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Tip of the Day


A Glossary of Quilting Terms
and Quilt Definitions

Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Quilters - Fun Stuff!

Definitions A - G    Definitions H - Z

Acronyms used by quilters

Album Quilt A quilt made of many different blocks, often with symbolic designs appliquéd or stamped on each block. If each block is signed it would be a Autograph or Signature Quilt. 

Amish: The Amish people are a religious culture. Their antique quilts tend to use rich jewel toned solid fabrics with black as a background, often in striking geometric patterns, and wide, plain borders. Central medallion square-in-a-square with wide borders is a popular design. 

Modern Amish quilts made for resale can use any fabric in any design, but retain the excellent quilting. Although there are Amish people in all 50 states and several Canadian provinces, the Amish quilt resale trade is generally found in Pennsylvania, Ohio or Indiana.

AOL Users! Did you know that your graphics were compressed?  Go to your settings, then click on preference and Internet Properties WWW.  AOL Internet Properties should come up.  Go to the Web Graphics  tab and pick "never compress graphics" and click okay.  Be prepared to be amazed at the quality of the graphics you now see on the Internet!

To speed up surfing, clear your cache.  On the AOL Toolbar -- second group of options - [My Files/My AOL/Favorites] choose My AOL --> Preferences --> WWW.  You will get a pop up box (looks the same as the IE Internet Tools). On the  General Tab screen in the Temporary Internet Files box, click Delete Files.  

Remember, AOL caches pages which means may not always be seeing the latest version a web page you are visiting.  Hitting refresh or reload will only get you the same page from the AOL cache.  However, if hold down the control key while clicking on AOL RELOAD (the little orange round arrow to the left of the AOL address bar, you should get a brand new page.

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!

Baltimore Album Quilts An elegant form of intricate appliqué which was very popular in mid 19th century in Baltimore, Maryland.  Click here for more information.  

Bare Feet - device for finding pins in a carpet.

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.

Bearding The migration of fibers from the batting passing through the quilt top and forming a fuzz on the surface of the quilt, thought to be caused by static electricity. Most often associated with cheap polyester battings, bearding can also happen with unbonded cotton. Some synthetics, wool and silk batting are also prone to this problem.  To help prevent this, prewash fabrics using a quality fabric softener and dryer sheet. Quilt using a mercerized or coated thread. Apply beeswax or spray your thread and/or quilt layers with a fabric silicon spray. This will also help prevent thread breakage. Never store your quilt in plastic. A humidifier in your workroom is beneficial to both the quilt and quilter!

Betweens -- small, thin needles used for finish quilting. Sizes range from 8-12, the smaller number being a longer length needle.

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. 

Big Board.  A very large ironing board, usually 24" x 60", which is placed over your existing ironing board to give you a larger surface to press your fabrics.  It can be purchased commercially for $99 - $130, or you can make one at home.  Use 1/4" plywood with 1" x 1" strips on the underside to keep the ironing board in place.  Use batting or mattress pads for the padding and muslin or ironing board material with for the cover.  

Big stitch - a type of quilting in which embroidery or crewel thread is used in large stitch for a decorative effect.

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. Click here for a picture tutorial on Single Fold Binding.   Here are tips on ending double fold binding.  How much fabric will you need?  Click here for a chart. 

Need more help?  Here is a 7 page tutorial that covers not only three types of binding (and how to make them) but also six other edge finishes.

Birthing a quilt
. The method of sewing the quilt batting and backing to the outside edges of the quilt (right sides together), then turning the whole thing inside out as if it were a pillowcase. If you have laid out the layers correctly, the batting will be in the middle, and you can slip stitch the quilt pillow closed.

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.

BOM: block of the month

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.  Click here for help on measuring a quilt border.

Broderie Perse -- The French word for "Persian Embroidery". First made popular in the early 1800's when cotton was extremely expensive, the technique is a type of appliqué where larger images such as an animal or a flower are cut from a printed fabric and appliquéd to a background fabric.

