Education Quilting Vocabulary and Acronyms Quilting Words Defined Quilting Words Defined

Quilting Vocabulary

Learning a New Craft Vocabulary

Quilting has a vocabulary all its own, including initialism.

When you decide to sew and/or quilt, you will quickly be aware there are terms you are not familiar with and you would like defined.  If someone said you will need to make a sandwich before you start to quilt, would you head to the kitchen?  How about borders?  And do you avoid bias?  Do you press to the dark side?  Sounds rather mysterious, doesn’t it?  So, put your RST and make HST by chain piecing!

Now you know why I felt compelled to define words and initialism familiar to quilters.  You will find these terms becoming part of your vocabulary before you know it.  This list will continually be evolving.  If you have words you feel should be added or encounter a word you aren’t clear on what it means relating to quilting and sewing, please leave me a note in the comment section.

Initialism and Acronym Differ

Could you explain how initialism and acronym differ?   You have probably heard or remember acronyms from school.  Did you ever hear the term initialism?  Soon after googling the question online, I found the answer!  Acronyms are generally the first initial of each word in a series put together and read as a “new” word, such as NATO.  Initialism is shortening a phrase or collection of words to the first initial of each and read as the full word of each initial.  RST is a common initialism. When read it is “right sides together”.  WST would be read “wrong sides together”.  In the next section, I will demystify the initialism in quilting.

Initialism – Read as…

BOM – block of the month

EPP – English Paper Piecing – a method of combing fabric with seam allowance around a template of some kind, stitched together by hand (the traditional method), or by machine (a relatively new approach to get the same finished look)

FMQ – free motion quilting

FQ – fat quarter, a cut of fabric measuring 18″ x 22″; two FQ equal 1/2 yard

HST – half square triangles – a square divided corner to corner with each side of the line different fabrics

LOF – length of fabric, length refers to cutting parallel with the selvage

PHD – project half done, sometimes referred to as a UFO, any project not finished but set aside to work on something else, perhaps to disappear from sight and mind until weeks or even years later when searching usually for anything else

PP – Paper Piecing, a method of piecing a block on the back of a printed paper block pattern, sewing on lines with fabrics correctly aligned to cover the next addition to the block.  This system allows for sharp points and is an exceptional way to construct blocks consisting of small pieces otherwise difficult to hold in place while stitching.  Paper and fabric are trimmed to cut size and paper removed per pattern instruction.  See my post on the procedure to not sew on paper, but get the same results at Foundation Paper Piecing – A Different Approach – Sewing with Stitcher.

RS -right side of the fabric, more distinct in color and definition; dyed solids and batiks do not have RS or WS

RST – right sides together (generally referring to fabric)

UFO – unfinished project

WOF – width of fabric; width is from selvage to selvage

WS – wrong side of printed fabric; solids and batiks do not have wrong sides if dyed

WST – wrong sides together (generally referring to fabric

Quilting Terms


Applique: fabric shape(s) attached to fabric block or border by machine, hand or fusing.  Different methods may also be referred to as freezer paper applique, fusible applique, and needle-turn.


Backing:  fabric layered under batting and quilt top; made of one or more pieces to size required

Baste: Stitch with long stitches to temporarily hold two or more layers together for permanent stitching, such as quilting.

Batting:  layer of cotton, polyester, wool, silk, bamboo, or a combination of two, placed between backing and pieced top to add warmth, body, definition, and drape to the finished product

Bias: fabric cut at a 45-degree angle from the selvage and will stretch more than across the width (90-degree angle from the selvage) or length of fabric parallel to the selvage.

Binding: the final step to complete a quilt by attaching a fabric strip made by stitching shorter lengths together until the strip is longer than the perimeter of the quilt, then folded over to the back and handstitched to securely encase the edges.  If machine stitched binding is the method used, sew binding first to the back of the quilt and then to the front.

Block: a fabric unit sewn to other blocks to form a quilt top/design

Bobbin: the circular or cylinder on older treadle machines that the bottom thread is wound on and makes the bottom portion of the stitch with the top thread.  Modern machine bobbins come in different sizes – 15, L, M – and fit different types of machines.  Bobbins are made of metal, plastic, or pre-wound on cardboard bobbins.  It is important to use the style and size of bobbin recommended by the machine manufacturer.

