(The Language of Quilting)

For Example: Just click on the letter “T” below to link you to the “T” area of the quiltopaedia to find out what ‘template’ means and then look for ‘template’ under the “T”s.


Quiltopedia is a free online dictionary for words, phrases and abbreviations that are related to the fine art of quilting.
Quiltopaedia attempts to provide “quilting” definitions in simple, easy to understand language, avoiding complicated wording when possible so that the web site page is easily understood and accessible to users with a wide range of quilting knowledge and skill.
A full-time experienced editor gathers information from her own personal experience and library, leading trade publications, accredited arts institutions, professional online needle arts publications, related white papers and other professionals working in the field. More extensive information than was included in the definition may be included by link to our archives or another source where a greater depth of instruction may be warranted. Multiple sources will be used to generate a definition in order to obtain as accurate a definition or explanation of a terminology as is possible.
The definitions on Quiltopedia may evolve and change being updated to reflect changing trends in the art. New quilting terms are added on a daily basis, as a result of our own research or from the suggestion of a reader. Quilting abbreviations and terms can vary from author to author and from country to country. The terminology following is only an aid to quilters. Interpretation is the responsibility of the reader.


Album Quilts: This type if quilt is made up of a collection of different blocks, usually significant to the quilt artist or the recipient. Often made as a gift of particular significance – wedding, friendship, memory.

Amish Quilts: An Amish quilt is a style of quilt originating with the Pennsylvania Amish. Often they were made with the fabric remnants of shirts and dresses. Amish quilts have very distinctive orderly, simplistic, colours, designs, and patterns. They are artistic but very functional.

Anchor fabric: This is a small piece of fabric used when chain piecing so the sewing machine moves easily from piece to piece easily with out jamming the machine or ending after each piece.

Applique: A quilting process of using cut out fabric pieces sewn to a larger piece of fabric, a square, or a background. Appliqued pieces can be attached by different methods including but not limited to slip stitching, zig-zag stitched, and paper pieced method.

Applique-borders: Applique on a border is usually done to complement the colors and the shapes in the quilt.

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Backing: The back or bottom layer of a quilt ‘sandwich’ consisting of three layers.

Background fabric: The fabric on which you applique, or the pieced block fabric which shows as a background. The surface area of fabric on which a pictoral scene sits.

Backstitch: A method of ending a thread; done by inserting the needle behind the thread, going down into the fabric and coming up in front of the needle.

Bargello quilting: A type of piecing where strips of squares are off set to produce a wave resembling bargello.

Basting: Using a contrasting thread to temporarily secure your work of three layers with running stitches before quilting. OR baste with safety pins.

Batting: The filler in a quilt which provides warmth and thickness, between the backing and the top (the middle layer). Usually cotton or polyester batting is used today.The U.K. calls it wadding.

Bearding: This occurs when the batting fibres of cheap polyseter or unbonded cotton work up through the top or down through the back.

Beeswax: Beeswax is used to coat thread before quilting to give it strength and to help eliminate knotting. Run thread through the beeswax.

Betweens: Short, fine needles used for quilting in sizes 8 to 12. The larger the number the shorter and finer the needle.

Bias: Bias runs diagonally accross the grain of the fabric weave providing stretch and give.

Bias press bar:A tube can be pressed with a heat resistant bias press bar which eliminates the need to press seam allowances. The come in many widths and are made of aluminum and some plastics.

Bindings: The most common edge finish on a quilt. A strip of fabric applied to the edge of a quilt to finish, encase, protect and embellish the quilt. Can also mean self binding by bringing the backing around to the front and sewing under.

Block: A unit of patchwork. A complete pattern in a quilt which is made up of several. Blocks can be the same or different.

Block-to-block: The joining of quilted blocks, horizontally or vertically in rows.

Borders: Strips of fabric added between the squares or around the outside in varying widths.

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Calico: A brightly printed cloth, heavier than muslin, usually having a small, repeated, floral design.

