Basic Quilting Terminology - Essentially Loved Quilts

Basic Quilting Terminology

Knowing what quilters are talking about is SUPER important, there's so many words and acronyms that leave you scratching your head. "Huh!?!" So welcome newbie quilters!! Here's some basic terminology for you and those folks looking to get started in quilting.

Let’s start with some basic Sewing terms:

Essentially Loved Basic Quilting Terminology schmetz needles and walking foot


Bobbin - part of your machine; it holds the lower thread.

Foot Pedal - part of the sewing machine that goes on the floor that controls the start, stop, and speed of your machine needle.

Needle - usually made of metal, they hold the top thread and pierce the fabric(s) to make the stitches; like thread these come in many shapes and sizes for various uses.

Presser Foot - foot of your machine where the fabric goes under and the needle goes through/ between to sew; it usually acts as a guide for your sewing, in some fashion.

Stitches - the sewing of the threads together with material between; each needle up and down is one stitch.

Thread - long fibers that have been wound together to make a long string used to piece material together. You need thread above and below your fabric to make the seam. Different thicknesses and material for different uses.


Essentially Loved Quilts Basic Quilting Terminology


Basic Tools 

¼” Foot - non-negotiable as far as quilting goes as ¼” seam is a standard seam for all things quilty, so whatever you do make sure this is at the top of your shopping list.

Cutting Mat - special self-healing mat used in conjunction with rotary cutter.

Iron - we all know what this tool is, and though we may not like it for our clothes we need it for our fabric.

Ironing Board - this can be a regular ironing board or sometimes it’s just a small, specialized mat for pressing fabric.

Marking Tool - used to mark lines to follow when sewing. They can be iron off, water erase, or chalk, whichever your preference is, as long as it contrasts enough to be visible while sewing.

Pins - these are a must for quilting, when purchasing go for longer and fine. Finer means more flexible as well as going into the fabric easier.

Rotary Cutter - a special cutting tool used for long straight cuts instead of scissors.

Essentially Loved Quilts Basic Quilting Tools Ruler and rotary cutter

Rulers - these acrylic rulers are special to quilting and help not only to measure fabric, but also function as a guide for our rotary cutters. They come in many shapes and sizes.

Scissors or Snips - I use both actually, but the 3-4” scissors will be most versatile, trim threads or cut excess fabric off snowballed pieces.

Seam Ripper - the dreaded 🤣 tool that is sometimes necessary when a seam is sewn incorrectly; it has a few names, including “Jack” or “Jack the Ripper”, “Frogger” (as in ri[pp]it), some expletives 😆, etc.

Walking Foot - this isn’t a must right away, but a highly recommend when you get to quilting and/or binding.


Essentially Loved Quilts stash fabric


Quilty Terms

Backing - the back of the quilt that goes against the body—the backside of the completed quilt.

Batting - middle layer of the quilt; can be made from cotton, polyester (poly), wool, bamboo, recycled plastic, silk, or any combo of those.

Binding - final step to finish a quilt; the strip of fabric enclosing the raw edges of the quilt.

Block - a combination of units that are the foundation of your quilt.

Borders - fabric around the edges a quilt; a great way to make a small quilt bigger.

Fabric Requirements - the amount of fabric needed to make the quilt of a certain pattern.

Pattern - the directions to make a specific quilt.

Quilting - the pretty designed stitching that holds the quilt layers together.

Right Sides Together (RST) - place the right or patterned sides of the fabric face to face.

Sandwich - the top, batting, and backing layered together in preparation for quilting.

Sashing - strips of fabric in-between blocks, like a border, but around the block. 

Scraps – fabric that is left over from projects.

Seam allowance - ¼” seam is universal, but sometimes a “scant” ¼” is called for which is just 1-2 threads shy of a full ¼” seam.

Selvedge - edge of fabric where it’s pinned to the machine for printing—carries the brand, designer, and line names and is a good reference tool if you need to buy more.

Stash - fabrics you’ve collected.

Unit - two or more pieces of fabric sewn together that are a part of your quilt block.

Essentially Loved Quilts Basic Quilting Terminology &  free Quilting  Block and Unit reference Guide

Width of fabric (WOF) - is from selvedge to selvage.

Wrong Sides Together (WST) - place the wrong or back sides of fabric together.

Yardage - fabric purchased off the bolt.


These terms are a solid start to get you quilting. Enjoy the process and should you want some focused help I’m here for you!
Warmth & Love,
💜 Tracy 

Essentially Loved Quilts About me


PS. If you're new to quilting here are a couple other blog posts you might be interested in!

Quilt Blocks for Beginning Quilters

Let's Talk Fabric Quality

Basic Quilting Tools


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Quilting Terminology


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