There are many terms associated with patchwork and quilting and it can be confusing when you first start out. I have listed below the main terms spoken about in class or written in books and I hope they are helpful to you.
Applique – The technique of applying fabric shapes onto a background fabric and often using fusible webbing such as Bondaweb. Can be sewn either by hand or machine.
Backing – The bottom layer of the quilt sandwich. This is either fabric, usually a single piece but occasionally pieced or fleece/brushed cotton which is a popular choice for childrens quilts.
Basting – A method of using large running stitches, safety pins or temporary spray fabric adhesive (505 spray) to temporarily anchor the layers of the quilt together prior to quilting.
Batting/Wadding – The layer of cotton, polyester or blended filling that is used for the middle layer of the quilt, between the quilt top and backing.
Bias – The diagonal grain of a woven fabric. Woven fabric has the greatest amount of stretch if cut on the bias. Bias tape cut on the bias is best for curves.
Binding – The fabric edging of a quilt which covers and binds the raw edges, finishing off the quilt.
Block – A patchwork or applique square that is a complete design in itself, and repeated to make up the quilt top. Any combination of different block designs can be used to make up a quilt.
Border – The strip or strips of fabric around the outer edge of the quilt that frames the quilt top.
Design wall – A vertical surface often made up of a pin board or flannel wall where work in progress can be hung.
English paper piecing – A patchwork technique where fabric patches are basted (tacked) over paper templates, then stitched together. The templates are removed when the quilt top is complete. Ideal for accurate piecing of small geometric shapes such as hexagons and triangles.
Fat quarter – Patchwork fabric is usually sold off a 112/114cm (44/45″) width bolt – a fat quarter is half a metre cut off the bolt, then cut in half again, so it is approximately 50cm x 55cm (19.75″ x 22/22.5″) in size approx. (a ‘fat’ quarter metre).
Finger press – A quick way of pressing back seam allowances using the underside of a thumb or fingernail, rather than using an iron.
Foundation piecing – The method of stitching patches onto a fabric or paper foundation. Traditionally used for log cabin and crazy quilts, using a foundation makes piecing intricate and small scale blocks easier.
Free machine quilting – A method of machine quilting with the machine feed dogs lowered, used for decorative and curved designs and stippling.
Long quarter – Patchwork fabric is usually sold off a 112/114cm (44/45″) width bolt – a long quarter is simply a quarter metre cut off the bolt, so the finished size would be 112/114cm x 25cm (44/45″ x 9.75″) approx.
Mitre – To join two pieces of binding or border at right angles with the seam at a 45º angle.
Monofilament – Often referred to as invisible thread. Used for quilting ‘in the ditch’ where the quilting thread is not meant to be seen.
On point – The method of mounting a square quilt block at an angle in a quilt top so that it appears as a diamond.
Patchwork – The method of joining patches of fabric together in different design to make up the whole quilt block or quilt top.
Quilting – The method of anchoring the three layers of the quilt together – quilt top, wadding and backing – by means of a decorative small running stitch.
Quilt top – The top layer of a quilt, made up of quilt blocks or a single piece of fabric in the case of a whole cloth quilt.
Rotary cutter – A hand held tool with a very sharp circular blade that, when used with a quilters ruler and self-healing cutting mat can be used to cut several layers of fabric at once with great accuracy.
Running stitch – The most common quilting stitch, a straight stitch through all three layers of the quilt.
Sashing – The strips of fabric used to separate individual blocks in a quilt.
Seam allowance – The small amount of fabric between the edge and the stitching line, usually ¼” for patchwork.
Selvedge – The name for the finished edges that run along the length of the fabric as it comes off the bolt.
Sleeve – Used for hanging quilts. A sleeve is a tube of fabric stitched to the rear side of the quilt to enable hanging from a bar or pole.
Stencil – A stencil has a decorative design cut out of plastic that can be traced onto a quilt top with chalk or a fabric marker as a guide for quilting.
Stitching ‘in the ditch’ – The method of quilting where the quilting stitch is worked directly over a patchwork seam so it cannot be seen.
Template – A pattern for marking shapes on fabric. Templates can be made from acrylic or metal, or home made from cardboard or template plastic sheets.
Walking foot – A foot attachment for a sewing machine that feeds the top and bottom layers of the quilt sandwich through the machine at the same time, essential for machine quilting. Also known as an ‘even feed foot’.