Celtic Applique: A technique of applique using bias strips to create celtic designs.

Centennial Quilt: Commemorating one hundred years celebration quilt.

Chain Sewing: A method of sewing piece after piece without cutting the thread after each and moving to the next.

Cheater’s cloth: A pre-printed fabric which appears to be a pieced or appliqued quilt top.

Crazy patch: A block that is made of irregular scrap pieces sewn to a foundation and embellished.

Crazy quilt: A quilt that is made of irregular scrap pieces or of blocks of irregular scrap pieces. These are often embellished.

Cross Hatch: Diagonal and right angled parallel lines marked on a quilt to facilitate hand quilting.

Cross seamlines: The intersection where four pieces meet and line up perfectly with one another.

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Dangling thread: A loose end of thread left dangling, unknotted to rethread and continue later.

Dimensional applique: Dimensional applique stands out from the background, accomplished by sewing two pieces of pattern fabric together and turning them by making a slit in one side after stitching and turning.
Further stuff slightly or not and applique in place on a quilt.

Directional print: Fabric which has a definite direction of pattern or grain.

Dog ears: The triangular pieces of fabric which occur at the points when diagonals are sewn.


Ease: To seam two fabric pieces of slightly different sizes by gathering one piece or stretching the other to make them both the same length.

Echo Quilting: These are quilting lines that repeat themselves around a particular shape radiating from the shape.

Edging: Strips of fabric used around the outside edge of a quilt to enclose the raw edges.

Embroidery floss: Strands used to embellish crazy quilting, squares or applique.

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Fat quarter: One quarter of a square yard or meter.

Foundation piecing: Assembling a block by using a piece of muslin or cotton as a permanent foundation or tear away interfacing which allows for ease in quilting by reducing the bulk.

Freezer Paper Applique: The freezer paper is used as a template. Cut the shape of the motif adding a seam allowance of 3/8 inch for the freezer paper technique.

Friendship Quilt: These are quilts that are made to be given to friends and relatives similar to a signature quilt often containing dates, signatures, verses and messages. They were often made with fabric which was shared and exchanged.

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Grainline: The direction of fibres in a woven fabric. Parallel to the selvage lengthwise grain. Right angle to the selvage crosswise grain. 45 degree angle to the selvage is bias.

Greige or griege: A non-bleached or dyed woven textile.

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Hawaiian Applique: A needleturn technique in applique where a large intricately cut design is appliqued onto a background fabric.

Hoops: Round , oval, or square frames used to hold the squares or quilt to facilitate quilting by hand or by machine.

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Iron: A metal appliance used to press seams and remove wrinkles.

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Labels: Tradition in quilting requires a label to be a part of a quilt to pass on it’s history. For example it could include why the quilt was made, for whom, by who and when.

Lap Quilting: A process of hand quilting the squares before assembling the finished quilt.

Lattice Strips Short strips between the blocks.

Loft: Refers to the space between the top and the lining. The higher the loft, the thicker, the fluffier and the warmer compared with low loft.

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Machine applique: Simply stitch by machine around the motif with a small stitch length by straight stitch or by satin stitch (a very close zigzag stitch).

Marking: The lines made or traced on a quilt top by pencil, fabric marker, tailor’s chalk, tailor’s wax or slivers of soap, to facilitate quilting.

Masking tape: Applied to fabric to use as a guide to quilting.

Medallion Quilt: A medallion quilt had a central design or motif. Everything else works out from the centre compimenting it in colour, theme and accents.

Memory Quilt: Memory quilts are generally made from a loved one’s clothing. They can also commemorate by use of transferred photograghs.

Millenium quilts: Quilts made to commemorate the year 2000.

Mitering: To create a diagonal seam at a corner to make a right angle.

Muslin: A plain weave, cotton, bleached or unbleached fabric used as a backing, background or foundation.


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Needle-Turn Applique: As you are hand stitching the shape to the background, turn the seam allowance under with the needle.

