Quilting Terms

Lifting the veil of common quilting terms.

Wow, you said what?  What does that mean? 

Do you ever feel confused when hearing words that are used to describe quilting?

Don’t worry.  We’ve simplified the quilting terms here.  Came across one that is not listed? Think that one should be added? Contact me.  I’ll add it!

To simplify the 3 most important quilting terms, think of an Oreo cookie.

You have the Top.  This is your pieced together design.

There is the filling.  Quilters use the term Batting.  It is the fluff in the center that makes everything come together.  It is most commonly made out of cotton, polyester, bamboo, or combination.

Then there is the bottom.  We refer to it as the Backing.  It’s usually made out of broadcloth but it can be minimally pieced out of any fabric.

The next important quilting terms are:

Quilting is the act of stitching through all three layers.

Hand-quilting is quilting without a machine.

Machine quilting is using a sewing/quilting machine.

The rest of the quilting terms are in alphabetical order.

Applique is a technique of sewing layers of fabric over background fabric.  This is usually done with clear plastic thread.

Background is the fabric that lies behind appliqued pieces.

Basting is a way of holding your layers (think Oreo Cookie) together while you quilt.  This can be done with big safety pins called basting pins, long stitches of thread, or a basting gun. 

Basting gun is my favorite way of basting.  A basting gun has a small needle and plastic fasteners that hold the quilt together.  Imagine how department stores put tags on clothing.

Bearding is when the batting of your quilt starts to seep through your fabric.  This usually happens when the quilt is very old, the fabric was loosely woven, or the batting was very low-grade.

Binding is finishing off the edges of your quilt.  This can be done with binding fabric or lapping over the backing to the front edges and stitching them together.

Binding fabric/Bias tape is fabric that has been folded several times.  It is stitched around the edges of a quilt or sewing project.

Bury the knot is when you start your stitching by having the knot of your thread placed between fabric layers of a quilt.

Tired of the quilting terms yet?

Chain piecing is a way of piecing the top together by using a sewing machine.  This is a very quick way of getting your top made.

Fabric pencil is a pencil that can be light or dark colored and is used to mark fabric.  Which color you choose will depend on how light or dark your fabric is.  If it’s dark, choose a light color.

Fat Quarter is fabric that has been precut approximately 18” x 22”.  This quilting term you will hear a lot in a fabric store.

Feed dogs describes the name of the part on the sewing machine that grabs the fabric from underneath the needle and foot.

Free motion quilting is when the feed dogs are lowered and you can glide your materials under the needle while machine quilting.

Interfacing is sticky stuff that is usually ironed on to fabric to hole the fabric in place while appliqueing.

In-the-ditch is when you stitch your quilt in the seam of your top.

These quilting terms are starting to make me long-winded. J

Keepsake Quilting is when you make a quilt to contain memories.  This can be done as a tee shirt quilt, photo album quilt, or even by using a motif.  Anything that means something to you or others would be considered a keepsake quilt.


Lap quilting is quilting as you go.  This form of quilting is done in sections, typically squares. Fabric, batting, fabric.  Then the finished sections are sewn together.  Here is an example of a square that is ready for lap quilting.





Log cabin quilting is piecing done around a center square.  This makes the square big, bigger, biggest.  The whole quilt could be one huge square using this technique.

The quilt on the left is a perfect example of a log cabin quilt.


Long arm quilting is using a quilting machine that can make the overall quilt using minimal human effort.

Motif quilting is when your quilting has a theme.  A good example would be quilting that look like a leaves. As you can see here.


Piecing is assembling the pieces you cut for your top and sewing them together.

Quilting hoop is a hoop that holds the layers of the quilt together in a firm manner.  This allows you to hand quilt in smooth way.  It can be used for machine quilting too.

Quilting frames act the same was as a hoop, but on a larger scale.  They are more likely to be used during machine quilting.

Quilting ruler is what you guide your rotary cutter against.  I prefer the clear acrylic square.  I like to see what I’m cutting.

Rotary cutter is a circular blade that moves like a wheel.  This cuts fabric better than most scissors. It is used with a mat.

Self-healing mat is what comes between a rotary cutter and your table. 

Plastic Templates are used for cutting our pieces in special shapes.  They can make fun designs like hearts, crescents, etc.

Y-seam is an intersection where 3 seams meet.

Whip Down is when one hand stitches the binding in place.

I hope that explains quilting terms well for you.

If you have any quilting terms that you would like explained, feel free to contact us.

Happy quilting,

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