Quilting Terms & Acronyms
Why Bother to Compile This List?
Just like any other craft or profession, quilters have their own language, which you should learn to succeed. I have trolled the internet and books to figure out what some of these quilting terms and bizarre acronyms are and decided to share them with you as I find them. This list will grow as I find new ones or get input on better ways to define them. I will also endeavor to assist in how to apply these terms! I guess years of spelling in elementary and high school may have taught me something after all!
Terms will be listed alphabetically and defined. Acronyms will be listed after the terms and separately. If you see terms you would like to add, please comment!
1930’s Reproductions, are also known as feedsack fabrics. They are generally pastel and bright fabrics with small prints on them.
4P = Four Patch
9P = Nine Patch
Acrylic Rulers are thick, clear plastic rulers with marks for measuring. They are made in a variety of sizes and shapes to assist with different types of quilt pieces.
Acrylic Templates are thick, clear plastic pieces made for tracing while quilting and/or cutting applique pieces. Ensure when using the template for quilting that it is the right height for your machine. Typically, longarm templates are thicker to ensure they don’t slide under the hopping foot during use. Advanced is a term for quilting skill level. Advanced quilters are confident in completing challenging quilt techniques such as Y-seams, curved piecing, needle turn applique, and complex quilting designs. Advanced level quilters are generally capable of resizing quilt patterns or designing their own. Album Quilt, also known as signature or memory quilts, are made of blocks, which include signatures, poems, phrases, or other writing. These quilts are typically given for special occasions, such as weddings, anniversaries, or retirements. Occasionally, album quilts will include pictures. All Over Design, also known as edge-to-edge quilting, is a quilted design the covers the entire quilt. The design starts at one edge of the quilt and extends to the opposite edge of the quilt, regardless of the blocks. This is generally accomplished with a pantograph or programmable quilt machine. However, it can also be accomplished on a domestic machine or by hand with stencils or a consistent meandering design.
Alternate Block, also called setting blocks, are complimentary blocks used between the main quilt blocks. These blocks may be solid, applique, or pieced.
Amish Quilts are hand quilted by a small group of Amish and Mennonite women. Each woman is responsible for a specific task for the quilt – machine piecing, quilting, binding, etc. Amish typically use simple fabrics, solids and calicos. Black and white backgrounds are hallmarks of Amish Quilts. They are made to be serviceable.
Applique is the process of sewing one fabric layer on top of another to create a design. There are three primary applique techniques: needle turn, machine, and fusible.
Basic Sewing Supplies may vary depending upon the need and the supplier. My list of basic sewing supplies includes spools of common colors (white, black, tan, grey, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet), bobbins, needles (a few different sizes), a pair of sharp scissors, a tape measure, pins, seam ripper, a few basic buttons, needle threader, and thimble. A few special additions for quilters are a rotary cutter, mat, 2 1/2″ x 12 1/2″ ruler, and a few clips.
Basting is a method of holding all three layers of the quilt (top, batting and backing) together until it is quilted. It can be accomplished with pins, glue, fusible batting or interfacing, spray adhesive or long stitches.
Batting is the material in between the quilt top and the quilt backing. Generally, batting are bonded fibers specifically designed for quilting and are composed of polyester, cotton, wool, bamboo, silk, or a combination of these fibers. Other materials can also be used for batting such as wool blankets, flannel and fleece.
Bearding is when the batting is pulled through the quilt top or backing during quilting. This is generally undesirable. To minimize this, look for quality products and match the batting tone (light or dark) to the quilt top.
Beginner is a quilter who is learning the basics of quilting including straight piecing of rectangular and square blocks, sashing, and borders. They can do chain and strip piecing, are learning the quarter-inch seams binding. Betweens are short needles designed for quilting through several layers of fabric.
Bias is when fabric is cut at a 45-degree angle from the warp and weft. Bias cut fabric has the most flexibility or the least stability from stretching. This cut is preferred when making binding for curved edges or tape for curved applique. Another example is when quilters make triangles, the longest edge is a bias cut. That is why many quilters prefer to make half square triangles two at a time, which minimizes the stretch on the bias.