Novelty print: A print such as a holiday, cartoon character or special event theme.

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Off hand: The hand that works under the quilt.

One patch: A quilt which uses one ‘shape’ patch for the entire pieced quilt (e.g. square, rectangle, triangle etc).

Outline quilting: To quilt following the outline of your seams, shapes or appliques.

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Paper piecing: To use paper templates of your shapes to cut and piece acurately.

Paper foundation piecing: A method of piecing where fabric is sewn to a paper for accuracy, particularly useful for miniature quilting.

Patchwork: A collection of patches, strips, shapes or blocks of material sewn together to form a quilt top.

Piecing: The action of sewing pieces together to make a whole.

Pins: Large, colored, round-head pins or the new quilters safety pins work well to hold layers together for quilting.

Prairie Points: The edges of a quilt can be decorated with squares of fabric folded into triangles or ‘prairie points’. The prairie points can then be overlapped, spaced side by side, or spaced further apart.

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Quilt: A cover comprising a top, a filler and a back secured by stitches or tying.

Quilting: The act of stitching or the stitches that hold the three layers together -the top, filler and back-.

Quilt Lining: The back of the quilt.

Quilt Top: The usually decorative uppermost layer of a quilt.

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Raw edge applique: A motif or pattern is appliqued onto a background without turning back the edges. It is usually stitched around twice 1/16th to 1/4 inch in from the edge. Freehand stitching or zigzag can follow to embellish with a special thread type or colour.

Reverse Applique: In reverse applique two layers of fabric are used and the top layer is cut away showing the fabric underneath. The raw edges are turned back and sewn.

Rotary cutter: A modern cutting appliance which has a razor sharp wheel. Cutting is done on a special mat designed for the rotary cutter.

Row to row: The process of sewing together rows of blocks to form a quilt.

Ruler: A useful ruler is a clear plastic ruler with 1/4 inch marking.

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Sampler: Representing a collection of block patterns displaying varying skills and technique examples.

Sashing: Stips of fabric that are sewn between the blocks to separate them.

Satin stitch: A stitch created by zigzag where the stitch length has been shorted so the stitches lie beside one another and the width as you desire.

Scissors: Quilting scissors: Good quality dressmakers scissors for cutting fabric, paper scissors for cutting templates, applique scissors and embroidery scissors.

Selvages: The finished long edge of fabric.

Seminole quilting: This is the first quilting procedure that I learned at a home economic class. It is a method of joining strips of fabric together into a strip set. The strip set is cut into separate pieces. These are offset, staggered and sewn to a band. It originated with the seminole indians in the everglades.

Sesqui-centennial: One hundred and fiftieth celebration quilt.

Setting or set: The arrangement of the blocks and borders forming the quilt.

Sharps:Small thin needles of medium length with small rounded eyes used for joining pieces and applique.

Signature Quilt: A quilt in which the blocks are signed or messages are written with a pigma pen or embroidered by friends and/or family of the recipient.

Stencil: The process of transfering a design to the quilt top to provide lines or shapes to quilt over.

String Quilts: Long strips of fabric, lace, ties, ribbon etc. are attached together to form blocks or sections.

Stripping: The long strips of fabric used to the ‘set together’ the top of the quilt.

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Tailor’s thimble: This is a thimble with an open end.

Template: A pattern made of plastics, sandpaper or cardboard to be used as a guide or a pattern to cut out consistent fabric shapes for each different shape in a quilt block. The template is cut the finished size of the motif. Seam allowances are added when the shape is cut from the fabric.

Thimble: A protective finger cover made of plastic, metal or leather used to protect the fingers when sewing or pushing the needle through the layers.

Thread: Good quality cotton or polyester wrapped quilting thread is used.

Tooth-pick turn applique: Bring the thread up exactly in the turnline of the piece. Turn under 1/4 inch ahead with the toothpick and finger press as you go.

Trapunto: A raised effect is obtained in quilting by filling the lines or shapes with fill from the wrong side.

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