1/4" Seam - The standard seam allowance for quilting.  

Album Quilt - A quilt made up of different, non-repeating  blocks.  Most often the blocks are appliqued rather than pieced.

Applique - A form of piecing where fabric designs are sewn on top of background fabric.  Designs are often more decorative and difficult to traditionally piece such as floral or curved designs.  Applique can be applied to background fabrics using  several techniques: hand sewing, machine application, or fusible webbing.

Backing - The bottom or back of a quilt, usually a single piece of plain fabric cut to the finished size of the quilt.  Double wide fabrics are often useful for large sized quilts.

Baltimore Album Quilt - Quilts made in Baltimore between 1840-1860, or are styled after quilts made in Baltimore at that time.  These quilts are made of appliqued blocks featuring elaborate bouquets, wreaths, or cornucopias.  These designs were often too decorative and time consuming to have been utilitarian, and where the past time of wealthy women.

Basting - Securing the layers of a quilt in preparation for quilting.  There are several basting  techniques:

  1. Pin Basting - Using safety pins to baste quilts.  Pins should be spaced several inches apart in a grid patter and should penetrate all three layers of the quilt.  If the quilt is machine quilted, remove the pins as the quilting progresses.  DO NOT sew over the pins.  Sewing over the pins could result in tangled fabric and/or broken needles.  
  2. Spray Basting - Using an adhesive spray to secure the layers of the quilt.  The adhesive is strong enough to keep the layers in place but also allows the layers to be moved and readjusted if needed.  To spray baste, start from the center of the quilt and spray a section of the bating.  Lay the quilt top or bottom over the sprayed area and smooth with your hands.  Repeat this process until the entire quilt is basted.  
  3. Stitch Basting  (Hand Basting) - Uses single, loose stitches that secure the layers of quilt in place.  This technique is most often used with hand quilting.
  4. Fuse Basting - Using a fusible product can make basting very easy.  There are a variety of fusible products available including fusible batting, fusible tape, or fusible interfacing.  These products are placed between the layers of the quilt on the wrong side of the fabric, and simply ironed into place.  
  5. Board Basting - Uses two flat boards to equally distribute the quilt backing and quilt top during the basting process.  The backing and quilt top are rolled around the boards and then are simultaneously unrolled in portions and then basted, usually either with pins or stitches.

Back Stitch - The three or four stitches that have been reversed at the beginning and the end of a sewn thread.  The line of sewing begins with three or four stitches, is reversed, and then is initiated again until the end of the line where the process is repeated.  Also called a lock stitch, this helps to prevent sewing from coming undone.

Bargello - A style of quilting where small blocks of color are offset in a rising and falling pattern to create a flame like pattern.

Batik - A technique of wax resistant dying originating in Indonesia.  Fabrics dyed in this manner tend to be highly colorful and have high thread counts.  

Batting - The middle layer of a quilt, sometimes called wadding or stuffing.  Batting usually comes in three basic colors: black, white, and natural; and can be made from cotton, polyester, silk, wool, or a cotton-polyester blend.

Bearding - The movement of batting fibers through the fabric layers, causing a fuzz to appear over over the quilt.  More often associated with polyester battings, it is symptomatic of any poor quality batting material.

Bias - The angular direction or cut from the warp and weft of a fabric.  45° is called a true bias, but 30° and 60° cuts are also considered bias.  Fabrics cut on the bias stretch farther and more easily than fabrics cut on the grain.  Bias binding allows for binding to be applied to angular or curved edges without pleating.

Binding - A strip of fabric sewn around the raw edge of a quilt.  Binding can be made of a folded strip of fabric, or can be an extension of the quilt backing, folded and sewn into place.  

Blind Stitch

Blocks - Smaller units of an entire quilt top.  Blocks can be designed individually or can be combined to complete a larger design over the entirety of the quilt top.  

Border - Fabric applied to the top of a quilt used to frame the main design of the quilt.  Borders are often single strips of fabric, but can include designs of their own.  

Boutis - Also known as Provencal Quilting, Boutis is a form of wholecloth quilting developed in the south of France.  This technique includes stuffing particular parts of the quilt in order to create a raised effect in quilting design.

Broadcloth - A plain, tightly woven cloth.  Traditionally made of wool, today's broadcloth is more often made from cotton or a cotton blend.

