Quilt dictionary: learn how to talk like a quilting pro
Rianne of Kick-Ass Quilts reading a book about silk quilts under a blanket

Kick Ass Quilts: Dictionary

ftovThis is a dictionary explaining all the quilting terms and terminology. 

When I first started out quilting and sewing, I was very confused about all the words and phrases people used. It seemed like I had to swallow a dictionary and thesaurus before I could even consider to start quilting. 

Now I know more, and I've realized you don't need terminology to quilt. However, I do realize it's useful to know the terminology, even if it's only to impress people at parties. 

Therefore, I've created a dictionary of all quilting terms I could find. Also, the Kick-Ass Public library will have many articles to further explain the terms, techniques and phrases. 

Click on the links to find associated articles with more explanation.

Is the dictionary missing something

Leave a comment with the term that needs to be added and consider it done. 


  • Applique: Sewing pieces of fabric directly on top, or below, your quilt block. This is done in intricate shapes. Applique allows to create complicated shapes out of one piece of fabric. There are different applique techniques,  such as needle turn applique, reverse applique, raw edge applique and applique with fusible interfacing.
  • Art quilt: quilts that look like paintings. They can be life-like images, but also completely abstract. 
  • Binding: 'If you love your quilt, put a ring on it'. Binding is the fabric you put around the quilt to finish of the edges. This is the last step you take to finish a quilt. This is also called border.
  • Backing: the buttocks of a quilt. Usually made from left-over fabrics of the quilt top or with a large piece of fabric.
  • BAP: Big ass project. One of those projects you start and will take at least aeons to finish. 
  • BastingA technique to temporarily sew layers of fabric together. This can be done with very loose hand stitches, a basting spray (some kind of glue) or pins.
  • Batting: stuff you put inside a quilt, which makes the quilt warm and comfortable. This material is usually made from wool or bamboo, if fancy, or polyester, when not fancy. You can also use a blanket, fleece blankets, towels and such. Cats really love the wool batting.
  • Bee:  Either called quilting or sewing bee. It's a collection of quilters who work on their quilts together.
  • Big Stitch: a sewing method where you make big stitches which stand out from the material you sew on. This is usually done with embroidery floss. Big stitch can add a nice decorative element to your work.
  • Blanket Stitch: An nearly invisible embroidery stitch to secure the border of your quilt at the back. Most of the stitch is buried within the border fabric.
  • (Quilt) block: usually, a quilt top consists of several blocks. A block has a particular design and can be made with a variety of techniques.
  • Border: 'If you love your quilt, put a ring on it'. Binding is the fabric you put around the quilt to finish of the edges. This is the last step you take to finish a quilt. This is also called binding.
  • Chain piecingan awesome technique that allows you to sew pieces of fabric together in a row. This technique is useful when one has to sew a lot of the same blocks by machine because it saves time on starting and finishing the seams. When all the pieces are sewn together it looks like a festive  garland. 
  • Charm quilt: A quilt where every piece of fabric is only used once.
  • Crazy patchwork: pieces of fabric randomly sewn together into blocks or a quilt top
  • Curved piecing: Sewing pieces of fabric together with nice curves.
  • Deadstock: Left-over fabric from fashion houses and such. Too little is left for them to use, but it's enough for quilters to use.
  • Design wall: Made from flannel and some kind of isolation material. A design wall allows you to arrange your fabrics and quilt blocks before committing to any kind of design. An alternative for a design wall are your curtains or the floor. 
  • English paper piecing: the technique of wrapping the fabric around a template. This is traditionally done with a hexagon shape, but can be done in a variety of shapes.
  • Finish-high: that mysterious feeling you get when a project is finished against all odds or expectation. Usually, this has been a long-term sewing project.
  • Finger pressing: 'iron'  your pieces with your fingers, instead of an iron. I also find a smooth teaspoon works well.
  • Frankenbatting: When you have a lot of small pieces of batting left you can sew them together to make a big piece. This is called frankenbatting named after the famous sci-fi novel Frankenstein.
  • Foundation paper piecing: this quilting technique uses paper, a thin fabric or some other material, where the fabric pieces are sewn onto. This helps accuracy when making complex designs. 
  • Fusible interfacing: A quilting aid you stick to fabric to help strengthen the shape of fabric pieces. This material has to be bought, so be mindful of how you use it.
  • Fussy cutting: Cutting out and using a specific piece of the fabric because you like the pattern, or it has a certain image.
  • Galloping horse rule: It is a tool used by quilters to check if your quilt is precise enough. The rule goes as followings: If somebody on a horse galloping past your quilt can't see the mistakes, there are no mistakes!
