Home » Quilting Theory » #QuiltingTheory – Quilting Lingo

#QuiltingTheory – Quilting Lingo

Hello! And welcome to the first post in the #QuiltingTheory series! Today, we are going to start with all the different quilting definitions, abbreviations and acronyms – or the lingo, if you’d rather! – that is commonly used.

Before we start though, I would like to cover off something that I found really confusing when I started this journey –

What is a quilter?!

Strictly speaking, patchwork is the cutting up of fabric and stitching it back together again to make lovely patterns.

Quilting is the process of placing a number of fabric layers together and stitching through them, often sewing a decorative pattern in the process.

Over time, these terms have become interchangeable and Quilter has become shorthand for someone who does either patchwork or quilting.

This can encompass quilts, cushions, pouches and other accessories. Once I started quilting I found lots of different projects I could add patchwork to!

Learn all the different Quilting Lingo, vocabulary and acronyms. A full list of the most commonly used terms broken down by category. Ideal for beginners! #QuiltingTheory

Now, I confess that this is a long post. I figured it would be beneficial to keep all of the definitions together. To make it easier to navigate, I have split the quilting lingo into broad categories – you can click on the titles below to jump straight to a section – but you may still want to pin this for future reference!


To find more detail on seams, including how to achieve the correct seam allowance, check out #QuiltingTheory Seam Allowance.

For this week though, we are looking at the most generally used terms;

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationSeam LingoDefinition
SASeam AllowanceThe seam allowance is the distance that you sew from the edge of the fabric.

For quilting, this is generally 1/4″ unless otherwise specified in a pattern.
ScantA seam allowance that is just under a 1/4″ seam allowance
Nest SeamsWhen sewing rows of blocks together, the seams for Row A are pressed to eg. The left, and the seams for Row B are pressed in the opposite direction eg. The right.

When the rows are placed together for sewing the seams on each row sit – or nest – together neatly allowing for greater accuracy in joining them together (pictured).
Press SeamsTo press a seam, an iron is placed on top of the fabric seam and pressed down, before being moved to another section of the seam and repeating the action.

Seams are not ironed in a traditional way to avoid stretching the fabric.

In quilting, seams are either pressed open or to one side (normally the side with the darker fabric), depending on what is being sewn.

Fabric / Materials

This week we will look at the different fabric cuts that you can buy – for even more detail check out #QuiltingTheory Fabric here.

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationFabric LingoDefinition
SelvedgeThe edge of each side of fabric. This is generally trimmed off.
WOFWidth of FabricMost quilting cotton measures 44″ wide from edge to edge, or 42″ if you exclude the selvedge from each side.

You can also get wider fabric eg. 108″ wide which is great for backings.
FE / F8Fat EighthA piece of fabric measuring 21″ wide x 9″ tall.
FQFat QuarterA piece of fabric measuring 21″ wide x 18″ tall.
Jelly RollA pack of 42 x 2.5″ Width of Fabric strips from one collection.
Mini Charm (Candy) PackA pack of 42 x 2.5″ squares from one fabric collection.
Charm PackA pack of 42 x 5″ squares from one fabric collection.
Layer CakeA pack of 42 x 10″ squares from one fabric collection.
Dessert CutsA pack of 12 strips measuring 5″ x Width of Fabric.
BiasFabric cut at a 45* angle to the selvedge, which gives it more stretch.
RSRight SideThe front of the fabric (stronger in colour).
RSTRight Side TogetherPlacing two pieces of fabric (or folding one piece of fabric in half) front sides together.
WSWrong SideThe back of the fabric (duller in colour).
WSTWrong Side TogetherPlacing two pieces of fabric (or folding one piece of fabric in half) wrong sides together.


There are lots of tools that you can use in your quilting journey, which I will cover off in Week 4. Listed below are the ones that you will most likely come across, or even want to buy, when you first start out – you can see all my favourite tools here!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationSewing Tool LingoDefinition
Rotary CutterThis is like a pizza-cutter, but specifically used for cutting fabric.

The blades are very sharp and are able to cut through multiple layers of fabric at a time, so are brilliant for cutting out large projects!