Broderie Perse - The French term for Persian Embroidery, this technique involves cutting out a design from one fabric, and appliqueing it onto another piece.  

Calico - Traditionally used to refer to cotton fabric, which is still the definition in England and Australia, but in the United States has come to refer to fabric with small, close print, typically floral designs.

Chain Sewing - To continually feed pieces of fabric through a sewing machine, one after another, so that all of the pieces are connected by thread and then separated later.  This process allows you to sew numerous pieces at the same time while using the minimum amount of thread.

Charm Pack - see Pre-Cuts

Civil War Quilt - Many quilts made just before and during the American Civil War use bright, cheery colors as patriotism and optimism swelled on both sides with the belief that the war would be short.  Quilts made after the Civil War are markedly different with dark, somber colors and more patchwork designs.  Scrap quilts became more common with economic depression and industrial destruction forcing women to make quilts out of any fabric available.  Women even cut up silk dresses to use for quilting that were too nice or impractical for everyday wear but had no use for balls as there were no young men to dance with.

Color Story -  See Pre-Cuts

Color Value -  The overall color of a quilt.  Even if other colors are used in the quilt, if the majority of them are blue, for example, then the color value of that quilt will be blue.  

Cotton - The plant from which natural fibers can be derived from.  Most quilting materials (fabrics, batting, and thread) are made from cotton. Cotton fabrics do sometimes have a propensity to shrink under the right conditions, so pre-washing fabrics is important to prevent shrinking and pulling on a finished quilt.

Crazy Quilt - A quilt with blocks made of irregular shapes and sizes.

Curved Piecing - Piecing curved fabrics.  This is more difficult than piecing fabrics with strait edges. Curved piecing is used for patterns like Drunkard's Path or Wedding Rings.

Cutting Mat - A large piece of plastic meant to protect table or counter tops.  Cutting mats are available in a variety of sizes and abilities, some are self-healing meaning that material they use refills the cuts in the mat created by rotary blades.

Directional Print - Fabric with a rigid design or grain (stripes, tartan, geometric patterns).  When piecing, care must be taken to not disrupt the integrity of the design.  

Double Wide Fabric - Fabric generally 110" wide rather than 44" wide.  Double wide fabric is meant to be used for quilt backing, particularly for large quilts.

Dye Magnet - A piece of plain fabric added to a washing machine intended to attract loose dye that has bled off of a colored fabric in order to protect other fabrics from becoming stained by the loose dye.  

Ease - Sometimes quilt blocks are different sizes because of slight mistakes during piecing. Because of this, stretching or condensing fabric is necessary to ensure that blocks are on point. 

Echo Quilting - Quilting stitches that outline fabrics or images on the quilt top, thereby echoing the design of the quilt.

English Paper Piecing - Found on 18th and 19th century English quilts, paper piecing involves fabric basted onto paper and then sewn together.  The paper dictates the seams of the fabric, and then is later removed.

Farmer's Wife Quilt - Also called a sampler quilt, these are quilts made of a variety of non-repeating pieced blocks.  

Fat Eighth (1/8) - see Pre-Cuts

Fat Jelly Roll - see Pre-Cuts

Fat Quarter (1/4) - see Pre-Cuts

Feed Dogs - The teeth on the bottom of a sewing machine that pull fabric through the machine during sewing.  On most machines feed dogs can be lowered and not used to accommodate different styles of sewing.

Finger Pressing - Using your fingers to press seams in a particular direction.  This is not effective for permanent pressing, but is more efficient when quickly piecing a block.  

Finished Size - The size of a quilt once it's completed.  There are several standard finished sizes, listed below, but quilts technically do not have to fit these standards.  For example, mini quilts or lap quilts usually do not.

  1. Recieving Blanket - 40x40"     
  2. Crib - 27x52"           Quilt Size - 36x60"
  3. Twin - 39x75"         Quilt Size - 63x87"
  4. Full - 54x75            Quilt Size - 78x87"
  5. Queen - 60x80"     Quilt Size - 84x92"
  6. King - 76x80"         Quilt Size - 98x106"

Flannel - A loosely woven fabric made of cotton, wool, or synthetic  fibers.  Flannel is very warm and comes in a variety of prints but notably in tartans and plaids.  Because flannel is loosely woven, it has a propensity to shrink over the course of several washings so be sure to prewash fabrics and follow manufacturer's washing instructions once the quilt is finished.