Borders: fabric that goes around the inner quilt top appearing as a frame


Chain Piecing: sewing pairs of fabric continuously without breaking/cutting thread between units

Charm: 5″ square

Charm Packs: forty or forty-two 5″ squares from one fabric line and will coordinate in color and/or pattern

Continuous-Line Quilting: machine quilting designs where the thread has no stops and starts, but goes from beginning to end of the quilting process without interruption

Cut Size: The size pieces are cut to make the quilt top including the seam allowances


Design Wall: flannel covered wall or other flat surface where arrangement of blocks is done to line them up per the pattern and adjust for color placement as needed

Diagonal: a straight line joining two opposite corners of a square, rectangle, or other straight-sided shape

Directional Prints: fabric with a definite up and down print so care needs to be taken when cutting background pieces, strips such as borders, and large pieces so all are cut going the same direction up and down.


Embroidery: the art of using thread and stitches to embellish designs on cloth

English Paper Piecing: Also referred to as EPP is a method of combing fabric with seam allowance around a template, stitched together by hand (the traditional method), or by machine (a relatively new approach to get the same finished look).

Equilateral Triangles: three sides of equal length and angles of 60-degrees; six of the same size are often used to make a hexagon


Fat eighth:  9″ x 21″ or 11 x 18 cut of fabric

Fat quarter: 18″x21″ cut of fabric; two equal one 1/2 yard

Finished Size:  the cut size minus the seam allowance; the size once sewn to all other pieces in a block

Flying Geese: a unit found in blocks and borders made by sewing two smaller triangles to the sides of a larger triangle

Foundation Paper Piecing:  a method of piecing a block on the back of a printed paper block pattern, sewing on lines with fabrics correctly aligned to cover the next addition to the block.  This system allows for sharp points and is an exceptional way to construct blocks consisting of small pieces otherwise difficult to hold in place while stitching.  Paper and fabric are trimmed to cut size and paper removed per pattern instruction.  See my post on the procedure to not sew on paper, but get the same results at Foundation Paper Piecing – A Different Approach – Sewing with Stitcher.  Also known as PP, paper piecing.

Free-Motion Quilting: quilting by machine with feed dogs lowered so fabric can be freely moved in a chosen design frequently long curving lines

Fusible Web:  a two-sided web of glue used to adhere fabrics together with an iron; used as one method of applique, first ironed to the back of the applique fabric, cut to shape, then paper is peeled off and the applique is ironed to another fabric

Fussy Cutting: using a specific motif of fabric (such as a flower or animal) cut to showcase centered in a piece; special window templates are available for fussy cutting


Grain of fabric:  reference to the threads running the length and width of fabric with specific terms specifying which threads; crosswise grain is from selvage to selvage and has a slight stretch; lengthwise grain runs parallel to the selvage and has the least stretch; bias is 45-degrees from selvage to selvage and has the most stretch of the three


Half-Square Triangle: place two squares of equal size right sides together; draw one diagonal line and sew 1/4″ on each side of line; cut on line and open newly made half-square triangles

Hand Stitching: the process of sewing by using a thread and needle manipulated with thumb and finger to make the stitches

Hanging Sleeve: also called a quilt sleeve, this is a hemmed tube a bit shorter than the quilt is wide, attached at the top back of a quilt often at the same time the binding is added; hand stitched to the back so the tube does not show when the quilt is hung; rod is inserted in the tube for hanging display

Honey Bun: precut roll of forty 1 1/2″ x 44″ fabric collection

Honey Comb: 40 six-inch hexagons cut from a fabric collection


Ironing: moving a hot iron over fabric to remove wrinkles and direct seams to lay together and to one side of the stitching or open on each side of the seam


Jelly Roll: Forty 2 1/2″ x 44″ strips

Jelly Junior Roll: Twenty 2 1/2″ x 44″ strips



Label: notification on back of quilt stating info about quilt – name of quilt, who pieced it, who quilted it, date made, where made, who it was made for, and any other information you feel like adding

Layer Cake: a collection of fabric cut 10″ x 10″

Layering: backing, batting, and quilt pieced top with backing right side down, batting smoothed on top of backing, and quilt top right side up – basted for hand quilting or FMQ on home machine.  Long arm quilting requires each piece to be separately attached to the long arm frame

Locking/Nesting Seams: pressing seams opposite directions of blocks that will be sewn together assists in getting seams to line up as if locked together


Mat: the protective cutting surface required when using a rotary cutter

Medallion Quilt: a large center block frequently appliqued surrounded by multiple borders

Mini Charm Pack:  forty or forty-two 2 1/2″ squares, also called Candy by Moda Fabrics

Mitered Borders and/or Binding: folding fabric at corners to stitch 45-degree angle giving borders and/or binding a crisp mitered finish; binding will be mitered on front and back when a fold back method is used

Motif in Quilting: a motif in quilting is the pattern or design used, such as feather, meander, hatch


Needle: a very fine slender piece of metal with a point at one end and a hole or eye for thread at the other, used in sewing

Needle Guide | has an educational page on needles that should answer any questions you may have.