Bubble Jet Set - (BJS) a liquid product which makes ink color fast on fabric. Plain fabric is soaked in BJS and hung to dry. The dry fabric is then ironed to a piece of freezer paper and used in an ink jet or bubble jet printer to print pictures or text.

The Burn Test for Identifying Textile Fibers can be found here.  

Calico In the 19th century, calico referred to any type of cotton fabric.  It is still used in that sense in England and Australia.  In the US, it is often used to refer to fabric with a small repeated design, usually florals or leaves.

Call information for free!  Use 1-800-FREE-411 or (1-800-373-3411)  Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch - you will need to listen to a 12 second commercial. 

Cats - purring device designed to add enjoyment and hair to your latest quilt.

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.

Click here for a video
This video shows the use of a "leader" block when chain stitching


Challenge --a competition to create a block or quilt using specified fabrics or patterns.

Charm Quilt A quilt made of many small pieces of fabric where each piece is a different fabric. The idea is to have a scrap-pieced top with no two pieces alike. The pattern is usually a one-patch design. Charms are often exchanged and traded by quilters.

Cheater's cloth --fabric printed with an all-over quilt block design, made to look like a pieced or appliquéd quilt top.

Chemotherapy Caps
These are wraps or turbans worn by people who need to cover their head to conceal hair loss.  For more information:

Chenille -  to make your own chenille, layer 4 to 8 layers of fabric (cotton, rayon or silk) with the brightest and boldest fabric on top.  Spray baste between each layer, or pin baste when you are done.  Mark a diagonal line on the bias crossing the center of this piece.  Using your walking foot, stitch all layers along that line, then stitch 1/4" to 1/2" on either side until the entire piece is Demonstration of Chenille Stripsquilted. Carefully cut between the lines, without cutting the bottom layer of fabric, using shears, a slash cutter, or a specially designed mat with your rotary cutter. (right)  To make the chenille bloom once it has been slashed, throw it in the washer then dryer.

Color Wheel - click here for a helpful article.

Corner Setting Triangles - how to figure.  If you would like to set your block on point and add half-square triangles to the four corners to make it square again, how do you figure out the size of the square to cut in half?  Click here for an illustrated article with charts on side setting triangles, corner setting triangles and setting a block on point.

Cotty Thread - a great embroidery thread.  Formerly sold only by Pfaff dealers, it is now sold by Sulky.  Click here.  

Crazy Quilt --a block assembled from irregular and often scrap pieces, with no set pattern or design overall. Can be made as small blocks and assembled into a larger piece, or sewn as one complete quilt top. A popular pattern during the Victorian period, it was made with silks and velvets and embellished with much embroidery.

Curved Piecing - used in Drunkards Path and other blocks.  Here is a curved piecing tutorial from Carolina Pieceworks.

Cutter Quilt --a quilt that is so badly worn or damaged in some areas as to be sold for the purpose of cutting it up into pillows, dolls, or other craft items.

Determining Fabric Type
If someone gives you an unknown fabric or batting, there are two methods to find out what it is.  The most reliable method is to put a thread under a microscope and look at the actual fiber itself.  An inexpensive microscope will work.  Cotton has a twisty, round which looks like a straw, wool has scales, silk is smooth and round like spaghetti and linen has little horizontal joins.

There is also the burn test. Hold a match to a small piece of the fabric and observe the results.

Dining room table. Also known as a quilting studio, this piece of furniture can also be used to serve a meal. See: pizza.

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.

Dryer Sheets -- can be used for appliqué.  Sew the used dryer sheet to the front of your appliqué piece, cut a slit in the dryer sheet, turn it inside out and iron.  Your piece will automatically how have the edges turned under. Click here for more. One caveat: dryer sheets can be flammable.  A thin piece of cheesecloth is probably a better choice.