Foundation Piecing - A method of assembling a block by sewing pieces on to a foundation of muslin.  Sewing fabrics on to a foundation of paper is called Foundation Paper Piecing.

Free Motion Quilting - A type of machine quilting in which the feed dogs are lowered in order to allow full control of the direction of quilting.  Quilters often 

Freezer Paper Applique - This is an applique technique involving freezer paper. Freezer paper is a wrapping meant to protect groceries in the freezer and one side of the paper has a thing layer of wax on it.  Quilters use freezer paper to trace and cut out patterns, iron the paper onto fabric, and then applique that fabric onto a background.

Fusibles - A variety of webbings and interfacings that can be ironed, or fused, onto the wrong side of fabrics in order to add support for embroidery or applique.

Fussy Cut - To intentionally cut fabric in an inefficient manner in order to give priority to the pattern or design

Grain - The lengthwise and crosswise pattern in which fabric threads are woven.  To cut fabric along the grain means that cuts follow the lengthwise or crosswise direction of the fabric threads.

Hand Quilting - The process of quilting by hand rather than by machine.  

Hanging Sleeve - A fold of fabric sewn on to the back of a quilt where a rod is inserted and used to hang the quilt on a wall.  

Honey Bun - see Pre-Cuts

Ironing - Removing wrinkles from fabric with a heated flatiron.  Ironing is different from pressing because it uses a sweeping motion that can sometimes stretches the fabric.  Pressing uses only the heat and weight of the iron to flatten and enforce seams.

Invisible Thread - Also known as Monofiliment thread

Jelly Roll - see Pre - Cuts

Label - Labels usually are a small patch of fabric where quilters add personal details to quilt such as the name of the quilter, when the quilt was made, why the quilt was made, and who the recipient of a quilt is if the quilt is a gift.

Lap Quilt - Sometimes called a duvet, these quilts are generally in the 50-70" inch size range.

Lap Quilting - A technique of quilting different from whole cloth quilting, that includes the creation of individual quilt blocks and then sewing those blocks together.  

Layer Cake - see Pre-Cuts

Layout - The manner in which blocks are arranged when pieced together.

  1. Strait Layout - Quilt blocks are laid out side by side in a grid pattern.
  2. On Point Layout - Quilt blocks are laid out at a 45° angle. 

Long Arm Quilting - Quilting done by a long arm sewing machine, which typically has a head length of 18-30" and a foot frame of 10-14'.  Long arm quilting is typically done by a professional, but can be a very time saving investment.

Muslin - A low count (> 160 threads/sq. inch), inexpensive cotton fabric.  Muslin tends to be easier to hand quilt with because of its loose weave.

Marking - Tracing quilting designs directly onto the fabric.  This can be done with either chalk, washable fabric pens, or pencil.  Make sure that your marking utensils actually do wash out, and if marking with a pencil be sure to do so very lightly.

Mini-Charms - see Pre-Cuts

Mitered Corner - A corner of either a boarder or binding that is joined at a 45° angle.  

Modern Quilt - A style of quilting defined by stark, geometric or simplistic designs.  Traditional piecing or applique can be used to create the designs.

Motif - A patch or design used for applique.

Needles - Like pins, needles are long, thin, and metal with a single sharp point.  But needles do not end in a cap, they have an eye through with thread is pulled.  Different types of needles have different uses so be sure to read manufacturer's directions for use and type.

On Point - A layout where square blocks are set on their point at a 45° angle rather than on a strait edge. 

Patchwork - Still used in England, the term refers to piecing quilt blocks together.  Sometimes finished quilts are also called patchwork.

Penny Squares - Also known as redwork.

Percale - A tightly woven, soft fabric often used for sheets and bedding.

Pins - A small, thin piece of metal used for attaching or fastening pieces of fabric. Pins are different from needles as they do not have eyes and are not used for permanently attaching fabrics.

  1. Strait Pins - Simple pins consisting of a sharp metal rod and capped with a ball.  Strait pins are recommended for piecing.
  2. Safety Pins -  A pin bent backwards on itself, creating a spring, and capped with a guard.  Safety Pins are recommended for basting.

Piecing - Sewing pieces of fabric together to create a design or pattern. Most quilt tops are pieced unless they are made using a wholecloth or boutis technique.  

