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Quilting Glossary

When you take up quilting, you'll hear a lot of technical terminology from other quilters – but what does it all mean? To make learning about this rewarding craft that little bit easier, here's a simple glossary unscrambling those tricky quilting terms.

Quilting Terms

Appliqué

Appliqué

Created by hand, using a sewing machine or with fusible web, appliqué is the process of attaching smaller fabric pieces onto background fabric to form a decorative design.

Backing

Backing

A quilt is divided into three layers the backing is the bottom layer, often a plain, single fabric cut or fabric that has been pieced to the size of the quilt.

Basting

Basting

Used to temporarily hold the three layers of the quilt in place whilst quilting, basting are long stitches that aid in the creation of a quilt and are removed once the quilt is finished. Alternatively, some quilters may prefer using quilting pins or temporary spray adhesive.

Bearding

Bearding

When the fibres in wadding move through the quilt top to form fuzz on the quilt's surface, this is called Bearding. Polyester wadding and low quality fabrics are commonly associated with bearding, as well as certain synthetics, wool and silk due to their susceptibility to static.

Bias

Bias

The 45 degree diagonal direction across a piece of woven fabric is known as the bias. Woven fabric is constructed from lengthwise threads (warp) and crosswise threads (weft) the bias is cut to the line of the warp and the weft, resulting in 45 degree angle threads and plenty of stretch. Bias-cut fabric pieces should be carefully handled and not excessively stretched or pulled as they'll misshape.

Binding

Binding

Used to finish off your quilt, binding is the thin fabric strip sewn around the outer edges to decoratively mask the raw edges whilst offering protection and strength. Constructed from either straight-grain cut or bias cut fabric, the binding is often double folded for added durability.

Block

Block

Focal parts of the design of a quilt top, blocks are often square or rectangular and arranged in a certain layout. The quilt top is constructed from multiple blocks sewn together, pieced, appliquéd or plain.

Chain Piecing

Chain Piecing

Chain piecing is the technique of sewing multiple blocks together with one continuous length of thread, without stopping after each piece or snipping the thread.

Finished Size

Finished Size

The finished size, as the name suggests, is the final measurement of a completed block, without taking into consideration seam allowances.

Foundation Piecing

Foundation Piecing

Used to add extra durability and strength to delicate fabrics, foundation piecing is the process of sewing fabric pieces to a foundation of plain fabric or muslin to assemble a block.

Free-Motion Quilting

Free-Motion Quilting

To create freeform designs, free-motion quilting is a machine quilting process where the feed dogs are lowered or covered so that they're unable to pull the fabric, allowing the quilter to control the fabric movement.

Fusible Web

Fusible Web

Applied with an iron onto fabric, fusible web (or 'interfacing') is placed between two pieces of fabric and melts when heated, fusing the two pieces together. It's commonly used to make appliqué easier or for added fabric support.

Grain

Grain

Woven fabric is constructed from lengthwise threads (warp) and crosswise threads (weft)  the grain is the direction they're running in.

Mitered Corner

Mitered Corner

Mitered corners are used when framing your quilt, reducing the fabric bulk in the corners and creating a neat, professional-looking finish. Simply join the corners at a 45 degree angle, just like a photo frame.

Motif

Motif

An element or patch used in appliqué, the motif is the centrepiece image of your quilt block.

Mitered Corner

On Point

When a block is turned at a 45 degree angle so that one corner is pointing upwards, one downwards and the other two to the sides in a diamond shape, this block is (quite literally!) sitting on point.

Quilt Top

Quilt Top

A quilt is divided into three layers the quilt top is the top layer which comprises of the blocks that make up the quilt design.

Sampler

Sampler

A sampler quilt features various blocks, however each block is entirely different  there are no repeated patterns and the size of the blocks can vary.

Sashing

Sashing

The strips of fabric sewn onto separate blocks are called sashing. Making the quilt larger, these fabric strips are attached between blocks, joining them together.

Seam Allowance

Seam Allowance

To ensure that all the blocks fit together well, a seam allowance measurement of 1/4" is used. Leaving this amount of space on the underside of the block allows you to perfectly stitch two fabrics together if the seam allowance is off, the pieces won't fit together when you come to joining all the elements.

Selvage

Selvage

The non-frayed, 'finished' edge of the fabric, the selvage is used to prevent the fabric ravelling. Tightly woven and stiffer than the rest of the fabric, the selvage is usually trimmed off and left out of the quilt design.

Setting Triangles

Setting Triangles

When blocks are sitting 'on point' and arranged diagonally, they don't fill the design around the edges of the quilt well. To solve this problem, setting triangles are used. These triangles of fabric are places between the blocks, framing the designs.

Straight Grain

Straight Grain

The straight grain runs parallel to the warp threads and the selvage, and is typically the strongest thread on a piece of fabric, without stretch or give.

Strip Piecing

Strip Piecing

Strip piecing is the technique of cutting fabric into long strips, sewing those strips together and then cutting that resulting piece into a block that is already pieced together.

Template

Template

Generally constructed from plastic, acrylic or cardboard, templates are shapes used as pattern guides in appliqué or for creating designs in a block. They can also be used to trace lines onto a quilt top, aiding in construction.

Unfinished Size

Unfinished Size

The unfinished size, as the name suggests, is the measurement of a block before the raw edges are sewn into seams, consequently taking into consideration the seam allowances.

Wadding

Wadding

A quilt is divided into three layers the wadding is the middle layer, used to provide warmth and padding. This layer is often constructed from cotton, polyester, silk, wool or a combination of these materials.

Quilting Acronyms

Not only do quilters use a lot of technical terminology, but they also abbreviate longer phrases when discussing in quilting forums. If you're looking to get involved with other quilters from across the globe, here's a handy compilation of the most common quilting acronyms you may encounter:

Acronym Meaning
F8 Fat Eighth
FQ Fat Quarter
HST Half Square Triangle
HQ Hand Quilting
LAQ Long Arm Quilter
LOF Length of Fabric
MAQ Mid-Arm Quilter
RST Right Sides Together
UFO Unfinished Object
WIP Work in Progress
WOF Width of Fabric
WST Wrong Sides Together

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