Binding is the material sewn around the edge of the quilt to cover the raw edges. This may be plain or decorative. Binding may also be accomplished by folding the backing material to the top of the quilt and securing it with stitching.
Blanket Stitch is a stitch used to secure the edge of fabrics since it loops into the main fabric from the edges.
Block is a group of fabrics sewn together in a specific design. Blocks are generally square or rectangular, but they can be any shape. Blocks are sewn together to make the quilt top.
Block of the Month (BOM) is a program where quilters subscribe to purchase the pattern and materials to complete one block of a specific quilt per month. Programs generally last from 5 – 12 months.
BOM = Block of the month
Border is the fabric sewn to the edges of a quilt center. Borders may be plain, pieced, and/or appliqued. Usually, they have straight edges, but they can all have decorative shapes, such as scallops.
Border to Border design is a consistent stitching pattern extends across the the quilt center, but changes at the border.
BSS = Basic Sewing Supplies
Buttonhole Stitch – see blanket stitch.
Chain Piecing is sewing pieces together one after the other without stopping or cutting the thread between pieces.
Charm Packs are bundles of 5-inch squares from a fabric collection or color palette. Packs typically include 40 squares.
Civil War Reproductions are fabrics similar to those milled during the US Civil War Era. These fabrics tend to have muted tones and include reds, golds, blues, olives, creams, and browns. Prints can be small or medium sized and are repetitive. Shirting and stripe designs were also common.
Clamshell is a specific curved piece of a quilt. These can be hand or machine pieced.
Confident Beginner is a quilter who is comfortable with the basics of quilting and is ready to do triangular piecing, some foundation piecing and applique work.
Coordinates are a group of items designed to go with each other such as a table runner and placemats. Cornerstone is the square between sashing pieces.
Crazy Quilts were popular during the Victorian Era and have regained popularity. The quilts are made from scraps of fabric sewn to a piece of muslin and heavily embellished with embroidery, beads, buttons, lace, and other notions. The muslin acts as the batting. When the top is complete, a backing is added then the quilt is bound.
Curved Piecing is when pieces are cut in an arc for a quilt. They can be concave (curve or sink in) or convex (curve or bow out). Curved Piecing is found in drunkards path, suns, compasses, clamshells, etc. It is considered an intermediate or advanced skill.
Dog Ears are pieces of the seam allowance that protrude or stick out. They happen often when piecing with triangles or diamonds. Dog ears are usually trimmed during piecing to minimize bulk at the seams.
Drunkards Path is a square block, which includes a simple set of curves.
DSM – Domestic Sewing Machine
Echo is a line of quilting that follows the edge of a motif, seam or other line of quilting similar to a ripple in water. Echoes are quilted at regular intervals to highlight a quilt element.
English Paper Piecing (EPP) is a method of piecing. Pieces of paper or card stock are cut to the size of the finished piece. Fabric is cut around the piece leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance around each side. Then, the seam allowance is pressed tightly to the back side of the paper and fixed with a running stitch through the seam allowance or glued. Pressed pieces are hand sewn together at the edges using a ladder or whip stitch. Once a section of the quilt top is sewn together, the paper is removed.
Fat Eighth is a piece of fabric cut to 9-inch x 21-inch.
Fat Quarter is a piece of fabric cut to 18-inch x 21-inch.
Featherweight is not a boxing classification, but a small, portable Singer sewing machine manufactured from 1933-1964. They are still popular today.