They have a protective cover on them and the blades can be replaced as they dull.
Cutting MatThese come in lots of different sizes and are often called self-healing as the mat as they are made from a material which closes back together.

It is best to always use a sharp rotary cutter and not to always cut in the same place to minimise any potential damage.
Quilting RulerAvailable in lots of different shapes and sizes.

When used with a rotary cutter, they enable you to cut multiple strips/pieces of fabric quickly and accurately.
Wondder ClipsHandy for keeping lots of layers together – especially for fabrics that may be marked with a pin – binding, and keeping pieces of fabric/patterns together.
NeedlesThere are lots of different needles available for hand-sewing – varying in length, thickness and the size of the eye where you put the thread through.

Favourite needles are very often a personal preference – I like to use a very fine needle, but will use different needles depending on what fabric I’m sewing with and what I’m actually sewing! (you can find my favourite needles by clicking on the link above).
ThreadFor quilting, it is always recommended to use thread that is made out of the same fibres as the fabric eg. Cotton thread with cotton fabric.

This helps to minimise wear and tear on the fabric and help the quilt to last.


There are many different ways that patchwork can be put together, the ones that you will most likely come across in the beginning are;

AbbreviationQuilting Technique LingoDefinition
BastingA way of joining layers together, generally by stitching, with the basting thread being removed once the layers have been properly secured.

This can be done by hand with big stitches and is a great way of using up the odds and ends of thread that are left on a spool/bobbin.

Alternatively, it can be done on a sewing machine , using a longer stitch length and within the seam allowance eg. if you are working with a 1/4″ seam allowance you would baste at 1/8″ inch.
EPPEnglish Paper PiecingA traditional form of patchwork where fabric is wrapped around a piece of paper eg. a hexagon, and secured with either basting stitches or glue sticks.

Each of the pieces are then sewn together to create a larger piece such as a cushion/quilt.
FPPFoundation Paper PiecingThis is used to achieve complex shapes and very accurate piecing.

The pattern is printed on to paper and the fabric is sewn on to the reverse side of the paper, with the pattern on the front dictating where the lines should be stitched.
HSTHalf Square TriangleTwo right angle triangles sewn together to form a square.

Can be used to create lots of different patterns!
Leaders / EndersA piece of fabric that is used to begin stitching on before moving on to the actual pieces of your quilt.

Some machines can chew fabric at the beginning of a new seam or end up with a tangle of threads at the back.

By using a leader/ender, if there are any issues the quilt blocks remain unblighted.

Some quilters use the leaders/enders as a separate project – a 2 for 1 project – or you can just use a scrap piece of fabric!
Machine PieceFabric pieces sewn together using a sewing machine.
Chain PieceWhen sewing fabric pieces together by machine, the pairs are sewn together one after the other with a little chain of stitches between them.

You end up with a long chain of pieces – almost like bunting! – and when the joining chains are snipped you end up with the individual pairs/blocks.

This technique helps to speed up the process of sewing pieces together – especially useful on a big project! – and also reduce the amount of thread that is wasted.
Hand PieceSewing pieces of fabric together by hand.

The sewing lines are generally drawn on the back as a guide to sew along.
AppliqueFabric shapes are cut out and placed on the front (right side) of a piece of fabric and stitched in position.

This can be needle-turned, where the raw edge is folded under and hand-stitched in place, or machine stitched in position, often using a blanket stitch.
ImprovSewing pieces of fabric together in a random way to create fun and interesting patterns, not following a pattern.
Whole ClothOne piece of fabric is used for the front of a quilt and the pattern is created wholly through stitching (by machine or hand).
Y SeamsAlso called inset or set-in seams.

These occur when three or more pieces of fabric meet, often forming a Y shape, such as when joining hexagons together.

They can be joined together by hand or by machine with a bit of practise.
Top Stitch Stitching added to the right side of a project – mostly pouches/bags and dressmaking – to secure and add strength to a seam/edge and add decorative detail.
Slip StitchMost often used for hems or somewhere that you don’t want visible stitching such as applique or binding.
Ladder StitchOften used to close a gap that has been left for turning an item out eg. A pouch or soft toy.

