Quilting Tips

Acronyms and Definitions used by Quilters

Acronyms and Definitions used  in the Quilting World. 

  • BOM = Block of the Month
  • DSM = Domestic Sewing Machine
  • FQ = Fat Quarter
  • FMQ= Free Motion Quilt
  • HST = Half-Square Triangle
  • LAQ= Long Arm Quilter
  • LQS = Local Quilt Shop
  • MAQ = Mid-Arm Quilter
  • PhD = Projects half Done
  • TGIF = Thank God It’s Finished!
  • TOT = Tone-on-Tone
  • UFO = UnFinished Object
  • WIP = Work In Progress
  • WOF = Width of Fabric
  • WOW = White On White

Appliqué: a piecing process using small amounts of fabric which are then sewn onto a background fabric in a decorative design such as curved floral or animal motifs. Appliqué can be done by hand, machine or with fusible web. and is often combined with pieced blocks or placed in the border to frame a pieced quilt. Appliqué is a great technique to cover stains, rips or other problem areas.

Baby Blocks: Grandmother’s Flower Garden and other non-square shapes are often pieced this way.

Backing: the bottom or back layer of a quilt, usually a plain unadorned fabric that has been pieced to the width of the quilt. The backing is where you should put your label!

Basting: Long stitches used to hold the the top, batting and backing of a quilt together while the quilting is being done and removed when the quilt is completed. A quilt can also be basted with curved safety pins, a tacking gun or a spray adhesive. Fusible batting is also available.

Batik: Batik fabrics are made by covering a design area with wax or other substance to prevent dye from penetrating into that area. Indonesia is famous for its batiks. They are usually high thread count fabrics. Use a #12 Microtex needle with this fabric.

Batting: Sometimes called wadding or stuffing, this is the layer in the center of the quilt sandwich, giving it warmth and thickness. Batting can be cotton, polyester, blends, silk, or wool.

Bias: The diagonal direction across the surface of a woven fabric at a 45º angle to the line of the warp and weft. Fabric cut on the bias stretches easily and must be handled with care. A 45º angle is called a true bias – fabric cut at a 30º or 60º angle can also be considered a bias cut. Bias binding allows binding to be turned and angled without pleating. See Grain

Bias Binding – see binding.

Binding: A strip of fabric sewn over the edges of the quilt layers to finish the raw edges, add strength, and/or decorate the edge. Normally a binding is sewn on one side, then brought over the edge to the other side where it is secured, but a binding can also be a part of the backing wrapped over to the front. Can be straight or cut on the bias.

Blindstitch: A type of invisible stitching often used for appliqué

Blocks: Most quilt tops are constructed by sewing together smaller units called blocks in a certain layout.

Border: a strip of fabric sewn to the outside of a quilt top to serve as a frame for the interior or to enhance the design.

Chain sewing: to feed block pieces into the sewing machine one right after the other, without snipping threads in between each seam. This allows you to sew many pieces without stopping after each one, saving both time and thread.

Curved Piecing:  used in Drunkards Path and other blocks. 

Dining room table:  Best place to lay out a quilt.

Directional print: fabric with a printed pattern that has a definite direction or grain (nap.) Care must be taken to match the direction when piecing.

Fabraholic:  A non word. No one can have too much fabric.

Fabric starch: Tip: If you like the crisp texture of unwashed fabric, but need to prewash it, use fabric starch instead of fabric softener in a fabric softener ball. Your pre-washed fabric will then get the crisp texture of sizing. Consider washing the final product, however, as starch left in fabric may attract little critters. Instead of using starch in the wash, you may want to use a can of spray sizing when pressing your prewashed fabric.

Fat 1/8th: Fabric measuring approximately 9″ x 18″. It is half of a fat quarter (see below.)

Fat Quarter :  a unit of measurement for fabric, made by cutting a half yard in half again vertically. Usually measures 18″ x 22″. This allows for cutting larger pieces than a regular quarter yard which is 9″ x 44″. What can you get from a fat quarter?

  • 99 – 2″ squares or
  • 50 – 2 1/2″ squares or
  • 42 – 3″ squares or
  • 30 – 3 1/2″ squares or
  • 20 – 4″ squares or
  • 16 – 4 1/2″ squares or
  • 12 – 5″ squares or
  • 12 – 5 1/2″ squares or
  • 9 – 6″ squares or
  • 6 – 6 1/2″ squares

Feed Dogs:  Feed dogs are the teeth which pull your fabric through the machine, helping you to sew a nice even stitch. See Free Motion Quilting

Finger Pressing: Using your fingers to press a seam or guidelines for appliqué turned edges or seam allowances, instead of an iron.

Finished Size:  The final sewn size of a completed block without seam allowances.

