An archive of sewing tutorials and inspiration


Quilting Lingo/Vocabulary - Beginner's Quilting Tutorial Series

When I started quilting I hit the computer and went tutorial hunting. I ran across a lot of techniques and words that I did not understand, over time I eventually learned the quilting "lingo". My hope with this lesson is that you will learn some of the basic words/terms often tossed around in quilting tutorials and books. These terms are in order by topic as opposed to Alphabetical.


Chain Piecing

Chain piecing is when you sew your pieces together with one continuous length of thread without stopping and cutting between pieces. Doing this will really help you save time while sewing.

English Paper Piecing

english-paper-piecingMethod of basting fabric over a paper template, then whipstitching the pieces together. It is most often used with shapes with many set-in corners, such as hexagons.

Foundation Paper Piecing

Foundation Piecing, often called paper piecing. Is a great method to achieve precise points and intricate designs. Your patchwork is sewn directly to the paper, using the design on the paper. The when complete the paper template is removed.

Types of Quilt Blocks

  • One-Patch Blocks: Are made by repeating the same unit, such as a one patch star.
  • Four-Patch Blocks: Are made of four main square units. The squares can be subdivided, such as a pinwheel.
  • Five-Patch Blocks: Are made on a 5 x 5 grid.
  • Nine-Patch Blocks: Are made using nine square or rectangle units. The squares can be subdivided.
  • Seven-Patch Blocks: Are made on a 7 x 7 grid.
  • Star Blocks: Are made on eight or nine patch grids and shaped like a star.
  • Log Cabin Blocks: Are sewn from a starting square, usually sewn from the center out.

Half-square Triangle (HST)

Patchwork square made up of two equal triangles.

Quarter-square triangle

Patchwork square made up of four equal triangles.

Flying Geese


Is typically a geometrical block, but the shapes are not perfectly square, they are "wonky"


Made with small pieces of fabric scraps.


Piecing without prior planning or preparation.


Piecing with the appearance of weaving fabrics.

Sampler Quilt

One quilt with many style blocks.

Medallion Quilt

Modern Medallion Borders Done, Ready to Embroider

Patchwork design with a sequence of borders and sections around a central block.


qaygPiecing together a 12" block, adding the batting and backing and completing the quilting before moving on to another block.

String Patchwork

Scrap Buster Sewing MachinePatchwork made from thin strips of fabric.


A traditional blanket made from one whole piece of fabric, not pieced.


Straight Line Quilting

Black and White Memories Quilt

Can be parallel lines or random lines quilted straight.

Cross hatching

Straight Line Quilting made in a lattice or grid.

Stitch in the Ditch

Stitching directly in the seams of a quilt.

Free Motion Quilting

freemotionquiltingMachine quilting done with the feed dogs down, so the quilt can be moved any direction under the needle.

Contour Quilting


Quilting parallel to quilt seams.

Echo Quilting

Puma Zig-Zag Quilt

Echoing a shape or appliqué in a quilt (echoed zig-zags above).

Stippling or Meandering

Is a single meandering stitch that never crosses itself.



Applique Tree

A decorative design made of one material sewn over another.

Freezer Paper Appliqué

Freezer Paper is pressed to the backside of your fabric and then the edges are folded over and pressed into place. So the fabric is precisely the same shape as your freezer paper template.

Raw Edge Appliqué

lesson8banner Usually fused on to your fabric the edges are left raw and the appliqué is sewn inside the edge.

Bias Strip Appliqué

Used to make narrow designs, such as a flower stem.

Reverse Appliqué

An appliqué method where the foundation fabric is on top of the shape. The foundation piece is cut away to show the appliqué shape.

Fussy Cutting


Cutting a print fabric in such a way as to center or otherwise highlight part of the print.


Technique for finishing quilt borders or bindings to resemble picture frames (borders are mitered above).



Is the back piece of your quilt. Usually less extensive or detailed than your quilt top.


basting Temporary holds together multiple layers of fabric. Can be done with a tack stitch, spray baste, or basting pins.

Quilt Sandwich

quilt-layers The Backing, Batting, and Quilt Top make a quilt sandwich.


bindingUsing strips of enclosed fabric to finish the raw edges of a quilt.

Bias Binding

Binding strips are cut on the bias of the fabric. This is the longest lasting binding. It is essential for biding around curves and usually need more fabric.

Straight Binding

Binding strips are cut parallel with the grain of the fabric and usually need less fabric.

New favorite quilting notion! Conair hair roller clips. Perfect for putting on a binding! So close to finishing my PWP!

Machine Sewn Binding

Binding is sewn on completely with a machine.

Hand Sewn Binding

Usually machine sewn onto your quilt and then folded over to hand sew with  a slip stitch.

Turned-in Edges

Sewn much like a pillow case. The quilt is sewn with right sides together then flipped inside out and sewn along the edge.


Is the fabric strips sewn in between your quilt blocks.



Migration of batting fibers through the surface of the quilt. Often more noticeable on darker quilt sandwiches.


Gliding your iron back and forth over fabric to smooth away wrinkle (this can distort the bias of fabric so I always suggest pressing).


Unlike ironing you do not move your iron back and forth, but lightly press your fabric.

Home Machine

Standard sewing machine.

Mid-Arm Machine

Is made for quilting with a throat space of up to 18". Can be used while sitting or standing.

Long-Arm Machine

Is a large, commercial sewing machine with an extended throat space of up to 36”. Used while standing up.


There are many other terms you might run across, these will just give you a basic place to start. Next week we will begin Fabric 101! 

You can see all of the posts in this Beginner Quilting Tutorial series here.


Alyssa Williams

Alyssa Williams

Creator of Pile O' Fabric

Alyssa Lichner is a graphic designer turned avid sewist. She writes modern quilting tutorials and shares techniques and inspiration on her blog, Pile O’ Fabric. Alyssa has a passion for exploring different techniques and applying them to modern designs. She is thankful to have the opportunity to share these techniques, through her tutorials, patterns, and classes with quilters around the world. She always encourages her readers and students to challenge themselves to try new things and to approach quilting with a fearless attitude.