"We can't, however,
discover ourselves by introspection. We have to jump in before we learn to
swim." --Charles Handy
of Quilting Terms
useful definitions to enhance your
terms to view in Anatomy of a
A design made by cutting shapes from one or more fabrics and sewing them on top
of another piece of fabric.
A baby size quilt or wallhanging is
typically 38” x 38”.
The lighter or receding color fabrics in patchwork, or the base fabric onto
which appliqué shapes are sewn.
A large piece of fabric that makes up the back of the quilt.
The ‘fluffy’ middle layer of a quilt, giving it warmth and thickness. It also
enhances the quilting by puffing up slightly around the lines of stitching,
adding an important element to the overall quilt design.
A strip of fabric sewn over the edges of the quilt layers to finish the raw
edges, add strength, and/or decorate the outer edge.
One unit of patchwork design, usually square, that is repeated (the unit, not
necessarily the pattern on the block) to build an overall pattern in a quilt
top. Can be either pieced or appliquéd.
Outermost edge of a quilt top. Borders are often used to ‘frame’ the inner,
pieced quilt top. Quilts can also have multiple borders. Much like ‘mats’ on a
framed piece of art, interior borders delineate concentric patterns radiating
out from the center of a quilt.
Quilts made from a single shape (square,
triangle, etc.) utilizing many small pieces of fabric, where no two patches are
from the same fabric.
A square unit at the corner of borders on a quilt top. Used in place of Mitered
A method of stitching irregular and random pieces of fabric to form a quilt
block. Many have decorative stitching added to the seam lines.
A crib size mattress is 27"x52".
stitching, lace, buttons, etc. on a quilt; Crazy Quilts are often lavishly
embellished. Adding embellishments will often reduce the washability of a
Decorative top stitching.
A technique whereby fabrics are combined to 'capture' colorful items- such as
thread, ribbons, yarns, lace, silk flowers, beads, glitter and more -
under a layer of sheer fabric to create unique designs. These original
fabrics can then be used in larger quilting projects to add dimension and
Feedsack Fabrics (also called Floursacks)
Dating back as far
as the early 1800’s, these sturdy bags were used to carry flour, sugar, meal,
grain, salt and feed home from grain mills.
Thrifty wives quickly discovered that the cotton bags
were a great source of fabric for dish cloths, diapers, nightgowns and other
household uses. Manufacturers took advantage of this trend and began offering
sacks in prints and solid colors. At their peak in the 1930’s-40’s, Post WWII
technological innovations greatly reduced availability of feedsacks, and their
popularity waned. Today, there remains an active trade in these ‘antique,
collectible fabrics’ among specialty quilt and fabric collectors and dealers.
Consider yourself extremely lucky if you’ve got a
stash of these special fabrics, or even better, a quilt made from these lovely
pieces of the past.
A full (double) size mattress is 54"x75".
Fabric that has been dyed by hand to create unique colorations, often looking
more ‘natural’ or subtle than commercial fabrics.
A fabric tube sewn on the top back of a quilt in order to hang the
quilt from a dowel for display. Usually 3-4" wide and attached during the
binding process. (also called a Sleeve)
A king size mattress is 76"x 80".
A piece of fabric affixed to the back of a quilt to document the quilt name,
recipient, quilt maker, date completed, special messages for the recipient, care
instructions and/or other pertinent information.
A youth size mattress is 36”x 66”. (This size is also often called a Throw Quilt)
Term for the thickness and resilience of quilt
batting is thinner and shows
off quilting stitches to better advantage. Usually made of cotton, this
batting gives a quilt a softer, more traditional feel, which will continue to
grow softer and more comfortable with passing years.
High loft batting is usually made of
polyester. It is thicker and fluffier than cotton and is used more often for tied
The method of
the three layers of a quilt (decorative quilt top, batting and backing) using a sewing
machine. Provides the advantages of strength, durability and speed over
traditional hand-quilting. Decorative and intricate patterns can be utilized to
full advantage in machine quilting.
A central block, motif or patterned area on a
quilt top, surrounded by a border or borders radiating outward in concentric
patterns. The center is often a large square or on-point.
A quilt pieced from a loved one's clothing or other special fabrics. Can be
made from outgrown baby clothes, T-shirts, uniforms, jeans, ties, curtains,
direct printed photos or documents, or almost anything holding special meaning
for the user.
Also, quilts made to commemorate an occasion such as a
retirement, new baby, or birthday. Individual quilt blocks can
be made of
'signable' signature blocks,
printed photos, or theme related blocks (i.e. schoolhouses for graduation).
A corner (usually of a border) joined at a 45 degree angle to form a 90 degree
corner, like a picture frame.
A design element, image or drawing
used on a quilt block or for an appliqué. An example is a quilt using a "heart
motif" or other themed image.
A term used to define the orientation of a
square quilt block when the square is “standing up” on one of its points,
instead of resting on a side.
The ‘extra’ fabric/quilt that extends over the edge of a standard sized
mattress. Includes allowances for ‘drop’ to the floor and ‘pillowtuck’, if
desired. Dimensions are often referenced by the terms ‘comforter’, ‘coverlet’ and
(see Sizes of
Quilts for more information.)
This generally refers to the process of sewing together fabric pieces to make the
colorful quilt top.
The practice of washing fabric before cutting and sewing into a quilt top.
Pre-washing is important to prevent fabric colors from bleeding and for
A queen size mattress is 60"x 80".
Once a quilt top is pieced, it is layered with a middle layer of
batting and a backing layer. The three layers are secured together with
patterned lines of stitching, called quilting, to add strength and decoration to
The three layers can also be secured by tying, or ‘tufting’, in which a series
of knotted ties are spaced about 3-5" apart all over the quilt.
(see also Tied Quilt)
Glossary of Quilting Terms, continued...