A Guide to Quilting Terminology for All Quilters

A Guide to Quilting Terminology for All Quilters

Whether you're a seasoned quilter or just starting out on your quilting journey, this blog is for you. We'll be diving into the wonderful world of quilting terminology, providing clear definitions and explanations for all those curious terms you're likely to encounter as you craft your quilts.


Whether it's understanding what 'batting' means or figuring out what a 'fat quarter' is, we've got you covered. This blog is your one-stop resource for all things related to quilting definitions. We've designed it to be a comprehensive guide that breaks down complex quilting jargon into simple, easy-to-understand explanations. Let’s start to unravel all those pesky quilting terms:

Glossary of Quilting Terms


Appliqué: This is a technique where pieces of fabric are sewn onto a background fabric to create a design. It's a wonderful way to add intricate details to your quilt.

Backing: The backing is the bottom layer of the quilt. It can be a single piece of fabric or pieced together, and it's usually less decorative than the quilt top.

Basting: This is the process of temporarily holding the quilt top, batting, and backing together as you prepare to quilt them. This can be done with safety pins, a basting spray, or even by hand-sewing large stitches.

Batting (see also wadding below) : The fluffy layer sandwiched between the quilt top and the backing. It gives the quilt its warmth and thickness.

Binding: The binding is the fabric that wraps around the edges of the quilt, giving it a neat and finished look. It can be a fun place to add a pop of colour or pattern.


Blenders: These are fabrics that feature either a solid colour or a very subtle print, which help to visually blend the different fabrics used in a quilt. They're great for balancing out bold and busy prints.


Quilting Blenders at Fabrics Galore


Border: A border is a strip (or strips) of fabric that frame the edges of the quilt. They can be simple or pieced, and they help to complete the design of the quilt top.


Cutting Mat: This is a mat that protects your table and your rotary cutter blade when cutting fabric. It often has grid lines and measurements to help you cut your fabric. However, it's an unwritten rule to never use your cutting mat for measuring - always us a quilt ruler (see below). 


Fat Eighth: A Fat Eighth is a piece of fabric measuring 56cm x 25cm (UK metric dimensions for a Fat Eighth). It's half the size of a Fat Quarter, and it's another popular way to buy small amounts of fabric.

Fat Quarter: A fat quarter is a specific cut of fabric, typically measuring 50 x 56 cm or 19.5" x 22". It's a common way to buy small amounts of fabric for quilting.

Please note the important difference between US and UK Fat Quarters and Fat Eighths: in the UK they are quarters/eighths of a metre and in the US they are quarters/eighths of a yard and hence slightly different sizes.  Some UK suppliers sell imported pre-cuts which will be in yards therefore different dimensions to UK cut ones.

This catches people out a lot, so ask your supplier if you are unsure. 


Feed Dogs: These are the small, metal teeth-like ridges that you see right under the presser foot. They move back and forth in a motion that pulls the fabric through the machine. This ensures your fabric moves in a straight line while you're sewing. When you're doing free-motion quilting, you typically lower the feed dogs so you can move the fabric in any direction you want.


Free Motion Quilting: This is a technique where the quilter moves the fabric freely under the needle to create decorative stitches. It requires a special presser foot and a lowered feed dog on your sewing machine.


Fusible Web: This is a type of adhesive that can be ironed on to create a bond between two pieces of fabric. It's often used in appliqué.


In-the-ditch: This is a quilting technique where you sew right along the seams of your pieced quilt top. It's a great way to quilt your project without the stitches being too visible.


Loft: Loft refers to the thickness and density of the quilt batting. High loft means it's thick and fluffy, while low loft means it's thin and dense.


Patchwork: This is a form of needlework that involves sewing together small pieces of fabric into a larger design. The pieces are often different shapes, sizes, and colours, creating a mosaic effect.

Piecing: Piecing is the process of sewing small pieces of fabric together to create a pattern or design. This is where your creativity can really take flight!

Quilt Block: A quilt block is a design unit of a quilt, often a square, that is made and then sewn together with other blocks to create the quilt top.

Quilt Ruler 

A Quilt Ruler (or Rotary Ruler) is a transparent acrylic ruler with measuring guides to accurately cut your fabric for piecing. They predominantly come with measurements in inches, but can occasionally be found in metric, and come in a variety of sizes.


Quilt Top: This is the top layer of a quilt, often the most decorative part, where all your piecing and appliqué work shines.

Quilting: Quilting is the act of sewing together the quilt top, batting, and backing. This can be done by hand, with a sewing machine, or even a longarm quilting machine.


Rotary Cutter: This is a tool with a round, sharp blade that's used in conjunction with a cutting mat and ruler to cut fabric quickly and accurately.


Sashing: Sashing is strips of fabric that are used to separate and frame quilt blocks in a quilt top.

Seam Allowance: This is the area between the edge of the fabric and the line you sew along. In quilting, the standard seam allowance is 0.6 cm or 1/4 inch.


Straight or Lengthwise Grain: This refers to the threads in a fabric that run parallel to the selvedge (the tightly woven edges of the fabric). Fabric cut along the grain tends to have less stretch.

Tack: Tacking is a process of making large, loose stitches in a fabric to hold it in place until it can be permanently sewn. It's often used in the process of basting a quilt.

Wadding: This is another term for batting, the layer in the middle of a quilt that provides warmth and thickness.

Walking Foot: This is a special presser foot for a sewing machine that helps to evenly feed layers of fabric and batting.


White on White: This refers to fabric that has a white pattern printed on a white background. It's a subtle way to add texture and interest to a quilt without adding colour.


White on White Quilting Fabrics


Understanding Quilting Terms

Quilting terminology may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. Just like you wouldn't bake without knowing what a whisk or a rolling pin is, quilting  also has its own unique set of tools, techniques, and terms that you need to familiarise yourself with.


These are just a few of the quilting terms you're likely to encounter. Remember, every quilter was once a beginner, and the most important thing is to enjoy the process. No matter where you are in your quilting journey, there's always something new to learn. Don’t hesitate to let us know if we missed any and remember that Team FG is always available to answer any of your quilting fabric questions.

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