When I first started out quilting and sewing, I was very confused about all the words and phrases people used. Truthfully, I am still confused a lot of the time, but I’m learning! On this page, I have compiled a list of all the words I’ve learned so far. If there is more you want me to explain, let me know in the comment section,

  • Applique: sewing cut out shapes on a piece of fabric. Applique allows for a wide variety of shapes.
  • Art quilt: usually these are quilts with a life-like image, however, they can also be more abstract. Art quilts can be compared with paintings.
  • Binding: the fabric you put around the quilt to finish of the edges. This is the last step you take to finish a quilt.
  • Backing: the bottom of the quilt. Usually made from left-over fabrics of the quilt top or with a large piece of fabric.
  • Bastingtemporarily 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, very fancy, or polyester, less fancy. Also sometimes a blanket is used. Cats really love the wool batting.
  • 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.
  • (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.
  • 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 a bit like a garland.  Warning: sewing like this can feel a bit like an assembly line setup, albeit an enjoyable one.
  • Crazy patchwork: pieces of fabric randomly sewn together. This can have a really nice effect.
  • English paper piecing: the technique of wrapping fabric around a template. This is usually done with a hexagon shape but can be done in a variety of shapes.  When all the pieces are put together the templates are removed.
  • 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.
  • Foundation paper piecing: this quilting technique uses paper or a simple fabric where the fabric pieces are sewn onto. This helps accuracy of complex designs. When paper is used the template is removed when the block is finished.
  • Lining: fabric that is placed behind your fabric on display to give some extra strength or to shape a piece.
  • Nappy liners: nappy liners used for cotton diapers are a perfect background for paper piecing. You can sew through them by hand, they are see-through so you can transfer patterns and they are washable so you can leave the fabric on blocks for extra strength.
  • 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.
  • Open seams: one seam at each side of the stitched line. This is a good technique to deal with bulk in complex patterns.
  • 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.
  • Quilt sandwich: the several layers of fabric of a quilt basted (basting) together. A 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.
  • Rag quilt: a quilt where the seams are on the outside. The seams are snipped and will fray after putting them through the washer and dryer. This creates an interesting look.
  • Raw edge: an edge where the fabric is not turned over. Basically, the edge of the fabric is left open. This will fray with time which can add a nice element to your work.
  • Right side of the fabric: the pretty side you want on display.
  • SAL: short for stitch along. For this you make a piece, be it embroidery or quilting, together with a group of people. You receive pieces of the pattern gradually, which makes the end result a nice surprise.
  • Sampler quilt: a quilt consisting of many different blocks. A sampler is usually used to showcase or practise quilting techniques.
  • Seam: fabric at the back of your block which prevents fraying.
  • Solid fabrica fabric of one colour without a pattern.
  • Stitch in the ditch: quilting in the gap where two fabrics meet, aka ‘the ditch’. This makes the quilting near invisible.
  • 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.
  • Y-seam: joining three pieces of fabric together where the seams have a Y-seam. This requires a certain technique, which explains it has its own name.


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