Feather is a quilting design which features a spine, which supports multiple teardrops on each side. Feathers are flourishes added to quilts to provide a decorative design. They can be straight, curved or formed in a wreath. Feed dogs are located on the base of a domestic sewing machine, directly under the feet. The feed dogs are designed to pull the fabric through the machine during sewing. Feed dogs are usually lowered during free motion quilting. Feed sacks were cloth bags used to hold dry goods, particularly during the Depression Era. Many thrifty people at the time reused the sacks for quilts. Some of these feed sacks had beautiful designs, which made them artistic as well as serviceable. Felting is the process of washing or combing wool fabric so that is mats and becomes felt, which can be used for quilting. Finished Size is the size of the block after the adjacent pieces are sewn to it. The finished size is generally 1/2-inch smaller than the unfinished block, which allows for 1/4-inch on each side for the seam allowance.
Flimsy is a quilt top ready to be quilted.
Flying Geese is a basic quilt block, which two small right triangles, and a large isoscles triangle is pieced within a rectangle. Typically, the width of the block is twice the height of the block. The large triangle is referred to as the goose, while the small triangles are referred to as the sky.
FMG = Free Motion Quilting
FOB = Fear of Binding. Some people are intimidated by binding quilts. FOQ = Fear of Quilting. This fear may come from the lack of rules for quilting. That leaves some quilters with anxiety about how to quilt the top they have pieced.
Foundation Piecing (FP) is a method of piecing. The design is printed onto a piece of paper (foundation) and pieces of fabric are sewn to the foundation in a specific order. The lines on the foundation are used as sewing lines for the each piece of fabric to be added. Foundation piecing enables quilters to make very precise blocks without worrying as much about the size of fabric pieces or the bias. It is often used when blocks have irregularly shaped pieces or require sharp points. It is also called paper piecing, not to be confused with English Paper Piecing.
Four Patch (4P) is a square block generally consisting of four squares sewn together.
Fusible applique is a modern method for adding fabric to a quilt. An adhesive layer or fusible is added to the back of a piece of fabric prior to cutting it to shape. The cut piece is placed on the fabric. Then, the adhesive is generally “activated” by heating it with a hot dry iron. This fuses the shape to the fabric below it. Depending upon the type of fusible used, the piece may be further secured with decorative stitching. Some fusibles are not made to be sewn.
Fussy cutting is when fabric is cut to capture a design or motif in the center of the piece. Fussy cutting is often used in English Paper Piecing. This method of cutting generally requires more fabric to be used for a project in order to capture the motifs desired.
Grandmothers Flower Garden is a quilt pattern which uses hexagons. Typically, six hexagons of one fabric will be sewn around another hexagon of a different fabric.
Hand is a term that applies to the feeling of a fabric when touched. A nice hand means it feels good to the touch.
Half Square Triangle (HST) is a square block consisting of two triangles. HST may also be called triangle squares. These can be made in multiple ways. There three typical methods. 1) Sew two triangles together, which can be difficult as the long side of the triangle (hypotenuse) is a bias edge. 2) Two or more HST at a time, in which a diagonal line is drawn from corner to corner of a square. Two squares are sewn together on both sides of the drawn line. Then, the HST are cut apart on the drawn line. 3) Similar to the last method, a diagonal line is drawn on one square. Two squares are sewn together on the drawn line. Excess fabric is trimmed 1/4-inch from the seam.
Hand Applique, or Needle-turn Applique, is the process of adding fabric elements to the top of a quilt. Pieces are cut. Then, the fabric is folded and pressed or needle turned to create a seam allowance and a finished edge. The finished edge is sewn by hand (between needle) to the quilt top. This technique enables the quilter to embellish the quilt with more intricate fabric designs.
Hand Quilt is the process of using a needle to quilt by hand. Hand quilting may refer to sewing blocks, quilting the sandwich, or binding the quilt. The quilt sandwich is often placed in a hoop or on a frame to hold the layers together. Then, a betweens needle is used to sew the layers together with quilting thread, a heavier gage of cotton thread. Stitches are small and closely placed together.
Hourglass is a Quarter Square Triangle consisting of two fabrics.
HST = Half Square Triangle
Intermediate quilter is one who is capable of more complicated quilt techniques such as needle-turn applique, curved piecing, and some free motion quilting.