  • Lining: fabric that is placed behind your fabric on display to give some extra strength or to prevent the top-fabric from moving. This is done with stretchy fabric, for example.
  • Nappy liners: nappy liners used for cotton diapers are a perfect background for foundation piecing.
  • Needle turn applique: sewing pieces of fabric onto a background fabric. While sewing, you fold the seems under to hide them. The stitches to secure the piece are also hidden.
  • Neglected floss: The embroidery floss not used when a project is finished.
  • Offcuts: The fabric that is left after cutting a pattern piece out of a big piece of fabric.
  • Open seams: one seam at each side of the stitched line. This is a good technique to deal with bulk in complex patterns.
  • Orphan blocks: Leftover blocks from quilt projects. They are called orphan blocks because they do not belong to any quilt project and usually hang around in drawers and on chairs without a purpose. 
  • Patchwork: a quilting technique in which several pieces of fabric are sewn together to form the block.
  • (Fabric) piece: cut-out fabric sewn together to form the block.
  • Piecing: sewing together all the fabric pieces to form a block.
  • QAL: short for quilt along. For this, you make a quilt together with a group of people. You receive pieces of the pattern gradually, which makes the end result a nice surprise.
  • Pressing seams open: A way treat your seams. This technique reduces bulk at the back of your quilt top.
  • Quilt: An object created with the quilting technique, having several layers of fabric which are kept together with thread.
  • Quilt as you go (QAYG): this is a quilting technique where quilt blocks  quilted and sewn together before the whole top is done.  
  • Quilting bee: a gathering of quilters where they quilt together, share stories and generally have a wonderful time. 
  • Quilt sandwich: Name of the 3 layers of a quilt together. A quilt sandwich consists of the quilt top, batting and backing.
  • Quilt top: usually the side of the quilt with the design you had in mind, which consists of all the blocks sewn together. The quilt top is the one on display.
  • Quilting: sewing through all the layers of the sandwich. This is done to add to the aesthetic of a quilt, and to keep all the separate layers together, making the quilt durable and soft.
  • Rag quilt: a quilt where the seams are on the outside. The seams are snipped and will fray after putting the quilt through the washer and dryer. This creates an interesting look.
  • Raw edge: an edge where the edges of the fabric is not turned under. Basically, the edge of the fabric is left open. This will fray with time, which adds a nice element to your work.
  • Reverse applique: instead of sewing fabric on top of a background the pieces are sewn behind the background fabric.
  • Right side of the fabric: the pretty side where the pattern and colours are most visible.
  • Sampler quilt: a quilt consisting of different  blocks. A sampler showcases blocks with a certain theme or displays the skills of a quilter. It can also be used to practise certain techniques. 
  • Sashing: strip of fabric in between quilt blocks. This is to space out the design and creates the traditional quilt look.
  • Scrap Quilts: Quilts made from leftover materials.
  • Seam allowance: When you sew pieces you need some fabric on each side of the line you sew on, so the finished work won't fray. The part of the fabric you don't see is called seam allowance. The standard is 1/4 inch, which is about 0.6 cm.
  • Seam: When you piece fabric together, you need some fabric on each side of the line you sew, so the finished work won't fray. The seam is around 1/4 inch or 0.6 cm.
  • Show & Tell: Name of the event and quilting bees to show each other the quilts made. It's a time of encouragement, tips, and compliments.
  • Solid fabrica fabric of one colour without a pattern.
  • Stashthe collection of fabric and materials a quilter has.
  • Stitch in the ditch: quilting in the seam where two fabrics meet, aka 'the ditch'. This makes the quilting near invisible.
  • Sustainability: Create live, society and business in such a way future generations can life the same life as we are living, globally.
  • Tying a quilt: instead of quilting by sewing through the three layers, knots are made with pieces of thread in key places of the quilt. Sometimes buttons are added as well.
  • Upcycling: Re-purposing old clothes and other fabrics into useable objects.
  • Y-seam: joining three pieces of fabric together where the seams have a Y-shape. This requires a certain technique, called the Y-seam technique.
Place comment

Never again miss a quilting learning opportunity with our newsletter

This is a monthly quilting  newsletter to brighten up your inbox. The newsletter is full of tips and tricks to become a sustainable quilter


The quilt newsletter also has updates of everything going on in our college, public library and holiday. With also some behind the scenes stories of how this platform is created.


When you enrol for the newsletter you get a free e-book  with tips how to prepare to become a quilter. Turns out you don't have to buy a lot of tools or materials.

quilting-out-of-your-home-free-ebook-quilt-guide-of-kick-ass-quilts
arrow_drop_up arrow_drop_down