The stitch is carried from one edge of the hole to the other, creating an invisible closure.


The terms and phrases most frequently associated with the quilting stage of making a quilt;

AbbreviationQuilting LingoDefinition
Batting / WaddingThe layer that goes between the quilt top and the backing fabric – it’s what makes a quilt lovely, warm and snuggly!

There are lots of different materials available – cotton, wool, bamboo.
LoftThis indicates the thickness of the wadding – they can vary from thin to thick depending on the material used.

Generally, the thicker the wadding the more difficult it can be to quilt.
BastingBasting a quilt refers to joining the top layer (patchwork), the middle layer (the wadding) and the bottom layer (the backing fabric).

This can be done in a number of different ways – using pins, spray glue or thread….it often depends on personal preference and the size of the project!
QAYGQuilt as you GoThis technique can be used in a couple of different ways.

For a smaller project, such as a pouch, a piece of fabric will be laid directly on some wadding and stitched in place. Other pieces of fabric will be added in a similar manner.

For a larger project such as a quilt, the blocks can be quilted individually before being joined together (this can be useful on really big quilts that would be too tricky to stitch on a domestic sewing machine)
Echo QuiltingStitching around a shape in the quilt, and repeating this with the lines spaced equally apart.
FMQFree Motion QuiltingSewing a pattern on the quilt using a sewing machine – these can range from basic meandering to highly elaborate patterns.
KanthaHand-stitching in big running stitches, often with rows close together to create a beautiful texture
Long ArmSpecialist machines that are used for Free Motion Quilting.

For special quilts, if you are not confident at quilting or a project is simply too big to tackle on your machine, you can send your quilt to someone who specialises in quilting.
BindingA piece of fabric that is wrapped around the edge of the quilt to hide the raw edges and secure all the layers together.

It gives a lovely finish to the quilt and helps to frame the design.


Other words and phrases that I kept coming across when I started this journey that didn’t quite fit into any of the other categories!

#QuiltingTheory - learn everything you need to know to begin quilting and grow your skills by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
AbbreviationMiscellaneous LingoDefinition
WIPWork in ProgressMost people (well, I’m hoping it’s not just me, anyway!) have a few projects in various stages
UFOUnFinished ObjectSimilar to a WIP!
BOMBlock of the MonthThere are lots of fun programmes/clubs that you can join where you receive the pattern for a new block each month.

Some are free, some you pay for and they are both a great way of trying out new skills with a community of people. At the end of the programme, you will have a completed project.

They often run over a year but can also run weekly/bi-monthly.
Dog-earsA term used to describe the little triangular ends that sit outside the seams of the blocks when you’ve made half-square triangle blocks.

Personally, I prefer to trim the dog-ears off my blocks before sewing them together as I find it helps with accuracy, but you can just leave them (see picture above).
FlimsySometimes used to describe a quilt top where all the blocks have been joined together, but it hasn’t yet been made into a quilt.
Design WallA ‘sticky’ wall that blocks can be placed on when making a quilt to ensure correct colour placement.

Often, this is a piece of wadding stuck on a wall.

If you don’t have enough wall space, you can use a pin to secure blocks to a sheet which can be folded up, or I find the floor works just as well (best when the kids aren’t around!).

Phew! That was quite mammoth, wasn’t it?! I hope that it has all been useful? There are many more terms, but these should cover the key ones that you come across in the beginning. If there’s any that you think I’ve missed out though, then please do let me know!

Come back next week when we will be looking at Seam Allowance in a lot more detail and please drop me a line if you have any questions,

Back Soon,

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast, raining. Generally yuk!

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  1. Sue
    February 9, 2019 / 1:30 am

    I love this, it will be really useful. I have pinned on pinterest For reference 😀

    • Sonia
      February 15, 2019 / 2:27 pm

      That’s so great to hear Sue – thanks!

  2. February 17, 2019 / 9:55 pm

    it is amazing!

    • Sonia
      February 18, 2019 / 8:15 am

      Thanks Lisa! Pleased it was useful!