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Over the years I have had many questions to explain terms in my directions...and from all phases of quilting. So I thought this page would be a good idea...BUT...I can't come up with all the terms by myself. So, please, let me know if there is anything you would like explained.

Please email me with "Quiltaholics:Glossary" in the subject name. I will try to find a definition for whatever you are looking for. I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Click a letter to move to that place in the alphabet.


Applique: sewing patches onto a background fabric with hand or machine stitching.


Bearding: migration of batting fibers through the quilt backing or quilt top...particularly noticeable on dark solid fabric.

Between: a short needle with a small eye that is used for hand quilting...commonly available sizes are 7-10 and 12, with the higher number denoting the small needle.

Bias: the diagonal grain of the fabric which has considerable stretch

Blind Stitch: often used in sewing applique in place by hand...leaves only a tiny bit of thread showing on front of the quilt; stitches should be no more than 1/8" apart.

BOM: shorthand for Block of the Month

Burn Test: using a match to burn a sample of fabric to determine the type of fibers; wool and cotton burn with a gray smoke and and ash residue; Synthetic fibers burn with black smoke, might smell like burning plastic, and leave a shiny black residue along the charred edges of the fabric.

Buttonhole Stitch: an embroidery stitch used to embellish the edges of applique patches or adding details on Crazy quilts.


Charm Quilts: made from a single template and scraps of fabric with no two patches cut from the same fabric.

Color Wheel: hues arranged in a circle in such a way that the colors blend in sequence; a simple 12-step wheel is arranged in the following order: blue, blue/green, green, yellow/green, yellow, yellow/orange, orange, red/orange, red, red/purple, purple, blue/purple.

COW: shorthand for Cream-on-White fabric

Crazy Quilt: fancy patchwork incorporating silk, velvet and embroidery popular in the late-19th century; constructed on a muslin foundation fabric and usually do not include batting.

Crib Size: a crib mattress size is 28"x52"

Cross-Hatching: parallel lines of quilting that run in two directions, forming either a grid of squares or diamonds.

Crosswise Grain: the fabric threads that go from selvedge to selvedge...sometimes called weft or filling threads; has some stretch, but very little.


Double Needle Sewing: a method to sew on bias strips by using a "double needle" in your sewing machine to stitch both edges at the same time


Echo Quilting: lines of quilting that outline applique shapes (often on Hawaiian quilts) in concentric rings or shapes..usually about 1/2" apart.

Embellish: to add decorative stitching, lace, buttons, a quilt; Crazy Quilts are lavishly embellished.

English Piecing: technique for piecing where a medium weight paper is cut the exact size of the finished patch and the fabric is basted over the paper. Patches are then placed face to face and joined with an overcast stitch. The basting is taken out and the paper removed once the patches are joined.


Fat Eighth: a 1/4 yard of fabric that is cut on the fold...roughly 9"x22".

Fat Quarter: a 1/2 yard of fabric that is cut on the fold...roughly 18"x22"

Free Motion Quilting: machine quilting that is done with the feed dogs lowered and the quilt is moved in any direction (without turning it)...uses a darning type foot on the sewing machine.

Freezer Paper Applique: applique when a freezer paper template is cut to the exact size of the patch...if cut with shiny side as right side of the patch, template is pressed to the wrong side of the fabric and the fabric is folded over the edges and removed after stitching in place...if cut with dull side as the right side of the patch, template can be pressed to the right side of the fabric and patch is appliqued with needle-turn applique or placed on wrong side of fabric and seam allowances are pressed to the freezer paper, patch and template are pressed to background, stitched in place and removed after stitching.

Frogstitch: as in "" unsew a seam

Full Size: a full (double) size mattress is 54"x75".


GFG: shorthand for Grandmother's Flower Garden...a pattern using hexagons as the units being sewn together.

Greige Good: (pronounced "gray goods") unfinished fabric that is not yet dyed, printed, or finished with sizing; raw material from which fabrics are processed; ranges in quality.


HST: shorthand for Half-Square Triangles.




King Size: a King size mattress is 76"x80".

"Kiss" method: this means to do something in the simplest way possible...actual translation is "keep is simple, stupid".


Lengthwise Grain: fabric threads that run parallel to the selvedges; has very little stretch.


Meander Quilting: a quilting that just moves around with no set pattern, mostly not crossing quilting previously done. It can be done very close together to highlight something like feathers, or quite far apart to just completely quilt something that is going to be well used. There are no rules for Meandering.

Mystery Quilt: a quilt design that has been broken down into sections that are posted/presented one at a time such that the quilter does not know what the final design looks like until the last part is available.


Needle Turning: to use the needle to gently turn under the seam allowance on hand-applique patches; use the thumb to finger press turned under fabric before blind-stitching.


On Point: term used to define the orientation of a quilt block when its corners are at the top/bottom and left/right.

Outline Quilting: quilting that outlines patches about 1/4" away from the patch seams putting it just beyond the extra fabric layers.


Pressing: lifting and placing the iron to flatten seam allowances and fabric.


Queen Size: a Queen size mattress is 60"x80".

Quilt in the Ditch: see Stitch in the Ditch

QST: shorthand for Quarter-Square Triangles


Reverse Applique: the cutting, turning under, and blindstitching of a top layer of fabric to reveal a shape created by exposing the under layer of fabric.


Sashing: strips of fabric that are sewn between blocks...also known as lattice stripping.

Seam Allowance: the fabric between the edge of the fabric and the line of stitching...usually 1/4" wide and most often press in the same direction rather than open.

Sharp: a longer needle than a Between, still with a small eye, that is used for hand applique.

Sleeve: a tube of fabric sewn to the top edge of the back of a quilt to slide a pole through for hanging the quilt.

Snowball: basically a 9-patch with Half-square Triangles in the corners; square on-point inside a square.

Stained Glass Quilt: a picture design that uses black bias strips to imitate the leading that is in real Stained Glass windows...the bias stripping is appliqued over the edges of the picture sections to "finish" them.

Stiletto: a sharp, pointed instrument that is used to "ease and hold" seams as they pass under the presser foot to keep them in place. A number of things can be used as a Stiletto, including a seam ripper.

Stipple Quilting: quilting that moves in meandering lines to heavily quilt and area...quilting lines usually do not cross.

Stitch in the Ditch: quilting is exactly on the seams so that it "disappears" into the quilt and is not really visible from the front.

Sunbonnet Sue: a traditional folk art applique block of a girl in a dress and large bonnet; has been done in many ways other than traditional.


Trapunto: the insertion of stuffing or yarn between layers of a quilt to give height/texture to a specific area.

Twin Size: a Twin size mattress is 39"x75".


UFO: shorthand for Unfinished Object...any quilt that is not completely quilted and bound.



Walking Foot: a foot attachment that feeds both layers of fabric evenly through the feed dogs...used for straight line quilting.

WOF: shorthand for Width of Fabric.

WOW: shorthand for white-on-white fabric.


YBR: shorthand for Yellow Brick Road pattern...see your local quilt shop for the pattern

Bibliography ...these are the books that I used to get the definitions for some of these terms:
The Quilter's How-To Dictionary written by Mari Shirer; Leman Publications, Inc.; 1991.

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Holliston, MA
Last Updated 13Aug2006.

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