Jelly roll is a precut fabric. The fabric is 2 1/2-inches wide x width of fabric strip. Jelly rolls typically include 40 strips of a fabric collection.
LAQ = Long Arm Quilting
Layer Cake is a precut fabric consisting of 10-inch squares. Layer cakes typically include about 40 squares of a fabric collection. Loft is the thickness of a batting, which ranges from 1/16-inch to 1/2-inch. Low loft is 1/4-inch or less. High loft is 1/2-inch or more. Medium loft is inbetween low and high loft.
LQS = Local Quilt Shop
Mystery Quilt is a form of quilt along, where the designer gives you clues during each step of the quilt along in order to solve a riddle or mystery. The riddle or mystery may be the name of the quilt, name of block, or other question the designer is asking.
Needle-turn Applique – see hand applique.
Nine Patch (9P) is a square block generally consisting of four squares sewn together.
Piecing is the process of sewing pieces of fabric together to make a quilt top. There are a variety of techniques within piecing: foundation piecing, English paper piecing, Strip piecing, chain piecing, curved piecing, etc.
Precuts are bundles of assorted fabric from a specific fabric collection or color palette, which are cut to the same size. Precuts come in a variety of sizes fat quarters (FQ), fat eighths (FE), strips or jelly rolls (2 1/2-inch x WOF), charms (5-inch squares), layer cakes (10-inch squares), etc.
QST = Quarter Square Triangle
Quarter Square Triangle (QST) is a relative of the half square triangle (HST) and has three variations: hourglass, quarter square triangle and split quarter square triangle (SQST). QST are made in a manner similar to the HST and usually consists of four small triangles sewn together to make a square. The hourglass has four pieces in two fabrics. The QST has four pieces in three or four fabrics. The split QST is a hybrid between HST and QST, where the square consists of two small triangles (QST) and one large triangle (HST).
Quilt is a sandwich of fabric, which typically consists of top, batting or filling, and backing that are stitched or tied together. Generally, a quilt has a binding around the edges to enclose the edges of the fabric sandwich. However, some quilts are made as an “envelope” so a binding is not needed.
Quilt Along is when a designer provides steps to make the quilt at certain intervals (weekly, every other week, monthly, etc.) This may be used to introduce or test a new pattern or just increase interest in the designer. These may offered free or for a fee. If it is offered for free, the pattern will often disappear when the quilt along is complete and be packaged for sale.
Quilting is the process of stitching the layers of a quilt sandwich together. There are three primary quilting methods: hand quilting, machine quilting and longarm quilting.
Registration Marks are the printed characters in the selvedge of the fabric. Typically, registration marks include the fabric manufacturer, fabric collection, or fabric identification code. It also has a series of dots that represent each of the dyes used in the fabric. When looking for coordinating fabrics for a quilt, the registration marks are very useful.
Right Side of the fabric is the printed side of the fabric. For solids and batiks, this may be difficult to determine.
RST = Right Sides Together
Sashing are the fabric strips sewn between blocks. Like borders, sashing may be plain, pieced or appliqued.
Scrim is a synthetic binder used in some batting to help maintain the shape. This binder is generally on one side of the batting, which will feel rough or have nubs. The rough side should always be placed away from the quilt top. If you are using two layers of batting, the scrim can be sandwiched in the middle so that the smooth sides are facing the top and the backing. This is advised because, when heated, the scrim can cause puckering or rippling on the fabric side it touches.
Seam is where to fabrics are sewn together during piecing.
Seam Allowance is the distance from the stitching to the raw edge of the fabric. For quilting, this is generally 1/4-inch.
Selvedge or selvage is the tightly woven edges of the fabric, which keeps the fabric from unraveling. It is created by the weft looping around to create the next row of threads in the fabric. With the exception of batiks, this is where registration marks are printed.
Setting Triangles are half square triangles sewn to each side of a block in order to set it on point.