Flannel:   Is a soft fabric which can be made from cotton, wool or synthetic fibers. It is usually loosely woven and slightly furry and is very, very warm. It’s tendency to ravel makes it a very good fabric to use for rag quilt. Because flannel starts out so loosely woven, it does shrink about 5% in the first wash and will continue to shrink with each wash until it is no longer loosely woven.

Free-Motion Quilting:  A type of machine quilting in which the feed dogs are lowered or covered while quilting using a darning foot. Because there are no feed dogs to pull the fabric, the quilter must create the design by moving the quilt sandwich under the needle. Free-Motion Quilting also happens when when the dog decides to lay at your feet right on top of your foot pedal.

Frog Stitching: Rip it, rip it, rip it!

Fusibles:  Various webs or interfacings which can be ironed onto a fabric for easier appliqué or to support the fabric.

Grain: The lengthwise and crosswise threads of a fabric, along the warp (length) and weft (crosswise) threads. The lengthwise grain parallel to the selvage stretches the least and should be used for borders whenever possible. The crosswise grain perpendicular to the selvage has slightly more give. Selvedges are created as the weft threads are tightly woven through the warp threads. See Bias above.

Hand quilting: Hand quilting is a running stitch that is made through all three layers of a quilt to hold them together. 

HST: half square triangle

Jelly Rolls:  Manufacturers provide quilt shops with fabrics precut into strips. These cuts all have different names. Here are just a few:

  • Bali Bitty Bundles – eight fat-eights (9″ x 22″)
  • Bali Pops by Hoffman are 2 1/2″ wide x WOF
  • Charms by Moda are 5″ squares
  • Charms by RJR are 5 1/2″ squares
  • Chunky Strip collections – twenty 4″ wide strips
  • Desert Rolls by Moda are 5″ strips x WOF
  • Fabrications by Blank Textiles are 2 1/2″ strips x WOF
  • Fat Rolls by Windam are 5″ wide x WOF
  • Honey buns by Moda are 1-1/2″ strips
  • Jelly Rolls by Moda are 2 1/2″ wide X WOF
  • Layer Cakes by Moda are 10″ squares
  • Lil’ Bits by Marcus are 5″ squares
  • Noodle Jelly Rolls by Fabric Freedom are 2 1/2″ strips
  • Pastry Rolls are 12″ wide strips
  • Spoonfuls by Moda are 8-1/2″ squares
  • Sweet Rolls 6″ strips x WOF
  • Sweet Sixteens by Maywood are 9″ x11″ rectangles (1/16th of a yard)
  • Tonga Dimes by Timeless Treasures are 10″ squares
  • Tonga Nickles by Timeless Treasures are 5″ squares
  • Turnovers by Moda are 6″ half-square triangles
  • Twice the Charm by RJR are 5 1/2″ x 22″ strips
  • Watercolor Wraps by Hoffman are 7″ squares

Label:  Always attach a label to your quilts giving the name of the quilt and the name and town of the maker as well as the year made and pattern used. The more information you can include about the maker, the recipient and the reason it was made, the better. Quilt in the label if possible so it can not easily be removed. Take the time to write your name in the seam allowance of the binding, too, as a surprise to future quilt historians!

Lap quilting:  First used in the 19th century, this method of making a quilt by finishing the blocks individually and putting them together later was popularized by Georgia Bonesteel in the 1980’s.

Long Arm Quilting:  Quilting using a very long bed (commercial) quilting machine to do the overall quilting.  Most common is E2E (edge to edge), also semi custom, custom , and heirloom.

Muslin:  An inexpensive, medium weight, plain weave, low count (less than 160 threads per square inch) cotton sheeting fabric. Fabric with a higher thread count (180 to 250 threads per square inch) is called percale. Higher thread count fabric is excellent for photo transfer but not for quilting. The lower the thread count, the easier it is to needle.

Mitered corner: corner (usually of a border) that is joined at a 45 degree angle, like a picture frame. Tip: If your quilt plan calls for multiple mitered borders, stitch all the strips together first, then apply and miter them as a single unit.


  • Sharps have a sharp point which pierces the thread of woven fabrics. Available in sizes 60/8 – 90/14, they are a good choice for straight stitch sewing. They are marketed under different names. Schmetz calls their sharp needle Microtex, Dritz uses Standard Point.
  • Metallic needles are constructed specifically for use with metallic and monofiliment threads. They are thin, with a sharp point to eliminate thread breakage, an elongated eye to make threading easier and an elongated scarf to prevent shredding. Metallic needles are marketed as Metallica (Schmetz), Metafil (Lammertz) and Metallic Machine Embroidery (Madeira), and are available in sizes 70/10 through 90/14.

Nesting: Nesting seams is a simple process. It just takes a little bit of planning to make sure that your seams are facing in opposite directions at each intersection.  Nesting seams is a great way to keep your seam allowance flat in quilt blocks. This is a common term in quilting and refers to the layering of seam allowance in the opposite direction to reduce bulk.