Pleating - Creating textures in fabric by folding it back on it'self and sewing it in place.  

Prairie Points - Fabric folded into triangles and used to adorn quilts.  Prairie points are usually used on bindings, but can be placed anywhere on a quilt.

Pre-Cuts - Fabrics available for sale at predetermined size.  There are a variety of pre-cut styles and sizes may vary according to designer or distributor.  The list below is a generalization of names and dimensions of commonly available pre-cuts. 

  1. Fat Quarter - 18x22"  Fat quarters are usually sold separately, but bundles are useful as they are grouped according to design collection.
  2. Fat Eighth - 9x22"  Half the size of fat quarters, these types of bundles give quilters greater flexibility in design and choice of pattern because of their dimensions. 
  3. Charm Pack - 42-5x5" 
  4. Mini Charms - 42 - 2.5x2.5"
  5. Honey Combs - 
  6. Honey Bun - 1.5x45" 
  7. Jelly Roll - 2.5x45"  The number of fabrics in a jelly roll depends on the number of fabrics included in a collection,  Usually a jelly roll is equivalent to about 2 1/2 yards of fabric.
  8. Jolly Bar - 40 - 5x10"
  9. Layer Cake - 10x110"  The number of fabrics in a layer cake depends on the number of fabrics included in a collection.  Usually a layer cake is equivalent to about 2 1/2 yards of fabric.

Pre-Wash - Washing and drying fabric before it is cut and pieced.  This helps to remove excess dyes and 

Pressing - Using an iron to create or flatten seams in fabric.  Pressing should focus on downward pressure and should not involve stretching fabric.

Pressing Spray - Either store bought or home made,  pressing spray is used to stiffen and support seams.  This helps to ensure a reliable seam the first time the fabric is pressed, and reduces the need to repress the seam which might increase the risk of shrinking or even burning the fabric.

Puckering - The folds of fabric that have stretched over and are secured by quilting stitches.  Puckering is the result of uneven quilting, poor basting, or poor piecing that resulted in irregularly shaped blocks.

Quilt as you Go - A technique of piecing, quilting, and binding individual blocks before sewing them together.

Quilt Top - The top of a quilt.  The layer of the quilt that has been pieced and is meant to be seen and displayed.  

Quilting - The process of sewing together two or more layers of material.  This process has been used not only for bedding but also for clothing to create extra insulation, and for military garments in the Middle Ages to create extra padding and protection for soldiers under their chain mail or armor.  

Quilting Bar - A small bent bar that inserts into the needle bar of a sewing machine and is used as a guide for quilting even, strait lines.  

Quilter's Guild - A collection of quilters who gather together and support one another in their quilting.  

Quilting Foot - Also known as a Little Foot, a quilting foot measured 1/4" from the needle to the edge of the foot making it easy to keep a 1/4" seam.  Some quilting feet have a small guide on the edge that ensures a 1/4" seam.  

Redwork - A simple embroidery technique using a running stitch to outline a variety of designs.  This technique using different colored floss is then called bluework or greenwork.  The use of black floss is called black redwork because the term blackwork refers to a different embroidery technique.

Reverse Applique - The opposite of traditional applique that sews a motif on top of the base fabric.  Reverse applique requires the base fabric to be cut out and turned under the reveal the motif under the base fabric.

Rotary Cutter - A cutting tool with a handle and round blade used to continuously cut fabric.  Rotary cutters are usually used in conjunction with a ruler to ensure strait cuts and regular sized fabric pieces.

Ruler - A clear piece of plastic used for measuring and cutting fabric. Rulers are available in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Sampler - A quilt made of a variety of non-repeating blocks.  Samplers are a great way for new quilters to practice a variety of techniques or for guilds to create raffle quilts.

Sashiko Quilting - A Japanese style of quilting with large, precise stitches using embroidery floss.  The stitches are used to create visually appealing geometric patterns and designs.

Sashing - The plain fabric placed between quilt blocks.

Scallops - Rounded decorative edges on the boarders of a quilt.  Scalloped edges are more difficult than traditional strait edges of a quilt, and should use bias tape for the binding.

Scrap Quilt - A quilt made from a variety of fabrics.  Largely originating in the years after the American Civil War when fabric was scarce, they are now used as a great way to use fabrics left over from other projects.

