothing, patches, photos transferred to fabric, embroidery and anything else possible to sew into a quilt!

Colorwash - using fabric to create a seamless look, fabrics are closely related in colors and prints so as to blend together without harsh lines.

Hawaiian - style of quilting from the islands. Usually incorporates a piece of nature, such as a flower, dolphin, tree, etc. into a whole cloth design. Then quilting radiates out from the central focal point in a series of rippling quilting lines.

Watercolor - similar to colorwash. Often used in referring to landscape quilts. Fabrics are used to blend gently into each other, creating a watercolor effect.

Top - the entire top of your quilt, including pieced design and border, before adding backing and batting.

Batting - the filler material between the top and back. Could be cotton, wool or polyester. Many weights (heaviness of batting) are available. Type of quilt that you create will determine the type of batting that you should choose.

Backing - The piece of fabric that will be the back side of your quilt. Could be a single piece of fabric, or a pieced design.

Binding - strip of fabric added to outermost edge, wrapped around to back and stitched down. Finishes the quilt by providing a final edge which holds together the top, batting and back.

Border - frames the pieced central part of your quilt, much like matting and a frame. Could be an intricately pieced border or a more simple, single strip of fabric.

Quilter cottons - 100% cottons in a wide variety of prints, themes and styles. The higher quality (yes, more expensive ones) are well worth the investment. These cottons have a higher thread count, richer colors, and will last much longer for that heirloom quilt you'll make.

Fat Quarter - a cut of fabric created by cutting a standard half yard and then cutting it down the middle. You get a piece approximately 18 in. x 21 in. For some types of quilt projects, this can be a more useful cut than one that is long and skinny.

Tone on Tone - refers to a single color fabric which has a slightly darker design of the same color.

Close Contrast - fabrics are similar in pattern, color and value. Useful in blending areas in a quilt.

High Contrast - fabrics that are distinctly different in color and/or value. Used when you would really like an area to pop out or strongly set off a pattern.

Applique - can be done by hand or machine. Pieces are cut out and sewn on top of a block, rather than pieced into a block. Commonly used in very detailed work with curves, that would be difficult to piece into block.

Needleturn - used in applique process. An applique piece is cut slightly larger than needed. It is pinned onto the block. While sewing it down by hand, you use the needle to tuck the raw edges under.

Continuous Line Quilting - term used in machine quilting. Refers to machine quilting patterns and templates that allow you to keep quilting in a continuous line, without starting and stopping on a regular basis.

Longarm - a large throat quilting machine usually mounted on rollers on top of a long table much like a quilting frame.

Counter-cut - when strip-piecing using a unit of strips sewn together, it will be necessary to cut across that series of strips. This cut is called a counter-cut.

Fusible - some quilts are created basically just glueing fabrics together. Quilter's use an iron-on fusible webbing to bond fabrics to each other. Misty Fuse is an example of such a product. This method can be a fun, creative and easy process to create picture scenes, etc.

Fussy Cut - this refers to a careful method of cutting your fabric pieces out for a project. You may want to center a block over a particular design on your fabric, so you will cut the pieces individually to be sure you get the designs that you want.

Mitering Corners - refers to a nicely angled joint at the border corners, much like a frame.

Paper piecing - used in applique and in piecing. Fabric pieces are basted onto fairly stiff paper, with edges turned around the paper edges. This creates a nice sharp edge to stitch to other pieces. When the paper pieced fabric is stitched into the block, the paper is pulled out through an edge or the back of block.

Piecing - joining the fabric pieces in your block or quilt to each other so the seams do not show. This is the design area of your quilt. Most commonly done on the machine, but still done by hand as well.

Quilting - after your top is finished, you will layer it with a batting and backing. These 3 pieces need to be pinned or basted together. The sewing that joins these pieces together is the quilting, which can be done by machine or hand.

Quilt in the Ditch - the finishing quilting that is done in the seam lines of your pieced top.

Rotary cut - a method by which you use a rotary cutter to cut out your project pieces. Useful for all straight line cutting. This enables you to cut multiple pieces with ease and more accuracy than scissors.

Seam allowance - the extra allowance around your pieces that will be pressed down on wrong side of your quilt. The common seam allowance in quilting is 1/4 in.

Stippling - this is a free form, wiggly line, top quilting that covers an area of your quilt, or the whole thing. You'll need to drop the feed dogs for this one, and continously move the quilt through the machine. The lines should not cross each other. This takes a bit of practice!

Strata - a series of fabric strips (usually full length - 42 in.) sewn to each other to create a unit. This is often used in strip quilting patterns.

Strip Piecing - quilts based on sewing strips together rather than blocks.

Trapunto - this is a form of quilting. Areas of quilting will be stuffed with extra batting or fill, to accentuate a design.

Self Healing Cutting Mat- is used with a Rotary Cutter when cutting fabric to protect the cutting blade and provide a working serface. I personally prefer a large 24" x 36" mat.

Betweens - very tiny, short needles used in the quilting process. These are numbered with the higher numbers being the smaller needles. (i.e. #12 will be smaller than #9). A beginner should start with a larger size and work towards smaller needles.

Notions - refers to all the small sewing supplies such as pins, scissors, rulers, seam ripper, and so on.

Quilt markers - various products on the market for marking quilting lines on your quilt. Beware of vanishing markers, which may disappear before you finish! You will also find markers for creating lasting labels - do not use these for marking quilting lines, they do not wash out.

Raised edge thimble - this is a thimble that is essential for the hand quilter. There is a ridge around the top part of the thimble which will help keep the needle from slipping off during your quilting.

Sharps - needles used for hand applique.

Template - used in applique, piecing and quilting. Templates can be purchased or made out of sturdy plastic or cardboard. They are a guide for cutting your pieces or placing your quilting lines.