On Point: a square block that is set on edge, with the corners on top and bottom, side and side. Click here for an illustrated article with charts on side setting triangles, corner setting triangles and setting a block on point.

Pin-baste: temporarily holding together the three layers of a quilt in preparation for finish quilting. 

Prairie Point: A simple folded fabric triangle made in multiples and attached as a decorative edge finish on quilts and garments with the point facing out. 

Precut Fabric definitions:  See Jelly Roll definition above.

Quilt Top:  The top layer of a quilt Sandwich.

Quilter’s Guild: An organization made up of quilters. Also called a Quilter’s Group. An organization of quilters which may provide opportunities to share projects, instruction and community service. 

Little Foot:  Quilting foot measure exactly 1/4″ from needle point to inner edge of the foot, which may have a guide on it to prevent the fabric from going past the edge. Most sewing machines come with a quilting foot, or a generic one can be purchased called “Little Foot”.

Raffle Quilt: A quilt made to be raffled off for the benefit of a charity. Also called an opportunity quilt.

Redwork:  Simple outline embroidery designs worked in running stitch with turkey red color floss and used for quilt blocks. Traditionally, animal themes, children’s themes, nature themes, and kitchen themes. Redwork can be done in other colors, changing the name to greenwork or bluework, etc. Redwork done in black is called Black Redwork because Blackwork refers to a specific single thread embroidery technique.

Repeat:  The measurement of fabric before the design is repeated.

Rotary Cutter: A rotary cutter has a circular blade to cut several layers of fabric on a cutting mat.  Do not depend on the mat for accurate cutting lines. Always double check with your ruler.

Ruler:   a heavy plastic measuring guide. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, a good ruler adds to the success of any project.

Sampler: a quilt made of different block patterns, usually as an exercise by the maker in piecing techniques.

Sashing: strips of fabric sewn between pieced blocks to separate them while joining them together into a top. Sashing can be continued around the outside of the quilt top to act as a border.

Scrap quilt: any quilt made with fabrics leftover from other quilts (your stash), or from salvaged fabric from clothing or other items. 

Selvage:  The outer edge of the length of a fabric which is usually more tightly woven and so is normally cut off and not used in a quilt. You will usually find manufacturers information in the selvage.

Serger – a type of sewing machine which makes overcast seams and cuts off the excess automatically.

Signature (or Autograph) Quilt: a quilt made from blocks which have been signed on individual blocks. May be made as a friendship quilt by friends and family of the owner, or as a fund raiser. Signature quilts were a popular fund raiser by the Red Cross and some church groups in the early part of the 20th century.

Sleeve – see Hanging Sleeve

Standard Mattress Sizes
Twin Mattress Size 39″ wide x 75″ long
Twin Extra Long Mattress Size 39″ wide x 80″ long
Full Mattress Size 54″ wide x 75″ long
Full Extra Long Mattress 54″ wide x 80″ long
Queen Mattress Size 60″ wide x 80″ long
King Mattress Size 78″ wide x 80″ long
California/Western King Mattress 72″ wide x 84″ long

Stash:  (Special Treasures All Secretly Hidden) a supply of fabric and notions used for quilting.

Stippling:  closely spaced quilting stitches following an irregular design that does not cross used to fill background space and create surface texture. 

Stitch in the ditch:  Placing your quilting stitches in the “ditch” created by the seams of the pieces in your block. Your quilting pattern will echo your block pattern.

Straight of grain:  Fabric has three grains, the lengthwise, the crosswise and the bias. The lengthwise grain follows the the warp thread parallel to the selvage. It has very little give which makes it ideal for long borders. The crosswise grain follows the weft thread and has slightly more give. The bias is a 45 degree angle to the selvage and has lots and lots of give. Beware the block cut on the bias, it can be easily pulled out of shape.

Strip piecing: Cutting and sewing your strips of fabric before cutting the individual shapes.

T-Shirt Quilt: A Quilt made by using making blocks from the memories in your drawer!

Thimble: Tip: Instead of having to throw away a leather quilting thimble after it gets too many holes, put a penny inside of it. This will extends the life of the leather and adds strength.

Tied Quilt:  A quilt in which a knotted strings or ties are used to hold the three layers of the quilt together. Click here for more.

Top:  just the top part of the quilt sandwich.

UFO:  UnFinished Objects. A WIP (Works in Progress) in which you have lost interest. Also known as an Unfinished Symphony.

Value:  (color value) It’s value that does all the work in a quilt, although it’s often color that gets the credit. Usually described in terms of light and dark, value determines how close a color is to either white or black. The right values can make the difference between a quilt that sparkles and a quilt that doesn’t. 

Walking Foot:  This is a special foot which can be attached to a sewing machine. It helps to feed the top layer of a quilt fabric sandwich evenly with the feed dogs feeding the bottom fabric.

WIP: Works in Progress

WISP: Works in Slow Progress

WOF: Width of Fabric (from selvage to selvage)

WOW: white on white

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