Seam Allowance - The small amount of fabric between a sewn seam and the edge of the fabric.  In quilting the standard seam allowance is 1/4".

Seam Ripper - A small, sharp tool used to cut individual stitches.  

Self - Binding Quilt - A quilt that does not use traditional techniques for binding.  The quilt is turned inside out and sewn together along the edge of the fabric, except for a small part of the edge.  The quilt is pulled through the unsewn portion of the edges, and then sewn closed.

Selvage - The outer edge of the length of fabric.  The weave of the fabric is usually tighter, and sometimes manufacturer or designer information is sometimes printed here.  The selvage is usually cut off and removed before sewing. 

Setting Block - The plain solid, unpieced block of fabric that separates and spaces out pieced blocks in the layout of a quilt.

Sharps - Small, short needles designed specifically for quilting and piecing.

Signature Quilt - A quilt pieced by multiple individuals who have signed the blocks that they made.  

Squaring a Quilt - The process of making sure that the corners of a quilt are regular and at a 45°.  It does not necessarily mean cutting a quilt into a square.

Standard Mattress Sizes - While it is not required that quilts must conform to particular sizes, mattresses however do follow standard sizes. 

  1. Twin - 39 x74"
  2. Twin XL - 39 x 80"
  3. Double - 54 x 74"
  4. Queen - 60 x 80"
  5. King - 76 x 80"
  6. California King - 72 x 84"

Stash - Fabric bought or collected over time that is not intended for immediate use, but might come in handy later.

Stippling - A free motion quilting technique with wandering, curving movements that is meant to be random.

Stitch in the Ditch - Quilting stitches in the seams of blocks so that the design of the block is not interrupted by the stitching.  

Strait of Grain - The horizontal or perpendicular weave of fabric. 

Strip Piecing - Sewing strips of fabric together, and then cutting the pieced strips into certain shapes and then pieced together again.  This technique is used to create a variety of block designs.

Summer Quilt - A quilt top and bottom, but no batting.

Template - The design outline, often found in quilting instructions, for a quilt block.  Templates can show the layout of a block before fabrics are pieced together, or templates can be used to copy applique motifs from.

Thangles - A hand sewing technique for creating half square triangles.

Thimble - A metal, plastic, or leather covering meant to protect fingers while hand sewing. 

Thread Count - The number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of fabric.  The higher the thread count the better quality the fabric.  Most quilting fabrics come with a 68x68 count.

Tied Quilt - A quilt that is quilted with tied threads or yarns instead of quilted with stitches.  The ties are usually spaced at even intervals in a grid pattern.

Top Stitching - Stitching in rows that is visible on the right side of the fabric.  Quilting sewn in strait, consecutive lines is call top stitching.

Trapunto - The technique of creating raised elements with in a quilting design.  Small pieces of stuffing are pushed between stitches in order to create this effect.  Trapunto is a technique often associated with the creation of whole cloth quilts.

Twirling - A method of pressing seams so that the seams lie flat.

Walking Foot - A sewing machine foot intended for sewing multiple layers of fabric, ideal for quilters.  This type of foot has feed dogs attached to it that work in conjunction with the feed dogs of the sewing machine so that fabrics are pulled through evenly.  

Warp - The lengthwise threads or fibers of a woven material.

Watercolor Quilt - A quilt design technique that uses small pieces of fabric to create an overall image on the quilt.  Color values are given more focus rather than fabric print.  Usually watercolor quilts are intended for wall hangings and decoration.

Weft - Sometimes referred to as Woof, it is the widthwise threads or fibers of a woven material.  The weft is woven tightest at the selvage.

Whole Cloth Quilt - Originating in Europe around the 1400's, whole cloth quilts have a top that is a single, large piece of fabric rather than a patchwork of smaller blocks cut and pieced into a particular design. Whole cloth quilts require intricate quilting and small stitches to achieve their design and detail.  Sometimes additional stuffing, a technique called trapunto, is added to certain design elements to create a raised effect.

Wrong Side of Fabric - The backside of the fabric where colors or patterns are not as clear or cleanly detailed.  The wrong side of fabric is the side that faces the batting and is not visible on a finished quilt.

Yard - Standard measurement of fabric.  Quilting fabric is usually 44x36"  Cuts of fabric are based off of the yard measurement, 1/2 yd, 1/4 yd, 1/8 yd, fat quarter, fat eighth.