Needle-Turn Applique: hand applique method of using needle point to turn edge of applique in before taking 1/8″ stitches to hold it to background fabric


On Point: setting quilt squares rotated at a 45-degree angles, placing points top to bottom


Panel/Panel Quilt: a variety of sizes or one large size fabric depiction of a setting/object/scene for the center of a quilt top to be enlarged by constructing borders; much like medallion quilts with the panel taking place of the center medallion

Pieced Quilt Top:  patchwork blocks attached to form a design

Piecing: joining fabric pieces in a specific order to result in a designed block

Pinked Edges: cut with pinking shears that leave an edge of peaks and valleys rather than straight; often used to reduce raveling

Piping: enclosing a cord in a strip of fabric

Pre-Cuts: fabric cut by manufacturer or quilt shop owners to make certain sizes popular in quilt patterns

Pressing: the up and down motion of the iron on and off the fabric avoiding movement when iron is on the fabric; used to set seams and seam allowance to lie open or to one side of the stitching; also used for fusing; preserves shape of fabric without stretching

Prewash: the act of washing fabric before cutting or using


Quarter Square Triangle: the result of placing two half square triangles with right sides together and stitching 1/4″ on both sides of a diagonal line, cutting on the diagonal line and opening newly made blocks

Quilt (noun):  fabric backing, batting, and pieced fabric top secured together with stitches made by hand, machine, or tied

Quilt, quilting (verb): the act of stitching/tying layers of fabric and batting together for use

Quilt as You Go: a method of quilting smaller units of a quilt before putting them together as one complete quilt

Quilting motifs:  the quilting design made by quilting

Quilt Sandwich: backing, batting, and quilt top layered for quilting


Reverse Applique: top layer of fabric is cut away to reveal fabric layered below; top layer is turned back between layers and either hand or machine stitched

Rows: quilt blocks left to right in a line

Rotary Cutter: handle with an attached circular sharp blade that turns to cut fabric

Rulers: cutting rulers are acrylic and made for cutting with a rotary cutter; machine quilting rulers are used with a sewing machine equipped with a quilting foot to follow the ruler in design motifs


Sampler Quilt: made up of different blocks all put together in a pleasing quilt top arrangement; good way to learn new techniques and have a useable end product

Sandwich: backing, batting, and quilt top before binding is added

Sashing: strips of fabric separating quilt blocks

Scant 1/4″: a seam one thread width narrower than a full 1/4″

Scissors or Shears: besides they both cut, they have different uses and look different; scissors have shorter blades and the finger holes are generally equal in size; shears have longer blades and the finger holes are made for thumb in one hole and three to four fingers in the other; scissors are for lighter cutting while shears can handle heavy-duty jobs.  In the quilting and sewing world, both are good tools to have in a variety of sizes.

Scrappy Quilts: made from several different fabrics with no thought of where fabric is placed other than dark/light factor

Seam Allowance: 1/4″measured from raw edge to stitches is used in quilting

Selvage: the edges of the fabric that is tightly woven and maybe have little holes where it was gripped during manufacturing; should be removed and not become a part of any quilt due to how it is constructed

Setting Triangles: used in on point quilts as fillers of empty space

Stash: a collection of fabrics

Stitch-in-the-Ditch: quilting by sewing in the seams of the blocks so stitching is hidden on the front

Strip Piecing:  strips are sewn together on the long edges, then sub-cut into smaller segments to stitch to similar segments


Thread/content/weight: all aspects of thread should be considered for the job at hand, fabric being used, final look you are striving for; good reference information at Thread Weight | and Thread Characteristics |

Tint: colors with white added to them; pastels

Tone on Tone: fabric with like color printed on like color and reads as one color



Value: how light or dark a fabric appears when compared to other fabrics; a fabric value can change when compared to different fabrics; placement of different values is a major determination on how a quilt design will appear


Wholecloth Quilts: made from unpieced solid fabric elaborately quilted



Yo-yos: three-dimensional flower-like shapes made by tightly gathering the edges of fabric circles