SID = Stitch in the ditch
Sizing is a protective coating usually added during the fabric weaving process. It can also be added by quilters while piecing to minimize warping during sewing. It should be washed out before using fusible adhesive as it reduces the sticking capability of the adhesive.
Split Quarter Square Triangle (SQST) is a hybrid square block of a Quarter Square Triangle (QST) and a Half Square Triangle (HST), consisting of one large triangle and two smaller triangles.
SQST = Split Quarter Square Triangle
Stitch in the Ditch is when you stitch along the seam line. Since most quilters press seams to one side, the stitching is generally on the low side or ditch (side without the seam allowance). It isn’t always possible to stay on the low side, but the term still applies.
Strip piecing is when the long sides of strips are sewn together into strip set. The strip set is then cut into smaller pieces, typically perpendicular to the seams. This technique is frequently used to create nine patches, where three strip sets of three fabrics each are made, cut into smaller pieces, and sewn together into a square block with nine pieces.
Subcut, sub-cut or sub cut is a term frequently used in cutting instruction. It means to take the pieces cut in the previous step/sentence/phrase and cut them into smaller pieces. Example, cut one 2 1/2″ square. Subcut once on the diagonal to form two triangles.
TBQ = To be Quilted = Finished quilt top waiting to be quilted
TGIF means thank God it’s finished. This generally applies to a quilt that took a great deal of time, skill, patience, and/or planning to complete. It also may apply to a quilt that was made under a tight deadline. Tied quilt is a quilt in which the sandwich (backing, batting and top) are held together with thread of yard that is knotted a set intervals rather than quilted.
TOT means a tone on tone fabric. In other words, a fabric with printing of the same coloring on it.
Traditional Piecing is cutting pieces and sewing them together without the aid of foundations or papers.
UFO = Unfinished Object. Any project started but not completed yet.
Unfinished Size is the size of a block before adjacent pieces have been sewn to it. Generally, the unfinished size is 1/2-inch larger than the finished size, which allows for 1/4-inch seam allowance on all sides.
Unit is a piece of a block which are sewn together in an intermediate step in order to finish the block.
Warp are the threads that run the length of the fabric and are strung onto the loom. The weft is woven through the warp to create the fabric. When cutting fabric for quilting, the fabric stretches or distorts the least when cut along the warp and weft.
Weft are the treads that run the width of the fabric and created the selvedge at the edges when they turn for the next row. When cutting fabric for quilting, the fabric stretches or distorts the least when cut along the warp and weft.
White on White (WOW) is a white fabric with a white design printed on it.
Whole Cloth Quilt is a quilt made from one piece of fabric or lengths of the same fabric sewn together to appear as one piece of fabric. Whole cloth quilts typically have intricate designs stitched onto it.
Wideback is a special fabric used primarily for backing quilts. It is generally 108″ in width, unlike quilt fabric that is generally 40″ – 44″. Wideback fabric minimizes the need to piece the backing.
WIP is a work in progress. The quilter is actively working to complete it.
WISP is a work in slow process. This differs slightly from a UFO in that the quilter is making progress and has not put it down for an extended period of time.
Width of Fabric (WOF) is the width of the fabric measured from selvedge edge to selvedge edge. Quilting fabric typically measures between 42-inches and 45-inches depending upon the manufacturer. Selvedge edges are generally removed before use. Therefore, the usable width is generally 40-inches. Backing fabric is generally 108-inches wide. Some other fabric types, fusible and interfacing have a variety of fabric widths, so check carefully when purchasing.
WOF = Width of Fabric. This is typically 40″ – 44″ for quilting fabric.
WOMBAT is a cute Australian marsupial, but not what we are generally referring to in quilting. It is something quite the opposite, a Waste Of Money, Batting, And Time. In other words, a project the quilter really did not like when finished.
WOW = White on White.
Wrong Side of the fabric or back of the fabric is the non-printed side. For solids and batiks, this may be difficult to determine.
WST = Wrong Sides Together
- Monika Fritschi Henry
- Carolina Moore
- Allison Reid
- Sharon Tucker