Quilting comes in all different styles and depends on the traditions and history of the country of origin. Simply put, quilting is made up of a “sandwich” of fabrics, the top layer which is the pattern part and can be made up of quilt blocks, the middle which is called the batting (padding) and the back which is usually a complimentary colour to the top pattern.
I’ve put together a list of the commonly used terms in quilting in this quilting terms definitions article so you have a quick reference guide.
Quilting Terms Definitions
Accent quilts – This is a pattern that follows different lines but works with your patchwork pattern.
Achromatic – Black, white and grey color schemes.
Album quilts – These are quilts made for a specific event and made up of different blocks. These are personal to the recipient or maker of the quilt and are sometimes given as gifts to mark a special occasion.
Amish Quilts – Quilts that are made to be functional and are very simplistic.
Anchor fabric – Used in machine piecing to hold the fabric together.
Appliqué – This is often used on quilts for decoration. It’s done by sewing smaller pieces of fabric onto the face of the quilt to make a pattern figure or character. You can use decorative stitching for attaching the pieces and create some beautiful effects.
Backing fabric – This is the fabric that goes on the back of the quilt and is usually a complimentary color to the front.
Bargello quilts – These are created with fabric strips to create the look of a wave.
Basting – This is a temporary stitch used to hold the 3 quilt layers together while preparing to sew. There are specially made sticky sprays that you can use as well as stitches and pins.
Batting – This is the padded layer of your quilt sandwich. You can read more about batting here.
Bearding – This is when the fibers from the batting break through to the surface of the front or back of the quilt. It’s more common when using polyester batting.
Betweens – These are quilting needles and they are much shorter than normal sewing needles. The most commonly used sizes are 12, 10 and 9 with the higher number being longer.
Binding – Binding is used for around the quilt edges. You can buy ready-made, called bias binding (cut on the bias), or you can make your own. It’s cut on the bias to prevent pulling the quilt out of shape. Cut on the bias means the fabric is cut diagonally across the grain.
Blanket stitch – Historically, blanket stitch was used to prevent the edges of blankets fraying. It is now used also used for decorative finishes and for attaching applique.
Block – A section of the quilt top, a group of blocks are sewn together to create the quilt top. For a more detailed explanation check out my article here.
Border – these are fabric strips used between blocks to frame patterns. They can also used on the top, bottom and sides.
Cats ears – A style of block, which is also known as Prairie Points.
Chain sewing – This is a fast way of piecing your quilt together by using a continual thread without the need to finish off and restart.
Chain stitch – More commonly used in embroidery this is a series of looped stitches which form a chain.
Charm quilts – The same shape is used throughout, but no fabric is used more than once.
Cheaters Cloth – This is fabric that has a patchwork pattern already printed on it.
Cool colours – Green and blue hues.
Crazy quilt – Irregular pieces of fabric are stitched to the foundation then decorated.
Cross hatch – This is to help with hand stitching, parallel lines are marked on the quilt using diamonds, rectangles and squares.
Dimensional appliqué – Appliques that stand proud of the quilt cover. Sometimes these are lightly stuffed to create the effect.
Echo quilting – A repeat pattern that goes around the edge of a piece or design.
Fat Quarter – Pieces of fabric cut to 18” x 22.”
Foundation blocks – Blocks made up of any amount of small bits of fabric. These are then joined to create the top of the patchwork. It’s important to try and keep the straight of grain on the edge of the block.
Friendship quilt – Friends and family exchange quilts which have been made with swapped fabric and/or with messages sewn in.
Grain – The fiber line which runs perpendicular to the side selvedge.
Hawaiian appliqué – Detailed applique applied onto quilt fabric.
Hoops – large frames to hold the quilt in place for hand or machine stitching.
Lattice strips – Lattice strips are used to border the blocks.
Meandering/stippling style – This is a quilt stitch where none of the stitching should touch. Once you have stitched a line, you can’t cross over it.
Marking – The quilt gets marked by freehand or tracing to give a stitching guide. Tailors chalk or wax is most commonly used for this.
Medallion quilt – The quilt has a central design and the rest of the pattern follows outwards.
Millenium quilts – These were made to commemorate the year 2000.
Miters – A method used for measuring diagonals and angles.
Monochromatic – All one color.
Motif stitching – This can be done on plain or patchwork quilting and is where the quilter incorporates names, animals, flowers etc.
Muslin – Muslin is often used as a foundation fabric as it is very thin and plain.
No knots – Knots should be hidden within the quilt by pulling the knot through to the batting layer. There is a finishing technique where you hide you know in the centre batting. Wrap the cotton twice around the needle, push the needle back through the last stitch hole then pull it through so the knot is hidden in the batting. Cut the thread as close to the fabric as possible.
Off hand – Using the left hand to guide the needle from underneath the quilt.
Outline stitching – Outline stitching is done by sewing a ¼” away from the seam. This provides an outline and also strengthens the quilt.
Paper piecing –This is where you stitch your fabric block with a paper foundation. Once the piece has been sewn, the paper is removed. There is an excellent tutorial on Craftsy explaining this in more detail.
Piecing – Sewing your cut pieces of fabric together to form the blocks or patchwork.
Quilting Thread – Strong cotton which is glazed to help it pass through the layers of quilt.
Rotary Cutter – A rotary cutter is a tool used for cutting shapes of fabric, used with a cutting mat and a quilting ruler.
Sampler – A sampler shows many different techniques in one quilt.
Sashing –Fabric strips that separate blocks.
Satin Stich – Stitching done side by side.
Selvedge – The selvedge is is the finished edge of the fabric where the weave was finished off.
Seminole quilting – Large pieces of fabric are created with pieces, then the joined fabric is cut and the shapes repeated. “Seminole” comes from the Native American tribeof the same name. Early on, in the 1800s, it was such a long journey to trade for cloth, the women would use what was left from the cloth bolts. The strips were joined together to make “strip clothing.” The Seminole quilts made now are usually simple designs, but you can see more elaborate quilt patterns.
Sewing in the ditch – Stitches are hardly visible by sewing very close to the seam.
Sharps – Very fine needles used for applique and joining pieces.
Stencils– These are pre-made shapes used for transferring motifs and designs.
Template – These come in a range of shapes and are using for cutting pieces of fabric. They can be made of plastic (quilting ruler), paper or sandpaper.
If you think I’ve missed any important definitions out of this quilting terms glossary, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.