Dye Magnet -- a great dye magnet is a piece of undyed, untreated terry cloth. Because untreated cotton will absorb fugitive dyes, this plain little piece of cloth will collect all the dye in your wash water. When it is saturated, just bleach it all out and keep using it. Old well-used white 100% cotton terry washcloths, towels, t-shirts, and underwear will work too. Be careful -- it can't be exposed to fabric softener. Fabric softener coats the fibers and will interfere with their ability to absorb dye.

Ease --to make two pieces of different sizes fit together in the same seam. On piece may have to be stretched a little, or bunched up slightly in order to get both pieces the same length.

Echo Quilting Quilting stitches that are placed right next to a shape or block, thus echoing the shape.

English Paper Piecing Found in 18th and 19th century English quilts, this method of hand piecing uses paper templates inside the block elements to guide where the edges are turned under.  These papers are later removed.

EQ6 - Electric Quilt, a computer program for designing quilts.

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?

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

Feedsacks: material originally used to hold flour, feed, sugar, salt, etc. Now highly prized for authentic reproduction quilts. From the early 1900's.  Click here for more information.

Fibonacci Sequence AKA Phi
Many quilters use this sequence to help determine block or border size relationships.  In this sequence of numbers, each number is the sum of the previous 2 numbers.  (In other words: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144,233, etc.)  This "golden number" or "golden ratio" of 1.618 can be seen repeatedly in nature.  Fiber artist Susan Brown has developed a whole series of quilts based on the Fibonacci Sequence.

You can use this ratio when sizing borders or blocks just by multiplying by 1.618.  For example, if you want a quilt that is a perfect rectangle, multiply the width by 1.618 (apx 60%) to get the length.  Or, if you want to add a series of three perfectly proportioned borders, just add the width of the first two borders together to get the width of the third. If you would like to add a fourth border, just add the width of border two and border three.

Filling - see batting.

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

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

Fire Retardant Formula/Flame Proofing  This is a formula shops use to treat curtains at big quilt shows.  Mix 9 oz. Borax, 4 oz. Boric acid (available at most pharmacies), 1 gallon water and 1/2 teaspoon low sudsing detergent and pour in a spray bottle. Hang curtains outside (or where ever you can string up some clothesline) lightly spray both sides and let dry. It does stiffen the fabric slightly. You can also purchase flame retardant spray at places like Dharma Trading.

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.

Fleas - horrible little creatures that eat you alive. To get rid of them without pesticides, sprinkle 20 Mule Team Borax (which has boric acid) or diatomaceous earth (available at pool supply companies) around the house.  Make sure to leave it there for at least two weeks to kill any new hatchlings. 

Foundation piecing: A method of assembling a block by sewing pieces to a foundation of muslin or plain fabric.  Sewing on a foundation of paper is known as Foundation Paper Piecing or FPPClick here for products to use while paper piecing.

FQ: See Fat Quarter.

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.

Freezer paper appliqué. Freezer paper is a wrapping paper for meat that has a light coating of a wax-like plastic on one side whichcan be purchased in most supermarkets. Quilters like to use it as a template for appliqué by drawing the design on the paper side, cutting it out and ironing the template to the fabric using a very hot, dry iron. These templates can be use the on the underside of the fabric by turning the seam allowance over it before appliquéing to the base fabric. You would then need to cut the base fabric to remove the paper. You can also use the template on top of the fabric by using the edge of the freezer paper to guide your needleturn.  If your freezer paper doesn’t stick well, it can be attached to fabric using silk pins, basting stitches or a glue stick.   

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.

Glue Stick Available in any office supply store, glue sticks can keep small, narrow strips from wandering while being appliquéd in place.

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.

Griege goods refers to woven textiles as they come from the loom, before they are dyed or printed and sold as finished goods. This fabric has been removed from the loom, but has no further processing, bleaching or finish applied to it. It is pronounced "gray goods".  See How to choose the best quality fabric for your quilts.


Definitions starting H - Z are here